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Baking baklava cheesecake, a fusion of east and west

Nov 22, 2017

Amanda and Hussein Saab with their daughter Hannah.
Credit Courtesy of Amanda Saab

Thanksgiving is now less than a day away. For all you last-minute bakers out there with nothing to make, Amanda Saab has you covered.

She’s a No Kid Hungry food blogger, founder of Dinner with Your Muslim Neighbor, and was the first Muslim woman featured on the TV show MasterChef.

The new America the Great Cookbook includes Saab’s Baklava Cheesecake recipe – it’s what she bakes for the people she loves, like her husband Hussein and their 3-month-old daughter Hannah.

Stateside recently visited Saab’s kitchen in New Boston where her baklava cheesecake was in the works. We brought back the audio postcard above. Take a listen. Step by step, you’ll learn how to make the dessert.

For those serious about making baklava cheesecake:

Find the full baklava cheesecake recipe here. It lives on Saab’s blog, AmandasPlate.com.

A just-baked Baklava Cheesecake by Amanda Saab.
Credit Lindsey Scullen / Michigan Radio

Bonus tips from Amanda:

  • Always score the top of the cheesecake. If you don’t cut it before cooking, the baklava will crumble. “And it’s going to be a mess – a hot mess,” Saab said.
     
  • Especially with cheesecake, it’s important to not introduce a lot of air into the batter. Air will make it puff up and soufflé, which is not what you want with cheesecake. “Cheesecake is dense and rich, so you want to keep your mixer on low,” Saab said. “And use the paddle attachment so that you’re not like whisking air into the mix."
     
  • Saab says garnishing your cheesecake takes it to the next level.
    Credit Lindsey Scullen / Michigan Radio
      You also want to cook cheesecake with steam in your oven. So that means either doing a water bath, like traditional cheesecake recipes call for, or putting a pot in the bottom of your oven and adding boiling water. “[That] will also create steam and that helps keep it moist and... from drying out,” she said.
     
  • Keep your spatulas separate. “I have, like, my baking ones and then like my savory ones,” she said. “And Hussein always mixes it up – I’m like, it literally says baking on it! I feel like the silicone plastic absorbs flavor, and even when it’s washed thoroughly through the dishwasher at a high temperature, I still feel like the savory ones especially have ... a little bit of like garlic on there. So you don’t want to use it for your baking.”
     
  • “People eat with their eyes first, so I like to introduce lots of bursts of colors in the garnishes,” Saab said. Garnish your cheesecake to take it to the “next level.” For instance, use leftover scraps of phyllo to make a bouquet for the top of the cheesecake. Roll up strips of the dough and dip them in butter. That will add “nice height” to the cheesecake. Also try flowers, pistachios, and dried oranges.

You can also check out Michigan Radio's Thanksgiving Cookbook here.

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