Regaining Trust

July 1, 2008

As every gal in her 20s or 30s knows, if spring is bridal shower season, summer is bachelorette party season. The season is definitely upon us. Or it’s upon me, at least. As (bad) luck would have it, I was triple booked last Saturday, invited to two bachelorette parties in Chicago and one in Minnesota. I ended up at the party for my friend Brynn (she of the much blogged about engagement party back in January), which was to feature a sail on Lake Michigan and a no-boys-allowed backyard barbecue.

It also included a fair bit of bridal torture, I’m sorry to admit. You see, Brynn is what one might call a “good sport.” She agreed to allow us to surprise her with the plans (something I would surely refuse) and we rewarded her by drumming up a good deal of suspense and sending her a list of things to be sure to bring with her for the big night (which included a four-cup Tupperware container, a stack of singles, a sack of bread crumbs and a pair of shin guards, among other things). Our goal was to throw her off the scent and, needless to say, we had her stumped. She wasn’t sure if we’d be playing a pick-up soccer game in Lincoln Park or feeding ducks at a Humboldt Park lagoon.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

She was excited (and relieved) when we pulled up to the Belmont Harbor, with it’s neat rows of masts puncturing the sky. And I think by the end of the night she had almost forgiven me for the faux packing list (I’d been voted the person who Brynn would be most likely to believe and thus had to be the sender of the aforementioned laundry list). So I was very happy that I had at least made the lady cake. Cheesecake. Mascarpone Cheesecake. With balsamic strawberries. With dessert (and several glasses of wine) behind us, the hatchet was officially buried (I hope).

After a long night of jibbing and tacking (ha! right!), we all tucked into our slices of the cheesecake, which was nestled in a thick graham cracker crust, enriched with the tang of mascarpone, and topped off with a thin layer of sweet, vanilla-spiked sour cream. And the strawberries were crazy good, too. I’ve always kind of crinkled my nose at the thought of strawberries gone savory and, oh my, was I missing out. These strawberries convinced me otherwise. And I think they helped convince Brynn that I really am a good friend who can maybe someday soon be trusted again. Maybe.

Mascarpone Cheesecake
Adapted from Gourmet

For crust:
2 1/3 cups finely-ground graham crackers
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
pinch cinnamon

For filling:
20 ounces cream cheese (2 1/2 eight-ounce packages), softened
8 ounces mascarpone cheese at room temperature (about 1 cup)
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

For topping:
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the crust:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter bottom and side of a 9-inch springform pan.

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, butter and cinnamon in a bowl. Pat onto bottom and 1 1/2 inches up side of springform pan (about 1/4 inch thick).

Put pan in a shallow baking pan and bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Cool completely on a rack, about 25 minutes. Leave oven on.

Make filling while crust bakes:
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 but still trembles slightly when pan is shaken gently, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool slightly in springform pan on rack, about 20 minutes. (Cheesecake will continue to set as it cools.) Leave oven on.

Make topping:
Stir together sour cream, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl and spoon over cheesecake, spreading gently and evenly, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edge.

Bake cheesecake until topping is set, about 10 minutes.

Run a thin knife around edge to help prevent cracking. Chill, loosely covered, at least 8 hours.

Serve with balsamic strawberries (recipe below).

Balsamic Strawberries
Bon Appetit

3 cups quartered hulled strawberries (about 1 1/2 12-ounce baskets)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Mix strawberries, sugar and vinegar in large bowl. Let stand at room temperature until juices form, about 30 minutes.


15 Responses to “Regaining Trust”

  1. Lindsay Says:

    What’s up with “Sprinkle top with reserved crumbs”? The recipe doesn’t indicate to reserve any crumbs – did you do this? In the photos it doesn’t look like there are any crumbs on top.

  2. Lindsay: Thanks so much for catching that. I adapted the recipe and, you’re right, I didn’t reserve crumbs (I used them all in the crust, which made for a nice thick crust) or sprinkle any on top (I liked the smooth white topping). Sorry for the error — it’s fixed now in the post.

  3. Brynn Says:

    Consider yourself forgiven. The cheesecake was one of the best I’ve ever had and I could have easily eaten 1/2 the thing myself (I think the wine, champagne, etc might have had something to do with my huge appetite at that hour of the night). I’m kicking myself that I didn’t put my huge tupperware to good use to take home the leftovers. Thanks for a great night and an insanely good cheesecake! I mean, mascarpone?! Balsamic strawberries?! It was heaven!

  4. Brynn: Whew. So glad you (a) liked it, (b) had fun, (c) forgave me. Looking forward to Friday!

  5. Lindsay Says:

    well it looks really good, i think im going to have to make it when i have an occassion!

  6. Oh wow, am such a cheesecake fan you wouldn’t believe, this is definitely a recipe I will be trying!

  7. This looks amazing. I definitely want to make this one day!

  8. What a great looking recipe! The filling looks so creamy and delicious!

  9. Kevin Says:

    That cheesecake looks so good!

  10. Lindsay: I hope you give it a try. Let us know how it goes.

    Rachel: I am with you on the cheesecake love. So good.

    Kelly: Do it! It’s delicious.

    My Sweet & Saucy: It was soo creamy. It was almost too luscious not to taste test before the big night.

    Kevin: Thanks!

  11. Mia Says:

    Hi Kristin – thanks for dropping by Red Ramekin! Gotta love chickpeas, although sometimes cheesecake really hits the spot…it looks amazing. And balsamic strawberries? Yum – I recently mixed some into a baby greens salad, but again, maybe not as satisfying as they might be in your recipe 🙂

  12. bakingblonde Says:

    I LOVE cheesecake!! That looks so creamy and delicious I want to lick my computer screen!!

  13. Helen Says:

    Wow! Looks like a really stunning cheesecake – not a wonky edge in sight!

  14. bakingblonde: Thanks! Computer screen licking is always a good sign.

    Helen: Thank you! It was a really fool-proof recipe.

  15. courtney Says:

    I make my own almond biscotti and crush them up for the crust.. and I use more cream cheese and a bit of sour cream in lieu of the mascarpone, because it is often difficult to find around here.

    The best cheesecake recipe ever IMHO. The balsamic strawberries are awesome too, and I love to have them with a little ricotta or even cottage cheese flavored with a little vanilla bean

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