Sunday, May 3, 2015

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Mango Custard and Almond Crumble

I had a strange dream a few weeks ago, that I accidentally backed my car into the garage of a mafia group, and to make me pay for the damage, they kidnapped me and forced me to bake treats for them.  I don't remember much else about the dream, but I will say, being forced to prepare desserts really isn't much of a punishment for me.  One of my coworkers, after hearing the dream, declared that he might kidnap me so that I would have to make him one of my cheesecakes.

There are worse things, wouldn't you say?

You may have noticed that I love stripes and polka dots, and when I can incorporate them into dessert, even better.

I started with a layer of salted graham cracker crust, followed by creamy mango custard.  To finish, a rich vanilla bean cheesecake, my favorite no-bake version that's so silky and luscious.  The specks of vanilla bean throughout the cheesecake hint invitingly of the pure vanilla flavor, and dots of mango custard on top are a playful touch.

For a little texture, I also made an almond crumble, that melts and hardens into more of a brittle when it's baked.  It's salty, sweet and crunchy, the perfect topping for the creamy cheesecake and custard.

The mango flavor adds a slightly exotic touch, but if mango isn't your thing, I was thinking that the custard would also be fantastic with bananas instead, for a cheesecake that's a more elevated version of a childhood favorite, banana pudding.

And everything is better with crumble on top.

Vanilla Bean Mango Cheesecake

Mango Custard.
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and chopped (bananas would also be an excellent substitution of you don't like mango - about 2 medium, ripe bananas)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 1/2 cups finely crushed graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
Almond Crumble.
  • 1/4 cup almonds, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold

In a blender, puree the milk, mango and cornstarch until smooth.  Pour into a saucepan.  Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks to break them up.  When the milk mixture begins to bubble around the edges, slowly stream about a cup of the hot milk into the eggs, whisking them constantly to temper them.  Scrape the warmed egg mixture back into the saucepan.

Whisking constantly, bring the custard to a boil over medium heat, then cook for 1-2 minutes until thickened.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla and the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until smooth.  Pour through a mesh strainer into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap right against the surface of the custard and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325.  In a bowl, combine the crushed graham crackers and salt.  Drizzle with the melted butter and toss with a fork until moistened.  Press against the bottom of an 9-inch springform pan.  Bake for 12 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant; set aside to cool completely.

Pour 1/4 cup cream into a microwave-safe dish.  Add the gelatin and whisk with a fork to combine.  Let stand for 5 minutes; it will be thick and clumpy.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds to dissolve the gelatin.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the remaining 1 1/4 cups cream with the vanilla bean seeds at medium-high speed until soft peaks form, gradually adding the powdered sugar as the cream thickens.  Add the cream cheese and gelatin mixture and beat until smooth and thick with no lumps, about 2-3 minutes.

Spread the chilled mango custard over the crust, reserving 1/2 cup of the custard.  Immediately spread the cheesecake over the custard and smooth out the top.  Fill a piping bag fitted with a small round tip with the reserved 1/2 cup custard.  Pipe dots of custard on top of the cheesecake.  Cover loosely with plastic so as not to disturb the top, and refrigerate for 4-6 hours, or overnight.

In a bowl, combine the almonds, flour, sugar and salt.  Use your fingers to rub the butter into the mixture until moist and crumbly.  Freeze for 20 minutes.

Spread the crumble into a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 375 for about 5-7 minutes, just until golden brown, watching it carefully so it doesn't burn.  Let cool for a few minutes to harden, then crumble into pieces.

To serve, remove the sides of the pan and top each slice with the crumble.

Yields 10-12 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen