I know I shouldn't be tempting you all during Lent, but here is a particularly luscious and decadent treat: baked cheesecake!
I love cheesecake, and I particularly like baked cheesecake. I've never been a huge fan of chilled cheesecake because the texture is too jellyish, and I really detest the feeling of jelly. Baked cheesecake has a super rich, dense texture with a smooth finish that's irresistible.
I have done many baked cheesecakes over the years, from peanut butter and chocolate, to coconut and lime, to black forest style, to tiramisù, to my most popular Millionaire's cheesecake, but you have noticed that they are all small. And some of them are made with a meringue base, which has high likelihood of shrinkage, which has always irked me, despite lauding the development at the time.
But not only have I had difficulty with making little cheesecakes, which are supposed to be easier, I've always found it incredibly difficult to get large cheesecakes to work: they are plagued with cracks, sunken surfaces, or shrinkage. They never had the lusciousness I wanted.
However, over the last year or so, I have been experimenting with more recipes that use baked custard style fillings. I did a pumpkin pie, which is a custard based on mashed pumpkin, evaporated milk, and eggs, which made me realise that cheesecake filling is essentially a glorified cream cheese custard.
It all made sense all of a sudden.
Custard bases are cooked at a low temperature to set, rather than bake like a cake. And the enemy of all custard fillings is the unnecessary addition of air.
I modified the ratio of the pumpkin pie recipe, which essentially uses one egg to set about half a pound (225 grammes) of purée and four fluid ounces (120 millilitres) of evaporated milk, and simply did a swap. I also used the same baked biscuit crumb base as I did in my Key Lime pie and Mississippi Mud pie recipes.
It all seems so simple now! (Of course, all people's ovens an ingredients are different, so a success for me won't automatically convert to success for others. But don't be discouraged!)
For one 8 inch (20 centimetre) round cake
For one 8 inch (20 centimetre) round cake
For the crust,
- 8 ounces (225 grammes) plain biscuits, crushed, such as digestives, or gluten free variety
- 3 ounces (85 grammes) butter, melted
- 2 ounces (55 grammes) brown or white sugar
For the filling (all ingredients must be room temperature for the best results,
- 1 pound (455 grammes) full fat cream cheese (you can also replace half with marscapone for even smoother results)
- 4 ounces (115 grammes) caster sugar
- 6 fluid ounces (180 millilitres) natural yoghurt (for a thick, dense cheesecake), or whipping cream (for a lighter, more custardy cheesecake)
- 2 medium eggs, beaten
- 2 teaspoons (10 millilitres) vanilla essence, or lemon juice, or any essence you like
- Optional: 1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) lemon zest, or zest of any citrus fruit you like
First, make the base
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, Gas Mk.4), and line the sides of an 8 inch (20 centimetre) round loose-based cake tin, and wrap the loose bottom with foil. Put the bottom back into the tin and set aside.
- Crush the biscuits finely, and mix in a large bowl with the butter and sugar. Mix until the crumbs are all damp with the melted butter, until it looks like wet sand.
- Pour the crumbles into the cake tin, and press the mixture into the base and sides of the tin, about two inches (5 centimetres) up. Make sure it's packed good a tight: you can use a flat bottomed glass to get the corner nice and sharp.
- Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the surface of the biscuit base is set.
- Once cooked, remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 150°C (300°F, Gas Mk.2), or turn it off until you want to use it again.
- Allow to cool completely before you fill it; about half an hour.
Then, make the filling,
- Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F, Gas Mk.2).
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth with a wooden spoon. Avoid the temptation to use an electric mixer, as that will introduce too much air.
- Add the sugar in a little at a time, mixing well between each addition. I add it gradually because sometimes if you add all the sugar it can make the cream cheese go runny.
- Mix in the yoghurt, vanilla essence, and lemon zest, if using, and then add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each one.
- Once all the ingredients are well mixed together, gently pour the mixture into the base. Tap it gently on the work surface to rise all the little air bubbles to the surface. If you want to eliminate as many bubbles as possible, run a knife through the mixture.
- Place in the centre of the preheated oven and bake for an hour. Keep an eye on it after 45 minutes, just in case your oven runs hot.
- After 45 minutes, check the cheesecake: gently slide the oven shelf out, and--making sure to protect your hand with an oven glove or tea towel--gently shake the cheesecake. The outside two inches (5 centimetres) or so should be completely set, and the centre should wiggle like a jelly. If you touch the top of the cake with a clean fingertip, the surface should be dry, not sticky.
- If the cake doesn't pass the test, cook for a further ten minutes before testing again.
- When the cake is cooked, turn off the oven and open the door. Cool the cake to room temperature in the oven, then move to the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours. Overnight is best.
- You can replace up to half of the cream cheese with peanut butter, coconut cream (which is the firm bit in a can of separated coconut milk), or chocolate hazelnut spread.
- You can add in ground spices or cocoa powder also, making sure to sieve it in to prevent lumps.
- Switch up the essences, or citrus juice, if you like.
- You could also swirl in some syrup, lemon curd, or jam for a pretty marble effect with a good flavour.
- If you like, you can change the kind of biscuits you use in the base. You could use chocolate biscuits, or spiced biscuits, or a mixture of any biscuits you like.
No blogs on this day in 2014, 2015, or 2016
THIS TIME IN 2013: Wheat Flour Alternatives