I have a big passion for black sour cherries. I don’t talk about the mouth-puckering, early light red cherries with transparent flesh. I mean the dark red fruits, with a deep serious elegant taste, impossible to confound with any other variety: the ones used in the famous schwarzwälder kirschtorte, kirsch and other products, where sweet varieties might become bland and boring. They are excellent in cakes, jams, home-made liquors, but nothing equals the unique bold mixture of tanginess and sweetness of raw ripe fruits I have been crazy for since I was a child. Rare guests in my house and impossible to buy fresh here, dark sour cherries have become for me an unattainable luxury I long for almost as much as for fresh wasabi root.
Conscious of my fondness for this fruit, my kind friend has recently surprised me bringing a big box of sour cherries from her trip to Hungary. I spent the two following days, enjoying them nature straight from the box and wondering which dessert would highlight best this rare delicacy. My choice went finally for the simplest, tangy, unbaked cheesecake.
I have posted several unbaked cheesecake versions, but as a reminder I would like to emphasize they are not made with US cream cheese and I do not advise it as a substitution. I make them with fresh, natural, smooth cheese, often called “quark”, “fromage frais” or “fromage blanc”, which is slightly similar in taste to Greek yogurt (its excellent replacement by the way). Such a cheesecake doesn’t contain eggs and is set with gelatin, which creates a kind of thick moussy, creamy texture. Some people prepare it with a crust, but I’m not a fan of these, so my cheesecakes contain only cheese, gelatin, (not always) sugar and make particularly light desserts. Of course different seasonings (vanilla, aromatic alcohols, spices etc.) can be added, as well as seasonal fruits. Whatever you add, serve the unbaked cheesecake very cold and enjoy its refreshing qualities.
If you don’t like/have cherries, you might like one of these unbaked cheesecake/Greek yogurt mousse versions:
TIPS: You can substitute dark sour cherries with any other variety, sour or not, but do profit from seasonal fresh fruits (even though this cheesecake will be excellent with candied, canned or frozen fruits too).
This cheesecake can be made in one big mould lined with plastic film, and then sliced into portions, but I find individual portions easier to handle and much cuter when served.
The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller, powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use here the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid.
Difference between sheets and powdered gelatin: gelatin in sheets/leaves requires three stages (softening in cold water, then squeezing them to get rid of the water and then dissolving in warm/hot water), while powdered gelatin requires only one step: it needs to be stirred in warm (I prefer hot) water. There is also gelatin in “cristals” but I have never used it.
Preparation: 15 minutes + 2 hours in the fridge
Ingredients (serves 4-5):
500 g (about 17 oz) smoothly mixed fresh cheese or curd cheese (quark/fromage frais/fromage blanc) or Greek yogurt
30-40 medium sized cherries (pitted, though you may save some with pits for the decoration)
1 tablespoon gelatin or 6 – 8 sheets, depending on the size/brand, so take the amount necessary to set 500 ml/17 fl oz of liquid, see TIPS above)
4 tablespoons warm water (I prefer to use hot water with powdered gelatin)
3-4 tablespoons rum or kirsch
(I haven’t added any sugar here, but if you are not fond of tangy desserts, add 4 flat tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener of your choice)
Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm or hot (not boiling) water. (If using leaves, proceed as indicated on the package).
Mix the cheese, the rum (and the sugar if using) in a food processor.
Add the dissolved gelatin and mix once more.
Divide the cherries equally into individual glasses (saving some for the decoration), pour the cheese mixture over them and put into the fridge for at least two hours.
Just before serving decorate with cherries. Serve very cold.