Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lemon Cheesecake with Walnut Crust

Lemon Cheesecake with Walnut Crust, on plate with whole cheesecake in background

Mascarpone amps up this gluten-free delight

Looking for a dessert that’s a BFD—you know, a big fancy deal? One you can serve to your boss or your fussiest relatives?

Well, your search is over. This mascarpone-driven Lemon Cheesecake with Walnut Crust delivers “Wow!” factor.

It’s the perfect dessert for an important dinner party. That’s because you can (and should) make this dish ahead of time, preferably the day before you intend to serve it. When you’re planning a big dinner, that “make ahead” thing isn’t a bug, it’s a feature: You get dessert out of the way early, so you can obsess over the main course on the day of.

Plus, it will give you plenty of time to anticipate the standing O you’ll receive from your guests when they take their first bite of this tongue pleaser.


Lemon Cheesecake with Walnut Crust, on plate with raspberry garnish

Recipe:  Lemon Cheesecake with Walnut Crust

There are 3 major steps to this recipe, none of them difficult. First, you need to make and blind bake the crust (that is, bake it without a filling). Second, you need to mix up the cheesecake filling, add it to the cooled (but still warm) crust, and bake the whole shebang. Third—and important; see Notes—you must let the cheesecake cool, then chill in the refrigerator for several hours before you attempt to remove it from its baking pan and cut it.

Mrs. Kitchen Riffs is the dessert maven in our household, and this is her creation. She adapted it from a March 1999 recipe she found on Epicurious.

This dish is a very rich, so you’ll probably want to cut small slices—it serves 10 to 12.

Prep time for making the crust is about 10 minutes, baking time 20 minutes (then the crust needs to cool a bit). Prep time for the cheesecake filling is 10 to 15 minutes, and baking time is an hour. So allow about 2 hours total for this.

Leftovers keep for a few days if refrigerated in airtight containers.

Ingredients

For the crust:
  • ~2½ cups walnuts
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
For the cheesecake:
  • 2 pounds cream cheese (four 8-ounce packages)
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs (consider using pasteurized; see Notes)
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest (see Notes)
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • garnish of fresh fruit (optional)
Procedure

For the crust:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan (one with a removable bottom) and line with parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor, grind walnuts with ¾ cup sugar until fine. Meanwhile, melt butter in the microwave (preferably in a container with a lid; about 1 minute.) Add the butter to the walnut mixture and pulse until well mixed (it will look like wet sand).
  3. Press the walnut mixture evenly in the bottom of the springform pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the crust is starting to brown around the edges.
  4. Let the crust cool until lukewarm. Then wrap the springform pan tightly in aluminum foil (so it won’t leak in the next step).
For the cheesecake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F if you turned it off after making the crust.
  2. Using a stand mixer (or in a large bowl, using a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the mascarpone cheese and beat until light and fluffy. 
  3. Reduce speed to medium and add 1½ cups sugar, continuing to beat until well mixed. Add the eggs and beat until smooth and creamy. Add the lemon zest and juice, beating until well combined.
  4. Pour the cheese mixture over the cooled walnut crust, smoothing the top. Set the wrapped cheesecake pan in a larger, shallow pan (such as a large roasting pan with sides about 2 or 3 inches high), and add enough hot water to the larger pan to reach halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan (see Notes).
  5. Bake for approximately one hour. At that point, the cheesecake will be mostly set (though still soft) and the top will be turning golden brown.
  6. Remove the cheesecake pan from the roasting pan and place it on a wire rack to cool. Discard the water from the roasting pan. That water is hot, so be careful not to burn yourself!
  7. After the cheesecake has cooled for an hour or so, place the cheesecake (still in the pan) in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours (up to 24 hours) to chill and set completely (see Notes).
  8. When ready to serve, place a large plate over the cheesecake pan and invert quickly. Release the sides of the springform pan and remove the outer part of the pan. Remove the bottom of the springform pan and peel away the parchment paper. Then place a second plate over the cheesecake and invert quickly. Remove the top plate (see Notes).
  9. Serve the cheesecake by itself or garnish with fresh fruit (raspberries, blueberries, or strawberries would be particularly nice.)
Lemon Cheesecake with Walnut Crust, on plate with raspberry garnish

Notes
  • The original recipe called for a shortbread cookie crust. Most cheesecake recipes call for graham cracker crust. We prefer a ground-walnut crust—which is tastier, as well as gluten free.
  • We like to use a bottom-only crust (i.e., no side crust) on this cheesecake. That’s because a ground-walnut crust is quite rich and has its own distinctive flavor. We don’t want it to overwhelm the cheesecake. 
  • Why use a lidded container when melting the butter? Because butter can explode in the microwave, creating a mess if not contained. So not fun.
  • We use full-fat cream cheese in this dish. So it’s not a diet dessert! Reduced-fat cream cheese probably works, but we haven’t tried that.
  • Mascarpone is a soft Italian cheese (similar to cream cheese) with rich, sweet flavor. It plays a leading role in Tiramisu, that most beloved of Italian desserts.
  • Eggs carry a slight (but real) risk of salmonella. So we suggest using pasteurized eggs when making any type of batter that you might taste raw. Although it’s unlikely the eggs you buy will be infected, why take the risk? Especially since most of us can’t make cheesecake batter without tasting it. 
  • You can identify pasteurized eggs because they usually have a red “P” stamped on them.
  • The amount of lemon zest and juice called for in this recipe requires about 2 medium-sized lemons.
  • The easiest way to zest lemons is to use a Microplane grater. A zester works too, but it takes a bit longer.
  • Make sure the water you add to the roasting pan is hot (as in boiling). Otherwise, the cheesecake will take much longer to bake because the water will have to heat in the oven before if starts cooking the cheesecake.
  • BTW, this cooking technique is called a “water bath” or bain-marie. Why use it? Because it allows the cheesecake to bake in slow, gentle heat (the water never gets hotter than boiling temperature, or 212 degrees F). So the cheesecake cooks evenly in a nice humid environment, which helps prevent it from cracking and drying out.
  • Which brings us to the next reminder: Don’t over-bake this cheesecake. It will seem jiggly when you take it out of the oven. That’s OK—it will set up in the fridge. You want it to stay light and creamy.
  • You really do need to let this cheesecake chill in the fridge in the springform pan for several hours (preferably overnight). It will be very soft when you take it out of the oven and will fall apart if you try to remove it from the pan too quickly (guess how I know this).
  • This dish is wonderful all by itself, but a garnish of fresh fruit adds color and nice accent flavor. Fresh berries are particularly delicious with it.
Lemon Cheesecake with Walnut Crust, on plate with whole cheesecake in background

Exuberant Flavor

“This cheesecake is so good, I need to yodel,” I said. “No other way to express how great this is!”

“Thanks,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “But yodeling? That’s a little dangerous, don’t you think?”

“A lot painful is more like it,” I said, forking another bite. “So I’ll just yodel virtually. No need to rile up the neighborhood dogs.”

“Relieved,” said Mrs K R.

“Anyway, you know I love lemon. And wow, this delivers terrific lemon flavor. Plus, the walnut crust is out of this world.” I slid my plate across the table. “I’m definitely going to need a second piece.”

“It’s not bad, if I say so myself,” said Mrs K R as she dished up. “Definitely a keeper.”

I’ll yodel ay ee hoo to that.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Chocolate Mascarpone Brownies
Walnut Apple Crisp
Bread Pudding
Walnut Roll Cake
Black Walnut Sandies
Grape Flaugnarde (Flan)
Or check out the index for more

112 comments:

  1. Lemon cake is one of my favorite treats and with walnut crust - yes please :)
    A clever and innovative recipe and it looks (and for sure tastes) amazing!

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    1. Hi Daniela, it's really a great recipe - well worth trying out. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  2. That is a fantastic looking cheesecake!

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    1. Hi Nik, totally delish, too. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  3. I'm on top of that mountain yodeling right alongside you. Yodel yodel yodel! That is my best yodel impression--must've been too distracted by the lovely cheesecake and marscapone filling to come up with a better one. Lovely, John!

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    1. Hi Ala, your yodeling is as bad as mine! :-D But this cheesecake really is worth yodeling over. Thanks for the comment.

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  4. Mrs. Riff is surely reading my mind. As you saw on my post today, John, I have buckets of walnuts just waiting to be cleaned and shelled, literally. (lots of work in fresh walnuts:) Naturally, I want just the right recipe to highlight their goodness. What better way than with a delicious, lemony, mascarpone cheesecake with all the trimmings. Giving this cheesecake a water bath is perfection. I was worried about using the walnuts in a crust for fear of burning the crust.

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe John and please thanks the Mrs. too...

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    1. Hi Louise, this crust does get quite dark, but definitely not burnt. It's really great! And truly worth trying. Thanks for the comment.

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  5. I have a cheesecake recipe that I've used for over 20 years that remains my favorite and it's a lemon cheesecake too. No candy bars or booze or fancy schmancy anything, just a cheesy luscious dessert with a hint of lemon. I can almost imagine how good this is; I've got to try the walnuts in the crust!

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    1. Hi Barb, that walnut crust really is something. The whole cheesecake is something! Thanks for the comment.

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  6. Hi Mrs. Kitchen Riffs , my family love cheesecake , they are going to love your Lemon cheesecake with the Walnut crust , have a birthday party this weekend and will be making a couple a day ahead , thank you for sharing :) and hello to you John , yummy and delicious .

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    1. Hi Nee, :-) Definitely worth making this cheesecake - it's gorgeous, and tastes even better. Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Lovely color on the cheesecake. This recipe sounds delicious! I'm sure many people will appreciate the walnut crust, too.

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    1. Hi Lydia, it really is a delish recipe. One of the best cheesecake recipes we've made (actually, the best!). Thanks for the comment.

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  8. What an awesome cheesecake! I'm so glad you've posted this one.. I did try a baked cheesecake and I'm afraid it was a fail because I didn't have your third instruction.. to leave it to cool for some time before attempting to remove it from the pan, lol. Now I'm encouraged to try a baked cheesecake again!

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    1. Hi Barbara, cheesecake really is prone to fall apart if it's properly cooked (just pretty jiggly) and you try to remove it from the pan too quickly. Bummer when that happens, although it still tastes good (just cover it with a berry sauce and say you made it that way on purpose!). You should definitely try again - your own is so good. Thanks for the comment.

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  9. Mascarpone is so good! And a walnut crust? Definitely a crowd pleaser. I bet there won't be any leftovers!

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    1. Hi Abbe, this does get eaten pretty quickly, I must admit! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  10. This is definitely a BFD :D I should use mascarpone more, I tend to forget about it and it is so delicious!

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    1. Hi Kristi, mascarpone is so scrumptious, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.

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  11. Anything with mascarpone is all right in my book. Plus, with my Meyer lemons ripening now, this is an ideal recipe to put them to use for.

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    1. Hi Carolyn, I'm jealous about your Meyer lemon tree! We had one when we lived in Florida, and I really miss it. Thanks for the comment.

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  12. Goodness! What a beautiful dessert. Just love the idea of doing a walnut, instead of a graham cracker crust. My brother in law arrives from Omaha tomorrow and cheesecake is his absolute favorite. This couldn't have come at a better time!

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    1. Hi Monet, isn't this nice? The walnut works really well - super flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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    1. Hi Asmita, it's really nice! Thanks for the comment.

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  14. Oh - I was hoping for some yodelling that would set the neighbourhood dogs into a frenzy! This cheesecake looks amazing and I will pin it. I love how the base is made almost entirely of walnuts! Toasted walnuts would give a lovely contrasting flavour to the cheesecake. Great looking dessert, thanks xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, yodeling would be kinda fun, wouldn't it? ;-) The walnuts in this are amazing - so, so tasty. Thanks for the coment.

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  15. John, you are so lucky to have Mrs. Kitchen Riffs and her desserts! I like things made of mascarpone cheese and I always look for delicious dishes made of mascarpone. This cheesecake looks absolutely stunning and I love rich cheesecakes! Thanks for sharing the joy with us!

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    1. Hi Yi, I am indeed lucky! And this cheesecake is so wonderful - really good stuff. Thanks for the comment.

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  16. This is a great recipe, John. Love that you created a walnut crust. I can't recall ever having tasted one with a cheesecake and it would be a very pleasant surprise. I've an old, dry-bake cheesecake recipe that, unlike yours, is crust-less. I've often thought of trying to make it with a crust but the thought of failure has kept me true to the original recipe. There are few things so disappointing in a kitchen as a failed cheesecake.
    By the way, have you ever made your own mascarpone? It's one of the easiest cheeses to make and it is oh, so very good. Have we had this conversation before? :)
    Thanks, John, for sharing another of your great recipes.

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    1. Hi John, I have yet to make mascarapone, or any cheese. :-( Still plan to, though - and yes, we have had this conversation! :-D This really is a great cheesecake - well worth trying. Thanks for the comment.

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  17. I love BFD's, lol Me and my friend were just talking cheese cake the other day and I think I gained weight just from getting myself all worked up over it. I can't wait for the holidays to make one, love the lemon and walnut, can you hear me yodeling over here.
    -Gina-

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    1. Hi Gina, I was wondering who was doing that yodeling! And I agree BFD's are great. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  18. WOW is right! That's the exact response I had when I saw that first picture. From the walnut crust to the mascarpone in the filling - how could one not fall in love on the bite! I have never made a cheesecake before, so thanks for the great kitchen notes and this fabulous recipe!

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    1. Hi MJ, cheesecake isn't that hard to make, but that's probably easy for me to say, since Mrs K R does all the work! It's worth trying, though - the results are wonderful. Thanks for the comment.

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  19. I looked at the title and thought, The Mrs has been in the kitchen again!"

    It looks so good and that crust is calling me.

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    1. Hi Maureen, the crust is great - truly delish. And it's always nice when Mrs K R is in the kitchen, isn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  20. Of course the best part about this cheesecake has to be this walnut crust! I've never heard of a walnut crust before. Truly awesome!

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    1. Hi Ashlely, the walnut crust is really superb. Although the cheesecake itself is darn good too! Thanks for the comment.

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  21. What a gorgeous looking cheesecake. You can't go wrong with lemon and mascarpone cheese. They're the perfect pair!

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    1. Hi Anne, it really is a nice cheesecake. The mascarpone adds a certain something that takes the dish over the top. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  22. I love lemon cheesecake -- the acidity balances the flavor and makes it even more lighter. Yummy walnut crust :D

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    1. Hi Kiran, lemon anything is good, but lemon cheesecake is outstanding! Thanks for the comment.

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  23. We'll have to try this at home!!

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    1. Hi Cquek, you will, you will! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  24. I love desserts that can be pre-prepared like this one. It looks so yum and those cheesecake ingredients sound wonderful.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, I really like anything I can prepare ahead - makes it easier when entertaining. Thanks for the comment.

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  25. Cheesecake with mascarpone in the filling sounds FANTASTIC! Love that this can be made ahead - So looking forward to trying this one out!

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    1. Hi Shashi, this really is worth making - the flavor is amazing. And when it comes to food, I'm not all that easily amazed! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  26. John: What a delightful treat! With mascarpone and lemon, this is already a winner...But you have outdone yourself. You put here a GF crust made from walnuts. Wow! This is the treat of the treats!

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    1. Hi Denise, isn't this nice? And the crust really might be the best part. Thanks for the comment.

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  27. Back when we were doing South Beach diet, I made a similar crust a lot. These two flavors of mascarpone and lemony tartness sound delicious together. Thanks for another outstanding recipe I must try.

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    1. Hi Debra, walnuts in a crust are great, aren't they? And this really is a super recipe - you won't be sorry you tried it! Thanks for the comment.

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  28. This looks perfect, John, as is every dish in your blog! Make-ahead desserts are a great way to make the party day less stressful and tiring! Love your mascarpone-rich dessert...it looks so tempting!

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    1. Hi Purabi, it's so nice making things ahead, isn't it? And it's so worth it with this dish! Thanks for the comment.

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  29. Mascarpone is one of my favorite cheese to work with and that crust, wow. I have a friend who love lemon and walnuts like nobody else. I am gonna forward this recipe to her, she is gonna thank you tons. A great recipe and thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hi Asha, it's really a super recipe - hope your friend enjoys it! Thanks for the comment.

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  30. I haven't made a cheesecake in a while, but they're always a crowd-pleaser. The lemon flavor in this one sounds wonderful, and I love the idea behind the gluten-free crust. Thanks to Mrs. KR for another fine bit of baking!

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    1. Hi Beth, this really is a crowd-pleaser. One of the best desserts we've done in quite a while. Thanks for the comment.

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  31. yum! i love cheesecake and the idea of a walnut crust sounds amazing!

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    1. Hi Alyssa, the crust is outstanding - really good. As is the cheesecake! Thanks for the comment.

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  32. Lemon cheesecake is my favorite! This one sounds sublime, and the addition of a walnut crust is lovely. I'm not a fan of the traditional graham cracker crusts and have often made crust-less cheesecakes. I'm saving this to make as a holiday treat!

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    1. Hi Hannah, we're not big fans of the traditional graham cracker crust either. Hence the walnut one! This one is worth saving for the holidays - you'll love it! Thanks for the comment.

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  33. I normally do not bake cheesecake...but this one sounds so good...walnut crust! I like the lemony layer of cheesecake. Beautiful done!
    Thank you so much for the kind words...I really appreciate!
    Hope you are having a fantastic week :D

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    1. Hi Juliana, there are so many great commercial cheesecakes out there I sure can understand not making it. But this one is incredibly delish, particularly the crust. Worth it, IMO. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  34. Yes, yes, yes! A great gluten-free cheesecake, which is always a little labor intensive, but worth every single minute -- luxurious, sublime -- I can almost taste it. YUM!

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    1. Hi Judy, this really is a sublime dish - great way to describe it. Yes! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  35. Don't I know about exploding butter!! These cheesecake is wonderful, my favourite kind, plain with a fruit garnish. I also love the nut crust and bet it adds a lovely flavour of its own. Great job Mrs KR! Have a great weekend!

    Nazneen

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    1. Hi Nazneen, that exploding butter can be a bummer! I've never met a cheesecake I didn't like, but this has to be one of the all-time greats. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  36. This looks and sounds like the "Wow" cheesecake, John. I love the idea of walnut crust on the bottom only. I love cheese cake (who doesn't, really). This is worth all the effort. I will be happy to fly to wherever you live just to be served with this cheese cake. :)

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    1. Hi Holly, I'd be delighted if you'd fly in to sample cheesecake! And this one is certainly worth the trip. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  37. mascarpone-driven cheesecake, you say! and with lemon and walnuts? i'd feel the need to yodel also. it's so many of my favorite things in one.

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    1. Hi Shannon, that yodeling thing is so embarrassing, but really it's the natural reaction when you taste this. :-D It's really a great dish. Thanks for the comment.

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  38. This sounds delightful. Perfect for a holiday dessert in my house as my son would rather eat cheesecake than breathe air. I can't wait to try it!

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    1. Hi Karen, it really is delightful. And if your son is a cheesecake fanatic, this will be a breathe of fresh air. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  39. That looks gorgeous!
    I would love some right now with my morning coffee. I haven't made cheesecake for ages!!

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    1. Hi Gourmet Getaways, it's time to make some again, don't you think? ;-) This would be wonderful with morning coffee! A great way to start the day. Thanks for the comment.

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  40. If there is one dessert that I do not mind the work, it is cheesecake. Considering the number of recipes I have tried over the years, this is the one that has the most cheese in it! I am tempted to try next time cheesecake hunger strikes :)
    By the way, I made your chocolate cookies from several posts back. I used cocoa nibs instead of chips and Turkish coffee for espresso. Strong but delicious. The recipe is a keeper , tell Mrs Riffs Thank You!

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    1. Hi Ilke,so glad you liked the chocolate cookie! Maybe it's hard to believe but this recipe is even better! Hope you have a chance to try i. Thanks for the comment.

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  41. You are a many talented cook. You bake, make delicious meals, and best of all incredible drinks. Baking is not my thing, so I am duly impressed with this cheesecake!

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    1. Hi Kristi, it helps that I have my secret weapon, Mrs KR, who does most of the baking! Thanks for the comment.

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  42. This is a full-fat, happy lookin' cheesecake. Totally my kinda cheesecake. And I immediately fell in love with that amber hue on top! How luxurious the texture came out!
    Almond crust is indeed a wise move :)
    Superb crispy pictures with amazing clarity!

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    1. Hi Nusrat, it's really a great cheesecake! The crust is wonderful. And we did get great color on the top! Thanks for the comment.

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  43. Great looking dessert and wonderfully put-together post, John! Happy I found your site. :-)

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    1. Hi Dan, welcome! Thanks for the kind words and for taking time to comment, and I'll make sure you check out your blog.

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  44. A beautiful chessecake! Lovely flavors and gorgeous texture.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Hi Rosa, it's really a great cheesecake! Tons of flavor, and I really like the texture, too. Thanks for the comment.

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  45. Hi John, wow... this cheesecake look so delectable and delightful. Hard to resist cheesecake, great to go with a nice cup of hot coffee. I wouldn't mind to have a slice with lot of fruits.

    Best regards..

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    1. Hi Amelia, one slice coming up! It's a great dish - I love it. Thanks for the comment.

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  46. Oh goodness, lemon cheesecake is my favorite! If I could only choose one dessert to have for the rest of my life, it would either be this or lemon curd tart.. Mmm, looks so creamy!

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    1. Hi Yvonne, it's a tough choice between this cheesecake or lemon curd anything! Fortunately we can have both. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  47. I love everything on that one specially the crust!

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    1. Hi Raymund, it's really wonderful, but the crust is my favorite part. Weird, because I love lemon and cheesecake so, but the crust is sensational. Thanks for the comment.

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  48. Cheesecake is only my favorite thing ever. And with walnuts? Done.

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    1. Hi Shikha, isn't cheesecake great? And the walnut crust is super good. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  49. haha, I like the BFD idea John! Cheesecake is one of the best gf dessert ever. Dying to make this one!!

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    1. Hi Paula, cheesecake really is a great dessert, either GF or not. Such good stuff! Thanks for your comment.

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  50. This cheesecake looks amazing. I love making cheesecakes and eating them, I will have to put this one on list to try. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hi Dawn, you won't be sorry when you make this! Truly delish, and company appropriate. Thanks for the comment.

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  51. It is funny, I love walnuts, but I don't bake with them nearly enough. What a fantastic idea to make a delicious walnut crust, it must compliment the cheesecake perfectly! Beautiful, Hugs, Terra

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    1. Hi Terra, the crust is really great - so worth trying. Thanks for the comment.

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  52. a walnut crust - thats just genius! I love all cheesecakes and huge fan of mascarpone too! Really, this cheesecake has everything I like, put together so nicely!

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    1. Hi Archana, isn't the crust nice? The cheesecake is super good, but the crust is the star, IMO. Thanks for the comment.

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  53. Walnut crust? Ha! Never had it before but sounds amazing. I love walnuts. And of course cheesecake! By the way, I love your glass cake platter. Easy to carry (with handles) and very pretty!

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    1. Hi Nami, the walnut crust is awesome! And isn't that platter nice? We use it all the time. Thanks for the comment.

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  54. What a gorgeous looking cheesecake. Love the addition of mascarpone :)

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    1. Hi Sowmya, mascarapone makes anything better, don't you think? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  55. It's an amazing delicious-looking cake!

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    1. Hi Winnie, it's really a great cake! Loads of flavor, and looks nice - what more does one want? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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