Well, after an incredibly busy, but fun-filled hiatus, I’m finally back to celebrate my one-year anniversary!! A little late, yes I know, but I of course had to prepare something super special to celebrate. What a year this has been, with all the nonstop adventures that came with living in Europe, not to mention all the delicious food! :) I took my one-year blog anniversary as the perfect opportunity to make something I wouldn’t ordinarily prepare, and so cheesecake was the first thing that sprang to mind! Yes, I love it-it’s kind of hard not to love that super smooth and silky, luscious and dense, yet not too sweet treat. But it’s precisely because it’s all of those wonderful things that I hardly ever eat, let alone make, this gem of a dessert and tend to keep it for special occasions. As I was browsing recipes, I came across Giada’s recipe for cheesecake made with a mix of regular cream cheese and mascarpone cheese, one of my all-time favorite ingredients J It sounded just perfect, and so I set out, without a hand mixer, but with only my bare hands, to whip, whip and whip, bake and finally garnish this masterpiece. The only changes I made were I used the infamous French speculos cookies(the French equivalent of graham crackers, if you will) to make the crust, orange juice instead of lemon juice, and blackcurrant jam in lieu of chocolate to top the cheesecake .Verdict? Nothing short of sublime! Super-rich and creamy, but lighter in texture than traditional New York cheesecakes. It’s not too sweet at all, and to complement it, I topped with a bit of cassis (black currant) jam (another of my all-time favorites!). Sliced strawberries provide the perfect finishing touch with a bit of freshness to offset the richness of the cheesecake itself. Will I make this again? Of course (when I have another occasion!)! And actually, even without an electric mixer, it’s a cinch to put together! If you are a cheesecake lover, try your hand for your next special occasion get together-you and your guests will be nothing short of impressed!
Recipe (adapted from Giada de Laurentis's Mascarpone Cheesecake with Almond Crust):
1.5 cups speculos cookies, crushed
3 tbsp. melted butter
2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
2 8 oz. packages mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1.25 cups sugar
2 tbsp. fresh orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup blackcurrant jam
! cup washed, sliced strawberries
Preheat oven to 350F. Mix together crushed speculos cookies and melted butter, and spread on bottom of a 9" springform pan or pie plate. Bake the crust until it is set and beginning to brown, about 10-12 minutes. Let the crust cool, and lower the oven temperature to 325F.
Beat the cream cheese, mascarpone and sugar together 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 in the eggs 1 at a time, and beat until just blended.
Pour the cheese mixture over the crust. Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan(if using pie plate, put roasting pan on bottom rack). Pour enough hot water in the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the center of the cheesecake moves sightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour, 5 minutes. Turn the oven off, but leave the cake in with the door ajar for another hour. Then let the cake completely cool before refrigerating overnight. Once cold and before serving, spread the top of the cheesecake with the blackcurrant jam and arrange the strawberries on top in desired pattern. Slice, serve and relish!