“Life is great. Cheese makes it better.” Avery Aames
Good cheesecakes are based on simple recipes… Although some might think it is a craft difficult to master, when the balance of soft cheese, eggs, sugar and a few flavourings is right, making cheesecake is a straightforward confectionery affair. Cheesecakes are technically baked cheesy custards on beds of cookie base. There are different fundamental types of cheesecake, caused by the variety of cheese affecting the texture and taste: curd cheesecake, ricotta based Italian cheesecake, quark in the German cheesecake, cream cheese founded New York cheesecake and the unbaked French cheesecake. They all have different origin, however going back to the same roots: the ancient Greeks made the earliest known cheesecakes, consisting of patties of fresh cheese pounded smooth with flour and honey and cooked on an earthenware griddle. In the late medieval Europe the cheesecake reformed in tart form with a pastry base. For the following five centuries, almost every subsequent English cookbook contained at least one cheesecake recipe.
“Dessert without cheese is like a beauty with only one eye.” Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Preferring one or the other is simply a result of personal taste, rather than a choice being based on the existence of an “ultimately perfect cheesecake” – there is no such recipe… However, homemade cheese definitely makes any cheesecake more of an unforgettable culinary experience than any other version.
Making cream cheese
Ingredients: 500 ml whipping, pasteurized and 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Preparation: In a heavy saucepan, bring the cream to 87 degrees C, stirring often. It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles (all that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, covering the back of the wooden spoon thickly). Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Making the cheesecake
Ingredients: 180 g leftover biscuits, 75 g butter, 360 g cream cheese, 100 g mascarpone, 100 g natural yogurt, 180 g sugar, 4 tbsp plain flour, 4 eggs, 2 tsp vanilla extract, zest of two lemons and two oranges
Method: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line the base of a 20 – 22 spring form cake tin. Place the biscuits in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin to fine crumbs. Melt the butter and add the biscuit crumbs, stir to combine. Add the zest of a lemon and an orange. Place in the base of the cake tin and spread in an even layer, then flatten tightly. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until golden. Remove and leave to cool while preparing the filling. Reduce the oven to 160 degrees C. In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, mascarpone, yogurt and sugar until smooth then add flour, vanilla and eggs, beating well between each addition. Add the zest of a lemon and an orange. Act quickly, as beating too much air in adversely affects the surface of cheesecake. Pour the cream cheese mix on to the biscuit base then bake in the oven for 60 minutes. The cheesecake should be just set with a slight wobble and should still be cream on top with just a slight golden hint around the edges. Once the cheesecake is cooked, turn off the oven and prop open the door so that it is slightly ajar and leave the cheesecake to cool in the oven for another hour or so. Once the oven is cool you, remove the cheesecake to cool completely before removing from the tin. Decorate with fresh fruit and sugar.
“The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” Gilbert K. Chesterton