Clementine Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Chocolate Cookie Crust and Candied Clementines

That title is a serious mouthful, but well worth it For the Topping: 4 whole clementines 1 cup sugar Juice of 1 lemon 1 cup of water 3 tablespoons fresh clementine juice For the Cheesecake: 1¼ cups finely crushed chocolate wafers 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature ¾ cup sugar 4 large eggs, at room temperature 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour ½ cup sour cream Zest of 4 clementines Juice of 1 clementine 1 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or the caviar of 1 vanilla bean) 1. For the Topping: With a sharp knife, slice the clementines into thin rounds, discarding ends and seeds. In a large skillet, heat the sugar, water, and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved. Add the slices of clementine and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Uncover and simmer gently, keeping slices in a single layer and turning occasionally, until they’re slightly candied and translucent and liquid has the consistency of a thin syrup, about 20 minutes. You should have about a half cup of liquid in the pan at this point. Allow to cool in the pan and then cover and chill for at least 15 minutes (this can be done a couple days ahead). 2. For the Cheesecake: Preheat oven to 300°F. Combine the chocolate wafer crumbs and melted butter in a small bowl and then press the mixture evenly over bottom of a spring-form pan. Bake for 10 minutes and then remove from oven to cool slightly while you make the filling. 3. In a large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy and smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in flour, sour cream, clementine zest and juice, liqueur, and vanilla bean paste until well incorporated. Pour into crust-lined pan. Place the pan in a large roasting dish and pour hot water into the roasting dish until it is half-way up the sides of the spring-form pan (I also wrap my spring-form pan in a few layers of tin foil to prevent water from seeping in). Baking the cheesecake in a water bath helps prevent it from cracking and keeps it moist. 4. Bake until the center barely jiggles when cake is gently shaken, about 60 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife between the cake and pan rim. Cool completely to room temperature, then cover and chill until cold, at least 3 hours (or for a couple days). 5. Remove pan rim. Gently lift candied clementine slices from syrup, reserving syrup, and blot dry with a paper towel. Arrange slices, slightly overlapping, on top of cheesecake. 6. Bring reserved syrup to a boil over high heat. Stir occasionally until syrup is thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully stir in fresh clementine juice (mixture will bubble up). Let cool to room temperature and generously brush over orange slices (you may have extra syrup). Slice the cheesecake and serve!

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