Combinations are a funny thing. In some cases, combining two amazing things makes both better: Mos Def and Talib Kweli, chocolate and peanut butter, mulled wine and family, avocado and, well, anything. And then there are the pairings of two perfectly wonderful things whose product makes you realize we should have let well enough alone: cronuts, bacon cupcakes, and whatever those chicken fries are that Chick Fillet is hawking. Blech.
So, when I came across the idea of baklava cheesecake on a few blogs, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. Would this be a match made in heaven, wherein the sum becomes better than its parts, a la Will and Jada (lord, please don’t let the rumors be true!)? Or would this be just another example of muddled greatness (see also: the epic meltdown that was Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet)?
Well, the good news is this: I wouldn’t be writing this post if it were terrible. I’ll give you a second to you drool over this photo:
I consulted more than a few other recipes to gather tips and techniques. I am truly standing on the shoulders of phyllo-covered giants here–namely, I took great inspiration from this Greek Recipes.TV (with a lovely video) and this Sprinkle Bakes recipe. Thanks to both for their contribution to this recipe. Because this was an experiment, I’m going to do a bit more preamble about the process–if you’re only here for the recipe, keep on scrollin’.
I ultimately decided to combine baklava with that incredibly-unique Honeyed-Greek Yogurt Tart and use pistachios in the baklava filling and clementine juice in the syrup. I wasn’t worried about the nutty filling or the cheesecake batter–what worried me was the syrup. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around how the cheesecake would absorb the syrup and was worried I would create a sloppy, cheesey honey mess (which, for the record, I absolutely still would have eaten with a spoon). On first serving of this dish, I poured just a bit of the honey syrup over the finished product and then gave each piece a generous helping of it as garnish. This received high marks from those eating it, but I was not particularly impressed.
So, I did what any self-respecting gluten-free/sugar-free baker who had just won a triathlon would do: i went home, smothered the leftovers with the syrup, and let it sit overnight. Then, I ate all of that gluten and sugar for breakfast…and dinner… the next day. You know, in the name of research.
I want the whole internet to know here and now that this batter absorbs traditional baklava honey syrup so amazingly that it is a crime against humanity not to pour it generously over the WHOOOOLLLLLLLEEEE cheesecake/pie, allow it to sit for at least 8 hours before serving, and proclaim that the the only appropriate way to address the honey-water-sugar liquid poured over from here on out is “sizzurp.” Its just that good.
And now, without further ado, the latest combo that makes each component better: Baklava Cheesecake
**This is a make-ahead recipe! It needs time to cool and absorb syrup–do not think you are making and serving this within the same 4 hours!
—For the baklava
- 1 container (15-20 sheets) of filo dough, thawed and room temp
- 2-3 sticks of butter, melted (one at a time so you can use as needed)
- 1 c roughly-ground pistachios (I accidentally used roasted and salted ones and liked the low-savory flavor)
- 2.5 c roughly-ground almonds
- 1.25 c sugar
- 1 TBS cinnamon
- 0.25 tsp nutmeg
—For the cheesecake
- 16 oz Trader Joe’s chevre with honey, at room temp (I am very sorry if you do not live by a Trader Joe’s, but this stuff is just too good not to require singularly)
- 1 c full fat Greek yogurt with honey (HERE IS A SHOCKER– I actually recommend something OTHER than Fage for this one: Trader Joe’s!), at room temp
- 1/3 c sugar
- 2 eggs, at room temp
—For the syrup (or sizzurp, if you’re down with Houston like that)
- 1 c sugar
- 1 c water
- 1 c honey
- juice of 1/2 clementine
- 1 tsp Vanilla
- Prepare the cheesecake batter. Beat together the cheese, yogurt, and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined between additions. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare the bottom layers of baklava. Combine the ground nuts, sugar, and spices in a medium bowl. In a lightly-buttered 9×14 Pyrex pan, layer 4 sheets of filo dough after individually buttering them and top with about 1/3 of nut mixture (for more detailed instructions, read my baklava recipe or watch this video). Repeat. Put one layer of buttered filo over the second layer of nuts, then pour the cheesecake batter over top and smooth with a spatula. Top with the remaining nuts. Butter and layer remaining sheets on top of cheesecake/nut layer. Trim the edges and score the slices, trying to slice only through the top layer. Bake for 70 minutes.
- While baking the pie combine the honey, sugar, and water in a medium sauce pan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Cook (without boiling!) over medium-low heat for 15-20 minuted, until liquid has thickened and is a lovely golden brown. Remove from heat, add clementine juice and vanilla and stir just to combine. Set aside and allow to cool.
- Allow the pie to cool–this could take 1-1.5 hours, so go do your laundry. Reheat* the syrup so that it is hot (but not boiling), and slowly pour about 3/4 of the syrup over the pie, making sure to get the corners, nooks, and crannies. Allow the pie to sit overnight, or at least 5-6 hours to absorb the syrup. Serve at room temperature with remaining syrup to side.
*A great debate rages about whether you should apply hot syrup to cooled baklava pies or cooled syrup to hot pies–I suggest using the cooled pie method in this case to accommodate the cheesecake, but if you try the other way and have success, I’d be interested to know it!