Saturday, May 28, 2011

New York cheesecake

I have an amazingly useful Reader's Digest book called CLASSIC FAVOURITES. I say "amazingly" because the book is where I go for every classic recipe, yet appears to be only a slim hardback, at 200 pages.

Finding the recipe and having the ingredients to hand are different matters. So I had to substitute certain ingredients in this New York cheesecake (which the book calls "American cheesecake"). I've marked the heretical ingredients with asterisks, and commented on the RD version below. My method is slightly different, too.

150g digestive biscuits
50g butter*

300g ricotta
200g cream cheese**
125g caster sugar
2 eggs, separated
125ml double cream***
2tbsp flour
1tsp vanilla essence
1tsp grated lemon rind (the rind from 1 lemon, roughly)

Blitz the biscuits in a food processor. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a very low heat, and mix in the digestive crumbs.

Spread a little butter on the base of a 24cm cake tin, and place a circle of greaseproof paper on top. (Draw a ring on the paper round the base, and cut along it.) Tip in the crumbs, spread them out, and compact them with the back of a spoon. Put the tin in the fridge for a couple of hours, RD says; I put mine in the freezer.

Blend the cheeses. Beat in the sugar and egg yolks. Stir in the cream (I whipped mine first, until it had started to thicken), flour, vanilla essence and lemon rind. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth. Whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry (advice here), and fold them gently into the mixture. Pour the mixture on to the crust in the cake tin. Spread smooth.

Put the tin on to a baking sheet (an aid to even heat transmission, some books say), and bake in the centre of a gas mark 4/180C oven for one hour. My cheesecake took an hour and 10 minutes, by which time it was only very slightly wobbly in the centre.

Allow the cake to cool (the picture shows it still in its tin). Then chill it in the fridge. When it's properly chilled, release it from the tin.

The RD cheesecake has a very sweet topping, made from black cherries in syrup, cornflour, lemon juice, and caster sugar. Not my thing.

* RD suggests 200g digestives, so you have enough crumb to spread up the sides of the tin. I'd be likely to make a mess of that job. I've left out the 2tbsp of caster sugar that the book includes in the crumb mix. It suggests 100g butter; but I've come to think that a ratio of 1/3 butter to digestives works fine.

** The recipe has 250g cottage cheese and 250g cream cheese; or 500g cream cheese. Cottage cheese might give a lighter filling.

*** I was disappointed not to have sour cream. I would definitely use that (or creme fraiche) next time.


elwyn said...

A delicious looking, smoothe cake there Nicholas. The colour seems to indicate a richness and density, always so important to me in a cheesecake. Two days in the fridge seems to mature and enhance them.

I agree, a topping is unnecessary and distracts the taste buds from the unctiousness of the filling.

Nicholas Clee said...

Yes, I'd recommend this, Elwyn. But your remark about richness and density makes me wonder whether you'd prefer a recipe with a higher proportion of cream cheese. The ricotta gives it a lighter texture.

The only disappointing aspect of the cake was the crust. It's harder to get a really crunchy crust when you bake a cheesecake, I find; and gluten-free biscuits, which I used here, are particularly soft and crumbly.

elwyn said...

White chocolate seems to have a vulgar ring about it, but I have a cheesecake recipe incorporating this cocoa fat and it is superb! So yes, ricotta might be a bit light for me. The traditional Polish and Russian cheesecakes seem to favour full cream cheese, the French and Italian versions are definitely lighter.

I noticed that you reduced the butter mixed into the biscuit crumbs, perhaps you may have had a shorter, more compact and less crumbly base if you had kept the butter to biscuit ratio as in the original recipe.

Nicholas Clee said...

I'm sure you're right about the butter/biscuit ratio, Elwyn - particularly when using gluten-free biscuits.