Friday, January 7, 2011

Lemon Swirl Cheesecake

I served this for Christmas with my Mom's family. The crust made of Nilla Wafers was a revelation! I've never had cheesecake made with anything but graham cracker crusts, and frankly, there have been times when I scoop out the filling and sort of scatter the crust around the plate to make it look like the remnants were an accident. This crust however, is lighter and altogether more enjoyable. The cheesecake itself is flavored with lemon curd, then large dollops of more curd are lightly swirled through the batter for a beautiful dessert and strong, genuine lemon flavor. The original called for extra lemon extract, but I am not a fan of artificial flavorings. With this much flavor from the real thing, who needs it anyway?

Lemon Swirl Cheesecake

Homemade Lemon Curd
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
1/2 cup strained fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces

Vanilla Wafer Almond Crumb Crust
1 1/2 cups vanilla wafer cookie crumbs
3/4 cup finely ground toasted almonds
2 tsp lemon zest
1/8 tsp of salt
7 tbsp butter, melted and cooled

Lemon Cream Cheese Filling
2 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Reserved Lemon Curd (from above)

Prepare Lemon Curd: In a small saucepan, whisk together lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl. Drizzle in lemon juice slowly, whisking constantly. When all of the lemon juice has been added, return mixture to saucepan. Add butter and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until curd has thickened. Pour lemon curd into a small bowl. Set aside 1/2 cup of Lemon Curd. Press plastic wrap directly onto surfaces of the curd. Cool 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare Vanilla Crumb Crust: In a medium mixing bowl, use a fork to toss together vanilla wafer crumbs, almonds, lemon zest, and salt. Stir in melted butter. Press mixture evenly onto bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring-form pan or pie plate.
Bake for 12 minutes on bottom oven rack. Remove from oven and set aside while filling is prepared.

Prepare Filling: In a medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add in the sour cream, vanilla extract and all reserved lemon curd (except for the 1/2 cup set aside earlier). Pour into baked crust. Dollop remaining 1/2 cup lemon curd onto filling and swirl through filling using a small knife.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until center is just set. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Cool for 2 hours, then refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours, or overnight.

I served this with real whipped cream, barely sweetened, and a raspberry sauce I made last minute, which really complimented the lemon. I'm sure the lemon can stand up for itself, but I was looking for a little more presentation.

Raspberry sauce: 2 cups frozen raspberries, thawed and mashed and brought to a boil with about 1/2 cup sugar (or to taste). Add a teaspoon or two of cornstarch and stir til smooth, continuing to cook until the sauce has thickened.

Serves 10.

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