The birthday tradition around here is that the birthday girl or boy can choose whatever they like for their birthday dinner – often a brand-new recipe – and the non-birthday spouse will make it.
This year, the birthday boy chose his menu from Japanese Farm Food: fat little teriyaki hamburgers, Japanese rice, carrot and cilantro salad with citrus, and napa cabbage salad with sesame seeds.
Sure, I said, but what about dessert?
He scratched his head and thought for a while.
Then he remembered the perfectly smooth cheesecake and passion fruit sauce we were served in a fancy glass while we sat out on the patio at Cafe Julia in Honolulu a few years ago.
And thus began the great hunt of January 2015 to find passion fruit in Edmonton.
I called the grocery store.
I asked my friend whose parents are from the Caribbean.
I asked my other friend who is an accomplished dessert maker.
Eventually, a little bird called Twitter tracked the elusive passion fruit down, and I was full-steam ahead to make this little dessert.
I've never made a no-bake cheesecake before – essentially, mix some whipped cream cheese with some whipped cream –- and it seemed too easy to be true.
But people: it is divine. Light and smooth with a little tang from the cream cheese, and flecks of vanilla seeds rounding it out.
And then the passion fruit sauce.
It is a thing of wonder. Tart and sweet with a few crunchy seeds, it's the perfect thing to sit atop that cloud of cheesecake. (Not to mention so cute in that little jar.)
The birthday boy was pleased, and I'm pleased to have a new go-to dessert recipe. Actually, it was so good that it almost feels like it was my birthday.
one year ago: tuscan white beans
two years ago: pan de yuca (colombian tapioca buns) and black-eyed peas with kale and bacon
three years ago: tomato sauce with onion and butter and lemon syllabub
four years ago: glorious hummus and rosemary gruyère baked eggs
cheesecake in a jar
slightly adapted from Canadian Living and Charcut
half-fills six jars (leaving you room for sauce or fruit)
1/2 vanilla bean
150 ml. whipping cream
50 g. icing sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
250 ml. (1 c.) cream cheese, at room temperature
Use a small paring knife to slit the vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds using the dull side of the blade.
In a mixing bowl, combine the vanilla seeds, whipping cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract. Beat until soft peaks form, and set aside in the fridge.
In another mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until it's smooth and lightened, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Plop in one-third of the whipped cream and fold it in. Repeat with another third of the whipped cream, and then again with the final third of whipped cream.
Use two teaspoons to carefully spoon the cream cheese mixture into the 6 jars. Cover and put in the fridge until chilled, about 1 hour. Serve with a sauce or fruit tossed with a bit of sugar and liqueur.
passion fruit sauce
adapted from Easy Brazilian Recipes
1 c. passion fruit juice
1/2 c. water
1 c. sugar
2 passion fruit
Heat the water and sugar over medium heat in a non-reactive pot. Once the sugar has dissolved, cook 3 more minutes. Stir in the passion fruit juice and simmer at a good rate. Stir occasionally until the sauce begins to thicken, about 8 – 12 minutes. If it doesn't seem thicker after 12 minutes, remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Stir to check on it. If it's still not thick enough for you, simmer for 5 more minutes. Again, let it cool and decide if you need to do another 5 minutes.
Once the sauce has cooled completely, scoop out the passion fruit seeds and flesh and stir them into the sauce. Put a few teaspoons on each little cheesecake in a jar and serve immediately.