Have I ever told you that cheesecake is my favorite dessert? There’s something about the creamy texture that I simply cannot turn down. And there are so many possible flavors! Chocolate, vanilla bean, triple berry – the list goes one. The dessert itself is unique, presenting a irresistible fusion of sugary and tart tastes. I recently made what was possibly the BEST cheesecake recipe I’ve ever come across. My boyfriend and I were visiting his parents for dinner a few weeks back. He prepared a ridiculous meal of Indian specialties, which was loaded with ambrosial ingredients and potent spices. I was tasked with creating a complementary dessert, and this unique Cardamom and Saffron Cheesecake was the result. I like to consider cheesecake to be one of my “specialties,” and have developed a series of tricks over the years to create perfect results. I only recently discovered that cheesecake filling prepared in a food processor yields an unbeatable texture that is both smooth and fluffy. Stand or hand mixers can sometimes result in an inconsistent batter with chunks of cream cheese – the processor whips everything with precision, and creates a silky smooth filling that pours beautifully into your prepared pan. The original recipe is a Simply Recipes original…who to this day is one of my most trusted bloggers. This cake on its own is highly recommended, but the incorporation of cardamom and saffron sent this recipe over the top. These savory elements paired beautifully with the dessert’s sweeter side, adding a notable depth and character to this otherwise straightforward recipe.
What I love about most cheesecake is the ability to make it days in advance, giving those of us with full-time schedules some peace of mind. On the day of, I topped the cheesecake with a layer of lightly sweetened mascarpone and garnished with crushed pistachios (unsalted). The result was an all-around awesome cheesecake: the irresistibly creamy texture, undeniably great flavor, and a gorgeous appearance. The meal had been a fairly spicy one (Tom likes food with a kick…heh) so this was the perfect balance. I guarantee that this will be a crowd-pleaser, for pretty much everyone at your dinner table: click HERE to make this lovely dessert.
While cardamom and saffron are staples in savory recipes, they rarely play a role in sweeter ones – yet the combination works beautifully in this cheesecake. For the musical pairing, I wanted to complement both the uncommon while also paying homage to the East Asian spices of this dish. That led me to British composer Jonathan Harvey: a contemporary English composer and musicologist whose style explores the more subtle connections between spirituality and music. In Harvey’s case, Buddhism was the inspiration for his both his music and philosophies. The following comes from Harvey’s 2010 essay Buddhism and the Undecidability of Music:
“Music is in some sense a picture of wisdom. It is even an explanation, in that it shows rather more clearly than words can so, [the] will-o’-the-wisp quality of reality. Music shows us how mind works.”
This mindfulness can be found in Harvey’s work …towards a Pure Land: a work for full orchestra that portrays the journey that one must take to reach a state beyond suffering (or dukkha in buddhism). The understanding and cessation of dukkha is an extremely important element of Buddhist practice. The music vacillates between energetic highs and a breezy calm, with a flurry of emotions in between. The end of the piece finally brings the listener to that state of mind beyond suffering, which speaks to Harvey’s belief that music can and does provide insight to the human conscience.
Service, Tom. “Music and the Mind,” The Guardian. June 2010.