It’s been a hot, searing summer here the past couple weeks, but it’s resulted in a very large berry boom from the garden so I can’t complain TOO much about it. So, with a bounty of extra berries at hand, I decided to whip up one of my favorite dishes from my cookbook First We Eat, —this berry and black pepper cheesecake. The recipe in the book calls for blackberries, but it works just as well with a mix of whatever berries you have on hand, which is what I used here.
I love this recipe because it’s not too sweet (cloyingly sweet cheesecakes are not my jam), the subtle kick from black pepper balances out the bright tangy berries perfectly, and it is no-bake, which means you don’t have to turn on the oven and heat up your house in the height of summer. There’s just a bit of gelatin in it, so you put the cheesecake in the refrigerator for a few hours to firm it up before serving.
I also made a fun little stop motion video showing you guys how I make a swirly pattern on top of my cheesecakes—I hope you like it! They’re a blast to put together, and I have a new online course out at First We Eat all about making food videos, so if you’re interested you can learn how to shoot your own stop motion videos from the comfort of your own home.
And one more thing, my Croatia photography workshop is all sold out (it happened in 24 hours—crazy!), and l only have a couple spots left for my Ireland photography workshop. You can read all about it here, I’d love to have you join me and teach you all about photography + styling while surrounding you with delicious foods and beautiful scenery!
No-Bake Berry and Black Pepper Cheesecake
This cool summer classic is a recipe from my First We Eat cookbook.
Brown Butter Crust
- 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Berry Black Pepper Compote
- 1 pound ripe berries
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 packet unflavored gelatin (0.3 ounces)
- 3 tablespoons cold water
Berry Black Pepper Cheesecake
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese at room temperature
- 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup berries
Line the sides of a 9-inch springform pan with strips of parchment paper.
For the brown butter crust, in a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
In a small shallow skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Swirl the pan around a bit every couple of minutes to help it cook evenly. Over a period of several minutes, you’ll notice the foam at the top of the butter start to change from a light yellow to dark tan. Once it reaches the dark tan stage and the butter looks light brown and golden, smell it. It should smell nutty and similar to toffee. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
Stir the brown butter into the bowl with the graham cracker crumb mixture. Pour the crust mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer over the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
For the berry black pepper compote, in a small saucepan, combine the berries, sugar, black pepper, and cinnamon and bring to a boil over medium-low heat. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 7 to 8 minutes, then uncover and cook until the sugar has melted and the berries are very soft and have partially disintegrated, about 5 minutes more. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and set aside for 1 minute to bloom. In a small saucepan, combine the gelatin mixture and the berry puree. Cook over low heat, stirring continuously, until the gelatin mixture dissolves completely. Remove from the heat and set aside.
For the berry black pepper cheesecake, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream on high speed until it holds soft peaks. Transfer the whipped cream to a separate bowl and set aside.
In the clean bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium-low speed until smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar, honey, and vanilla and beat until combined. Add ½ cup of the berry compote and mix until completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and fold in the whipped cream with a spatula. Pour the filling over the crust and even the surface with a spatula. Tap the pan down on the counter several times to help release any air bubbles in the cheesecake and flatten its surface.
Pour the remaining berry compote in concentric rings on top of the cheesecake so it looks like a target symbol. Use a toothpick to drag across the compote, creating swirling patterns on the surface of the cheesecake. Cover, taking care not to let the covering material touch the surface of the cheesecake, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours. Remove the springform pan ring, garnish with the fresh blackberries, slice, and serve.