Peach Dream Cheesecake (Gluten-Free)

Directions for a cake containing gluten included in the printed recipe.

A few weeks ago, my friend Jeanne’s niece, Julianne and her family, came to visit Colorado from Florida. Why didn’t we come for a cookout? wondered Jeanne. We have a long-standing tradition of eating my cheesecake sometime around husband Dave’s birthday and the 4th of July, so it only made sense to offer to bring it. Jeanne was thrilled, but allowed that as Julianne followed a gluten-free diet, would I make some GF cookies, too? Of course I would.

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Another exchange brought the news cheesecake is Julianne’s favorite dessert. Hm. Without a lot of thought, I came back with the idea of baking two cheesecakes, one GF and one containing gluten. My Pumpkin-Ginger Crunch Cheesecake is nearly GF (as are cheesecakes in general–cool, huh?) and I had included a link for an easy GF crust in that post last October. Surely I could adapt my traditional New York-style cheesecake for Julianne. A google or two later, I had it figured. The only changes were to swap in a tasty nut crust for the graham cracker crumb one and to use 1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch in place of the 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour that thicken the cake filling. Could any GF cake be easier? I didn’t think so. There was very little chance of failure — as there is with so many GF baking adventures. And so it was: the GF version did come out perfectly. I knew it! I could not tell the difference between the two cakes other than one had nuts on the bottom and the other didn’t. Turned out we all liked the nut crust best, too. Hello dessert with protein and fiber! I was thinking the graham crackers were about to disappear as an ingredient for a cake I’ve baked with them for 40 years and maybe it was time.

Jim and Christa celebrating the 50th anniversary of their engagement last Saturday at our house. Congrats!!

Over the following weeks, I meant to blog Julianne’s cake and make sure she got the recipe, but I never got around to it. Meanwhile, peach time in Colorado first beckoned gently and then shoved itself right in the door this last week. “Why not a peach cheesecake?” I kept thinking. But the fruit ripened so quickly that I made two Peach-Blueberry Crisps along with my Sweet Cinnamon Biscuit Peach Cobbler and still hadn’t gotten a peach cheesecake recipe together. Last Thursday, knowing our dear neighbors Jim and Christa (above) were coming for dinner on the deck Saturday night, I dedicated Thursday to putting pencil to paper and then a peach cheesecake in the oven. While most other baked goods are best the day they’re made, cheesecake is the odd woman out here. It needs at least a day and up to several to sit and come to its senses in the refrigerator. And, by the way, it’s good for a week there and might be even better once frozen for up to 3 months. Perfect to do ahead for birthdays and holidays when you’re too rushed to stir up much of anything but trouble.

To avoid reinventing the cake, I took my old Pagliacci’s Cheesecake recipe –tried and true –and, doing the math (which you must do when baking), got the filling’s proportions refigured to include puréed peaches. I found a nut crust on a Food and Wine recipe and, with a few adjustments, knew it would fit my bill. Here are some photos I snapped as I baked:

Dip a knife in hot water and wipe on a towel before and after each slicing to insure clean wedges of cake.

Husband Dave and I were both anxious to try the new cake, but alas and alack, we did have to wait the prescribed stay in the refrigerator overnight to settle, firm up and “ripen” or mature it. While you might not expect this to be true, you’ll find a cheesecake among the easiest desserts to bake. Don’t hesitate! It would make a lovely Labor Day dessert. Included in the NOTES on the recipe are instructions for switching this GF cake to one containing gluten, though they’re so similar, it’s nearly unnecessary. I’ve given you enough instructions to last you well through the process and wish you great happiness, anticipation, and contentment when you make and tuck into this luscious “piece of cake”:

Peach Dream Cheesecake (Gluten-Free)

There’s so little wheat flour in cheesecake that it’s pretty simple to change it to a gluten-free version by using cornstarch in the flour's place. Hence, a GF cheesecake isn’t much different from a traditional version and tastes nearly identical. The real difference is I’ve used a walnut and spice crust —which is GF— instead of the usual American graham cracker sort, which takes any cheesecake up to the next level. I may just start using nuts as the base for all my cheesecakes! Bake your cheesecake in a bain marie (hot water bath) in a roasting pan with handles or a baking pan quite a bit larger and deeper than your springform pan. This insures even baking and helps prevent cracks in the top of the cake. Note there are 3 different oven temperatures for this cake. Make the cake at least a day ahead of serving to ripen the cheesecake.

Ingredients

CRUST:

  • 1 ½ cups walnuts
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon EACH ground ginger and cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, melted

FILLING:

  • 5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons (4 ½ teaspoons) cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup puréed peaches. (I used 1 large peeled/pitted peach puréed in food processor.)

FOR SERVING:

  • 2 ripe peaches, pitted and sliced
  • Whipped cream
  • Ground cinnamon

Instructions

  • PREPARATION: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack at center. Cover bottom and at least half-way up the sides of the 10-inch springform pan with two sheets of aluminum foil. Add a folded lightweight dishtowel to the bottom of a roasting pan. (This will keep the springform pan firmly set in the bain marie.) Heat a kettle of water to boiling.
  • MAKE/BAKE CRUST: In food processor, pulse walnuts with sugar, ginger, and cinnamon until finely ground. Pour in butter and pulse until mixture is like moist sand. Using a small sheet of plastic wrap or a flat-bottomed measuring cup (or both), press the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the pan and up the sides ½-inch. Bake 12 minutes and remove to a rack while you make the filling. Raise oven temperature to 500 degrees F.
  • MAKE FILLING AND ADD TO CRUST IN PAN: Using an electric mixture or food processor, beat or pulse the cream cheese with the lemon juice and vanilla extract until smooth. Scrape down bowl. Add the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Beat or process for 3 minutes or until creamy, light, and smooth. Beat/pulse in eggs one at a time only until each is just mixed. Do not over beat. (Cake will rise and fall, perhaps cracking in oven if eggs are overbeaten.) Beat/pulse in puréed peach until just mixed. Pour batter into prepared crust. Place the springform pan in the center of the folded towel in the roasting or large baking pan.
  • BAKE/COOL/REFRIGERATE OVERNIGHT: Pull out the oven rack and put the roasting/baking pan with the cheesecake at the center. Carefully pour the hot water into the roaster around the springform pan with the cheesecake so that it comes up the sides of the springform pan 1 or 2 inches. Gently and carefully push the rack all the way in and close the oven door. Bake at 500 degrees for 12 minutes. Lower temperature to 300 F and continue baking another 45 minutes or until cheesecake is firm at edges, but slightly jiggly at center. (An instant read thermometer inserted at center should read no more than 150 – 155 degrees Fahrenheit and cake should remain a fairly pale color.) Remove roasting pan to a rack and run a thin knife around the edges of the cake. Let the cake cool in the pan in the remaining water. When completely cool, remove springform pan from the roaster and water and dry bottom with a towel. Cover loosely and refrigerate at least overnight before serving.
  • SERVE: Slice, dipping knife in warm water and wiping on towel before each cut to insure clean wedges of cake. Serve garnished with sliced fresh peaches and whipped cream with a sprinkle of cinnamon. If there is a bit of condensed liquid on top of cake, lightly lay down and pick back up a sheet of paper towel to absorb it. This happens if you’ve wrapped the cake tightly or it’s been refrigerated before it’s totally cooled.
    STORAGE: Up to one week wrapped in the fridge or 2-3 months in the freezer. Cheesecakes freeze well and so are lovely to do the month ahead of a holiday or birthday.

Notes

For a cheesecake containing gluten, substitute 3 tablespoons (all purpose, unbleached wheat) flour for the 1 ½ tablespoons of cornstarch. You could also make a graham cracker crumb crust in lieu of the nut and spice crust.
Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2021. All rights reserved. Inspiration: Domino Sugar, Paggliaci’s Restaurant, and Food & Wine Magazine

TIPS:

Have all ingredients at room temperature before you begin–especially important if you’re mixing by hand.

Bringing eggs to room temperature quickly….Carefully place eggs in a medium bowl, cover with warm water, and let sit 10 minutes before using. Your cheesecake will mix more evenly with room temperature eggs.

How to grind nuts without a food processor./GH

How to purée without a blender/GOOD FOOD BLOG

Peach look like this? It might be best to just sink your teeth into it.

What is a water bath and why do I need it for my cheesecake?/TASTEOFHOME

Graham Cracker Crust for Cheesecake/ALLRECIPES

How to Make Cheesecake Step by Step/ALLRECIPES

WINE: It isn’t wine, but I had a little taste of Armagnac with this dessert. Coffee, too. If you wanted wine, I’d opt for a bottle of your favorite sparkler.

REDUCING FOOD/OTHER WASTE WITH THIS RECIPE:

  • The biggest tip here is one included in the recipe: this cake freezes wonderfully. Double wrap the entire cake before putting it into the freezer for up to 3 months. Otherwise, wrap individual pieces in waxed paper and put them all in a Tupperware container before freezing; this will keep them safely stored.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have too many peaches (WOW!!), you can freeze them for the winter using these directions.
  • You can bake a pie with frozen peaches. Wouldn’t that be fun for Thanksgiving or a January birthday? Thaw and drain before adding to your pie crust. (Drizzle that liquid on cottage cheese for breakfast!)

If you liked this, you might also like my:

Pumpkin-Ginger Crunch Cheesecake (Contains gluten, though GF crust option included in link on post.)

Cranberry-Citrus Cheesecake with Cinnamon-Nutmeg Graham Crust (Contains gluten. Can replace graham crust with the nut crust on today’s Peach Dream Cheesecake if necessary.)

Peach Dream Ice Cream


Mr. Tucker keeping me company in my workspace.

LIFE GOES ON:

Thursday, August 26 at nearly 6pm off our eastern deck. A sign of hope for many, rainbows symbolize different things to different people.

Thanks for spending time in the kitchen with me. Means a lot.

I hope you’re cooking well and staying well with the new Covid increases.

Keep your chin up and your mask on,

Alyce

Our Roma tomatoes coming on in their pot on the deck.

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