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White Chocolate-Amaretto Cheesecake

10-12 double graham crackers
1/2 cup almonds, chopped fine
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
4 Tbs unsalted butter

2 1/4 lbs. softened cream cheese
5 eggs, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 Tbs amaretto
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (real)
1 tsp almond extract
6 oz white chocolate, finely grated

2 oz toasted almond slices
dash confectioner's sugar
bittersweet or dark chocolate

Oven temp: 350 degrees F, middle rack

Place graham crackers and almonds in food processer, and pulse
until finely chopped. Pour into springform, then by hand mix in
brown sugar and melted butter until it all sticks together. Mold
mixture to bottom and half way up the sides of the pan. Press
firmly into the seam around the bottom so there's no hidden spaces.
Leave no holes. Bake in pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes. Allow
to cool on rack. Place a water bath into oven on middle rack now.
When cool, grease the exposed top half of the sides of the pan
lightly.

At medium speed in large mixing bowl (preferably stainless steel)
beat cream cheese until totally smooth. Continue mixing, and add
eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly between each. Mix in rest
of cake ingredients until well combined. Poor into cooled crust.

Bake for 60-70 minutes in already hot water bath. Cooking time
can vary greatly due to many factors here, so you know it's ready
when it passes the clean toothpick test*. The cake should be almost
set. Allow to cook for an hour in an open oven with the heat off.
Remove from oven very carefully, place on wire rack, cover pan with
two layers of paper towels, and then a plate. Allow to cool 3-4
hours, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least
24 hours.

*Test about 1 1/2 inch from edge of cake.

When fully cool, gently release the pan's hasp. Warming the sides
of the pan *slightly* with a hair dryer can help depanning. The
idea is to soften the thin layer of butter between the pan and the
cake without softening the cake or the crust. Toss almond slices
with a bit of confectioner's sugar, and sprinkle over cake. Garnish
center of cake with a few curls of dark or bittersweet chocolate.
Cut cake with a hot knife.


Tips for cheesecakes in general: If you can, allow to cool in the
open oven. The slower it cools, the better. Use an oven thermometer
if you have it. I've cooked in a lot of ovens where the dial
markings had little to no bearing on the actual oven temperature.
The more even your oven heat, the less the chance of cracks.

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