Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

Thank goodness for cheesecake. Coming up with a gluten free dessert to serve for the holidays has been quite a challenge for me. Some gluten free desserts leave a noticeable after taste or has a slightly different texture from gluten laden dishes. But thank goodness for cheesecake. It's been the dessert that is perfect for special occasions, is versatile to make into a variety of flavors and above all, it's super easy to make into a gluten free indulgence. For Thanksgiving, I made this Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake and it's made me fall completely in love with cheesecakes once again. The creamy cheesecake filling is decoratively swirled with a homemade wild cranberry sauce, garnished with whipped cream and a little more cranberries. This is an elegant way to sweeten up any holiday meal!...

Growing up, one of the first desserts I've ever made for my family was a cheesecake. It's my dad's favorite dessert and one my mom enjoys because it's not particularly too sweet. The very first recipe I tried was one from a little paperback cheesecake recipe booklet I bought for $1. It highlighted recipes using Borden/Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk. My family loved my first cheesecake and often request it on special occasions. It's the one cheesecake recipe that I love using time and time again after all these years. First off, it's easy. If I had success with it as a teenager, anyone can make a cheesecake! Secondly, it's a great base recipe that you can play with by incorporating other flavors and ingredients. And third, it's amazingly delicious... a truly fail-proof recipe.

For the crust, you can make a traditional graham cracker crust. I used gluten free graham crackers - if you're gluten free and come across these, snag them and an extra one too! They make for a great pantry staple for those who are gluten free. Prepare the crust in the bottom of a springform pan.

The filling is where the magic happens. A couple bricks of cream cheese, a few whole eggs, a little freshly squeezed lemon juice and a can of sweetened condensed milk are blended together. The mixture is poured into the springform pan on top of the prepared crust.

At this point, here's where you can play a bit. I took leftover homemade wild cranberry sauce and swirled a few spoonfuls on top of the cheesecake filling. Using a knife, swirl the sauce in to get a little bit of cranberry sauce into every bite! Aside from cranberry sauce, use whatever you'd like - jams, pie fillings, baking chips, etc. The possibilities are endless...

Bake this beauty up in a preheated oven, uncovered and without any water bath for a little less than an hour... and it comes out perfect every.single.time.

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake
adapted from Borden/Eagle Brand

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
3 large eggs
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup cranberry sauce (homemade works best)

garnish: (optional)
whipped cream
more cranberry sauce

Preheat oven to 300°F.

To make the crust, combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar; press firmly into bottom of ungreased 9-inch springform pan.

Beat cream cheese until fluffy in large bowl. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Add eggs and lemon juice; mix well. Pour over crust.

Dollop spoonfulls of the cranberry sauce randomly over the top of the cheesecake filling. Using the tip of a paring knife, drag the knife across the cheesecake filling to swirl the cranberry sauce into it.

Bake the cheesecake in the preheated oven uncovered for 50 to 55 minutes or until set. Cool for an hour to finish setting, chill for another hour before serving. Serve by garnishing with whipped cream and extra cranberry sauce if desired.