Vanilla Cheesecake with a Shortbread and Almond Crust – and it is gluten-free.

Vanilla cheesecake with a shortbread almond crust
Vanilla cheesecake with a shortbread almond crust

Cheesecake is so fabulous that I’m considering giving it its own category. From preparing the pan to having the patience for the right technique to toppings. It all matters and when the individual parts come together you will have created a creamy, cool, delicious and highly adaptable dessert that nearly everyone will love! And when someone tells you that they don’t like cheesecake assure them that they just haven’t tried the right one for them yet!  A cheesecake can be dressed for a hot day in the sun with some fresh lemon curd (see related post) or for thanksgiving with my related pumpkin version.  You can make a raspberry swirl topped with dark chocolate Grenache or an Almond Joy  the flavor options are endless, and if you have a request for a flavor combination send it over to me in my Cooks Q&A Section and I’ll work it out for you.

I just sold myself, here comes a new category. Two actually, it will be in Tea Parties also.

Back to the cheesecake.  The basics:  only use full fat cream cheese. This is not the time or place for a low-fat version. It just doesn’t work. If you’re going to make a cheesecake, do it right. If you want to count calories, go for a walk with a pedometer 😝and a dog🐶.  Both you and Fido will be happy!  But I digress….to the recipe!

Vanilla cheesecake with a shortbread almond crust
Vanilla cheesecake with a shortbread almond crust

Prepare Your 9″ Springform Pan

Watch the video.

Crust – gf

1 1/4 c. shortbread cookie crumbs
1/4 c. ground nuts (I used almonds, but pecans or walnuts are wonderful too)
1/4 c. brown sugar
6 tsp. unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake

4 pkgs. Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese (full fat only), room temp.
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 tsp. lemon zest

Topping

16 oz. sour cream
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Crust

1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Prepare a 9″ springform pan by wrapping the outside with plastic wrap, then again with foil. You will be baking the cheesecake in a water bath, so it is imperative to keep the water from seeping in. You can stop here, but I also line the inside with parchment paper. Grease the bottom and the insides of the walls with butter, then roll your parchment in a cone shape and cut to make a big circle. Press the parchment into the buttered pan and it will stick.

2. In a food processor, add your cookies and process until it is in small crumbs. Move to a bowl and process the nuts until the same size as the cookie crumbs. Add to the bowl. Add the brown sugar and mix until well incorporated. Stream in the melted butter and continue mixing until fully incorporated. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan and if there is enough, partially up the sides. Bake at 350 Degrees for 12-15 minutes or until set. Allow to fully cool to room temperature. Do not refrigerate.

Topping

3. In a small bowl, mix the sour cream with 1/4 cup the sugar and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla bean paste and set aside. If you refrigerate, be sure to bring it back to room temperature before adding to the cheesecake.

4. Heat the oven to 325°. Add all of the cream cheese and 1 1/4 c. sugar to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle. Mix on low, #2 or 3 until incorporated. Scrape down the sides frequently. This step is critical to creaminess. Add the vanilla bean paste until incorporated. Scrape the sides and add the cream in a slow stream. When incorporated, add the eggs one at a time and continue mixing. Be sure to crack the eggs, 1 by 1, into a measuring cup or small bowl to be sure that none of the shell accidentally falls into the mixing bowl. Add 1/4 tsp. of almond extract and continue mixing. Zest about 1/2 of a lemon into the mixing bowl. Be sure to not get any of the white pith from the lemon, it is bitter. Pour the cheesecake into the prepared pan and place the pan into a larger roasting pan. Add boiling water to the roasting pan taking care not to get any water into the cheesecake batter. Put enough water to come 1/3 to 1/2 way up the sides of the cheesecake. Bake for 60-75 minutes. Open the door of the oven and pull the cheesecake out. The sides will be firm, but the center of the cheesecake will giggle slightly.

5. Immediately pour the room temperature topping on the cheesecake, smooth it out with an offset knife and return to the oven for 10 minutes (A bit longer, 15 minutes, if the topping is cold). Remove from the oven and from the water bath. If you did not use parchment paper, run an offset knife around the edge. Allow to cool on a rack for about an hour, then refrigerate until fully cooled before cutting, about 4 hours.

6. Remove the ring from the springform pan and move the cheesecake to a cake plate before serving.

Serve with a topping of your choice, I like serving it with lemon curd, see my related recipe in the “tea party” section if you would like to try it this way.

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