Looking for a dessert recipe idea for Christmas? An Italian Mascarpone cheesecake is lighter than the classic American cheesecake but still with an amazing taste.
For the crust I use a mix of Amaretti cookies and regular Graham crackers* crumbs, while the filling is made combining mascarpone cheese and light cream cheese with orange juice, orange zest and vanilla extract. Top with my homemade cranberry-blood orange sauce and your guests will have the sweetest merry Christmas of all.
Ingredients and Instructions:
• 1 and 1/2 cups of Italian Amaretti cookies*
• 3/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs**
• 5 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter
*(Amaretti cookies are an Italian almond flavored type of cookies, found in most countries. If not available, use any crunchy vanilla cookies instead)
**(Graham crackers are peculiar to the U.S., and are also called Digestive Biscuits in England and Australia; if none of these are available in your area, try using any crunchy cookies)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. slightly coat with butter the bottom – and only the bottom – of a 9-inch diameter spring form pan (I personally prefer this old time method to nonstick cooking spray for cakes). Wrap tightly the outside of the pan with 2 layers of aluminum foil.
2. Place the Amaretti cookies in a large resealable bag (you may use any plastic bag, but make sure it is clean and tightly close at the end). Cover the bag with a kitchen towel and crush with a rolling pin (or an empty bottle) until the cookies are coarsely ground. In a bowl, mix together the Graham cracker crumbs and the crushed Amaretti cookie with the melted butter.
3. Press the mixture into the bottom – and only the bottom – of the prepared spring form pan. Bake for about 5-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before adding the cheesecake filling.
4. Meanwhile, reduce the temperature of the oven to 325 degrees F.
• 1/2 pound of light cream cheese, at room temperature
• 1 pound of Mascarpone cheese***, at room temperature
• 3/4 cup of sugar
• 3 large eggs
• A pinch of salt
• 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons of orange liqueur
• The grated zest of 1 small orange
***(If Italian Mascarpone – a much lither a sweeter version of cream cheese – is hard to find, substitute with 2 cups of cream cheese beaten with 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream)
1. Whether you use just a regular mixing bowl and wooden spoon or a food processor, combine the 2 cheeses with the sugar until completely blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure to completely incorporate each egg before adding the next one. Add the vanilla extract, the orange liqueur and orange zest and blend again.
2. Pour the filling into the prepared pan with the Amaretti crust. Place the spring form pan into a big roasting pan, then add to it enough hot water to submerge the sides of the spring form pan halfway up. Bake for about 1 hour, and do not worry if the center of the cake is still slightly soft and moves when removing the pan; it will get firm after cooling off.
3. Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven, take out the cheesecake pan from the water, and let cool completely (about one hour) before transferring to the refrigerator, for at least 4 hours.
Topping - Cranberry Sauce:
How do you make homemade cranberry sauce? It is easy and very fast and once you try this recipe, you will never go back to canned cranberry sauce again.
Just cook 2 pounds of fresh or frozen cranberries with 1 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, a few cloves, one cup of water and the fresh juice of 2 Sicilian blood oranges – they can be found fresh in many good grocery stores; if not replace with regular sweet oranges. When the cranberries are soft, let them cool off and then crush them with a potato masher.
Serve over the orange flavored mascarpone cheesecake and enjoy.
To find the complete homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe, click here.
Cinzia Aversa, 2013