Fig and Almond Cheesecake
Cheesecake. Ahh. My fall back dessert. You know, when you go to a restaurant and you want dessert, but you look at the dessert menu hoping to try something new and exciting but nothing necessarily jumps off the page at you? That’s when I go to my beloved cheesecake. It never lets me down. Creamy, smooth and decadent in any form, it is by far one of my all-time favorite desserts.
While in Toronto over Labor Day weekend, my Chief Culinary Consultant and I decided that we couldn’t go to Toronto without heading up the CN Tower to check out the view. After a longish walk from our hotel there, an almost 1 hour wait to buy tickets and an almost 2 hour wait to catch an elevator up, we decided that we should definitely reward ourselves with dinner in the observation tower before heading down and heading for home. We both enjoyed pasta dinners (my wild mushroom ravioli was fab!), and when the waiter asked if we wanted to see the dessert menu he was met with my eager outstretched hand. We decided to share something and my mind shot straight to ‘Fig and Almond Cheesecake’. It’s the cheesecake thing – I can’t resist! Plus, it had figs. I love figs! Then I read further… shortbread crust… sour cream glaze… Amaretto crème anglaise. I knew immediately what I wanted! Once we started to dig in, we couldn’t stop oohing and aahing. It was beyond the best cheesecake I had ever had. And we quickly agreed that I needed to take copious notes so that I could recreate it back home. Enter this cheesecake.
I combined all of the aspects of the amazing CN Tower cheesecake and set to work making my own replica. So, how did I do? Let’s break it down. The shortbread crust that I made was a little more crisp than the cheesecake at the restaurant; the one there was thicker and softer. The figs in the original were fresh (and I loooooove fresh figs), but unfortunately they are out of season around my part of the world and I couldn’t find any, so I used dried. You can definitely use either, but I would certainly prefer fresh. Moving on to the cheesecake. I personally think this is the best cheesecake I have made from a texture standpoint – it could not be beat. It was still a little denser than the original, but I don’t think I would change a thing. The sour cream glaze and the Amaretto crème anglaise (with vanilla bean) were both spot on, in my opinion.
So, in summary… not an exact replica of the cheesecake we ate, but an absolutely spectacular homage that I will be keeping in my cheesecake arsenal next to my other favorites – Oreo Cheesecake, Peanut Butter-Fudge Cheesecake, Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake, Coffee and Espresso Cheesecake, Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte, and Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake. I know I will be making this over and over again for many years to come.
Cheesecakes can give us all headaches – between the consistency, the cracking, water baths, etc. – but admittedly, the creamy and decadent dessert sure is worth it! Jamie from My Baking Addiction put together a great tutorial and video on preparing a cheesecake and baking it in a water bath. I highly recommend checking it out: Snickers Cheesecake and Vlog
Happy Cheesecake Baking! What’s your favorite flavor/type?
Fig and Almond Cheesecake
For the Crust:
2½ cups shortbread cookie crumbs
½ cup ground almonds
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract
6 tablespoons butter, melted
For the Cheesecake:
Figs (fresh preferred, okay to substitute dried), halved or sliced, enough to cover crust
32 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1¼ cups granulated sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the Sour Cream Glaze:
2 cups sour cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Amaretto Crème Anglaise:
1-1/3 cups heavy cream
½ vanilla bean, split
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup Amaretto
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Double-wrap the bottom and outside of a 9-inch springform pan with heavy duty foil. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into the bottom of the springform pan. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil for a water bath. Once the crust is cool, place figs on top in a single layer.
3. Beat together the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well until fully incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Add the heavy cream and vanilla and beat until well combined, about 1 minute.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared crust. Tap the pan on the counter to release any air bubbles. Place the pan into a larger pan (a roasting pan is great for this) and pour the boiling water into the larger pan until it is about halfway up the springform pan.
5. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until the edges are set, but the middle still jiggles a little. In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and spread the sour cream glaze evenly (and gently) over the top using an offset spatula. Return the cheesecake to the oven for 10 minutes. Keeping the oven door closed, turn off the oven and let the cheesecake rest in the oven for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven, carefully remove it from the water bath, remove the foil and place the cheesecake on a wire rack to cool completely, about an additional 2 hours. Once completely cool, refrigerate for at least 6 hours (preferably overnight).
6. To make the Amaretto crème anglaise: Place a fine-mesh sieve over a clean bowl and have an ice bath ready (a large bowl full of ice that you can place the clean bowl in). Place the heavy cream in a medium saucepan and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream (discard the bean). Warm over medium-low heat just to a slight simmer. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until thick, about 1 minute. Once the cream simmers, slowly drizzle it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until it reaches 170 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, and it thickens and coats the back of a spatula. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Amaretto. Strain the mixture through the fine-mesh sieve and place the bowl in the ice bath, stirring occasionally, until cool. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the crème anglaise and refrigerate until ready to serve (at least 1 hour).
7. To serve: Plate a slice of cheesecake and spoon the Amaretto crème anglaise over top of each individual slice. Store leftover crème anglaise in an airtight container in the refrigerator; cover any leftover cheesecake with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. Both can be kept for up to 4 days. Wrapped, the cheesecake can be frozen for up to 2 months.