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Cran-Orange Cheesecake with Sugared Cranberries

Servings: 12-16
This beautiful cheesecake is not only delicious but also so festive looking. It would make a lovely centerpiece for your holiday dinner table.

1 3/4 cups crushed vanilla wafers (approxiamtely 46 wafers)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon grated orange zest

3 (8-ounce each) packages cream cheese, softened
8 ounces mascarpone cheese* (see note below)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 large eggs
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Garnish: (optional)
Sugared Cranberries (See "How To Make Sugared Cranberries" below)
Orange Peel Curls* (See "How To Make Orange Peel Curls" below)
Orange slices and whole cranberries
Confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 300° F (150°C).

For Crust:
Combine vanilla wafer crumbs, sugar, melted butter, and the 1 teaspoon grated orange zest; press firmly on bottom of a 10-inch (25 cm) springform pan. Wrap bottom and sides of pan with heavy aluminum foil (to prevent leakage of cheesecake batter while baking).

For Filling and Baking:
In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and mascarpone cheese until fluffy on high speed of electric mixer. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add lemon juice; mix well. Stir in chopped cranberries and the 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest. Pour mixture into prepared pan.

Place a large roasting pan (large enough to hold the springform pan) on center rack of preheated oven and place springform pan inside of roasting pan. With a kettle filled with very hot or boiling water, pour water into roasting pan halfway up the sides of springform pan. Bake cheesecake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until center is set.

Turn oven off, leave cheesecake in oven with oven door ajar for 1 hour. Remove cheesecake from oven and let cool on wire rack for 10 minutes; then carefully run a knife around the edges of pan to loosen. Cool on wire rack for 1 hour longer. Transfer cheesecake to refrigerator and chill for at least 6 hours or overnight. Release sides of springform pan, and place cheesecake on serving plate. Garnish cheesecake if desired. Store any leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.

Makes 1 (10-inch) cheesecake, 12-16 servings

If desired, place cheesecake on a large serving plate or a pretty cake stand; placing fresh slices of orange and whole cranberries around the edges of plate to make a festive "wreath" like border, and top the center of cheesecake with Sugared Cranberries* (see instructions below) and Orange Peel Curls* (see instructions below). Dust top of cheesecake with confectioners' sugar if you like.

*Sugared Cranberries*
Tis the season for fresh cranberries! These crimson berries are just in time to add bursts of flavor to your holiday recipes and vibrant color to your holiday table. Sugared cranberries make beautiful garnishes on desserts or scattered around the roasted turkey with grapes, figs, orange slices, small pears or other harvest fruits.

*How To Make Sugared Cranberries*
Start with fresh cranberries (as they thaw, frozen cranberries tend to dissolve the sugar coating). Beat together 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters), or egg white until combined but not foamy. Brush cranberries with egg mixture, then roll in superfine sugar. Lay sugared cranberries on a piece of wax paper to "air dry".

Sugar the cranberries up to 2 hours before you are going to use them to decorate cheesecake, and keep them at room temperature.

Note: Though they may look tempting, do not eat the garnish if they are made with egg white; uncooked eggs sometimes carry salmonella bacteria.

*How To Make Orange Peel Curls*
Curly citrus peels add a twist of color to holiday dishes. Using a zester with a large hole, remove the colored part of an orange or grapefruit in long, thin strips. Wrap the strips tightly around a chopstick or pencil, and let them stand at room temperature about 30 minutes or until they hold the curled shape. Push the peel off the chopstick or pencil and cut into desired lengths.

Mascarpone cheese is an Italian type of cream cheese. It can be purchased at some large supermarkets; at Italian food stores and delis, or at other specialty food stores. It is also available online at: igourmet.com or at cheesesupply.com.

If you can't find Mascarpone cheese, you may use 4 (8-ounce size) packages of cream cheese in this recipe.

Photograph taken by Diana Baker Woodall© 2003

Source: DianasDesserts.com
Date: November 28, 2003