Mascarpone Cheesecake with Honeyed Pistachios

by Monica Glass

Rich and creamy, yet also light and delicate, every bite of this luscious dessert is tantalizing.  The familiar combination of milk and honey with the added crunch of toasty pistachios makes this cheesecake an irresistible treat.  Nothing delights us more than an exquisite finale that brings comfort to a chilly winter evening.

12-14 servings

Ingredients

For the honey-roasted pistachios:
1 cup shelled pistachios
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the crust:
1 ½ cups finely ground biscotti crumbs, about 12 small or 6 large biscotti (preferably the Honey Biscotti you made from our recipes earlier this month; if not, choose a biscotti variety with pistachios)
1/8 cup sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake filling:
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 8-ounce containers mascarpone cheese, room temperature
4 eggs
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt

For serving:
¼ cup honey
Honey-roasted pistachios

Preparation

Prepare the honey-roasted pistachios:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the honey in a medium bowl and microwave for 10 seconds to warm it slightly. Add nuts to the honey bowl and toss to coat well, then add the sugar and salt and toss again. Spread the nuts onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, separating so they do not clump together, and bake for 10 minutes. Stir the nuts after 5 minutes.

Cool the nuts completely, then separate once they are dry. Place the nuts in a plastic bag and pound using a rolling pin or meat pounder to coarsely crush. A food processor can be used, but be careful not to grind the nuts too finely; you still want larger pieces of pistachios, not a fine powder. Set aside until ready to serve.

[Chef’s Note: Warmed, liquefied honey is easier to toss with the nuts. These pistachios can be prepared up to one week in advance and stored in a tightly sealed plastic bag or container.]

Prepare the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mix all crust ingredients together in a large bowl. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter or cooking spray. Pour crumb mixture into the prepared pan and press evenly to form a tightly packed crust. Bake the crust in the preheated oven until set, crisp and golden, about 10-12 minutes. Cool completely before filling.

[Chef’s Note: The top of a can of cooking spray works wonders to evenly pack the crumbs into the pan.]

Prepare the cheesecake filling:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Wrap the bottom of the prepared crust pan tightly with aluminum foil (this is to prevent water from seeping into the pan while baking in a water bath). Set aside.

Place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar on low speed until the batter is smooth. Scrape the bowl well to ensure even mixing. Add the mascarpone cheese and mix until just combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add orange zest, juice, vanilla and salt and mix to combine.

Pour the filling into the prepared pan over the crust. Place the crust pan in a larger pan or deep baking dish. Add boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the crust pan. Bake the cheesecake until it is puffed around the edges and the center moves only slightly when the pan is tapped, about 45 minutes but up to an hour. Turn off the oven and leave the cake in the oven with door slightly open for another 30 minutes to cool gradually.

Remove the cake from the oven and water bath, and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, chill the cheesecake in the refrigerator for at least four hours, or preferably overnight.

[Chef’s Note: Be careful not to over-mix the mascarpone cheese or it will separate and incorporate too much air into the batter, causing it to lose its creamy consistency. Also, you don’t want to over-bake the cheesecake or you will end up with a cracked top and dry texture. The cheesecake will continue to cook for a few minutes even after it is removed from the oven, and will also firm up in the refrigerator, so only bake until the cake’s center slightly jiggles.

The cheesecake can be prepared up to one week in advance and stored in the refrigerator, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.]

Service

Carefully remove the sides from the springform pan to release the cheesecake and transfer the cake to a large serving plate or cake stand. Sprinkle the pistachios over the entire top of the cheesecake to garnish; you may want to apply a little bit of pressure to ensure the pistachios stay put. Warm the honey in the microwave for 10 seconds. You can either drizzle the honey over the top of the entire cheesecake now or on each individual piece once the cheesecake is cut.

Place one slice of cheesecake on a dessert plate. Drizzle honey, to taste, over the pistachios and enjoy this luscious dessert.

[Chef’s Notes: The cheesecake must be well chilled before slicing. To prevent the cake from sticking to the knife while cutting, either dip the knife in hot water or hold the knife blade under hot running water. Repeat the process every time you make a cut. For optimum flavor, serve the cheesecake at room temperature. To do so, slice the cake while cold, then set the slices out about 1 hour before serving.

As this is made primarily of dairy ingredients, remember to store any leftover cheesecake wrapped in the refrigerator. You can also freeze the baked cake successfully for several months. Either freeze still in the springform pan or, after removing from the pan, freeze on a sheet pan, wrap the cake well in plastic and then again in foil. It will keep this way for up to several months. To thaw, place the whole cake, still wrapped, in the refrigerator overnight until soft enough to serve.]
Recipe and photo by Monica Glass

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