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Tangy Cheesecake Tart with Lime-Poached Pears

cheesecake tartcheesecake tart sliceThere are a lot of things to like about this dessert. Let’s start with the flavor. Rich cheese and the tang of lemon complement the homemade butter-and-spice graham cracker crust, topped with sweet pears that melt in your mouth.

Flavor like this is worth working for. Except that you don’t have to–your food processor is the workhorse here. The only hard part is coming to terms with all of that cream cheese. Let me assure you, it’s totally worth it for this ultra fancy-pants fall dessert.

Cheesecake Tart (adapted from Martha Stewart.com)

for the crust
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (roughly 6-8 whole crackers)
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
2 pinches salt
pinch of ground cloves
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Also preheat a rimmed baking sheet. Combine everything but the butter in the bowl of a food processor and process until the texture is consistent and gravelly. Drizzle in the butter and pulse a few times. Using the flat bottom of a glass, press into a liberally buttered 9″ tart pan evenly. Carefully set into your freezer for 15 minutes.

for the filling
2 packages cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt

Knock the crumbs out of your food processor and wipe clean. Combine all of the filling ingredients and process for 30 seconds, until the mixture is smooth. Pour into the chilled crust, set on preheated baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, until the filling is set and the sides have puffed up slightly. Carefully set the tart on a wire rack to cool.

for the topping
5 seckel pears sliced (substitute bosc if needed)
juice of 1 lime
2-3 tablespoons sugar
3″ segment of vanilla bean, halved
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

While the cheesecake bakes, prepare the topping. In a medium saucepan combine the lime juice, vanilla extract and salt, and cook over medium-high heat. Gently add the pears and cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. The pears will soften, but still hold their shape and a have bit of bite. Remove the pears, turn the heat to high and reduce the remaining juices briefly, just until the liquid starts to change color. Pour syrup into a small bowl and set aside to cool.

When the tart has cooled completely, gently dislodge it from your tart pan, and set onto a large plate. Arrange the pears into a simple rosette, or scatter around the tart. Serve slices with a drizzle of pear lime syrup.

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