Friday, May 28, 2010

Toasted Almond Cheesecake

It was my friend Anita's birthday today, so, naturally, I offered to make her the treat of her choice. She picked cheesecake. I needed more inspiration than that, so I turned to the source of many good and bad ideas--alcohol. She informed me that her favorite mixed drink is called a "toasted almond," which appears to be equal amounts amaretto, Kahlua, and other words, the perfect flavors to incorporate into a cheesecake.

I recalled my family's Easter dinner celebration, when my father (if I'm Blondie, and Syracuse is Brownie, then my mother would be Reddie, and my father would be Blackie--I'm a biologist, and I'm still trying to figure out how that's genetically possible) made this cheesecake from Giada De Laurentiis. It seemed like an excellent base recipe, and thus, the Toasted Almond Cheesecake was born...

  • 1 c. slivered almonds, lightly toasted
  • 2/3 c. graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 Tbl. sugar
  • 4 Tbl. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 (8-ounce) containers mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. Kahlua
  • 1 Tbl. almond extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 9-inch diameter springform pan with parchment paper. Finely grind the almonds, graham cracker crumbs, and 3 Tbl. 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 at 350 degrees until it is set and beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Cool.

Decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Cream together the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, and sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in the almond extract, Kahlua, and vanilla. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Pour cheesecake batter over cooled crust. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hr and 5 min, then turn off oven and leave cheesecake in the oven one hour longer. Center will still be jiggly. Refrigerate 8 hrs to 2 days.

I put a pan of water on the lower rack for the whole cooking time (no patience for things like water baths). The cheesecake cracked a little around the edges, but as it cooled, this became less noticeable. The almond flavor was great, but it overpowered the Kahlua--fine by me, as I'm not the biggest coffee fan, anyways, but for a more authentic "Toasted Almond" flavor, I'd recommend 2 tsp. almond extract and maybe 5-6 Tbl. Kahlua. I would have used amaretto and Kahlua, but I was nervous about adding too much liquid, so I decided to stick with the more concentrated almond extract to get that flavor. The texture was firmer toward the edges (more New York-style) and delightfully creamy in the center. All in all, a rousing success. And yes, I used canned whipped cream to decorate it. So sue me.

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