Well this weekend, I  went along to Christoph and Suzanne’s for the second pot luck. As usual, the food was delicious, with each one of us trying to outdo the rest. As usual, I agonized over what to bring. The Critic was in favor of gazpacho but I didn’t want to repeat myself and bring soup two times running. (This was just as well, as Christoph prepared two interesting gazpacho soups, one with strawberries and one with avocados!) In the end, I asked Christoph what would be welcome and he suggested dessert. I remembered that I had brought some cream cheese back from the UK the weekend before and decided to try my hand at something I haven’t made in many years: a cheesecake.

We have our favorite supplier of cheesecake in Paris already: an American caterer and restaurant in the 16th called Percy’s. They make the best cheesecake the Critic has ever tasted. So it was with great fear and trepidation that I began my own foray into the cheesecake world.

Many cookbooks and much time spent on the Internet later, I chose my recipe: Mascarpone Cheesecake from the Epicurious site and decided to add a seasonal touch by making some peach compote to compliment it.

Epicurious Mascarpone Cheesecake

For crust :

  • 70 vanilla wafers (8 1/2 oz), finely ground in a food processor (2 1/3 cups)
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For filling :

  • 20 oz cream cheese (2 1/2 eight-ounce packages), softened
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese at room temperature (about 1 cup) (I used 8 and 3/4 oz., as that was the size of the package and I wanted to make up for the missing cream cheese)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For topping :

  • 1 cup sour cream (Creme Fraiche)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instruction :

Make crust:

  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Butter bottom and side of a 9-inch springform pan.
  3. Stir together cookie crumbs and butter in a bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup crumb mixture for sprinkling over cheesecake, then pat remainder onto bottom and 1 1/2 inches up side of a springform pan (about 1/4 inch/.5 cm thick). Put the pan in a shallow baking pan and bake until golden, about 10 minutes.
  4. Cool completely on a rack, about 25 minutes. Leave oven on. (I hadn’t read the recipe too carefully before starting and did not realize how many times I would see “let cool completely”. Running late, I let it cool less than ten minutes before proceeding to the next step.)

Make filling while crust bakes:

  1. Beat cream cheese, mascarpone, and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, lemon juice, and salt and mix at low speed until combined.
  3. Pour into cooled crust and bake until cake is set and puffed around the edge but still trembles slightly when the pan is shaken gently, 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Cool slightly in springform pan on a rack, about 20 minutes. (Cooled ten minutes…see above comments about not appreciating the time factor.) Cheesecake will continue to set as it cools. Leave oven on.

Make topping:

  1. Stir together sour cream, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl and spoon over cheesecake, spreading gently and evenly, leaving a 1/4-inch border around the edge.
  2. Bake cheesecake until topping is set, about 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge to help prevent cracking. (Unable to do this as the edge of the pie tin was crinkled. Luckily the crust came out just fine!)
  3. Sprinkle top with reserved crumbs and cool completely in pan on a rack, then chill, loosely covered, at least 8 hours. (Or 45 minutes before leaving for pot luck and then another couple of hours while dinner was served and eaten )

Cooks’ notes:

  • Cheesecake can be chilled, loosely covered, up to 3 days.
  • Cut cake with a long, thin sharp knife dipped in a tall glass of hot water.

(Makes 10 to 12 servings.)

Peach Compote (my own recipe)

Ingredients :

  • 6-7 peaches
  • 1/3 cup sugar (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 reserved peach water

Instruction :

  1.  Rinse your peaches and place them, in the basket, in a large pot of boiling water for about five minutes.
  2. Remove them by using a spoon to fish the basket handles out of the water and reserve 1/2 cup of the water.
  3. Refill the large pot with cold water and put the peaches back in to cool. Peel and pit the peaches and chop in small pieces. (If you didn’t boil the peaches long enough it will be hard to peel – just put them back in some boiling water. It’s a good idea to test a peach or two before tossing the remainder of the hot water.)
  4. Put the chopped peeled peaches in a medium saucepan with the water, the sugar, and the vanilla.
  5. Stir and cook over medium heat until the peaches are just about cooked through. Use an immersion blender to blend part of the peaches, making a thick peach sauce with plenty of chunks of peach.
  6. Taste for sugar and refrigerate. If you have any left after the cheesecake is gone, serve it with fromage frais, sweetened mascarpone, or plain yogurt!