I watch ABC’s The Chew every night while cooking dinner. It’s the one daily show that I DVR. I watch it for the food and recipes and the great combination of different personalities and opinions of the co-hosts and guests. The history behind some of the recipes they share is my favorite thing about the show, especially when the recipes are part of their family traditions.
During The Chew’s “Thanksgiving to go” episode, Chef Michael Symon made a cheesecake inspired by his 96-year-old grandfather Pap’s classic holiday Pretzel Crust Cheesecake recipe, with the assistance of hottie guest chef – Curtis Stone. I loved how Chef Symon stated during the show, “Chew audience, anytime I start a dish with Pap’s – pay attention, because he’s never made a bad dish.” - the love Michael feels for his grandfather sure comes through to the viewers when he talks so fondly about him and the food memories he has due to his Pap’s special creations. I get the same feeling from Mario Batali when he talks about his family heritage and recipes.
Some of my favorite childhood memories are food related… mostly memories created due to my Mom’s cooking. She could whip up anything and it was always tasty. I’m pretty sure my grandmother Mimi is the reason I hate roast, ha-ha! – but she did make a great salad and had the best appetizer platters in town. I actually have very fond memories of Christmas dinners at both grandparent’s houses… but I have even more vivid memories of their Christmas decorations and how beautiful I thought they were as a kid. Food and decor… I guess it’s just always been my thing.
I volunteered to bring a dessert to a day after Thanksgiving get-together with friends, where amazing food, Rock Band and Cards Against Humanity were enjoyed by all. I was also assigned to bring a dessert to my work Christmas party… so I thought I’d try out the cheesecake at the friend get-together and if it was a success and nobody perished, I’d make another one for my Christmas party this month.
I am happy to report, the recipe was a huge success! The sweet and salty combination is something I enjoy in a dessert. If the combo is missing, I’ve been known to follow something sweet with pretzels or other salty snacks… so this was perfect! Party guests went through a list of other potential toppings, but I really liked it “as is” – I’m sure this recipe will be used by me again and again.
Chef Michael Symon’s Cheesecake with Pretzel Crust
For the Crust:
- 1 1/2 Cup Pretzels (ground)
- 1/2 Cup Graham Crackers (ground)
- 1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 8 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter (melted)
- Pinch Salt
For the Filling:
- 24 oz. Cream Cheese (room temperature)
- 1 Cup Sour Cream
- 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 5 Large Eggs
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
- 10 oz. Strawberry Preserves (to serve)
For the Crust: Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine the ground pretzels, graham crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Add a pinch of salt and then press into the bottom of a 13×9 clear (I only have blue) glass baking dish. Set aside while you make your filling.
For the Filling: In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the softened cream cheese on medium speed, scraping the sides and the beater occasionally. Next, add the sour cream and continue to mix until combined. Next, add the sugar and continue to mix until combined. With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time, thoroughly mixing in after each addition. Add the vanilla. Pour the filling over the crust and bake for 1 hour or until the center is no longer jiggly.
After Baking Instructions: Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let sit for a few minutes while you prepare the preserves. In a small sauce pot. Melt the strawberry preserves over low heat. When the preserves are melted, strain into another bowl if you prefer no seeds. (I skipped that part, the brand I bought worked out great.) Pour the melted jam over the top of the cheesecake and smooth out into an even layer. Let the cheesecake sit out to cool for another 30 minutes to an hour, then slice into 24 squares while still warm. Refrigerate for a few hours to chill completely before serving.
Chef Symon’s Helpful Tips:
- If you don’t have a food processor or blender to crush the pretzel and graham crackers for the crust, put them in a plastic bag and smash them until they’re pulverized.
- Not using a cheesecake pan allows the crust to stay thick to play on the salty and sweet flavor.
- If taking this cheesecake to go, then the best way to wrap it is to first wrap the baking dish with plastic wrap, then put a piece of cardboard wider than the dish on top, and then wrap in tin foil.
I’m excited for the holiday season and colder weather. My plan is to bake and use my crock-pot more. I’ve already been enjoying the turkey soup I made the day after Thanksgiving. Holiday decorating has also started and I’m excited to get a Christmas tree this weekend. Any favorite family food memories or fun holiday plans this year?