This makes a wonderful light-as-air cheesecake that would be an ideal ending for a summer meal. The crust is made of ground hazelnuts and almonds bonded with butter and sugar. The filling is almost a mousse, lighted with whipped cream. The cheesecake is “sealed” with broiled brown sugar, much like crème brulee. Lemon sauce intensifies the lemon flavor. Jose Gutierrrez’ fried sweet potato strings make a perfect, and Southern, garnish.
- Hazelnuts - 12 ounces, ground
- Almonds - 12 ounces, ground
- Butter - 9 tablespoons, melted
- Sugar - 1⁄2 cup
- Cream Cheese - 2-1⁄2 pounds, softened
- Sugar - 1-1⁄4 cups
- Whole Eggs - 7
- Egg Yolks - 5
- Lemon Juice - 1⁄4 cup, freshly squeezed
- Lemons Zest - 2 lemons
- Vanilla Extract - 2 tablespoons
- Heavy Cream - 6 tablespoons, whipped to soft peaks
- Lemon Sauce
- Lemon Juice - 1⁄2 cup
- Orange Juice - 1⁄2 cup
- Cornstarch - 1-1⁄2 tablespoonsunsalted butter
- Unsalted Butter - 2 tablespoons
- Sugar - 1⁄4 cup
- Lemon zest - 1 tablespoon, grated
- Sweet Potato Garnish
- Sweet Potato - 1, peeled
- Vegetable Oil - 5 cups, for frying
- Confectioners’ Sugar - 1⁄2 cup
- Light brown sugar for dusting cake
To make the crust: Position the rack in center of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Finely grind the nuts in a food processor. Add the butter and sugar, and blend using on/off turns just until moist. Press the nut mixture firmly onto the bottom of a 10 x 13-inch sheet pan. Bake about 10 minutes or until the crust is set. Cool. Lower the oven temperature to 250 F.
To make the filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar together. Add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, beating just until combined. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream. Pour the filling into the crust, spreading evenly. Bake about 18 minutes until the center moves only slightly when the pan is shaken and the top is lightly colored. (The cake will continue to firm up in the refrigerator.) Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 5 minutes.
To make the lemon sauce: In a medium bowl whisk the juices and cornstarch until the cornstarch dissolves. In a small heavy saucepan melt the butter over medium-high heat. Whisk in the sugar, lemon zest, and orange juice mixture, and cook about 4 minutes or until the sauce boils and thickens slightly. Remove the pan from the heat and cool. (Can be made 2 days ahead, covered, and chilled. Bring to room temperature before serving.)
To make the sweet potato garnish: Using a mandolin, cut the sweet potato into strings. In a saucepan heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 350 F. Dredge the sweet potato strings in confectioners’ sugar and fry (if necessary, lower the heat to prevent the strings from burning) until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain.
To finish and present: Set the broiler rack so the cheesecake will be 2 to 3 inches from heat and preheat the broiler. Sift light brown sugar evenly over the cheesecake and broil about 2 minutes until the sugar is melted and caramelized. (Alternately, raw sugar may be sprinkled over cake and caramelized with a blowtorch.) With a cookie cutter, cut the cheesecake into 3-inch rounds. Drizzle 1⁄4 cup of lemon sauce on individual dessert plates. Center a cheesecake round on the dessert plate, top with sweet potato strings, and repeat, adding 2 more layers of cake and sweet potato strings and finishing with a layer of strings.