Thursday, May 12, 2011

Cheesecake with Lemon Poppyseed Macarons

Just cheesecake? Plain cheesecake? No crazy flavours or colours or shapes? That's right. But this is no ordinary cheesecake. My brother asked me to try out this recipe, after having the best cheesecake he's ever had at Trattoria Garga in Florence while on his honeymoon. Lucky for those of us not going to Florence anytime soon, Saveur Magazine printed the recipe for the very same cheesecake. And to jazz it up a little bit, I topped it off with some lemon & poppy seed macarons. Aren't they so sunny and delicious looking? Though a little bit too big for the cake, I may have gotten carried away while piping them...
The cheesecake on its own is relatively simple. The original recipe called for the crust to come up the sides of the pan but I always have trouble making that look pretty, so I only made it for the base. The crust is ridiculously good, a regular biscuit crust, but baked until it is dark golden with a nutty, buttery flavour. The filling is better than any other traditional baked cheesecake I've ever had. I used to find most (non-Japanese) baked cheesecakes were super dense and heavy, with a gluggy sort of texture and way too sweet. I could never eat more than a few bites of it. But this filling has a lovely combination of cream cheese and mascarpone and it is so light and fluffy but not very sweet, giving it a lovely creamy richness without being sickly. It also has this magical top layer made with yoghurt, sugar and vanilla which gives it a delicate contrasting tang and depth of flavour. There's something so elegant about that yoghurt topping, I can't explain it.
The macarons were inspired by some lemon poppyseed macarons that the boy brought back from a Mother's Day high tea at T2. They were severly overbaked and super dry but still had a great lemon zing and I was intrigued to see the poppy seeds were incorporated into the shells. I decided to try them out as they'd been the perfect match for this cheesecake, matching the tangy flavour of the yoghurt coating. I just replaced some of the dry mixture with some poppy seeds and lemon zest and it was great! I loved the extra bite in the shells from the poppy seeds, and a simple lemon butter icing for the filling made them sing. Though I have to admit I had to resist the urge to pipe them in heart shapes.
The best part? No baking in water baths! I hate hate hate baking cheesecakes in water baths, no matter how many layers of clingfilm and foil I wrap around my springform tin, water somehow manages to leak in and make my crust super soggy. Don't be turned off by the length of the recipe below and the number of components, the cheesecake itself is super duper easy - it took me about half an hour prep and 1hr 20 mins total baking time. The macarons were done the night before, but I go into total autopilot mode when I make macarons so they weren't much extra effort for me. If you can't be bothered to do the macarons, just serve up the original cake with some marinated strawberries and it will be just as good. But I do think the macarons make it quite special.
Cheesecake with Lemon Poppyseed Macarons
(Adapted from Sharon's Cheesecake of Trattoria Garga, recipe from Saveur Magazine, serves 8)
For the macarons:
100g aged egg whites (you can use fresh eggs too, just make sure they are room temperature. I always use fresh these days, and zap it in the microwave on defrost for 10 seconds)
105g almond meal, dried in a cool (100 degrees C) oven for 5 minutes and sifted
195g icing sugar
50g sugar
Zest of one lemon, about 1-2 tsp
1 tbsp poppy seeds
Optional: 1 tsp powdered egg whites (available from The Essential Ingredient),
yellow powdered food colouring
50g unsalted butter
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
Juice from half a lemon

For the crust:
2 cups finely crushed digestives (English whole wheat biscuits, can be substituted with graham crackers)
1 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp (approx 60g) unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake filling:
1 1/2 cups (approx 390g) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp (approx 170g) mascarpone
1 cup sugar
3 eggs

For the cheesecake topping:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

(Macarons should be made and refrigerated 24 hours before serving to allow flavour to mature) Line two baking sheets with baking paper. Place icing sugar in food processor and pulse for a minute to remove any lumps. Stir in almond meal and pulse for about 30 seconds to combine. Place in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and egg white powder in a medium mixing bowl until the egg white powder dissolves and it reaches soft peaks. With the mixer on high speed, gradually add sugar (and yellow food colouring if you wish) and beat until it reaches stiff peaks. Add meringue, poppy seeds and lemon zest to your dry mixture and mix, quickly at first to break down the bubbles in the egg white (you really want to deflate/beat all the large bubbles out of the mixture, be rough!), then mix carefully as the dry mixture becomes incorporated and it starts to become shiny again. Take care not to overmix, the mixture should flow like lava and a streak of mixture spread over the surface of the rest of the mixture should disappear after about 30 seconds. Place in a piping bag and pipe rounds of about 3-4cm diameter on baking sheets or silicon baking mats. Gently rap your baking sheets on your bench top to remove any extra bubbles from your piped shells.

Leave this to dry again for at least half an hour, so that when you press the surface of one gently it does not break. This will help prevent any cracking and help the feet to form on the macs. Preheat your oven to 140-150 degrees C. Place on top of an overturned roasting tray or another baking sheet if your sheets are not professional grade, for better heat distribution. Bake for 15-18 minutes, depending on the size of your shells. Remove from the oven and cool on the tray for a few minutes, then gently remove from the sheet and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Remove butter 30 mins before preparing the lemon icing. Beat butter and icing sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy then add lemon juice and beat until smooth. Use a piping bag or spoon to fill your macarons with the icing. Store in the fridge overnight in an airtight container.
For the crust: Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F). Mix crushed biscuits and sugar together in a medium bowl. Add butter and stir until well combined. Transfer crumb mixture to a greased and lined 25cm (10") springform pan (I had to use a 21cm springform pan). Using your hands, spread mixture out in an even layer, then use your fingertips to press crumb mixture into bottom of tin to form an even crust. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake until crust is set and golden in places, 15–20 minutes. Set crust aside until cool. For the filling, beat cream cheese and mascarpone together in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low and gradually add sugar, beating well, about 1 minute. Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Pour filling into crust and bake until just set, 40–45 minutes (Mine took about 1 hour in the smaller sized pan). Remove cheesecake from oven and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

For the topping: Combine yogurt, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Pour onto cheesecake, spreading it out to cover top of cheesecake completely. Set aside at room temperature at least 2 hours. Run a knife between crust and inside ring of pan and remove ring. and serve. Can be refrigerated overnight in an airtight container. Only arrange macarons on top of cheesecake when you are ready to serve as yoghurt layer will cause macarons to go soggy.
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  1. Gorgeous!! I love the addition of the macarons :) Also love the addition of mascarpone cheese to the cheesecake - i swear there's something about it that makes cheesecake about 50% more delicious

  2. what a fresh and elegant dessert you've created! i say this everywhere, because it's true... i LOVE lemons and all things citrus. the double whammy of poppyseeds is almost too much to bear, sitting at my desk and not being in my kitchen.

    too bad about the T2 macarons. judging by this lovely pairing you've made, you could teach them a thing or two.

  3. Yummy! This looks amazing! You're so lucky macarons are so easy for you. I absolutely love them, but they're a pain to make in the humid weather here :(

  4. Oooh baby gimme gimme! Your brother is one lucky man :D

  5. This looks STUNNING, please, please send me a piece now. xox

  6. OMG! they looks so divine!! My next goal this to make macaron. Hopefully mine will turn out half as nice as yours. LOL

  7. Now I was looking for something to make for my sister in law... this could very well be it :) It looks delicious - guess I have to go shopping tomorrow lol.

  8. Wow, this cheesecake is a must try for me - especially coz I also find most cheesecakes to be too "gluggy" as you say. I've been dying to try digestive biscuit crust on a cheesecake, but am always daunted by the water bath thing. So glad you posted this. And lemon-poppyseed macarons! Too adorable!

  9. Brilliant! I could only imagine my taste-buds jumping and dancing at every taste of this gorgeous combination of cheesecake and lemon. I, myself, can only have so much sweetness for one sitting but I trust your expertise here and I would love to try out this recipe. Keep it up!

  10. You are so talented. I am so jealous. And hungry now =p

  11. Your cheesecake is really kicked up a notch(or two)with your perfectly gorgeous macarons! Stunning photos!

  12. I am in love with this! i want a piece NOW :)

  13. ok unfortunately i think my comment was deleted when blogger went down.

    but to summarize: this is an absolutely beautiful pairing. i love the poppyseeds, and i'm going to bake macarons for the first time tomorrow. hopefully they turn out as nicely as yours.


  14. yasmeen - Yes unfortunately blogger ate all the comments from this post, but I'm hoping they'll eventually spit them back out! But thank you so much for coming back to comment again!! <3

  15. yasmeen - oh and good luck with the macaron baking!

  16. This is a gorgeous looking dessert combination!!! How lucky to get the cheesecake recipe, I will definitely be trying this cheesecake with the macaron decoration, they lift it to another level entirely.

  17. This looks great! I want to try and bake macarons soon!

    I awarded you the One Lovely Blog Award on my blog. Check it out :)

  18. *squee* u always make the most perfect macarons. and i cant believe u have trouble with waterbaths! to me, youre the ultimate baking queen!

  19. Hi there! I just discovered you through foodgawker (or maybe it was Tastespotting) - wanted to comment earlier but then there was that whole Blogger ordeal! Anyway, just wanted to say that this cake is AMAZING, using macarons to decorate a cake may be the best idea ever. What a treat! Your photography is gorgeous and I've browsed a bit through your blog and I love your sweet inclination! I will definitely be back regularly and I'm a new friend on Twitter as well :)

  20. You've inspired me to try baking macarons. I've been wanting to for yonks, but I lack the kitchen confidence. I'm thinking maybe your choc/avocado ones might be the way to go.... Ooh, also I've been making your gingernuts for a while now - superb! I always get many comments on them. Well done!

  21. Jane - Good luck trying macarons! They can be such tricky little buggers, the chocolate macarons especially. I'd probably recommend trying a batch of plain macarons first just to be safe! Feel free to send me an email if you have any questions! So glad you liked the gingernuts, they're one of my favourite recipes :)

  22. Wow!
    It's a very nice page.

  23. Wonderful and tasteful!!!!! Great!

  24. Oh, oh, yum! That cheesecake looks simply wonderful - and the combination of mascarpone and a no-water-bath method means I'm definitely adding this to the must-bake list (although there are a few biscuit cakes of my own that your creations have inspired which need a try, too!). Sorry I didn't have the chance to meet you at Suze's party on the weekend - would've loved to have a chat...

  25. I'm wondering if you can give me suggestion. My macarons rise beautifully like yours in the oven, but somehow collapsed a bit to a more protruding feet like in the middle of baking. they still have feet but not as pretty and tall as your macarons. Any advise? Thanks!

  26. Anonymous - I used to have this problem all the time! It could be a number of reasons, perhaps your meringue is not stiff enough or you need to deflate more air bubbles out of your final mixture? If neither of those help maybe try baking at a lower temp for longer?

  27. I'm just doing it!!! My cheesecake is baking right now and tomorow... it will be delicious i'm sure THANKS TO YOU!



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