Monday, July 12, 2010

Mascarpone Cheesecake

I almost called this post "High Maintenance Cheesecake," but then I figured no one would make it because it would sound like too much work.  People, sometimes the good things in life take a little extra work!  Yes, you have to go out and find some semi-exotic ingredients (mascarpone and creme fraiche).  Yes, you need to buy the expensive, delicious brand of shortbread cookies instead of the crappy ones to make the crust.  And yes, you either need a food processor, or a big kitchen mallet and a lot of patience to pulverize your expensive cookies into crumbs, but you will be rewarded for your efforts with the creamiest, richest, most luscious cheesecake you have ever eaten.

It's kind of the same with high maintenance people, right? Right?  At least, that is my new motto after realizing that I might be a more high maintenance person than I thought.  I like to think of myself as pretty laid back, but when I proclaimed this to my bf (an otherwise very polite and considerate person) he guffawed in my face without a shred of restraint.  "You? Ha. You may not be 'high maintenance' but you are DEFINITELY not low maintenance."

News to me!!!!  I championed my cause for an hour or so, and finally convinced him that maybe he was defining "high maintenance" differently than me.  Satisfied with my position in the debate, I turned my attention to the cheesecake..... and was promptly put in my place...

Things were going swimmingly.  The shortbread crumbs whirled in the food processor, the oven glowed, and the eggs and cheese waited patiently to be elevated to dessert royalty.  I pressed the crust into the pan, popped it in the oven... and ten minutes later shouted a stream of expletives that filled up my cuss quota for the month.  My crust had baked to a slightly darker shade of brown than the coveted golden I was going for! 

I sniffed it.  "&*%$# Goddammit!" I detected a hint of that hated burned smell.  I sighed and dumped the crust into the sink.  As the cold sink-water soggified my brown crust and sizzled against the hot pan, I realized that maybe, just maybe, I wasn't so laid back.  Would a laid back person freak out because the crust of their cheesecake was the wrong shade of brown?  Hmm... I hate being wrong, but I do know when to concede defeat and when to battle on, and I wasn't done with this cheesecake just yet!  Some things are worth the effort (right??).

So, pajama-clad and batter-splattered, I headed to Walgreen's with the hope that they carried shortbread cookies so I could start over.  It seemed that the world was determined to teach me a lesson for being such an irrational perfectionist.  My faulty car alarm began to sound the second I touched the car door, and refused to turn off.  The clerk at Walgreen's didn't speak English and directed me to the tampon aisle.  When I finally found the shortbread, I hastily grabbed it, which caused the entire towering stack (apparently not too many people purchase shortbread at Walgreens) to catapult into the aisle in a rain of red-checkered boxes.  As I approached the checkout counter with my wares, the checkout clerk silently raised an eyebrow (that's what you get for buying four boxes of cookies from a drugstore at night, alone, and in a disheveled state).  I paid for the cookies, hurried to my car (lights flashing, horn blaring), and began at square one.  I had learned my lesson...

Back at home, I set the oven at a lower temperature so I wouldn't have to throw away a second crust (what, did you think I was going to say I had learned to be laid back and accept a less than perfect dessert? Not gonna happen).  This time, the crust, and the cheesecake, turned out beautifully. 

We devoured our oversized slices of perfect, creamy, hard-earned cheesecake, and the exchange of "mmmmm's" said it all: some things definitely are worth a little extra patience and effort!  (here's to hoping I'm the human equivalent of cheesecake... haha...ha?)

Crust Ingredients
1 1/2 c. crumbs from crushed shortbread cookies (Pepperidge Farm Chessmen work well)
3T. sugar
1/4 c. melted butter

Preheat the oven to 400.  Combine the shortbread crumbs, butter, and sugar until evenly moistened.  Pour the mixture into a 9-in springform pan, and press it evenly onto the bottom and up the sides.  Bake until golden (so very important), about 5-10 minutes.  Mine was irreparably charred (aka slightly too brown) after 10 minutes, so check at 5.  Let the crust cool while you make the cheesecake batter.

2 8oz bricks of cream cheese
2 8oz tubs of mascarpone
1/2 c. creme fraiche
3T. flour
1/4 t. salt
1 1/4 c. sugar
1T. vanilla
3 eggs

1c. creme fraice
1/4 c. sugar
1t. vanilla

Turn the oven temp down to 325.  In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, mascarpone, flour and salt.  Beat until fluffy and well-mixed.  Add the sugar, creme fraiche, and vanilla, and beat until well-mixed.  Scrape down the sides and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula between each egg, to ensure even incorporation.  Pour the filling into the crust and bake 50-60 min. 

While the cheesecake bakes, make the topping by mixing together all of the topping ingredients in a small bowl.  5 minutes before the cheesecake is done, take it out of the oven, pour the topping onto it, and return it to the oven to finish cooking.  When the cheesecake is done, it should be slightly golden, and should jiggle in the center.  Turn off the oven and let the cheesecake cool in the oven with the door ajar.  When completely cool, cover the cheesecake and chill it overnight before serving. 

If this were a Martha Stewart recipe, it would tell you in great detail how to cut your cheesecake into clean, pretty slices using a thin knife and hot water, but I'm not THAT much of a perfectionist.  Hell, I'll eat the cake out of the pan.