blueberry cheesecake + macadamia nut crust.

blueberry cheesecake + macadamia nut crust.

Shavuot, congratulations: you are the first Jewish holiday I am on time for! I was late for Purim and Passover, but you; you I managed to not be tardy for. I think it’s because you’re about dairy; all sorts of dairy, evidently, so it’s easy to both love you as a holiday and also find you easy to make food for. I can see why people look forward to celebrating you.

So it seems that there are two big things everyone makes for Shavuot, at least from what I’ve observed: cheesecake and blintz. I’m on board with either of those two things, but you should know I tried to do something different and subsequently ran out of time. This cheesecake makes up for this completely, because it is quite wonderful, and mostly perfect right now since our collective hearts are once again turning towards summer fruit. Blueberries are one of my favorites (tied for first place with nectarines), so it was only a matter of time before this happened.

blueberry cheesecake + macadamia nut crust.

This was originally a recipe for blueberry cheesecake bars with a hazelnut crust. Now, hazelnuts impart a splendid flavor in desserts like this, but they require a good amount of work. First you toast, then you shimmy their little skins off with towels while trying to not burn yourself, and so on. Also, I prefer my hazelnuts paired with stronger flavors, like coffee or chocolate, and it seemed a little much for a cheesecake with fruit, so I switched them out in favor of macadamia nuts, which have a subtle flavor and are very similar in texture. No potential hand burns, either; they are easily found ready to go with no skin or shell.

Sometimes I mess with things so much it turns right back around to what the original thought was; such is the case with this dessert. Since cheesecake was such a big thing, I thought bars would be a nice take on the classic cheesecake, only to determine that I prefer the ratio of actual cake-to-crust over bar-to-crust; the bars simply had too much crust. The crust is lovely, but nut and graham crusts always need a good amount of topping to balance the flavor and texture out, at least in my opinion. Working this into a 9-inch Springform round rather than a 9 x 9 baking dish gives you the perfect filling-to-crust bite each time. Springform pans always seem to make everything look so spectacular from the sides, too; very regal, this little bar-turned-cake.

blueberry cheesecake + macadamia nut crust.

So this is a recipe for bars which, in my ridiculous hands, has turned itself into a cheesecake. A very good one, for sure: I love classic New York-style cheesecake (which reminds me, I need to make that and post it for you also), but this one is creamier, softer, and has a nice jiggle to it. The blueberries, of which there are many, stay suspended in the batter through the cooking time, which means you get a cheesecake which looks a little something like this inside:

blueberry cheesecake + macadamia nut crust.

Yes, I know. And those blueberries magically manage to stay in their little pockets and fully cook themselves, so you get all the flavor of a blueberry sauce with none of the extra work. Please use fresh blueberries for this: there’s no way you could swirl frozen ones into this without making a serious mess. Cut carefully as well: do what you would do with brownies (when you want them to look nice) and wipe your knife with a clean, damp cloth each time you cut a piece: this eliminates the purple juice hopping from one slice to the next.

blueberry cheesecake + macadamia nut crust.

Not Jewish? Cool, neither am I; I just have a serious respect for Jewish traditions and how they tie so deeply in with food, and I’m attempting to gain some knowledge. Make this for Mother’s Day, if that’s a thing where you live. Moms love cheesecake, especially when you make it yourself. And it’s stuffed with blueberries and on top of macadamia nuts. Truth.

Adapted from Essentials of Baking: Recipes and Techniques for Successful Home Baking by Williams Sonoma. An actual essential in my library, as well; the title doesn’t lie. If you are a new baker that’s learning or just like a solid cookbook with some solid recipes to build from, this is a worthwhile investment.

Blueberry Cheesecake + Macadamia Nut Crust

for the crust:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup macadamia nuts, toasted*
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes

for the filling:

  • 1 pound (16 ounces) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 12 ounces fresh blueberries, divided**

*Dry-toasting nuts could not be easier, but it requires your full attention. Place them in your favorite skillet over medium-high heat, flipping constantly until you smell them and they start to turn golden. They may not look like they’re doing anything for the first few minutes, but I guarantee you the minute you look away or leave them to go do something, they’ll begin to burn. Just keep flipping, and they’ll be done before you know it. Have a plate ready so you can pour them out and let them cool independently of the skillet.

**use around 2 cups of blueberries to fold into your cheesecake batter. Fold them gently so that everything is even. Once you’ve poured the batter into your pan, lightly toss the other berries around over top; they’ll sink in a little bit but should stay suspended as mine do during your bake time. Aim them around the bumps you’ll see from the smothered blueberries in the batter.

Make & bake the crust:

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325˚F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch Springform pan.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, macadamia nuts, and salt and pulse a few times to grind the nuts and combine the mixture; your nuts should be integrated fully with no chunks visible. Add the butter cubes and pulse 10 times or so until the mixture begins to form large, coarse crumbs and looks like wet sand.

Press the crust mixture evenly into the bottom and maybe 1/2 inch up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake the crust until lightly golden with a dry, firm top, 18-20 minutes, checking at the 16-minute mark. Set aside to a wire rack while you make your filling.

Make the filling:

In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until blended and smooth, 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. After the last egg addition has been incorporated, scrape down the sides of the bowl again and beat a few more seconds to incorporate any pockets. With your mixer on low, add in the heavy cream, vanilla, and almond extract and stir until incorporated.

Using the rubber spatula, gently fold in around 2 cups of the fresh blueberries, being careful not to burst any while you are doing this. Once the blueberries are evenly distributed, pour the batter into the very center of the prepared crust, letting it work itself out to the edges on its own. Sprinkle as many of the remaining blueberries over top to decorate, and place in the oven.

Bake until center is set when you give the pan a gentle shake, about 35-45 minutes, checking at the 35-minute mark. Mine took closer to 45 minutes, but you don’t want to over-bake this, so watch yours carefully. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool down, around 2-3 hours.

Once cooled, place plastic wrap over the pan (not touching the top of the cheesecake) and place in the fridge to chill, at least 3 hours or overnight. You may see some condensation begin to form on the plastic wrap: to avoid any drips on my cheesecake, I just periodically replace the plastic wrap. It sounds like overkill, and certainly you do not have to do it, but I like a clean top which is free of drips.

To serve, use large, sharp knife and cut firmly down through the crust: it’s pretty sturdy down there, so you’re going to want to feel it give way before pulling out a piece. Keep a clean, damp kitchen towel nearby and clean your knife after each slice; It will keep the purple to a minimum and it’ll make your slices come out smoothly.

Stores tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, and freezes for quite a while; up to 1 month, properly stored and protected, in your freezer.

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30 Comments on "blueberry cheesecake + macadamia nut crust."

  1. Faygie says:

    Ooh, this looks so good! I made a huge vanilla bean cheesecake yesterday, since I just love vanilla cheesecake so darn much. (I am way ahead of schedule with my Shavuot baking, obviously.) But I definitely need to try this one sometime. Ella looooves blueberries, so I know she’d love this.

    My cheesecake is actually going to be for BREAKFAST on Shavuot! When I was growing up my parents always gave us cheesecake and ice cream for breakfast on Shavuot (awesome tradition, right???), and I do the same now. But this year we are just going to have cheesecake, because we are going to be doing an ice cream bar for dessert later in the day.

    • shannon says:

      i saw that cheesecake: you and i were dangerously close to posting almost the same thing, because i love a vanilla bean cheesecake more than almost anything. You are SO ahead of schedule! This one is definitely kid-friendly; i like that it sort of tastes like blueberry muffins. Ella and i are going to be friends because of our shared love for blueberries, i think. :)

      BREAKFAST!!?!?! that’s hardcore. I can’t even wrap my head around what my day would be like if i began it with heavenly cheesecake. That’s an excellent tradition; your parents are to be applauded BIG TIME for that. Quit making me want to get plane tickets. :)

      • I have just now officially adopted Shavuot (if it will have me) as a holiday in my household. Specifically, Faygie’s Shavuot, with extra ice cream. Cheers to both of you!

        • shannon says:

          Faygie is hardcore with her Shavuot; ice cream and cheesecake for BREAKFAST. That’s some serious celebrating. Also some serious sugar buzz in the morning, which means only one thing: serious naps. And that’s my kind of day.

  2. I’m Jewish. I never had anything like this. Clearly, I was deprived.

    • shannon says:

      Jen: you have to fix this. YOU HAVE TO SOMEHOW MAKE UP FOR THIS IN GROWN UP LIFE! I say maybe the remedy for this is to make (scribblescribblecrumplescribble) 387 cheesecakes. also some ice cream. maybe some sauce to go overtop of both.

  3. Oh, this looks so delicious! I love the lemon and blueberry combo and love the sound of the macadamia crust!

  4. it’s true, moms DO love cheesecake. that being said, i’m pretty sure ANYONE would love this cheesecake!

    • shannon says:

      I wonder if there is someone out there who doesn’t love cheesecake. I haven’t run across anyone yet. hmmm.

      • Emma says:

        I always thought that I didn’t like cheesecake (typical!), until I made one last summer. So I don’t really know where I stand any more.

        • shannon says:

          I can see how the cheesecake situation could be perplexing for you. It’s how i feel about macadamia nuts right now. Because i grew up not liking them, and then this crust happened, and…i’m a puddle of befuddle.

  5. This looks spectacular. I love those suspended blueberries – I mean, self-saucing cheesecake? COME ON!

    • shannon says:

      it’s like the blueberries stay put because they’re SO EXCITED to be swimming in cheesecake. I picture them freezing in place and being all “WHUT!” about it.

  6. Ashley says:

    Happy Shavuot! Celebrations with blueberry cheesecake and a macadamia crust are obviously awesome. Now I’m craving cheesecake…It’s almost as if I can taste it from your photos alone. Unfortunately, the warming weather demands extra advance planning if I am to fit an entire cake into the fridge…but it’d totally be worth it.

    • shannon says:

      fridge space solution: FREEZE THE CHEESE(CAKE)! Because cheesecake freezes SO well. and it’s like a necessity because who can eat an entire cheesecake all at once? No one. Slice it in slices, wrap each one in a little strip of parchment, and throw in either a container or freezer bag. insta-dessert. With no fridge space taken up.

  7. sara says:

    Gorgeous! That is one seriously yummy looking cheesecake! I love the blueberries dotted all over the top…really fun to have them mixed in rather than as a topping.

    • shannon says:

      Thanks Sara! I agree; nice to mix it up a bit from the traditional cheesecake/sauce way of serving things. I almost feel like you get more blueberries this way.

  8. Well, I have to say that althought I learned about Shavuot in Hebrew School, I have no memory of what it is or why we celebrate it (actually, I don’t celebrate it). However, it seems that given the fact you’re supposed to make cheesecaked and blintzes (my fave!!!), I should really bring this holiday back into my traditions ;)

    • shannon says:

      I can’t believe you don’t celebrate like, the ONE JEWISH HOLIDAY i know of so far which doesn’t involve cutting out dairy entirely. And not even just cutting it out; like it celebrates the dairy! I expect a Shavuot celebration from you next year.

  9. Emma says:

    Yeah, what is Shavuot? Except an excuse for dessert breakfast, clearly; sounds like my kind of holiday. And how do blintzes fit in? For some reason, I guess I always thought blintzes were Russian… or at least eastern European. Wait, is eastern Europe Jewish-exclusive?

    Sounds like I need to go back to school. Teach me more, wise one.

    • shannon says:

      I am probably the worst person to ask that question of, as i would give you my take on it, and that’s that it’s the Jewish holiday which encourages you to load up on all things cheesecake and blintz and ice cream. I think the blintz is yes, eastern european as well, but it’s like how my family (one side of which is Romanian) makes a kiffle cookie, but they’re typically credited to either Poland or Russia. I guess maybe everything has a version, and eastern europe seems awash in recipes that have carried over from people to people over time.

      Sounds like i need to do my research a little to answer. :)

  10. Ed says:

    This looks awesome!

    When it comes to cheesecake, I’m a bit snobbish preferring those with no topping. This though, with the blueberries baked right in would be much more to my liking.

    Did you use a water bath to bake it in?

    Thanks, this will probably be my next cheesecake to make.

    • shannon says:

      Thanks, Ed!
      I’ll admit to cheesecake snobbery myself: I’m a purist normally, and i go straight to a classic NY cheesecake, no topping also. This one surprised me in that the blueberries add to the overall flavor and texture versus covering it up, as sauces sometimes do. Something about the inner blueberries steaming in their little skins gives it a really fresh flavor without destroying a perfectly lovely cheesecake.

      This one doesn’t require a water bath, although I don’t see the harm in experimenting with one. I hope you like it!

  11. Shannon, this cheesecake is gorgeous with those bright blue orbs perfectly distributed throughout the creamy mixture. That crust is calling my name. I wish we were neighbors.

  12. Wendy says:

    I am usually a cheese cake purist. Just plain heavy NY style vanilla bean for me. BUT this smooth, rich, creamy concoction is in a whole different category. This cake NEEDS those luscious blueberries. Its a beauty, Shannon. Unfortunately, I will have to leave out the nuts in the crust (allergies) but the cheese cake part is demanding to be baked. I LOVE Faygie’s Shavuot breakfast tradition. My kids are adults now and still identify the Jewish holidays with the foods that go with each. I am not sure they could tell you that Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah, but I know they can tell you its the cheese cake holiday. (Only partially kidding) :)

    • shannon says:

      Wendy, i am normally the exact same: give me a good vanilla bean cheesecake and i am in HEAVEN. This was a departure from my go-to NY style one, and i was nervous about it, i won’t lie. But i was really impressed by how well the berries stayed put and how much the flavors blended together; it’s nice to have that fresh baked berry flavor without mashing it up in a sauce. Feel free to leave out the nuts: certainly it’s not a necessary part of the finished product if you’re allergic.

      Faygie really does it right in terms of Shavuot breakfast, doesn’t she? I think it’s so interesting learning about all the foods which go with each Jewish holiday: i too am better at identifying things by the food association rather than the actual reason for the season, but i’m learning. :) You just taught me something there about the giving of the Torah: i had no idea, so thank you for that.

  13. Monica says:

    I am stuck on the wonderful sound of a macadamia nut crust. I’ve been meaning to try a shortbread crust for lemon bars that has pine nuts in it – the idea of nuts in crust is something I love for various reasons… Your cheesecake looks really smooth and just luscious.

    • shannon says:

      oh my goodness, you had me at pine nut crust. WHOA. nuts are like, so much fun to experiment with in crusts, especially; they just add something special.

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