I don’t usually manage to make my food actually look pretty, but come on, this is GORGEOUS.
So I had this idea to make Fennel Cheesecake. Here’s how I got there. When I get a vegetable in the CSA box that I am sick to death of having for dinner, I start asking myself whether or not it would work well in either breakfast or dessert, and usually that mental trick manages to yield a few new recipes. And I’ve gotten so used to doing this that with fennel I sort of jumped the gun and decided to throw it into desert straight away, because anise = delicious.
I was certain that I was the first person in the history of the world to try to put fennel into a cheesecake, but when I Googled it, I found this (is it me, or is demanding the ingredient “organic, fair-trade, vegan sugar” just already setting the bar way to high?), and this (which, whoa, dude – it looks awesome, but I don’t think I will be making that any time soon). Neither of the recipes were exactly what I was looking for. I wanted something that worked the same way as a squash cheesecake, but didn’t get as lost as the squash does in the process. Squash cheesecake just basically tastes like plain cheesecake, which is why you add plenty of bourbon. I wanted something that would honor the fennel.
Tasting the batter, I was disappointed. There wasn’t much fennel coming through. My wonderful neighbor brought me some fennel seeds to add to the crust, and she suggested that the anise flavor would intensify with cooking, which was spot on. Baked, it is fennel-full and AMAZING.
3 8oz packages cream cheese (softened)
1 1/4 C sugar
1 C fennel puree
1 C cream
1 pkg graham crackers
4 Tbs butter, melted
1 tsp fennel seeds
Preheat oven to 325. Crush the graham crackers, add melted butter and seeds, and press into the bottom of a 9″ spring-form pan.
Make the fennel puree. I did this via a completely frankenstein method, because I was trying a bunch of things to see what worked best. What I recommend is this: dice the fennel and add to a saucepot with some water and 2 Tbs butter. Bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer. Cook until the fennel gets pretty soft, maybe 20 minutes or so, and add water as needed throughout. Your goal is to boil off most of the liquid by the time the fennel is soft enough to blend so that you are adding just the fennel and maybe a tsp or so of concentrated water to the blender. Blend with the juice of the lemon.
In a stand mixer, mix the cream cheese and sugar until soft and well-incorporated. Add puree, and continue mixing. Add eggs, one at a time, then cream and salt. Pour mix into prepared pan.
Bake for 60 minutes. When done baking, leave in the oven with the door shut for another hour. Let set for at least 4 hours in your refrigerator.