During the summer months, which is the rainy season, gigantic blackberries take over the culinary stage in the town of Valle de Bravo, Mexico. They can be the size of a plum, bursting with wine colored juice that is at once sweet and tart and addicting. Literally every morning, women come down from the mountains and valleys to the town’s market with buckets of these fresh picked gems. Of course, they sell out in a matter of minutes.
What to do with them? Oh first of all, eat them by the handfuls straight from the buckets. Just like that. Or puree them raw, maybe with a bit of mint and pour them over vanilla ice cream or pound cake. Or you can eat it like a cold soup! But one of my favorite things is to use them as a topping for cheesecake.
Blackberry cheesecake is definitely a thing Mexican kitchens have been doing for a while. Yes, we have chocolate cheesecake, cajeta cheesecake, strawberry cheesecake… but what is considered the traditional topping in Valle de Bravo is a kind of blackberry jam.
Here I am trying to replicate my favorite ones from Valle de Bravo, as Juju and I just went blackberry picking a few days ago.
There are three parts to this dessert – all super simple to make. But each one needs to be just right, so here are my notes on that.
For the crust: After the crumbled crackers are mixed with the melted butter and dash of cinnamon, they need to be applied with pressure to the bottom of the mold creating a somewhat even bottom crust with a gentle rim going up the side. And it is absolutely necessary for the crust to set and chill before the cheesecake mixture is added. If not, the crust will not stand tall underneath it, and it will lose presence.
For the filling: I like it rich and super moist. For me, that means adding sour cream, which also gives it a refreshing tang, and cottage cheese, which adds a gentle saltiness. With this kind of mixture, it is important to not over bake. As your timer kicks the 55-minute mark, stand at the ready to take it out. It should look puffed up and gently browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle should come out just moist, but not with any of the filling covering it.
For the topping: I like to add unflavored gelatin to help it set. This creates a defined layer that will not run all over the place. After the blackberry mixture has boiled, and it has been mashed and the gelatin added, let it cool just to room temperature and then pour onto the cheesecake and chill. You don’t want the blackberry topping to begin to set in the saucepan.
Of course you can make the cheesecake with many other toppings, but before you consider that, give this one a try.
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/2 cups crumbled graham crackers
- 1/2 teaspoon ground true cinnamon, or canela
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups (or 12 ounces) cottage cheese
- 1 1/2 cups (or 12 ounces) sour cream
- 1 1/2 cups (or 12 ounces) cream cheese
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Pinch of kosher or coarse sea salt
- 4 cups ripe blackberries
- Juice of a lime, (about 3 tablespoons)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 envelope (about 1 tablespoon) of unflavored gelatin
For the crust:
- In a bowl, combine the melted butter with the graham cracker crumbs and cinnamon.
- Scrape onto a ring mold pan. Press around with your hands or the back of a tablespoon to make the bottom crust as even as you can, and push on the sides, to give the crust a short gentle border of about 1/2-inch in height. Cover and place in the refrigerator to chill while you make the filling.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and set the rack in the middle.
For the filling:
- In the jar of a blender, add the eggs, cottage cheese and sour cream. Process until smooth, Incorporate the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract, cornstarch and salt, and puree again until fully incorporated.
- Remove the crust from the refrigerator, pour the mix from the blender on top, jiggle a few times for it to spread evenly. Place in the oven and bake anywhere from 55 minutes to an hour until set. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out just moist, but not with any of the filling covering it.
- Remove from the oven. The cheesecake will be very puffed up. As you take it out of the oven it will settle and deflate a little, and cracks may appear on its surface, which is totally normal. Set aside and let cool.
For the topping:
- In a medium saucepan, combine the blackberries, lime juice and sugar and set over high heat. Once it comes to a full boil, stir and let it continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes while mashing with a potato masher or mallet.
- Remove from the heat, add the contents from one envelope of unflavored gelatin. Stir well until fully dissolved and let cool until lukewarm or at room temperature.
- Pour the cooled blackberry mixture onto the cooled cheesecake. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours so that the cheesecake chills and the blackberry topping sets.
- Remove cheesecake from the refrigerator. Have a cup with lukewarm water and wet a normal dinner or butter knife. Run it around the edge of the mold all the way around and going down to the bottom. Release the mold and serve. Leftovers can be stored covered in the refrigerator.