This easy cheesecake, finished with a bright cranberry topping, comes together in the food processor and bakes without a water bath. The key to the smooth texture of the filling is a low oven temperature, which means it bakes for a long time; if you’re serving it on Thanksgiving, definitely bake it the day before to free up oven space. The shiny top layer is made from unsweetened cranberry juice and whole cranberries that are just barely poached, so they preserve their fresh flavor and satisfying pop.
Cranberry Cheesecake Tart
Ingredients for the crust:
• 4 1/2 ounces/128 grams speculoos cookies or graham crackers
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 large egg yolk
• Pinch of kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal)
Ingredients for the filling:
• 8 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
• 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
• 2/3 cup/133 grams sugar
• 1/2 cup/120 milliliters
heavy cream, at room temperature
• 2 large eggs, at room temperature
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
Ingredients for the topping:
• 1 tablespoon ice-cold water
• 1/2 teaspoon powdered unflavored gelatin
• 1/2 cup/120 milliliters unsweetened pure cranberry juice
• 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
• 1/3 cup/67 grams sugar
• 8 ounces fresh cranberries
Arrange an oven rack in the center position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
Make the crust: In a food processor, pulse the cookies until you have fine crumbs. Transfer crumbs to a medium bowl, then add the butter, sugar, yolk and salt. Stir with a fork to combine, then rub the mixture between your fingertips until it looks and feels like wet sand (reserve the food processor for making the filling).
Transfer the crumb mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and scatter it evenly across the bottom. Use a straight-sided 1 cup dry measure to firmly press the mixture into an even layer with no bare spots. Place the pan on a baking sheet. Bake until the crust is fragrant and the edges darken, 10 to 12 minutes, then set it aside to cool on the baking sheet while you prepare the filling. Lower the oven to 250 degrees to bake the filling.
Make the filling: Wipe out the food processor, then combine the goat cheese, cream cheese, sugar, heavy cream, eggs, vanilla and orange zest in the bowl of the food processor and process, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice, until mixture is completely smooth and slightly aerated. Scrape the mixture over the crust, smooth the surface and return to the oven. Bake until the filling is slightly puffed and matte across the surface and there is no wobble in the center, 1 hour to 1 hour, 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the tart cool with the door cracked for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and let cool completely at room temperature. Transfer the tart to the refrigerator and chill until cold, at least 1 hour.
Make the cranberry topping: Place the cold water in a small shallow bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top (do not stir). Set the bowl aside. In a small saucepan, combine the cranberry juice, orange juice and sugar, and heat over medium, stirring with a flexible spatula to dissolve the sugar. When you have a translucent syrup, add cranberries and cook, gently stirring occasionally, just until the skins start to split and the cranberries are slightly softened but still intact, about 3 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer the cranberries to a plate, letting the liquid drip back into the saucepan (pluck out and discard any cranberries that have collapsed or turned to mush). Set the plate aside until cranberries are cool enough to handle.
Scrape the gelatin mixture into the saucepan and stir over medium heat until the mixture is steaming and the gelatin has dissolved, then remove from the heat. Fill a large bowl about a third full with ice water, then submerge the bottom of the saucepan in the ice water (if the water comes more than halfway up the sides of the saucepan, pour some of it out). Stir the syrup to cool it down until it’s thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, then remove the saucepan from the bowl of water. (Wipe off any excess water on the pan.)
Remove the tart from the refrigerator. Arrange the cranberries in an even layer across the surface of the tart. Slowly pour the syrup through a mesh strainer over the tart, letting it settle in an even layer, then return the pan to the refrigerator and chill uncovered until the topping is fully set, at least 3 hours. Loosely cover the tart until you’re ready to serve.
Remove the pan from the refrigerator and use a sharp paring knife or small offset spatula to carefully cut around the tart, loosening it from the pan. Carefully remove the outer metal ring.
Total time: 2 hours, 20 minutes, plus at least 4 1/2 hours’ setting, serves 8.
The tart will keep for several days in the refrigerator but is best served within 24 hours while the crust is still crisp (it will soften over time).