Cheesecake is sort of a tradition in my family. My father-in-law makes heavenly cheesecakes, and he makes them for all sorts of events. He is known for his cheesecakes. He made our wedding cake (and lots of other peoples' wedding cakes, too). He doesn't do New-York-style cheesecakes -- he does chocolate cheesecakes. Chocolate orange, chocolate raspberry, white chocolate cherry, chocolate Kahlua espresso with hazelnut crust (my personal favorite), and others. They're creamy and just to die for.
So it was a while before I ever tried making a cheesecake. It just seemed like it was his arena, and he did it so well that why should I even bother? I eventually got over it, but I make different types of cheesecakes than he does. I certainly don't feel the need to attempt chocolate, but I like a good New-York-style cheesecake -- it's a different beast than the ones my father-in-law makes.
What I'm about to say next might be a little blasphemous in my family: I like this cheesecake even better than my father-in-law's cheesecakes.
Oh, it's close, there's no doubt. I love that chocolate Kahlua espresso and its hazelnut crust. But I love this almond cheesecake. It's so light and creamy, and almondy all the way through. And it's so insanely easy to make. (That's one of the nice things about cheesecake - you don't have to mess around with frosting.) It's like almond paste in cheesecake form (it doesn't get any better than "almond paste in _____ form" with me. I wish almond paste were good eats straight out of the can!).
Anyway, make this. Make it soon. You won't regret it.
from Bon Appetit, via epicurious.com
Note: The original recipe calls for sour cream and blackberry toppings. I don't really feel the need for them on this cheesecake, but I've done them in the past. I've also done just a simple berry coulis spooned over the top. You can also swirl some coulis into the filling, which is really pretty. Whatever makes you happy!
1 8-ounce tube almond paste
6 whole graham crackers (about 3 ounces), broken up
1/2 cup whole almonds (about 2 1/2 ounces), toasted, cooled
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature
3 large eggs
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Set aside 1/2 of the almond paste for filling. Combine remaining almond paste, graham crackers and almonds in processor and grind finely. Add butter; process until moist crumbs form. Press over bottom and 2 inches up sides of 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Bake until crust colors, about 10 minutes. Cool.
Wipe out processor. Blend sugar and reserved almond paste in processor until mixture resembles fine meal, about 1 minute. Add half of cream cheese and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Add remaining cream cheese and process until smooth. Add eggs, cream and almond extract and blend until just combined.
Pour filling into crust. Bake cake until just set in center and beginning to crack at edges, about 40 minutes. Chill cake uncovered until cold, about 1 1/2 hours.