Cheesecake is a healthfood right?
I was watching someone on TV last weekend make tira misu and I remembered that I had wanted to make a cheesecake sometime with mascarpone instead of regular cream cheese. I've never really liked the chocolate cheesecakes and other similar flavours of cheesecake I've tasted because I felt the slight sourness of the cream cheese made the overall flavour a bit nasty. So since I was doing nothing on Sunday, I got out the lemon cheesecake recipe (fantastic) from June 2003 Cook's Illustrated magazine and got to work. I decided on a tira misu inspired cake as that was what got me going. Mascarpone is a bit softer in texture than regular cream cheese so I added another egg to the recipe, but I don't know if that was necessary. I also left out the 1/2 c of whipping cream as I didn't see a need for it. I've also been making nut crusts rather than cookie crumb crusts with good success.
The basic recipe is:
1.5lb mascarpone (or cream cheese if you want something more sour)
4 or 5 eggs
1 to 1.5 c sugar (depending on the flavourings you use and personal taste)
1/4 tsp salt
flavour (in my case I put in 2 oz of melted chocolate, 1/4 c of dark rum and 1/4 c of strong coffee)
1.5 c of ground up nuts (kind of hard to measure unless they are pre-ground so just guess)
2 tbsp melted butter
3 tbsp sugar
I used a combination of walnuts and hazelnuts for this cake, but I think pecans would have been good too for these flavours. I used almonds when I made the lemon cheescake and they worked nicely. You can of course use cookie crumbs, just double the amount of butter to 4 tbsp.
Preheat oven to 325F
Pulse the nuts in a food processor until they reach a large sand grain size. Add sugar and pulse a few more times. Drizzle in melted butter with the processor running just to combine. Press into a 9 inch spring form pan. Use the flat bottom of a glass or a ramekin to flatten and compact. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, watch to make sure you don't burn the nuts. A cookie crust would probably take closer to 15 minutes. Cool crust before adding filling
In a standing mixer (if you are lucky and have one) or with a hand mixer (if you are me) blend mascarpone (or cream cheese that has been softened) for a few minutes until it is smooth and not at all lumpy. Add the sugar and salt and blend again for a minute. Add eggs 1 or 2 at a time, and blend after each addition to incorporate. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl a few times while you are doing all this (not while the mixer is running). Add your flavourings and if you are using melted chocolate, add it to the other flavourings first and blend it together or you will get little flecks of solidified chocolate throughout your cake when it hits the cooler batter. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I am irritated that I didn't think of it and had little chocolate bits in my cake instead of a smooth batter. Blend this all until combined and then pour on top of the cool crust. Bake in the oven (still at 325F) for about 55 minutes until the sides are slightly puffed and the surface is no longer shiny. It should still wobble a bit in the middle. After the 55 minutes is up, turn off the oven leaving the cake inside, and prop open the oven door with a wooden spoon handle. Leave the cake there for at least an hour, then bring out to cool on a rack. Once cool, chill for at least 4 hours before serving. Top with whatever you want. A chocolate sauce would be nice with this, or a chocolate ganache. The lemon cheese cake is topped with lemon curd and is really, really, really good. I think an orange cheese cake topped with raspberry goop would be nice too.