Jane’s Sweets & Baking Journal -- http://janessweets.blogspot.com -- October 2010

Orange Zest & Yogurt Cheesecake with Marcona Almond Brittle

(These two recipes have been adapted from the cookbook Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen, by Gina de Palma; W.W. Norton & Co., 2007. See pages 100-102.)

For the cheesecake:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and lightly butter a 10" springform pan. Sprinkle a couple teaspoons of granulated sugar in the pan to coat the bottom and sides; tap out the excess. Fit a couple sheets of foil tightly around the outside of the pan, beneath the bottom and up the sides. This will sit in a water bath while the cheesecake bakes, so the foil sheets really need to be able to keep the water out. You'll need a large pan that's deep enough to accommodate a couple of inches of water, and wide enough to hold your cake pan without it touching the sides.

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 cups of plain, unflavored Greek-style yogurt (I used the higher fat variety)

1 lb. of cream cheese, softened and slowly but thoroughly mixed with 3 Tbsp. heavy cream (In lieu of this, the original recipe calls for 1 and 1/2 cups of mascarpone cheese; I didn't have that on hand so this was a good substitute.)

3 Tbsp. confectioners' sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

6 large egg yolks, at room temperature

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (I used 1 and 1/2 tsp. of vanilla bean paste instead; it is a thick liquid that visibly contains vanilla bean seeds)

1 tsp. orange zest

1/2 tsp. orange extract

In the large bowl of your electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat together the yogurt, the cream cheese-heavy cream mixture (or the mascarpone if you're using that),the 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and the confectioners' sugar on medium-low speed. Beat until it's smooth and creamy, for about 1 minute, stopping once to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.

One at a time, add in the egg yolks and the whole eggs, just until each one is incorporated, still at medium-low speed. Add in the salt and the vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, then the zest and the orange extract.

Pour the batter into your prepared, foil-wrapped, springform pan. Place the springform into the larger pan and carefully add water to come about halfway up the sides of the springform. Be careful not to let any water splash onto the batter. Cover both pans with a large sheet of foil, tenting it carefully so it doesn't touch the batter; make sure it covers the larger pan completely. Gently transfer this into your oven, on the middle rack.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees. Bake for 20 more minutes, and then remove the foil tent. At this point, the original recipe says that the cheesecake should be "puffy but not cracked, jiggly but not liquid in the center." If that doesn't seem to describe what you see, just keep baking the cake until it's set. (I had to bake mine about 15 minutes longer.)

Remove the large pan from the oven. Let the cake to cool in its springform pan, still set in the water bath, until the water feels lukewarm. Then remove the springform pan from the water, and continue cooling the cake until on a rack until there's no trace of warmth. At that point, remove the foil from the bottom and sides of the pan. Chill the cake, in its pan, in the fridge at least 8 hours before serving. Before removing the sides of the springform, run a thin knife along the inner sides of the pan. Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers, if there are any!

To make the almond brittle:

 

You'll need a cooking thermometer with a probe, or a candy thermometer. (And, you may want to keep a cup or small bowl of ice water nearby as you cook this; in case you get any hot sugar syrup on your hand you can immediately plunge it into the cold water to prevent burns.)

 

2 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup water

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter (doesn't need to be soft)

4 Tbsp. light corn syrup

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 and 1/4 cups Marcona almonds

Use parchment paper to fully line a 13" x 9" jelly roll pan. Grease the paper lightly with butter. In a large heavy saucepan, stir together the water and sugar. Add in the corn syrup and the butter.

 

Turn the heat on medium-high and immediately start monitoring the temperature with your thermometer. Bring the mixture to a boil. With the heat now on high, continue cooking until the mixture looks golden brown and registers 350 degrees on your thermometer. Immediately turn off the heat and remove the thermometer. Stir in the salt, using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, then stir in the almonds. Make sure you coat all the nuts.

 

Turn the mixture out onto the buttered parchment in your jelly roll pan, and quickly spread it out so the nuts are in a single layer. (It will still be super hot at this point, so don't touch it with your hands.) Let it completely cool before you try to break it into chunks. Store the pieces in an airtight container, and keep it in a cool, dry place.

 

To serve it with the cheesecake, crush a couple of small pieces and sprinkle them over the top of individual slices.