Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mascarpone Cheesecake in Little Canning Jars

Vignette Design has a very special guest blogger!
My son Aaron was asked by his sister to make the dessert for a men's luncheon in a winery setting that she catered last week. He came up with individual cheesecakes baked in little French style canning jars!
So without further ado, here's Aaron describing the creative process behind his creation.

"I wanted something that would be memorable, multi-faceted, but also convenient for my sister, who was doing a luncheon somewhere far from her kitchen and therefore needed something with minimal prep. I've always enjoyed dishes in canning jars - actually, I like anything in jars. They just make me happy. If something is served in a canning jar, it's somehow more appealing - it's the type of serving vessel that provided the perfect combination of practicality and flair."

"So I decided on individual cheesecakes baked in jars, topped with a fruit of some sort. My inspiration came from two of my many culinary heroes. Pim, who writes the fabulous blog Chez Pim, did a post on Fromage Blanc cheesecakes baked into jars, a post which I've read countless times and never had the chance to try out until now!"

"David Leibowitz, who's the former pastry chef at Chez Panisse and who now lives in Paris, gave me the mascarpone cheesecake idea which I ended up using."

"I've been on a Mascarpone kick for the past few weeks, ever since I discovered the luscious kind that they sell by the pint at the Cowgirl Creamery. Mascarpone is the Italian version of cream cheese, and I felt it would add the extra oomph to the tired old cheesecake recipe that, let's be honest, no one really likes anyway. Gild the lily with meyer lemon zest and the seeds from the Tahitian vanilla beans, and you have a homerun!"

"With the custard recipe taken care of, I needed a fruit component to cut the richness. Quince is a fairly unorthodox fruit, described as a combination between an apple and a pear, with a uniquely floral aroma that makes it special. "

"So, my sister ended up garnishing with poached quince right before serving.
Here's the recipe:"

Creamy Mascarpone Cheesecake
Ripe for Dessert)
16-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 large eggs, room temperature
16-oz mascarpone, room temperature

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tbsp sugar (optional, if your cookies need it)

Make the crust:
Preheat oven to 375F. Combine crumbs, butter and sugar and stir together. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan and bake for about 10 minutes. Cool completely before filling.

Make the cheesecake:
Heat oven to 325 F and get out a large roasting pan that will fit the springform pan. Cover the sides and bottom of the springform pan very, very well with aluminum foil.
In a food processor, blend sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Add in vanilla extract and the eggs, one at a time, until blended and smooth. Add in mascarpone and process again. Pour into the crust and place in roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven and fill halfway up the sides of the springform with warm water.
Bake for 55 minutes at 325. Turn off the oven and leave the cake inside for 20-30 minutes, until the center just seems set but will still ripple when the pan is jiggled (I left mine in for a bit longer, about 35 minutes, since it seemed a bit loose).
Remove from water bath and cool compeletely on a wire rack. When it has cooled, refrigerate overnight or until cold, before serving.

Serves 12, but it could be more or less depending on how much you like cheesecake.

Aaron's Cheesecake in Canning Jars turned out to be quite a hit!
We got the jars at Sur La Table for $3 each. They would also make great containers for other catered dishes, such as salads for a summer event.


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