I can’t remember what the topic of conversation was, but over dinner one night my husband suggested I make a pistachio cheesecake. I thought the idea sounded lovely but surely it had been done before. I wasn’t too invested when I started looking into it, but after about half an hour of searching, I found dozens of recipes for pistachio cheesecake… all made with pistachio-flavored jello. I mean ok, sure, the color is kind of attractive but I promise you, there is no way any of those cheesecakes actually taste like pistachio. Of course, this meant that coming up with a recipe was now totally necessary.
When I want to incorporate pistachio flavor front and center into a bake, I make pistachio butter and then use as much as the recipe will allow. It’s a fairly simple process: you toast the raw nuts and then grind them in a food processor until the oils are released and you have a smooth paste. If you have been following this space for awhile you’ve already read my spiel about making pistachio butter at home: it’s cheap, it’s easy, and oh, so delicious.
Finding the right way to incorporate pistachio butter into cheesecake took a bit of work. I wanted it to be one of those gorgeously tall slices, one which your fork takes a full 10 seconds to slide all the way down through. Getting the bake time and balance of ingredients right was the key. I read all the guides on how to make a cheesecake that wouldn’t crack or sink, and made my first test based on a very popular recipe online. Of course, it sank AND cracked. It was also not the dense and creamy texture I had in mind, so I went back to the drawing board.
I ultimately found my perfect pistachio cheesecake by balancing the three mains: cream cheese, pistachio butter and sour cream. To get the perfect texture without lumps, I aggressively use a food processor on the cream cheese. To get a cheesecake that cooks well without cracking or sinking, without the fuss of a water-bath, I keep a pan of hot water in the oven and let the cheesecake cool as slowly as possible. These four steps made all the difference! We end up with a gorgeously tall, dense, and creamy dish that really, really tastes like pistachios.
Pistachio Butter Cheesecake
This makes a tall, 6 inch cheesecake. If you only have a 8-9 inch pan the recipe will still work but result in a shorter cheesecake. Adjust your bake times accordingly - remembering that a more shallow cheesecake will take less time to bake. You are looking for a jiggly middle before you shut off the oven.
Pistachio butter source: I’ve got two options for you. You can take the easy and expensive route and buy this heavenly stuff, or you can make your own. To make your own, preheat your oven to 400 and toast 8-10 oz raw pistachios for about 5-7 minutes. Using a food processor, blend until it turns into a soupy paste. This can take up to 20 minutes, with on and off scraping to get the nuts to release their oils.
9oz digestive cookies (my favorite! you can also use regular graham crackers)
½ cup butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
16oz cream cheese, softened and at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 scant cup pistachio butter
1 scant cup sour cream
2 eggs plus 1 yolk
1 teaspoon lemon zest, or less
To make the crust:
In a food processor, process the cookies, salt, butter and sugar on high until very finely ground.
Add the melted butter and process until mixture is fully wet and comes together.
Press the crumbs up the sides and on the bottom of a 6x3” springform pan.
Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Place somewhere to chill while you make the filling.
To make the filling:
Preheat oven to 325.
In a food processor, process the cream cheese with the sugar and salt on high until it is utterly lump-free and smooth af. Add the vanilla and scrape down the bowl and process for another minute.
Add the pistachio butter and process until it is very smooth and well-blended. Scrape down bowl and process again to ensure all is combined.
Add the sour cream and process until combined.
Add the eggs and yolk, pulse until they are just incorporated.
Place a 13x9” sheet pan with very hot water on the bottom rack of the oven.
Pour batter into the crust, and place cheesecake on the middle rack. Bake for 60-70 minutes.
Shut the oven off and put a wooden spoon in the door to crack it open.Let the cheesecake cool in the oven for 30 minutes.
Once 30 mins has passed, close the oven door and leave the cheesecake for another 15 minutes.
Remove and cool on the counter for about half an hour. Transfer to fridge and let cool for 8 hours.