Tag Archives: cheesecake

coffee cheesecake with a walnut crust and salted caramel ganache

21 Sep

cheesecake ingredients

Bringing a cheesecake to a party seems like cheating: pretty much everyone will love it. Forgive the fashion metaphor: after five years I finally caved and bought a black leather jacket, to match everyone else in Paris. And you know what? It makes everything else I wear instantly cooler. I have never looked cool before. Cute or quirky or colourful maybe. There is a reason that the French word for a leather jacket is un perfecto.

It feels like cheating because it is the same, simple recipe I have used forever, from the wife of my Italian tutor. Blend biscuit crumbs, whisk filling, pour into a tin, bake. Ice if you are fancy. I just adapt it to every occasion – with lemon zest and a poppy seed crust; kumquats and apricots; or Earl Grey tea – but keep the basic ratio the same. My trick is to bake it in a long loaf tin, which makes it less likely to crack or leak, and elegant and easy to slice later on. You can have the whole thing in the oven in about ten minutes. Leaving you lots of spare time to watch the Great British Bake Off and marvel at how complicated they make things for themselves.

Last time I tried another recipe, an involved one with several layers, a frozen ganache, extra bells and whistles, I was disappointed. My oven ended up covered in butter and chocolate. So I have gone back to my staple recipe. (It was high time I drew a new picture for cheesecake anyway.) Not too sweet, not too heavy. This version has a biscuit base of speculoos (cinnamon) biscuits as well as savoury crackers, and some ground coffee and walnuts for a grown-up edge. (Since I had some grapefruit marmalade lying around, I spread a little over the base too.) The mascarpone cream is flavoured with more coffee and rum, as well as a touch of grapefruit zest. On top, a bitter caramel white chocolate ganache and a few flakes of sea salt. No more decoration needed.

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Coffee cheesecake with a walnut crust and salted caramel ganache

Ganache topping borrowed from Dana Cree’s not nutter butters. Feel free to substitute cream cheese or Quark for mascarpone; change the biscuits; swap the walnuts for any other nuts/seeds; change the coffee flavouring to cinnamon, lemon or tea… For a lighter topping, just smooth over some crème fraîche or sour cream when cool. Use this recipe as a template for your favourite flavours!

makes enough for at least 8 generous slices

crust:

120g speculoos biscuits

55g TUC crackers

35g walnuts

1 tbs ground coffee

25g caster sugar

75g butter, melted

(optional: 2-3 tbs grapefruit marmalade)

cheesecake:

2 tsp instant coffee

1 tbs rum

450g mascarpone

150g caster sugar

4 eggs

zest of one grapefruit

caramel ganache:

20g water

50g caster sugar

75g whipping/heavy/single cream

20g butter

150g white chocolate

flaky sea salt to finish

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Grease and line a 24cm-long loaf tin with baking paper, with an extra few centimetres sticking up to make it easy to pull out of the tin later on.

Preheat oven to 170C.

Blend the biscuits, coffee and walnuts in a food processor to make fine crumbs. Add sugar and melted butter and blend again to combine evenly. Press the mixture into the bottom of the loaf tin firmly with the back of a spoon. Optional: carefully spread grapefruit marmalade over the crumb base.

Rinse out the food processor then blend instant coffee with rum to dissolve it. Mix in mascarpone, sugar, eggs and zest and blend until smooth. Pour into tin and bake for 45-50 minutes until puffed up, starting to crack slightly and a skewer inserted in the top comes out clean.

Let the cheesecake cool in the pan for at least half an hour before making ganache:

Finely chop white chocolate, put in a bowl with a sieve on top. Gently heat cream in a small pan or microwave. Measure out the butter. Heat sugar and water in a medium saucepan, without stirring, to make a very dark caramel. It should be just on the point of smoking, almost burnt, to balance out the sweetness of the white chocolate. Quickly take off the heat and slide in the butter. Let it melt before stirring it into the caramel. Add the warmed cream, stir again to combine. Strain the caramel sauce through the sieve into the white chocolate. Let it absorb the heat for 30 seconds then stir together to combine. If it starts to split or look a bit greasy, whisk in a teaspoon of hot cream or hot water and it should come back together. Carefully smooth onto the surface of the cheesecake. Refrigerate to set.

Just before serving, sprinkle some flaky salt over the cheesecake. Carefully lift out of the pan with the paper, cut into thick slices, cleaning your knife each time you cut it.

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rich and luscious dark chocolate cream-cheese frosting

10 Apr

rich luscious dark chocolate cream cheese frosting

The three year old son of one of my friends has an active imagination and a very gourmand palate. When asked, how was nursery school, he will say: “Today I built a coffee machine” or “I took the night train to Copenhagen.” And once: “I cooked polenta with tomatoes and parsley. And calamari.” Which sounds perfectly delicious.

Sometimes I am lucky enough to have that kind of free, three-year-old inspiration. This week I built a blanket fort and made a cake. On separate days. Both were even better than I imagined they would be: first I was cocooned in a warm glow of blankets with cups of tea and a kitten, no screens, it felt like an escape in my own flat. And then the idea for a cake just came to me in all its disparate elements. A British friend’s birthday prompted something with Earl Grey, something light and delicate. Then a student came for a macaron class and showed me a beautiful picture of a cake with a whole cheesecake between the two layers instead of frosting. The sheer audacity of this meant I had to try it. Luckily, I already had both an Earl Grey cake and a simple cheesecake in my archives. The former is a light genoise, with only a touch of butter. Thinking of Earl Grey and chocolate macarons, i wanted a frosting that would not overwhelm but complement the delicate citrus-tea layers. With real dark chocolate AND cocoa, and cream cheese for a creamy, slightly salty edge. Made in a food processor it was incredibly smooth and delicious – a substantial afternoon snack for the baker. Me. It was better than my imagination.

For an Earl Grey-citrus-chocolate cheesecake-cake you will need:

One Earl Grey cake, from Fanny Zanotti

One basic cheesecake recipe  no crust: whisk together 450g cream cheese, mascarpone or ricotta, 150g sugar, 4 eggs + zest of one lemon + tea from 2-4 Earl Grey teabags

One quantity rich and dark and luscious chocolate cream-cheese icing, see below

Simple syrup made of 100g water, 100g sugar and one teabag. Boil everything and let cool with the teabag still in.

For the tea: either cut the fine tea out of teabags or blend proper tealeaves in a food processor with the sugar in the recipe. Line two 22cm round tins with baking paper. Bake cake in one and cheesecake in the other, let cool. Slice the cake into two layers, evening up the top if not totally flat. I like to flip the cake over and use the bottom of the cake as the top layer since it is the most even. Lightly brush one layer of cake with syrup. Top with cheesecake, then second layer of cake. Brush with more syrup. (You won’t need to use it all. Save the rest for cocktails.) Ice with chocolate frosting. If you are very meticulous, start with a crumb layer: spread a very thin layer all over first, then refrigerate for 20 minutes. This is supposed to stop crumbs from getting into the final layer. Then carry on frosting. You can do it in an artfully messy way, a la Smitten Kitchen, or neat and smooth with piped rosettes on top.

Rich and luscious dark chocolate cream-cheese frosting

adapted from wickedgoodkitchen: I reduced the sugar and halved the original recipe. It still makes enough to ice and decorate the outside of a 22-24cm round cake – multiply by 1.5 if you want a thick layer of frosting between layers as well.

65g dark chocolate (60-70% cacao content)

115g unsalted butter

115g cream cheese

30g cocoa

180g icing sugar

Make sure the butter and cream cheese are both room temperature. Chop chocolate and melt over a bain-marie or in a microwave (careful not to let it get too hot or it will go grainy). Let it cool a little. Blend the soft butter in a food processor with a blade until smooth. Add the cream cheese and blend again. Sift the cocoa and icing sugar together. Add about half to the food processor, blend, add melted chocolate (cooled but still fluid), and blend again. Scrape the sides, tip in the rest of the icing sugar/cocoa and blend one last time. It should be beautifully smooth and shiny.

To ice the cake: smooth icing around the sides first, then over the top. Use any leftovers to pipe swirls on top. If you want contrasting swirls, mix a dollop of cream cheese with some remaining icing and alternate dark and light chocolate.

Icing refrigerated really well, staying nice and soft. No tests yet on how long it keeps. Cake was demolished in about ten minutes.

raspberry and poppy seed cheesecake

12 Feb

raspberry poppy cheesecake

At supper with the charming Italian flatmate and her equally charming boyfriend (I am a welcome extra wheel because I always bring dessert) we discussed the decor of their future apartment (or, they politely argued, I concentrated on the saffron risotto).

He likes black and white with just a touch of colour. He is French, of course. She is a walking rainbow. He has been known to scold her gently for wearing purple and red together. Her room mirrors her colourful personality, an honest representation of herself.

Decorating cakes should follow the same rules, to reflect what is inside. Pierre Hermé believes strongly that it should be minimal, and should enhance not hide. (An error I certainly committed in my final exam when there was a dent in my tutti frutti entremets. I did indeed use all of the fruits to cover it up.) Hermé’s vanilla tart has a line of real vanilla seeds on a shiny white glaze. That is all. The reason that it is minimalist and not simply boring is that he delivers on his visual promise – the execution is perfect, the tart is a concentrated explosion of vanilla.  A sort of dessert sincerity. At work we place a dried vanilla bean on our apple tart because it contains a compote made with a spidery tangle of vanilla pods. However we also put chopped pistachios on the lemon tart, the acid-green contrasting prettily with the yellow when there is no pistachio in the tart itself: false advertising.

One of my favourite people – who detests cooking – asked me what on earth was the point of ‘dressing a plate.’ I compared it to ‘bookcase styling,’ a term I came across on the internet. The step-by-step guide to artfully arranging knick-knacks and bibelots just so on the shelves treated the (very few) books as an afterthought – or a stand for pretty vases. The same goes for dressing a plate: if all the drizzles and sprigs of parsley obscure the actual food, then the fundamentals have been lost somewhere between the kitchen and our mouths.

To see my bedroom with its stacks of books, haphazard wall of gilt frames is to know that I am far from being a minimalist. But I like my desserts to be fresh and simple, clean flavours and lines – and the garnish should reflect that.

We carried on discussing furniture – there was a violent disagreement over the idea of a violet pouffe – until I brought out the cheesecake. Made with Quark I brought back from Germany specially, it was light and tangy with a hint of lemon. It was baked in a loaf tin for neat oblong slices befitting a dinner party, that showed the pink bloom of the raspberries inside. It was neither rich nor cloying, more akin to the dense German kasekuche I had had in Stuttgart. That one had had a poppy seed topping; I adapted the idea and put the poppy seeds in the biscuit base for a bitter crackle, and covered the cheesecake with a thin layer of whipped cream instead. It might seem redundant, cream on top of cheese, but it works. Then a few diagonal lines of poppy seeds and candied lemon zest. Simple. Fancy. It was much appreciated – and because it was not too sugary nor too creamy, even those that normally hate cheesecake approved.

The charming flatmate left this week (interestingly, on the day that the Japanese traditionally celebrate casting out devils and inviting in good spirits!) to move in with the boyfriend. Soon there will be a new, and nice, French girl. For now I am alone in the apartment, its walls now bare, the bookshelves gone. In lieu of buying more, and trying in vain to style them, I shall make myself this cheesecake and actually read a book instead.

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Raspberry and poppy seed cheesecake

adapted from Valentina’s recipe, one that I have been meaning to make for years now

75g butter, melted

175g plain biscuits, crushed

35g poppy seeds

80g raspberries (fresh or frozen)

450g cream cheese, quark or drained fromage blanc*

150g caster sugar

4 eggs

zest of 1 lemon

to decorate:

100g cream, whipped

lemon zest, poppy seeds, fresh raspberries

*I have tried all the cheeses below, each are delicious, but have a slightly different texture – however the fromage blanc needs draining 24 hours beforehand. A goat’s milk fromage blanc is particularly tangy and interesting. Drain in a colander lined with a tea-towel, leave in the fridge for 24 hours or more with a heavy weight on top. Start with about 800g to get 450g in the end.

Grease a 24cm-long loaf tin and line with paper (makes it easier to lift out when cooked). Heat oven to 180C.

Either bash the biscuits in a plastic bag with a rolling pin to crumbs, or blend in a food processor. Stir in melted butter and poppy seeds and press firmly into tin.

Mix cream cheese or quark, sugar, eggs and lemon zest. Pour half into tin, scatter over raspberries then pour in the rest.

Bake for 50 minutes or so. The cheesecake will be golden brown and just set, and will come away from the side of the tin.

Lightly whip the cream and spread over the cooled cheesecake. Decorate with thin diagonal stripes of poppy seeds and crushed raspberries, or whatever takes your fancy.

(Still good the next day, were it to  be prepared ahead, refrigerated and decorated last minute.)

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