Chris does not like cheesecake. He doesn’t like to order it for dessert at the end of the meal. He said people don’t do cheesecake well. I was out to prove him wrong. I love good cheesecake but I will admit that sometimes cheesecake is too sweet. I’ve been making cheesecakes for as long as I could remember, especially in college. I also remember putting in cups and cups of sugar into making it. I wanted to evolve my cheesecake recipe into something we can enjoy as adults with much less sugar.
If you’ve read some of my previous recipes, you’ll notice that I use a lot of lemons in my cooking/baking. I really like the flavor of lemon and I feel it cuts through something rich and sweet like cheesecake very well. I’ve also been experimenting with mascarpone a lot lately instead of cream cheese. Mascarpone is an Italian style cream cheese. Mascarpone is made from cream and any sort of acidic substance like lemon juice or citric acid. It’s been used in Italy in since the late 1600s and is a key component to the popular Italian dessert, tiramisu. Unlike normal cream cheese which tends to be thick and dense, mascarpone is silkier and creamy. It has almost a buttery quality to it. I use more mascarpone than cream cheese ratio in my cheesecake to achieve a richer and smoother consistency.
Now to kick it up a notch, I had to consider toppings and the crust. For the topping, I was thinking of a blueberry compote to go over the cheesecake but I saw these beautiful figs at the market. It’s that wonderful time of the year again where strawberry season is coming to an end and fig season is beginning. I felt it would be appropriate to bid adieu to strawberries and greet figs all in the same dish. The crust was tricky. I could go old school and use graham crackers but it didn’t feel unique enough for Chris to not complain that my cheesecake wasn’t good. I mulled it over and kind of came up with the thought that since I’m using mostly an Italian cream cheese, maybe I can use an Italian cookie for the base. I like to add nuts into my dessert crusts as it adds depth of flavor and texture. I had wanted to add almonds to the crust for this cheesecake and settled on amaretto cookies for the base. They’re light and crispy, almond-y, and already sugary so I don’t need to add more sugar to my crust. (NOTE: you can use graham crackers for the crust if you already have that at home; simply use the same amount of graham crackers as the almonds and amaretto cookies combined and add 3 tablespoons of sugar to the crust mixture.)
Baking Tip: I had to make this cheesecake twice because water somehow got into my foil wrap and made my crust soggy. I was so sad. All that work gone down the drain. I did extensive research and figure out what I could use other than foil to put my cheesecake into a water bath. Prepare to have your MIND BLOWN: if you put a 9″ springform pan inside a 10″ cake pan, not only does it fit perfectly, the slight gap between the springform pan and cake pan will allow heat to be released and not cause condensation but the close proximity will still allow the cheesecake to be cooked gently in the water bath! Seriously. Life. Changing.
- 1/3 cup slivered almonds
- 2/3 cup amaretto cookies
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 16 ounces mascarpone cheese
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 5 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- Seasonal fruit
- Step 1 Preheat oven to 350F.
- Step 2 Butter the bottom of a 9″ springform pan.
- Step 3 Add almonds to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add to a medium mixing bowl.
- Step 4 Add amaretto cookies to food processor and pulse until a powder consistency. Add to the almonds.
- Step 5 Stir in butter and mix until texture resembles wet sand.
- Step 6 Press cookie, almond, butter mixture evenly onto the bottom of springform pan (bottom only! Do not press against sides of pan).
- Step 7 Bake for 12-15 minutes.
- Step 8 Remove from oven to cool and lower oven temperature to 325F.
- Step 9 In a stand mixer (or using an electric mixer), beat cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, salt, sugar, and lemon zest until mixture is creamy and smooth. Occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl.
- Step 10 Add lemon juice and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly.
- Step 11 Adding eggs one at a time, allowing the mixture to become smooth before adding the next egg.
- Step 12 Pour filling on top of cooled crust and gently tap on a counter to release air bubbles (smooth the top with an offset spatula if needed).
- Step 13 Place 9″ springform pan inside a 10″ cake pan (if a cake pan is not available, wrap the springform pan with 2 layers of aluminum foil BEFORE baking the crust) and place the pans inside a roasting pan.
- Step 14 Pour hot water into the roasting pan to allow the water to come halfway up the cake pan.
- Step 15 Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes until the center of the cheesecake is slightly jiggly.
- Step 16 Cool completely on a cooling rack and chill in the refrigerator for at least 5 hours before serving (overnight is best).
- Step 17 Top with fresh fruit and serve.