Blue Cheese Cheesecake with Candied Walnut Crust, Serrano-Style Ham Crisp, and Apple–Rum Caramel Sauce

Brian Alberg

Main Street Hospitality Group, Stockbridge, MA

Brian Alberg, a committed locavore, makes this sweet-and-salty cheesecake almost entirely with ingredients from the Berkshires. Even the rum is distilled nearby.

We've adapted this recipe to make a single 9-inch cheesecake.


12 servings


Apple–Rum Caramel Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups unfiltered apple cider
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into 8 pieces

Blue Cheese Cheesecake:

  • 1 egg white
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup multigrain bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups cream cheese
  • 1 cup (about 7 ounces) Taleggio, rind removed
  • 1 1/4 cups (about 10 ounces) sheep’s milk blue cheese, such as Shaker Blue from Old Chatham Sheepherding Company
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons honey

To Serve:

  • 8 thin slices Serrano ham
  • 1 apple, thinly sliced


Make the apple-rum caramel sauce: combine the apple cider, rum, and lemon juice in a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce until the mixture reaches a syrupy consistency, about 20 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Whisk in the butter, 2 pieces at a time, letting each addition fully incorporate before adding more. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. (Can be made a day ahead.)

Make the cheesecake: preheat the oven to 350ºF. combine the egg white with 1/4 teaspoon salt and the sugar. Add the walnuts and toss to coat. Spread into an even layer on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and chop until finely ground. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add the bread crumbs and butter; mix to combine.

Spray an 8-inch springform pan with vegetable-oil spray. Press the walnut mixture into the bottom of the pan in an even layer. Set aside.  

Lower the oven temperature to 300ºF.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese and Tallegio until smooth. Add the blue cheese and continue to mix. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until smooth after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining salt and the honey. Mix until combined.

Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared springform pan. Bake until set, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least an hour, or overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Place the ham slices on a Silpat–lined baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake until crisp, about 5 minutes. Let cool, then roughly chop.

Run a thin knife around the edge of the cake. Release the latch on the side of the pan and carefully remove the circular band from the cake.  

To serve, cut the cake into slices. Garnish each slice with caramel sauce, pieces of ham, and apple slices.