Easy Cheesecake

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Baking Club theme last month was cheesecake.  I am kind of “ho hum” about cheesecake, I can take it or leave it.  Flavors often seem too sickening sweet and over the top for me.  I think this trend was started by the ever popular Cheesecake Factory.  I often find traditional cheesecakes too dense and one note.  Although, recently I have discovered the wonders of the no-bake cheesecake.  The first one I tried was a year or two ago from Melissa Clark’s cookbook The Last Course, it was light and fluffy but didn’t have enough tang for me.  As I thought about what to make for Baking Club I came across a recipe in Food & Wine that described the cheesecake as having “an ethereally light, creamy texture and fantastic crunchy crust made from honey graham crackers”.  How could I pass that up?!

I didn’t make it to Baking Club. Feeling run down with the symptoms of a cold coming on, I headed home after work with the whole cheesecake.  Typically, I don’t keep much of  what I make around the house, I cart it off to the staff room at work or box it up and ship it to loved ones.  However, this cheesecake was a different story.  I indulged every night for a week.  It was one of the best things I  have ever made.  I realize that my “pregnancy sweet tooth” might have something to do with my out pouring of affection for this cheesecake, but it was delicious.  The filling is more like a mousse with a great tang and paired really well with a little homemade marmalade and fig jam.

I only changed the recipe slightly from the original.  Don’t be intimidated by gelatin, follow the instructions and it will work perfectly.  I think this cheesecake would pair well with all sorts of things, but be careful not to over do it.  Sauteed apples or pears, a little caramel sauce and you have a lovely fall dessert.

Easy Cheesecake (adapted slightly from Food & Wine)

For the crust:

5 ounces honey graham crackers crumbs
Pinch of kosher salt
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake filling:

1 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin (measure this, the envelopes have more than 1 tsp. in them)
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese (can use part skim)
3/4 cup sugar
Half of a vanilla bean scraped (or ½ tsp. vanilla extract)
Pinch of kosher salt or fine sea salt
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese or sour cream
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

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MAKE THE CRUST – Preheat the oven to 350°. With a fork mix the crumbs, salt and cinnamon together in small bowl and stir in the butter.  Mix till all the crumbs seem damp. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and halfway up the side of an 8-inch springform pan. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the crust is set. Cool.

MAKE THE CHEESECAKE – In a microwave-safe dish, sprinkle the gelatin over 2 tablespoons of cold water; let stand until the gelatin is softened, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form; refrigerate.

In a bowl, beat the cream cheese, ricotta, sugar, vanilla bean and salt with an electric mixer at high-speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the mascarpone and lemon juice.

Microwave the gelatin until melted, 5 seconds; scrape into the cream cheese mixture and beat until incorporated. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Pour the mixture into the cooled crust and smooth the surface. Cover with plastic and refrigerate the cake until firm and set about 3 hours, although overnight is best.

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