In the sweet mid­win­ter

Five Christ­mas desserts with a dif­fer­ence

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Claire Ptak is a pas­try chef, au­thor and food stylist and owns Vi­o­let Bak­ery in Lon­don. She is the au­thor of the Vi­o­let Bak­ery Cook­book (Square Peg); @ vi­o­let­cakeslon­don Claire Ptak

Sweet aro­mat­ics in­fuse the win­ter months: gin­ger, nut­meg, clove, clemen­tine, spiced rum and brandy. Their ex­otic, warm­ing flavours wrap around you like a warm blan­ket. My Cal­i­for­nia blood almost cur­dled when I was first faced with Christ­mas pud­ding, but now I crave the con­cen­trated sweet­ness of sun-dried fruits in mid­win­ter. We all know a recipe for the clas­sic, but why not switch things up now and again? This week, I’ve cre­ated five show-stop­ping al­ter­na­tives to Christ­mas pud­ding. Spiced cheese­cake with cran­berry com­pote (on the cover) At this time of year, I can’t get enough of cran­ber­ries. A tra­di­tional New York­style cheese­cake is only made bet­ter with this tart, pun­gent com­pote. Makes 1 cake For the cheese­cake

175g gin­ger bis­cuits

75g but­ter, melted

600g cream cheese

180g caster sugar

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp cin­na­mon

A grat­ing of black pep­per

A grat­ing of nut­meg

¼ tsp mixed spice

A pinch of ground all­spice

2 tsp vanilla ex­tract

4 eggs, plus 1 ex­tra yolk

200g creme fraiche

For the cran­berry com­pote

340g cran­ber­ries

300g caster sugar

Zest and juice of 1 orange

1 Pre­heat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3. Grease a 20cm spring­form tin.

2 Grind the bis­cuits in a pro­ces­sor un­til fine. Stir in the melted but­ter, then press into the bot­tom of the tin.

3 Beat the cream cheese with the sugar, salt, pep­per, spices and vanilla un­til smooth. Beat in the eggs and ex­tra yolk. Fold in the creme fraiche.

4 Wrap the bot­tom of the cake tin with tin foil, then scrape in the bat­ter. Put it in a roast­ing pan large enough for it to sit in com­fort­ably. Pour in wa­ter to 3/4 up the side of the cake tin and bake for 1 hour 20 min­utes. It should have a slight wob­ble but be set around the edges. Al­low to cool com­pletely, then chill in the tin for at least 2 hours.

5 For the com­pote, add all the in­gre­di­ents to a heavy-based saucepan. Cook for around 15 min­utes, or un­til jammy. Al­low to cool.

6 Serve the cheese­cake with a dol­lop of the cran­berry com­pote, or spread it all over the top.

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