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Pineapple Almond Cheesecakes With Caramelized Pineapple

We all know the phrase "when life throws you lemons make lemonade" and while I am not going to tell you that when life throws you pineapples you should made pineapple-ade, I do have admit that our kitchen counter tops did look like they were sprouting pineapples like mad this past week.

It started when Sunny, my wonderful produce guy cornered me near the okra "Hey! It’s been a while since I saw pineapples on your blog!" Oh dear! He read the bits about himself then…maybe I should make him sound like he is Mark Wahlberg’s perfect look alike?….Hugh, I digress…"Hmm, I did sorbet once at the very beginning…." He then pushed 3 perfect little pineapples down in my cart "Well then, that’s settled! These should give you some materials to bake with!" I already had my hands full with baking this week, so I was unsure if I would get to them in time, but given that pineapples are the symbol of hospitality and good wishes, I could not refuse. You don’t have to be anywhere special to see this exotic fruit on door bells, gates, napkins, calendars, jewelry, license plates. The South loves pineapples allright!

I know, I know…three pineapples are nothing to write home about and not enough to make pineapple-ade or be all hung up about. If only it had ended there! The very same day, my lovely neighbor C. dropped off a couple of pineapples because "they were on sale and we all know I can’t bake but you can!". Two days later it was my mother in law who loves to shop huge discount stores and brought me three more. Let’s pause a second: so far we have 8 pineapples..which is getting out there but still manageable…somewhat! Thursday, as I was leaving the catering kitchen, the produce delivery guy stopped by and after I signed the invoice, I saw him walking towards me with a pineapple in each hand. I started heading towards my car but he yelled "Hey! These fell off to the back during the trip, and I can’t figure out which box they’re from. Why don’t you take them?" Before I could even say "no, thank you", there I was holding the fruits like a couple of newborn babies.

I was started to think that my Chinese fortune cookie from Sunday dinner reading "Go with the flow" was definitely coming true. Now I had a whole counter of the kitchen dedicated to pineapples…We went the easy routes first and juiced a couple which brought the number back down to eight. I made a quick ambrosia with one and took it to my mother-in-law’s book club; it is the ladies' favorite and all were happy. That night I made a fruit salad and stewed pineapples for crepes…down to six. What next? Jam! That would knock down a couple,easy…! Then one for a special verrine for Old Chef and one for these cheesecakes…and now I have the more reasonable two pineapples on the counter. Gee! That reminded me of the time the Exec. Chef kept ordering case after case of pears like they were going out of production!

We had the cheesecakes Saturday night at the end of a casual dinner (charcuterie, cheese, bread, salad and wine) shared with another couple. I used ground almonds in the crust as well as ginger cookie crumbs and since I have tonka beans stored in the fridge I grated one in the batter to impart that bitter almond taste that I love so much. Before I get emails and comments about these: yes, I am aware that they contain coumarin which is a blood thinner but I will say that you have the option of using almond extract if you are worried about this. I am no kamikaze either but I figure that one grated bean divided among four cheesecakes is fine, no to mention that I bake with them once every other month…Be responsible and eat everything in moderation (butter, sugar, oil and tonka beans…).

I used fresh cut pineapple in the batter and I caramelized cut slices of the fruit for the topping, using the pan juices to drizzle on the plate. I wrote the recipe for four 4 inch round cheesecake springform pans, but to change the presentation a bit, I cut each unmolded cheesecake into a square. Feel free to leave them whole (kind of a large portion for one person) or to split them up. You can also make one 8 inch cheesecake with the same amount of batter if you want. Since he kitchen looked more like a pineapple field this past week, I am sending this entry to Cookthink Root Source Challenge #2.

Pineapple Almond Cheesecakes With Caramelized Pineapple:

Makes four 4 inch round cakes (springform pans)

24 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tonka bean, grated or 2 tsp. almond extract
1 Tb lemon zest
1 cup diced fresh pineapple (you can sub canned if you want)
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (or ginger cookies crumbled up to make 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup ground almonds (also called almond meal, almond powder, almond flour)
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
4 slices pineapples
1/3 sugar
2 Tbs butter

Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium size bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs,almonds, sugar and the melted butter. Divide among 4 mini springform pans lined with parchment paper and pat with your fingers until evenly distributed. Bake 10 minutes. Lower temperature to 300F.
In a large bowl, with the stand mixer or hand held one, mix the cream cheese and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time until well incorporated. Add the tonka bean or almond extract, and the lemon zest. Fold in the diced pineapple. Divide between the springform pans. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until they wiggle just a tiny bit in the middle. They will set more after an overnight trip in the fridge. When ready to serve, run a hot knife on the inside of the pan and release the cheesecakes.
For the caramelized pineapple: in a large saute pan, melt the sugar over medium high heat until it starts to get a nice amber tone, add the butter, whisk to incorporate and add the pineapple slices. Let them cook 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the pan and place them on top of the cheesecakes. Use the pan sauce to serve with the cheesecakes if desired.