Pastry chef Anna Posey of Chicago's Publican blackens rhubarb in a wood-fired oven for the cheesecake's compote topping. A standard oven will also do the trick.
Yield: serves 10-12
Time: 5 hours
For the Crust . . .
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
6 oz. graham crackers
1 tsp. sugar
1⁄4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
For the Filling and Garnish . . .
1⁄2 cup sour cream
3 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1⁄4 cups sugar
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs, room temperature
2 tbsp. dark rum
1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
Charred Rhubarb Compote . . .
Sliced strawberries, for garnish . . .
Instructions . . .
• Make the crust: Heat oven to 375°. Grease a 9″ (3″-deep) springform pan with butter. Pulse graham crackers in a food processor into fine crumbs. Add melted butter, sugar, nutmeg, and salt; pulse to combine and press mixture into bottom and 1 1⁄2″ up the sides of pan. Bake until set, 6–8 minutes, and cool. Wrap outside of pan with aluminum foil; transfer to a roasting pan.
• Make the filling: Reduce oven to 325°. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat sour cream and cream cheese on high until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl and add sugar and butter; mix on medium until combined. With the motor running, add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add rum, salt, and vanilla bean and seeds; mix until combined and pour into prepared crust. Pour enough boiling water into roasting pan to come halfway up the side of springform pan; bake until filling jiggles slightly in the center when the pan is tapped on the side, 50 minutes to an hour. Remove springform pan from water bath and let cool completely; chill until set, 3–4 hours.
Spread Charred Rhubarb Compote over cheesecake and garnish with strawberries; chill 1 hour before serving.
Using minimum sugar produces a somewhat tart and tangy compote. But you can taste and add a little more honey after the rhubarb is cooked, to sweeten it to your liking.
1 1/4 cups (310ml) water
1 1/4 cups (310ml) dry or sweet white wine
1 1/2 tbsp vanilla
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1/3-1/2 cup (100-160g) honey
2 pounds (1kg) rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 3-inch batons, about 1/2 –inch wide
1 pound (450g) strawberries hulled and quartered
Optional: 1 teaspoon kirsch
1. In a large, nonreactive saucepan, heat the water, wine, vanilla, sugar, and honey.
2. When all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is simmering, add the rhubarb and let the rhubarb cook in the simmering syrup until it’s just softened, which may take as little as 5 minutes, depending on the rhubarb. Remove from heat and add the strawberries and the eau-de-vie, if using.