Black Pepper Cheesecake

Adapted by
Aquavit and the New Scandinavian Cuisine, Houghton Mifflin, 2003
Yield: 6-8 Servings


1½ teaspoons black peppercorns
¾ pound Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
¾ cup crème fraîche, sour cream, or whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups heavy cream


Preheat oven to 250°F. Spray an 8-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper and spray parchment paper. (If using a springform pan, wrap pan in a double layer of foil to keep it watertight.)

Blanch peppercorns in a small pot of boiling water for one minute; drain. Repeat two more times. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.

Spread peppercorns out in a small baking pan and dry them in the oven until thoroughly dry, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Raise oven temperature to 350°F.

Grind peppercorns medium-fine in a spice grinder, clean coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, until very smooth and light. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean and add them to the cream cheese mixture. Beat in the crème fraiche or sour cream or yogurt, as well as the lemon juice, and scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl. Beat in cream and peppercorns.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Set pan inside a large shallow baking pan and pour about 1 inch of hot water into the pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until the sides of the cake are set but the center is still a little loose. Transfer cake pan to rack to cool completely. When the cheesecake is cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To unmold the cheesecake, run a thin knife or spatula around the sides of pan. Set the pan on a hot burner for about 20 seconds, shaking the pan gently from side to side to release the cake. Invert cake onto a cake plate, peel off parchment, and serve.