Cheesecake is a staple in this house. It is present at tea parties, summer gatherings, and all celebrations. While I have been making the same recipe for years, this year I felt compelled to alter and tinker with an already tried and tested family favourite.
When I was finally happy with my amendments, and ready to photograph and post, I embarked on what felt like my 47th cheesecake bake of the week. And then, disaster after disaster struck.
While in my recipe I always pre-bake the biscuit base, for some reason, in this final cake I thought it would be OK if I just chilled it and skipped the bake. For some reason I also made it in a springform tin rather than my regular loose bottomed cake tin. And thanks to the little lip that you have on a springfrorm base, I could not lift the chilled cake off of the base. Result: crumbled cake in two pieces. Definitely not the photo finish I was after.
And the bad luck continued. I ran out of cream cheese (who runs out of cream cheese when testing cheesecakes?). The boys helped themselves to a chunk out of a cake as I was looking for my camera, thinking it was one of the "testing cakes". And then, having finally made the most deliciously smooth, creamy and perfectly photo ready cake , I DROPPED IT while taking it out of the oven.
See? The photos are deceptive. Behind the serene, peaceful and uncluttered backdrop, there is complete mayhem.
So, here we have it. Cheesecake. A lot too late for anyone to make for Shavuot last weekend, but, if like me, you make up any old excuse to whip up a cheesecake, here is the well tested, and I think, definitive recipe. Which I assure you, does work. If you just follow the instructions.
A few notes:
This recipe is a hybrid of my cousin's and Nigella's London Cheesecake. Despite my strong American roots this is not a New York fluffy cheesecake. This is an unctious thick set custard cheesecake cooked in a water bath. The soured cream top gives it a wonderful finish and can hide any imperfections which is genius.
The biscuit base is very flexible. I like it best with these ginger thins,
but you can literally make it with any dry biscuit - graham crackers, digestives, ginger snaps, rich tea or even chocolate chip cookies.
My mother always makes her cheesecake with curd cheese. You can easily replace a portion of the cream cheese with curd cheese under the premise that it may be lighter. Which it may be, but cheesecake is not exactly a diet food, so I say just indulge in the full calorie version!
Finally, I always make cheesecake in the food processor. But it works equally as well in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment. I am just lazy and if possible don't like to dirty more than one appliance at a time. On a technical note, I also like the food processor as it does not allow you to get much air into the filling which makes it less likely to crack when cooking.
With a little help from Nigella Lawson and her recipe for London Cheesecake in How to be a Domestic Goddess
250g (9oz) dry biscuits (I prefer ginger thins or graham crackers but see note above for options)
100g unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
560g (20oz) Philadelphia (or other full fat) cream cheese
60ml (1/4 cup) soured cream
150g (2/3 cup / 5.5 oz) caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon (approx 1 tbsp)
1.5 - 2 tbsp lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
Soured Cream Topping:
300ml (1 1/4 cups) soured cream
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
20cm (8 inch) loose bottom cake tin (but you can also make it in a 22cm/9inch cake tin - it will just be less high)
Preheat oven to 180C (350F)
Butter and line base and sides of cake tin with parchment. (I tend to line them in separate pieces on the base and sides so that it is less creased. I makes it easier to push up out of the cake pan with the sides lined with parchment)
In a food processor, blitz the biscuits into fine crumbs with the sugar and cinnamon
Add the melted butter and pulse again until they feel like damp sand.
Press the crumbs into the bottom of the cake pan with your hands or the bottom of the glass until it is evenly distributed.
Place in the oven for 15 minutes and cool.
While the cake is cooling, half fill a roasting tin with just boiled water (make sure it will hold the cake tin), and place in the oven to keep warm. (This will be your water bath)
While the base is cooling, make the filling. Wipe out the food processor and process cream cheese and soured cream until smooth.
Add sugar, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla and lemon and blitz for a few more seconds until combined.
Double line the outside of the tin with foil around the base and sides. Pour filling over the cooled biscuit base
Carefully place in the water bath in the oven and bake for 40 minutes until the edges are set and there is still a little wobble in the middle.
Just towards the end of the bake, combine the soured cream topping and spread over just set cheesecake. Bake for a further 10 minutes.
Take the roasting tray out of the oven and carefully remove the cake onto a cooling rack. Once completely cook, place in the fridge for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight. Once cold, gently push the cake out of the tin. Cut with a knife plunged in hot water for a clean slice.