Meshing perfect combinations into tasty cheesecake is worth the effort
Most people are familiar with the classic tiramisu, an Italian espresso-mascarpone-layered dessert. The creamy mascarpone combined with chocolate and espresso makes a satisfying after-dinner dessert. My love of cheesecakes has led to many flavor combinations, such as my zebra cheesecake (on my blog), lemony versions, white chocolate raspberry, even an apple pie version. Classic desserts are my biggest inspiration for new cheesecake-idea combinations. Tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts, so it’s only logical to make it into a cheesecake. Besides, who doesn’t like coffee and chocolate? It’s a perfect combination, like peanut butter and chocolate. For Valentine’s Day, I decided to make this dessert for my love. He gave his seal of approval.Mascarpone is traditional in tiramisu; however, cream cheese is the traditional ingredient in cheesecake. Cream cheese and mascarpone are very similar ingredients. In fact, the two are regularly combined and may even replace each other in cheesecake and other recipes. Mascarpone is a little more tangy than cream cheese. Their consistencies don’t differ much. In this recipe, I keep the cream cheese base for the cheesecake but incorporate a fluffy mascarpone cream to reel in the tiramisu experience.Over the years I have tested many cheesecake recipes. For this one, I use my basic cheesecake recipe to start. It is a combination of a classic recipe and my grandmother’s recipe. This recipe always yields a perfect combination of creamy and fluffy. Some of you might like a dense and dry cheesecake (my boyfriend included), and you can achieve that by removing two eggs from this recipe and not using a water bath.When I follow the standard water bath instructions, like most recipes call for, my crust ends up soggy. When I don’t use a water bath, I notice my cheesecake is drier and cracks. So, I decided to use my roasting pan with the removable rack (the rack is flat, not V-shaped) and filled the pan with water to just below the rack. This way I get moisture in the oven, without the soggy crust. If you have luck with a traditional water bath, definitely use it. It is all about what works for you.CrustOne package (12 lady fingers). Raley’s keeps them in the bakery freezer; just ask the baker for a package.4 ounces brewed espresso (you can use hot water and instant powder, too)Arrange the lady fingers in the bottom of your spring form pan as tightly together as you can. You want as few gaps as possible (I put a piece of parchment paper at the bottom of my spring form pan). Sprinkle the espresso over all the lady fingers so each soaks it up. I tried dipping the lady fingers in the espresso first but found that if I tightly packed the lady fingers, then added the espresso, that worked much better. Filling3-8 ounces packages cream cheese (softened)3⁄4 cup granulated sugar1 tablespoon vanilla5 eggs (3 for a dense cake)1⁄8 cup heavy whipping cream1⁄2 teaspoon espresso powder, or 3 tablespoons brewed espressoPreheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until combined. Add eggs one at a time and make sure each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. Beat in whipping cream and espresso. Pour the filling onto the lady finger crust.Reduce the oven to 300 degrees and bake the cheesecake for 65 minutes (or until the middle is set).Once the middle is set, turn off the oven and prop the oven open slightly for about 15-20 minutes so the cheesecake can cool slowly (this will help avoid cracking). Remove the cheesecake from your oven and allow it to cool a bit more. Mascarpone Cream1 cup mascarpone cheese (about 8 ounces)1⁄3 cup well-chilled heavy cream1⁄4 cup sugarIn a bowl with a whisk or an electric mixer, beat together mascarpone, cream and sugar until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Once your cheesecake is cool to the touch, spread, or pipe, the cream onto the cheesecake. Sift sweetened cocoa powder over the top, or grate semi-sweet chocolate on top.Refrigerate cheesecake four hours before serving.Hey, I never said a good cheesecake was easy. • Amanda Skiba is passionate about cooking and posts her favorite recipes at http://www.stuffurface.wordpress.com.