Stilton Cheesecake with Walnut Crust and Spiced Pear Compote
Tawnies, unlike ruby or vintage ports, get their mellow amber hue from extended oxidized aging. They develop nutty, caramel flavors that go perfectly with nuts and cheese, while the residual sugar begs for a dessert.
Port and dessert or port with fruit, nuts and cheese? Why pick when you can combine them all into one decadent recipe incorporating walnuts, stilton, and cinnamon-spiked pears. While the instructions may appear daunting, the process is quite easy. Just pay attention to measurements: good baking is in the details.
Serves 8-10; Active time: 1 ½ hours; total time: 7-8 hours
1 ½ cups walnut pieces, chopped
1 ¾ cups sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 lb. Stilton crumbled, about 1 cup
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
Spiced Pear Compote
3 pears, ripe
1 small lemon, juiced and zested
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar (add a few drops of vanilla extract to regular sugar)
1/3 teaspoon freshly grated cinnamon
1. To make the crust, preheat oven to 350°F. Butter base and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. In a food processor, pulse walnuts with 1/4 cup of the sugar until finely ground. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles damp sand. Transfer to pan, pressing crumbs into an even layer on bottom. Bake in middle of oven for 12 minutes, or until edges brown. Set aside to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300° F.
2. To make filling, add crumbled Stilton, cream cheese and sugar to a bowl, then beat with an electric mixer on low until well blended. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until creamy. Add vanilla. Stir in sour cream and flour until well blended, then pour filling over crust.
3. Bake cheesecake in middle of oven until firm and golden around edges, about one hour. Remove and slip a knife around edge of pan to loosen cake. Allow to cool completely, about 2 hours. Chill in refrigerate, covered, around 4 hours or until cold.
4. While cheesecake cools, prepare compote. Peel and chop pears. Over medium heat, add pears, lemon juice and zest, sugar, and cinnamon to a medium sauce pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves, then bring to a low boil for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for another 15 minutes until pears soften. In the pot, mash pears with a fork or potato masher, sifting cornstarch over top. Add a little at a time, while stirring, to prevent lumps and ensure a smooth mixture. Cover and cook on a low simmer another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
5. Once cake is cold, remove side of pan and transfer to a plate. Cut slices and top with pear compote. Serve.