Friday, February 10, 2012

February #Baketogether With Abby Dodge: Amaretto No Bake Cheesecake with Toasted Almond and Biscoff Crust

For the month of February Abby Dodge has chosen a beautiful creamy cheesecake for her #baketogether (for Abby's original recipe, click here).  I was really happy to see this since I have been looking for an excuse for months now to make a dish from one of my favorite comfort food stops in Texas, Luby’s Cafeteria.  Feeling inspired by both of these recipes, I decided to blend elements of both and throw in a couple of my own ideas into the mix coming up with a delightful cake and a fun way to serve it and share it with friends.

When I was a teenager I loved going to Luby’s Cafeteria with my parents.  I was always in the mood to dine on their perfect macaroni and cheese along with a big rectangular piece of cracker crumb breaded fried fish topped with a generous dollop of creamy tartar sauce.  Mmmmm, perfection.

In my twenties this was the place to go to gorge on vegetables to revitalize my body after a long weekend of partying.  At this time my favorite was Luby’s stuffed bell peppers, which from what I could tell were made with chopped leftover roast beef and were no less than a culinary triumph.  Serve these with a side of fried okra and a little white bowl filled with mashed potatoes  and you are in comfort food heaven.

Years later I enjoyed taking my own children there and treating them to their own favorites which were coincidentally enough, macaroni and cheese and fried fish.  They just loved the place.  I guess there is just something about 25 yards of steam tables and hairnet clad servers saying, “Serve you?” that just makes a child’s heart sing.

Things haven’t changed much through the years.  You still slide your tray down the long silver bar of the food line past the salads, entrees and sides.  At the end of the line right before you reach the individually wrapped cream cheese stuffed jalapenos and bowls of colorful cubed Jell-O, there lies the always impressive selection of desserts. 

Most often I was a coconut pie girl, but on occasion when I felt like taking a walk on the wild side, I would change things up and get a piece of their fluffy and creamy no bake cheesecake.  The simple combination of a crushed graham cracker crumb crust topped by a “light” combination of whipped cream and cream cheese, was just the perfect ending to a 3000 calorie chicken fried steak dinner.

Even though I miss it, maybe it’s a good thing they don’t have Luby’s in Colorado because it is obvious that I just have no willpower.

Amaretto No Bake Cheesecakes with Toasted Almond and Biscoff Crust

3 ounces whole almonds, coarsely chopped

8.8 ounce package Biscoff cookies

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

8 tablespoons butter, softened and divided

11 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

4 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature

1 – 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons amaretto (or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract can be substituted for the amaretto)

1 cup heavy cream, whipped until firm

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place almonds in a frying pan over medium high heat.  Stirring frequently to prevent burning, toast the almonds until they are a golden brown and their aroma is released.  Transfer to a plate to cool and set aside until ready to use.

Place Biscoff cookies in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground or alternatively place in a heavy duty bag and crush with a rolling pin.  Combine the Biscoff crumbs, toasted almonds, sugar, and cinnamon.  Stir well before removing 1 cup of the mixture and setting aside.  Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and add it to the remaining cookie mixture in the bowl; stir well.

Press the crumbs that were mixed with the butter into the bottom of a 9” pie plate or press 1/4 cup of the mixture into the bottom of each of 8 wide mouth 1/2 pint Mason jars.  Place the pie plate into the preheated oven or if using the Mason jars, place them in a large baking dish and pour enough boiling water into it to make a water bath that comes 1” up the outside of the jars; bake for approximately 10 – 12 minutes or until they are aromatic and golden brown.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.

In a large bowl, blend together the cream cheese, the remaining butter, mascarpone, powdered sugar, salt, vanilla extract and amaretto; blend well.  Gently fold in the whipped cream until completely incorporated.

Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the cooled crust in the pie plate or Mason jars.  Cover and refrigerate for 3 – 4 hours or  preferably overnight.  Sprinkle equal amounts of the remaining cookie crumbs over the top of the cheesecake before serving.  Serve plain or with fresh fruit.  Store in the refrigerator.

Makes 8 generous servings

My friends and family love receiving these little cheesecake jars.  The lids can easily be decorated to fit any occasion or season.

I thought it might be fun to enter this in the Valentine's Day contest over at Very Good Recipes.  If you'd like to get other great ideas or see who wins, please visit the website by clicking on the address
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