This ultra creamy cheesecake recipe is inspired by traditional Mediterranean sweets. Cinnamon and mint pair perfectly with cream cheese!
Hey, friends! Today I’m super excited to present you a classic American dessert but with a Mediterranean flair. This ultra creamy cheesecake is flavored with fresh mint leaves and grated cinnamon (HEAVENLY combination) and topped with a minty white chocolate matcha ganache, just to freshen it up a little more. My inspiration for this recipe was a delicious Cretan dessert, kalitsouni, which is a mini cheese tart with a crust made from a soft cookie dough and a filling made from sweetened fresh cheese called anthotiro (a cheese similar to ricotta). Kalitsounia (plural) are somewhat elaborate to make and you should probably have a Cretan grandma (hey yaya!) close by, in case you need a live demonstration…. But don’t worry, because I’ve got you covered! I have made them in the form of a tart to make them easier and quicker, and you can find the recipe in my sweet Cretan cheese tarts post.
This mint and cinnamon cheesecake is one of the creamiest cheesecakes you’re ever going to make! It’s so creamy, it’s almost like a mousse! I believe that using a combination of ricotta and regular (Philadelphia) cream cheese has something to do with it since ricotta has more moisture. Of course, baking it in a water bath and at low temperature definitely helps a lot! But, unfortunately, making a cheesecake this creamy and custardy has one little downside. The filling will leak out some moisture during baking. If you want to prevent this from happening, you can add 1 tablespoon of corn starch though this will make the filling a bit less creamy. I actually never use corn starch because I don’t want to sacrifice this smooth, velvety texture and I also kinda love how the crust turns out, which is like it’s been soaked with a little bit of syrup.
Baking a creamy cheesecake… There are a lot of ways to bake a mousse-y, creamy and decadent cheesecake, and if you’ve found the one that suits you and you’re happy with it, then you should probably stick with it. The way that works for me best, is using two pans – not springform since they have to be wrapped with foil to prevent water from leaking into the cake – the one inside the other. I line the small pan with baking paper, both bottom and sides, bake the crust, pour over the filling, place the small pan inside the larger and pour some hot water in, then bake it on low heat until done. This way I achieve zero leakage and due to the baking paper, I can very easily unmold it by just inverting it on a flat plate (and then re-inverting it on the serving plate). With this method, I never so far had a single crack on my cheesecakes, but even if you do, just add some extra white chocolate matcha ganache (though a crack hardly ever stopped anyone from enjoying a creamy, decadent cheesecake 🙂 )
Since baking time will depend on several factors like the real temperature of your oven, the type of the pans used and even the amount of water in the second pan, the best way to know when the cheesecake is done is by checking with your eyes and finger. The edges should be firm but the center still wobbly, and the surface should be almost dry to the touch and not wet (when you gently touch the surface it should slightly stick to your finger). Oh, and don’t be afraid of the wobbly center, because it will firm up in the fridge!
Why do cheesecakes crack? Without being an expert on the matter, I suspect this is a matter of hydration and overbaking. When your filling lacks moisture or has moisture binding agents like corn starch or flour, then the surface loses its elasticity and cracks while rising (flour also helps the filling rise a little more). Also, keep in mind that the higher the oven temperature and the longer the baking time, the more moisture will be lost. That’s why a moist, custardy filling in combination with a water bath and a low temperature will result in a crack-less, ultra creamy and light cheesecake.
As with most recipes, leave the cake to cool in the oven for about one hour with the oven door half-opened and then cool completely on a rack and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight.
Don’t skip the minty white chocolate matcha ganache! It really adds to this cheesecake!
Oh, and here’s how my two pans look!
- For the crust:
- 2 cups (170 grams) crashed cookies or graham crackers
- ⅓ cups (80 grams) melted butter
- For the filling:
- 3½ cups (28 oz / 800 grams) cream cheese (see notes below)
- 3 medium eggs
- 1 to 1 ¼ cups (200 - 300 grams) sugar (according to preference)
- Optional: 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 6-8 mint leaves, finely chopped (I use 6)
- ¼ cup (60 grams) cream, 35% fat
- For the white chocolate mint & matcha ganache:
- ⅓ cups (80 grams) cream, 35% fat
- 6 mint leaves
- 2 teaspoons matcha
- 80 grams white chocolate, chopped
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and line with baking paper an 8-inch round pan. You’ll need a long strip for the sides and a circular piece or parchment paper for the bottom of the pan.
- Make the crust: Mix cookie crumbs with butter in a bowl and transfer to the pan. Spread evenly to cover the surface of the pan and a little up the sides, press with the back of a spoon to smooth the surface and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside to cool and reduce oven temperature to 330˚F (165˚C).
- Make the filling: In a large bowl (or in the bowl of your electric mixer) mix the sugar, (corn starch if using), cinnamon, lemon zest, vanilla, and mint leaves. Add the ricotta and the cream cheese and whisk (or beat) until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and finely add the cream and mix until incorporated.
- Pour the cheese mixture into over the crust and place the pan into the larger pan. Fill the larger pan with hot water halfway up the side of the smaller pan (about 1-inch height) and bake for about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the cheesecake cool inside with the oven door half-opened, for about an hour. Store in the fridge for 3-4 hours or overnight.
- To unmold the cheesecake, run a knife or an off-set spatula through the baking paper and the sides of the pan. Cover a flat plate with non-stick paper and invert the cheesecake. Remove the pan by gently lifting it and re-invert onto a serving plate.
- Make the matcha ganache: In a small bowl mix the chopped white chocolate with the matcha tea and the mint and stir well. Add the cream and melt in a double boiler or in the microwaves. Stir well until smooth and leave it at room temperature to cool until thick but pourable. Remove the mint leaves and pour over the cheesecake, sprinkle with some more cinnamon and garnish with a few fresh mint leaves.
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