Actually, the real story is that I was looking at one of my food magazine subscriptions the other day. One of the photos featured is that of lemon cheesecake squares. And so this triggered a Pavlovian response within me. I want cheesecake!!!! And so I looked through some of my cookbooks and magazines, and finally settled with the recipe from - guess who? - Giada De Laurentiis! You should know by now that I'm a big fan of hers. So here's the recipe:
Mascarpone Cheesecake With Almond Crust
1 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
2 (8-ounce) containers mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (recommended: Nutella)
1/4 cup whipping cream
For the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Tightly wrap the outside of a 9-inch diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides with 3 layers of heavy-duty foil. Finely grind the almonds, cracker crumbs, and sugar in a food processor. Add the butter and process until moist crumbs form. Press the almond mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan (not on the sides of the pan). Bake the crust until it is set and beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Cool. Decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
For the filling: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, and sugar in a large bowl until smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in the lemon juice and vanilla. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
Pour the cheese mixture over the crust in the pan. Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the center of the cheesecake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour 5 minutes (the cake will become firm when it is cold). Transfer the cake to a rack; cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least 8 hours and up to 2 days.
For the topping: Combine the chocolate-hazelnut spread and cream in a small bowl. Heat in the microwave until warm, stirring every 20 seconds to blend, about 1 minute.
Cut the cake into wedges. Drizzle the chocolate sauce over the wedges and serve. Here are my variations to the recipe above:
First, I used Neuchaftel cheese (1/3 less fat) so I won't be that guilty when I eat the cheesecake. Secondly, I used 1 (8 oz) mascarpone cheese and 1 (8 oz) light sour cream. The recipe calls for 2-8 oz containers but I only had a container of mascarpone cheese on hand so I decided to substitute the other one it with light sour cream. I've made cheesecake with sourcream before and it was great. Thirdly, I didn't bake the crust. This was plain oversight on my part. Truth is, I didn't bother reading the recipe through, that's why. Instead of baking it, I popped the pan (with the crust) in the freezer while I was doing the filling. It worked out just fine. I took the cheesecake to a potluck fellowship party at a friend's house and everybody complimented me on the cheesecake. (I hope they were not just being nice to me). The crust with the almonds really made a difference. However next time, I might increase the amount of lemon juice as I could barely taste it. And with the chocolate drizzle, the lemon was totally overpowered.
But all in all, I'd say that this cheesecake truly satisfied my cheesy craving.