Mascarpone Cheesecake with Almond Crust

MascarponeThis cheesecake tied for the Cheesiest Award.  I think it’s stunning.

It was created by stage manager Elizabeth Clewley, who came all the way from Washington, DC to compete this year.  She was James’ assistant on a number of shows at the Shakespeare Theater in DC, most recently TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA.

Elizabeth

Before I let you dive straight into the recipe, though, I do feel the need to discuss mascarpone.  Now, maybe I’m the only one who’s never been exactly sure what mascarpone is, but after having taken the time to Google it, I feel pretty knowledgeable now.  It is a rich, creamy cow’s milk cheese that falls somewhere between butter and cream cheese in terms of texture.  (Okay, I ripped that straight from the Internet and it clarifies nothing.)  Actually, it is about 75% milk fat and has a very thick, unctuous, sour cream-like consistency, but without the tang.  Tiramisu is made with it, if you’re wondering.  I’ve only seen it in teeny containers in the frou frou section of the supermarket, next to the quail’s eggs and the salmon caviar.  It is wicked expensive usually, although I’ve read that the following is an acceptable substitute:

16 oz cream cheese (block style, not whipped)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup whipping cream

Blend until smooth.

So, then, without further ado, here is the recipe for one of the Cheesiest Cheesecakes in the 2013 Cheesecake Bakeoff:

Mascarpone Cheesecake w/Almond Crust

Ingredients 

Crust:

1 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
2 (8-ounce) containers mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature

Topping:

1/2 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (recommended: Nutella)
1/4 cup whipping cream

Method:

For the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1.  Tightly wrap the outside of a 9-inch diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides with 3 layers of heavy-duty foil. Finely grind the almonds, cracker crumbs, and sugar in a food processor. Add the butter and process until moist crumbs form. Press the almond mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan (not on the sides of the pan). Bake the crust until it is set and beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Cool. Decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

2.  For the filling: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, and sugar in a large bowl until smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in the lemon juice and vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

3.  Pour the cheese mixture over the crust in the pan. Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the center of the cheesecake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour 5 minutes (the cake will become firm when it is cold). Transfer the cake to a rack; cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least 8 hours and up to 2 days.

4.  For the topping: Combine the chocolate-hazelnut spread and cream in a small bowl. Heat in the microwave until warm, stirring every 20 seconds to blend, about 1 minute.

5.  Cut the cake into wedges. Drizzle the chocolate sauce over the wedges and serve.

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