I seem to have unwittingly developed a Christmas tradition of my own. It wasn’t consciously intended but I find myself with another Christmas all around me and a cheesecake in my fridge. It won’t have escaped my Facebook following how much I’m revelling in the joy of the season (it’s much more than one day for me) and having Hungry Hubby’s mum to stay presented a perfect opportunity to create a new cheesecake. I seem to “allow” myself to bake cheesecakes at this time of year for a couple of reasons. The first being that creamy, cool tang is perfect against the toothache evoking landslide of sugar the Yule Tide brings and the second being, it’s so rich, so indulgent that when else should I make it? If you can’t fool yourself you’ll start a diet tomorrow at Christmas, you aren’t doing it right 😉
At first I had my sights set on a caramel apple crumble cheesecake inspired by BakeaholicMama but I quickly decided I didn’t fancy the idea of stewed apple interfering with the voluptuous, silky creaminess of my cheesecake. Sorry Hubs. He was a bit gutted when I announced plans had changed until he heard what I had planned! A bakewell cheesecake! He even went out for the umpteenth time this week to pick me up the cherry conserve I’d forgotten after my third trip to the supermarket…
A quick google found me, as is often the case, leafing through the vast recipe repository that is the BBC GoodFood website. There I found a bakewell cheesecake which whilst I attribute the idea to, the recipe and method which follow are all my own preferences and prejudices. Turns out, I am rather picky with my cheesecakes and have a SOP I don’t deviate from without vary good reason. Let’s begin with the crust – I like to make it in the food processor and I use soft not melted butter. The latter makes it far too greasy for my liking. I also like to bake it for ten minutes or so to “set” it and thus prevent too much crumbling upon slicing later. Fussy? Moi?
Next comes the topping. I rinse out my food processor and make it in there too. La Lawson is absolutely correct – it whips far less air in than any other method and therefore makes the finaihed cake far less likely to crack. I blitz everything bar the eggs until well combined (and my cream cheese and sour cream are always used at room temp) then blitz in the eggs. This it to not beat them too much, again – you don’t want too much air in there. Obsessive compulsive? Well….
So atop the amaretti-digestive hybrid base goes the fat, thick cream and spoonfuls of black cherry conserve. You could ripple yours in but dollops did it for me. I love finding a nugget of barely sweet cheery compote as I eat. For me, a perfect cheesecake actually steps away from the sugar sack and allows the cheeses to speak for itself. I use a meagre amount of caster and Hungry Hubs splashed out on the beautiful Bonne Maman Black Cherry Conserve which is so delicate,packed with cherry flavour but restrained on the sweetness. I thoroughly recommend spending your money here and buying the best you can! A sprinkling of flaked almonds gives a nod and a wink to the more trad Bakewell tart my lovely hubby goes gaga for.
Next up in surely the most bossy of all my posts comes the method of cooking. I always, always bake my cheesecakes. And I do so in a water bath. It’s hard to convey in a photograph but the satin texture of a cheesecake baked in such a way is a life changing experience for those uninitiated into this fabulous secret! Wrap your tin well in foil and pour in recently boiled water to half way up the tin. My Le Creuset buffet casserole is the perfect size for my 9inch springform pan. Honestly – don’t be alarmed and try it! A cheesecake baked in the oven “dry” as it were has a little bit of graininess to it, a little mealy even which I don’t mind at all but I much prefer the moist method as it were, lol.
Now the one downfall with a baked cheesecake (there is one) is that it requires a lot of time to cool and it undoubtedly benefits from a night in the fridge. Even baking at the crack of dawn yesterday, we’d lost the light for decent photographs! Sunset was 15:45 in my corner of the world yesterday – food bloggers all over the Northern Hemisphere must be thanking their chosen deity for the Winter Soltice and the lengthening of the days! Not to mention how agonising it is to hear the siren call from the fridge as your baked baby chills, not to mention the whines of a Bakewell addict hubby calling through to the kitchen regularly “is it ready yeeeeeet?!.
Patience, (very) Hungry Hubby, patience!
Ta da! It’s finally ready. What you have is a completely luscious dessert, absolutely perfect for the holiday season. The amaretti biscuits in the crust lend a perfume to the dish without taking over. The cheese is still present (full fat Philadelphia – any less and it won’t set as the reduced fat versions have too much liquid). It has lost the bite it has when eaten in the raw, the vanilla extract in the topping combats this too. That royal jewel coloured conserve gives all of the fresh cherry flavour from the height of the season but again, any acidic bite is lost with the moderate addition of sugar. You may wish to lightly toast your almonds before baking if you like more of a contrast in colour.
P.s. It freezes beautifully well wrapped in its tin with a double layer of cling. Preslice it if you’re the sort who may well fancy a midnight feast but don’t want to defrost a whole cake. Or can’t wait to defrost a whole cake!
If I don’t see you all before Christmas – Merry Christmas to you and yours! May the New Year bring you everything your heart desires xxx
- 150g amaretti biscuits (the hard ones)
- 50-60g digestives
- 50g soft butter
- 600g full fat cream cheese
- 150ml sour cream
- 150g caster sugar
- 1/4 cup plain flour (4tbsp)
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- 175g black cherry conserve
- 2-3 tbsp flaked almonds
- Bring all ingredients to room temp.
- Grease the inside walls of a 9 inch springform tin and wrap base in two layers of foil, tightly (you may prefer to serve it on the base – I slide mine off but it was anxiety provoking!)
- Preheat oven to 200˚C.
- Blitz the amaretti, digestives and butter until a damp sand appearance develops in your food processor thenrinse it out and dry it for the topping.
- Press into your prepared tin.
- Bake for 10 mins then remove and reduce the oven to 170 degrees C and put a kettle onto boil.
- Blitz your cheese, sour cream, vanilla, sugar and flour until they form a creamy single entity (yum!)
- Crack in the eggs and blitz once more until well combined. You’ll probably need to scrape down once or twice.
- Now dollop out big spoonfuls of the cream cheese mix interspersed with teaspoons of the conserve – ripple them in if you like but work in layers until it is all used up.
- Try and reserve enough topping that you can cover all the conserve completely (but don’t worry if you don’t/can’t!)
- Sprinkle with the flaked almonds and sit in a roasting tin large enough to take your cake tin. My 30cm Le Creuset buffet casserole is perfect for my 9 inch springform pan.
- Bake for 50-55minutes until when gently shook, the middle of the cheesecake retains a bit of “inner thigh wibble” (thank you Nigella for that perfect description!).
- Now turn the oven off and leave it in for 30 mins to cool (slowly coming to room temp prevents cracking of the top).
- Now open the door a jar and leave it in there another thirty minutes.
- Finally remove from the oven and remove the foil, cooling on a rack fully until refrigerating over night (if you can bare it!).