Passion Fruit (Lilikoi) Cheesecake
It’s no secret that I love passion fruit, or to use its melodious Hawaiian name, lilikoi. When I’m in Hawaii I always buy fresh passion fruit and extract the juice myself. If I have a lot, I freeze it, pack it in my checked luggage, and bring it home to Montana. This year, a friend of mine who has lots of lilikoi growing on his property, gave me a quart of fresh juice. With this much lilikoi I had more than enough to make a cheesecake and a gorgeous tangy glaze.
Matt and Mary Lovein are artists who live and work on Hawaii’s Big Island, also called Hawaii, and they have a gigantic and prolific lilikoi vine on their property that produces hundreds of fruit a year. Matt juices the fruit and freezes dozens of quarts of the orange liquid.
It takes a lot of lilikoi to make even a quart of juice, about 4 dozen fruit, and Matt’s gift allowed me the luxury of experimentation. The cheesecake is one of my results. Here’s the recipe. You can order unsweetened passion fruit juice from Aunty Lilikoi.
Passion Fruit (Lilikoi) CheesecakeThe key to a successful cheesecake is not overbaking. If you’ve experienced cheesecakes with cracked tops then the cake’s been baked too long. Baking the crust first at a moderate temperature will ensure that it will be crisp and crunchy. The filling is baked at a lower temperature until it is not quite cooked through. The cake finishes cooking in the turned-off oven.
Graham Cracker Crust
1 ¼ cups Graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted), melted
3 (8-ounce) packages regular cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened passion fruit juice
Passion Fruit glaze
¼ cup water
1 ½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin (I use Knox)
½ cup unsweetened passion fruit juice
3 ½ tablespoons sugar
Whipped Cream Decoration (optional)
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsweetened passion fruit juice
1. For the crust. Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the Graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter in a bowl with a rubber spatula. Press the crumbs firmly onto the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and bake about 8 minutes until crust smells fragrant and begins to brown. Remove pan from the oven and reset the temperature to 300 degrees. Let the crust cool while you make the filling. When the pan is completely cool, lightly butter the sides with softened butter.
2. For the filling. Beat the cream cheese until very smooth and free of lumps. Add the sugar and beat well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating only until incorporated after each. On low speed, beat in the heavy cream until smooth. Stir in the passion fruit juice. Pour the filling over the cooled crust and place the pan in the oven. Bake 1 hour. The center of the cheesecake will be jiggly and look underdone. Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven 45 minutes more. The cheesecake top will be flat and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool the cheesecake to room temperature. Cover loosely with a paper towel and refrigerate several hours or overnight until very cold.
3. For the glaze. Put the water into a 1-cup glass measuring cup and sprinkle with the gelatin. Do not stir. Just leave it alone. The gelatin will absorb the water slowly. In a small heavy saucepan, stir the passion fruit juice and sugar together over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the liquid feels very hot to a fingertip. You don’t want the juice to actually boil or it may destroy the gelatin’s ability to set.
Remove the pan from the heat and pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the gelatin. Stir well to dissolve the gelatin—taste a drop or two to make sure you can’t feel any gelatin granules on your tongue—and add the gelatin to the remaining juice in the pan.
Prepare an ice water bath and set the pan of gelatin/passion fruit juice into the pan. Stir constantly with a rubber spatula until the liquid is cold and becomes syrupy. Pour the glaze over the cheesecake and spread evenly almost to the edges. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.
4. To serve the cheesecake. Remove the sides of the pan. If you wish to decorate the top edge of the cheesecake, whip the heavy cream and passion fruit juice until stiff and pipe through a pastry bag with a star tip. To cut the cake, rinse a knife in hot water before making each cut. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
Makes 12 servings.