My ideal cheesecake is just slightly tart and sweet.
New-York-style cheesecake purists may scoff at the addition of a heavy dose of mascarpone in this recipe, but it makes the filling unbelievably creamy and light.
It is also a great base for seasonal fruit toppings. In the summer, try sliced stone fruit or berries; in the spring, strawberries or rhubarb compote are a delicious addition.
Sauteed apples and pears are wonderful in the fall, and in the winter, candied citrus fruit (clementines pictured above) or citrus curd make fine accompaniments.
Some handy tips for cheesecake success:
— Make sure the ingredients—especially the cream cheese—are at room temperature before you start mixing the filling. Cold cream cheese and eggs will result in a lumpy cheesecake batter.
— If you forget to take your eggs out of the refrigerator beforehand, you can warm them in a bowl of hot tap water for about ten minutes. Dry them carefully before using.
— Wrap the bottom of the pan in aluminum foil and cook the cheesecake in a water bath to prevent cracking. Also, turn off the oven and let the cheesecake cool with the door slightly ajar to prevent cracks.
— For clean slices, make sure the cheesecake is thoroughly chilled, and slice using a long, thin knife that’s been run under hot water. Dry knife between cuts.
Recipe: Mascarpone Cheesecake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan
For the crust:
1 ¾ cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 2 packs of graham crackers)
2 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. butter
Preheat oven to 350º. Butter the inside of a 9-inch springform pan, and wrap the bottom of the pan with a double layer of aluminum foil. Place the prepared pan on a baking sheet.
In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt. Add the butter and stir well to moisten all of the crumbs. Pour the crumb mixture into the prepared pan and use your fingers to press gently into an even layer on the bottom and halfway up the sides of the pan. If you are having trouble getting the layer even, use a straight sided glass or measuring cup to gently press the crumb mixture onto the sides and into the corners. Freeze the crust for 10 minutes while the oven heats.
Slide the pan into the oven and bake until the crust is lightly browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325º.
For the filling:
2 lbs (32 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
1 ¼ cups sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. lemon zest
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 ⅓ cups mascarpone cheese, room temperature
Using a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer, beat the cream cheese in a large bowl until it is light and very smooth, about 4 minutes.
With the mixer running on medium low speed, slowly pour in the sugar, then the salt. Beat for 3 more minutes. Add the vanilla extract and lemon zest.
Add in the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a full minute after each egg. Scrape down the bowl, reduce the speed to low. Add in the mascarpone and mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the prepared crust. The batter will come to the top of the springform pan.
Place the springform pan into a roasting pan (I used a large skillet in the above photos) and place on the center rack of the oven. Fill the roasting pan with enough (very) hot tap water—or boiling water—to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Close the oven door and bake the cheesecake until it is lightly golden on top and the filling is set, but still slightly wobbly in the center, about 90 minutes.
Turn off the oven and prop the door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Let the cheesecake cool for one hour in its water bath. After an hour, gently remove the roasting pan from the oven and lift the springform pan from the water. Carefully remove the foil from the bottom of the pan and set the pan on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the top edge of the cheesecake to release it from the pan. Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature, then cover the top with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before slicing—an overnight chill is best if you have the time.