The best ever cheesecake.
THROUGHOUT history Americans have been known to get things somewhat wrong, such as slavery, Wounded Knee, Agent Orange, the CIA’S Project Mkultra and Pee-wee Herman. On the other hand, boy, you’ve got to respect how much they love their cheesecake.
So here is the only recipe you’ll need – a super creamy baked cheesecake that doesn’t stick to the roof of your mouth. Then it’s just a matter of varying it to create a cheesecake for every mood.
Ingredients: 1x 250g packet of Granita biscuits (or any type of digestive biscuit) 280g caster sugar 75g unsalted butter, melted 750g cream cheese, room temperature 4 eggs 2½ tbs lemon juice 1 tsp vanilla extract ¼ tsp salt flakes 300ml double cream
Preparation: Preheat oven to 175˚C. Line a 23cm-diameter springform tin with baking paper.
Triple wrap the outside of the cake tin. Place three long strips of foil at slightly different angles, one on top of another. Lift and scrunch the edges up around the tin so they form a waterproof “cup”.
Make the base: Blitz the biscuits to a fine crumb. Transfer to a mixing bowl, stir in 60g caster sugar, then add the melted butter and combine. Pour biscuit base mixture into the prepared cake tin and press down firmly and evenly with the back of a spoon. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Make the filling: Place the cream cheese into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat until smooth and creamy. Add remaining sugar and beat until dissolved. Add eggs, one at a time, ensuring they are fully incorporated by beating between each addition. Reduce mixer speed and add lemon juice, vanilla extract and salt and mix until combined. Add cream and mix well until combined.
Assemble: Pour the filling over the cooled biscuit base and then place the tin into a large, deep roasting tray. Carefully fill the tray with water about 2cm deep and place into the oven. Bake until golden and cooked through – about 65 minutes.
Wait: The secret to this baked cheesecake’s decadent creaminess is cooling it slowly, so turn off the oven and leave the door closed. Leave cheesecake to cool inside the oven for at least 1 hour. Remove from the oven. Cool completely before releasing from the tin.
Customising the cheesecake This cheesecake is sensational as it is, but it also makes a great base on which to build your creative customisations. Here are some ideas to get you started:
The crumb: The easiest way to step up your cheesecake is to swap the biscuits in your crumb with perhaps crushed gingernuts or chocolate ripple biscuits.
Remember you can also flavour the butter that will bind these crumbs with spices – perhaps powdered ginger, cinnamon and star anise with the gingernuts, or a few drops of rosewater or grated dark chocolate with the choccie biscuit crumbs (both excellent if you are adding raspberries).
Just remember to ensure that all flavourings match with any other toppings or secret layers you are adding.
The secret layer: While marbling the cheesecake is one way of adding flavour, I love including a furtive spread of jam like raspberry, marmalade or sour cherry on the cooled base, just before you pour in the cheese layer. Pick the jam to reflect your mood, the season or the occasion.
I like using apricot jam with a gingernut base flavoured with a little cardamom, then leaving everything else plain and untopped.
The creamy bit: Try adding some melted dark chocolate to the whipped cream cheese (before the eggs) to make a chocolate cheesecake. Perhaps balance the chocolate’s bitterness by using sour cream rather than cream.
Or add bananas pureed with a little lemon juice to your cream cheese, egg and cream mix for a banana cheesecake. (I serve mine with salty caramel syrup.)
The topping: While I love the pristine nature of a baked cheesecake, there is no doubt that a topping can add some more joy. Fresh fruit tumbling off one side can add drama and, if it’s fresh figs under syrup made from reducing amaretto liqueur for 8 minutes, sophistication too.
Try topping with overlapping petals of fresh mango for a pretty effect, or set a layer of jelly over the cooled cheesecake.
Even simpler is to top with jelly cubes, cut from a shallow 1cm layer of firmed jelly (made with half the amount of water). Toss half of these in a mix of a little citric acid and icing sugar for an occasional burst of sourness – especially good with raspberry or lime jelly.
BIG CHEESE This is the only cheesecake recipe you’ll ever need.