I wanted to play around with my usual cheesecake recipe. It is a recipe that I have made up after experimenting a bit and trying out a few different recipes (and tasting far too many cheesecakes baked by friends and family). While I like to try new recipes, I tend to fall back on this one time and time again. It has been a while since I have made it and was craving a cool and creamy dessert. I most recently made the Dorie Greenspan cheesecake recipe and while I was pleased with the results, it was just too creamy for my liking (as the name suggests it came out tall and creamy). If that is your thing then I recommend her recipe as the flavor was wonderful.
I prefer my cheesecake to be a little more dense and sturdy yet creamy and smooth. While I enjoy plain cheesecake, I wanted to play around with the flavor a bit this go around. After much consideration I decided to try my hand at an almond flavored cheesecake. I took my basic recipe and added chopped almonds to the crust along with almond extract and almond paste to the filling to intensify the flavor. To top it all off I drizzled warm caramel or chocolate over the slices and garnished with toasted Almonds.
Overall, I would say that this cheesecake was a success if for no other reason than it was gorgeous, not one crack! The crust provided a nice balance of sweetness and nutiness and was the perfect base for the smooth filling. I had never worked with Almond Paste before and found that the best way to incorporate it into the batter was to great it fine and whirl it in the food processor with the sugar. This ensured the almond paste would get mixed thouroughly into the batter and no clumps of paste would threaten the creamy texture I was after. The flavor of the almond in the finished cake was noticible and pleasant without being overwhelming. I enjoyed it but I am not 100% satisfied so I plan on playing around some more with the flavor. I may cut back on the extract and add some Amaretto to deepen the flavor profile more and reduce some of the ‘artificial’ almond flavor I feel the extract provides.
Even though I was not completely sold on the flavor, the texture kept me coming back for more! The nutty crust and creamy cheesecake kept calling my name so, fork in hand, I would happily nosh away. This cheesecake is firm right out of the fridge but is not so solid that you can not cut through each slice with your fork, just smooth and silky goodness. After coming to room temperature it still holds its shape well even when topped with caramel and nuts. I must admit that I do prefer the cold cheesecake best, especially drizzled with warm caramel, fudge and topped with nuts. I highly recommend making this a day or two before serving and garnishing this cheesecake with toasted nuts!
Really, though, don’t be afraid to make this your own by mixing up the flavors. For a plain cheesecake omit the almond extract and almond paste and add 1 TBS Vanilla extract with the addition of the 3rd egg.
I rate this recipe an 8
Smooth and Creamy Almond Cheesecake
For the crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup chopped almonds
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
3 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 oz.) Sweetened Condensed Milk (fat free works fine)
1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup Almond Paste, grated
2 TBS flour
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
* Toasted Almonds for garnish (optional but totally recommended)
Preheat oven to 300° F. Grease 9-inch springform pan.
Fill an oven safe cake pan (I use a 9×9 pan) 3/4 full with warm water. Set on bottom oven rack while oven is preheating.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, almonds and butter, stir to combine. Press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove and increase oven temperature to 350.
For the filling:
In the bowl of a food processor pulse the sugar and almond paste until it resembles a course meal. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl beat cream cheese until creamy. Add sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, sugar/almond paste and flour. Beat to combine. Add eggs one at a time beating only to combine after each addition. When adding the third egg, also add the almond extract; beat until combined.
Gently pour batter evenly into prebaked crust.
Bake in preheated oven for 40-60 minutes or until edge is set and center moves slightly. Watch carefully and do not overbake.
Shut oven off and allow cheesecake to cool in oven for 1-4 hours. Run a warm knife around edge of cheesecake after 1 hour.
Place in fridge to cool completely. (Remove the pan of water)
Allow to chill at least 24 hours before serving for best flavor and texture.