Slow roasting the almonds makes them buttery and delicious. Smooth vanilla cheese, salty nuts and caramel makes this a rich and satisfying dessert.
FOR THE CRUST
450 grams plain digestive biscuits or graham crackers
160-165 grams unsalted butter, melted
1/2 kg cream cheese such as Britannia or Philadelphia, room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature, whisked
3/4 cup granulated sugar (fine not coarse sugar)
375 grams strained unsweetened but not sour dahi/yogurt or 450 grams sour cream
1 lemon or lime, zested
Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
1.25 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup whole unpeeled almonds
100-113 grams melted unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup homegenized heavy cream
1 cup homogenized whole milk
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 tablespoon butter
Pinch of sea salt such as Fleur de Sel
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
Put the almonds in a food safe plastic bag. Pour in the butter and zip the bag. Toss the almonds in the butter to coat all of them as evenly as possible. Place them in a large non-stick saucepan on a slow flame and let them toast. Toss from time to time until they are fragrant and golden about 20 minutes. Cool completely then put them into a thick food-safe plastic bag and bash them into smaller pieces with a rolling pin.
These almonds can be made ahead and kept refrigerated in a sealed container.
FOR THE CRUST-
In a mixer grinder powder the digestive or graham crackers. Pour into a bowl and stir in the butter. Press crumbs down on the bottom of an 8-inch round springform pan.
Bake 6 minutes and remove from oven.
Then reset oven to 300F and prepare the bottom rack.
Let crust reach room temperature.
FOR THE CHEESECAKE-
Using an hand or electric mixer, whip the cream cheese until smooth. Add the eggs, continue to beat slowly. Add sugar, vanilla, lemon or lime and yogurt or sour cream and beat until creamy, for 1 to 2 minutes.
Add sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir well.
Pour the filling over the cooled crust-lined pan and bang the pan against the counter to settle the batter and remove any air bubbles. Smoothen top with a spatula. Cover with aluminum foil. Prick 8-10 small holes into the foil to allow air to escape.
Bake in lower rack of 300F oven or 55-60 minutes or until cheesecake center is still a bit wobbly. After 20 minutes remove the foil and bake open. Reserve foil.
Using a toothpick insert into the center. Toothpick should be wet but the cheesecake shouldn't ooze liquid.
This is a custard so it will firm up a lot more when chilled. Be careful not to over bake.
Use a sharp knife to loosen the sides of the cheesecake just a little. This reduces large cracks in the center of a hot cheesecake. Do not attempt to loosen the sides completely while the cheesecake is hot just select 2-3 spots along the rim and loosen the cake a bit.
Let cool open in your kitchen in the cheesecake pan for 45 minutes.
Cover loosely with the same foil. Make more holes in it to allow heat to escape.
Chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours.
FOR CARAMEL SAUCE
In a skillet on medium heat dissolve brown sugar, corn flour, milk and cream. Add butter and stir until smooth, thick and bubbly. Strain through a sieve. Reserve.
In a small copper bottomed pan heat granulated sugar with 1/4 cup of water. Do not stir. You can swirl the pan about but do not use a spoon to stir the sugar. It will become grainy. Cook until sugar caramelizes to a soft golden color. Turn off flame. Sugar will continue to cook in the heat of the pan so do not over cook it. If the color is too light you can always return it to the heat.
Remove caramelized sugar from the pan and let it rest no more then 5 minutes.
Then pour the cream and brown sugar mixture into it very slowly stirring vigorously. The mixture will bubble.
Strain the sauce with a fine sieve and discard any bits and pieces. Cover the hot sauce with plastic wrap, pressing it down on the surface to prevent it from forming a skin.
Loosen the chilled cheesecake from the sides of the pan by inserting a thin blade around the inside rim. Unmold and slide onto a cake plate. Use a thin flat spatula to slide the cheesecake off the bottom
Spread the cooled caramel sauce over it. if the sauce is too thick add a little milk to thin it down. Sprinkle with Fleur de Sel. Garnish with slow roasted almonds just before serving.
Remove cheesecake from the fridge and let it sit about 20 minutes. Garnish with roasted almonds.
Slice the cheesecake with a thin, non-serrated knife. Between each slice dip the knife in hot water, wipe and slice again. This will make it a little easier to cut even slices.