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.