Believe it or not, I have a hard time verbalizing my feelings. This never fails to amuse my family and friends -- after all, I write a food blog and my day job also involves lots of writing, albeit not the emotional kind. And yet, for me, words never seem to be enough to say what I really feel, especially when the feelings run deep, as they usually do with me. I'd much, much rather bake a cheesecake -- and to really express my joy and good wishes for one very special lady, I baked a Mascarpone cherry cheesecake. After seeing the happiness on her face, I'm convinced that wordless communications are the best. Whatever else a cheesecake can possibly mean, it does say "I love you" like nothing else!
I knew when I woke up the morning before the party that I wanted a cherry cheesecake. I saw it clearly in my mind's eye, smelled the hint of lemon and vanilla and tasted its airy lightness on my tongue -- sweetness tempered by the slight tartness of ruby red cherries. It winked at me (in my mind's eye, still) and said, "Make me!" and I obliged. Who am I to say no to a cheesecake?
Mascarpone Cherry Cheesecake
For the crust
1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
5 T butter, melted
1 T sugar
For the filling (Gourmet, Dec. 2003)
20 oz cream cheese (2 1/2 eight-ounce packages), softened
8 oz mascarpone cheese at room temperature (about 1 cup)
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
a dash of salt
For the topping
About 2 cups of frozen or jarred cherries (I use Morel cherries from Trader Joe's)
3/4 cup of water or juice from the jarred cherries
3 tsp cornstarch
sugar to taste
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream + 2 tsp sugar
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter bottom and side of a 9-inch springform pan.
Whisk graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a small bowl and then stir in melted butter to moisten all the crumbs. Press the mixture onto the bottom and about half ways up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 5-10 minutes. Cool.
Beat cream cheese, mascarpone, and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium high speed until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, lemon juice, and salt and mix at low speed until combined. Pour into cooled crust and bake until cake is set and puffed around edge, 45 to 60 minutes. Cool completely in the refrigerator, at least 2-3 hours.
Beat heavy cream with sugar to hard peaks. Set aside.
Whisk corn starch into the water/cherry juice until no clumps remain. Pour into small sauce pan and heat on medium-high until almost boiling. Add cherries, stir, adjust the sweetness by adding sugar if necessary, and heat for a few more minutes until the mixture thickens. Cool completely.
With a large star tip, pile whipped cream around the border of the cheesecake. Spoon cherries into the middle. Chill at least a few hours or overnight.