Roasted Peach and Pepper Cheesecake

Roasted Peach and Pepper Cheesecake

Habanada peppers are a breed of habaneros with a sweet, bright, melon-like flavor without the heat.

I had my fair share of the electric-orange Habanadas last summer when our friends over at Knopp Branch Farm in Wharton were growing them by the bushel. We roasted them to make sauces, chutneys and salads, or stuffed them to make fritters and curries. But my best and most delicious memory is when the restaurant’s pastry chef, Alexa Hernandez, made a gorgeous decadent cheesecake.

This year, when I saw the Habanadas again at the table of Goodthyme Farm at the Urban Harvest farmers market, I combined them with sweet peaches and the cooling flavor of saffron to make another cheesecake. The papery white skin peels off easily when roasted, keeping the bright color intact.

Full disclosure_ The recipe is a two- to three-day process, requires the use of different equipment, a water bath and attention to detail — but is well worth the trouble. Gather your neighbors for this showstopper dessert and do give it a try. It will keep for four to five days in the refrigerator and is best eaten the day after it is made. Almost any homemade or store-bought cookie will do for a crisp crust, but old, dry and leftover ones work best.

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Cook Time

3 Hours



Step 1
A few hours or a day before the cheesecake is made, combine the heavy cream with saffron and refrigerate. This helps the flavor of saffron infuse into the cream.
Step 2
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grind the cookies in a food processor or by placing them between a folded kitchen towel and running a rolling pin over it several times until the cookies have crumbled. Combine the cookies with melted butter and press into the bottom of a greased 9-inch springform pan or a removable bottom pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes — the crust will seem soft but will harden as it cools. Cover the bottom of the pan tightly with foil, making sure it comes up 2 to 3 inches. Place this pan inside a larger pan just as deep or deeper, in which hot water can be added to create a water bath.
Step 3
Over a hot flame or in the oven on broil, roast the peppers until they are charred and scorched on all sides. Let them cool, then discard the charred skin off them. Leaving 5 to 6 peaches for garnish, cut the remaining ones in half, discard the pits and place them on a hot grill for a minute or two or in the oven close to a broiler. This is not to cook them but to get them to infuse with a roasted flavor. Set aside 2 to 3 roasted habanada peppers along with 5 to 6 peaches for garnishing the next day.
Step 4
In a blender, combine the whole peeled peppers with seeds (after discarding the stems), peaches, and saffron cream; purée until completely smooth. Set aside in the refrigerator. Separately, in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle, combine the cream cheese and sugar and mix for 4 to 5 minutes and until the cheese appears airier. Add the orange zest and eggs one at a time and continue mixing.
Step 5
Add the pepper saffron cream into the cream cheese mix and mix just until combined. Pour the entire mixture into the cooled cheesecake pan. Pour hot water in the larger outside pan halfway up the cheesecake pan so a hot water bath is created around. Carefully place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 300°F and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. The surface of the cheesecake will appear set and may have golden-brown bubbles. Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake sit in the hot oven for another 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the cheesecake sit in the water bath until cool to the touch. Refrigerate the cheesecake for a minimum of 8 to 10 hours, preferably overnight.
Step 6
Decorate the top of the cheesecake with sliced peaches with small pieces of roasted habanada peppers, and basil leaves tucked in between. Sprinkle with salt and red chili powder, if desired. When slicing, use a knife soaked in hot water and wipe the blade clean between slices.


1 1/2 cup cookies, ground up

4 tablespoons unsalted melted butter


1 cup heavy cream

Generous pinch of saffron

8 ounces habanada peppers (14 to 15 peppers)

1 1/2 pounds ripe but firm peaches

1 1/2 pounds (24 ounces) cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup cane sugar

Zest of 2 oranges

4 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Basil sprigs for garnish

Red chili powder for garnish (optional)

Notes & Variations

  • Instead of peaches, use nectarines or mangoes.
  • Every oven produces different results, so stay alert to the visual cues of the cheesecake when estimating a finish time. The cheesecake will jiggle but appear se
  • Instead of cookies, use crushed graham crackers.

Stock Your Pantry

Peach Season!

Peaches may be the glory of Texas summers, but they originated in northwest China, along the Yangtze River over 6,000 years ago. Of specific importance were peach blossoms, which were believed to fend off evil spirits and bring vitality. Each new year in China began with peach blossoms hung on front doors to start the year off right.