Would you believe me if I told you that I refused to eat cheesecake in my childhood years?
Something about the heavy creaminess and rather plain appearance must have dissuaded me from ever giving it a try.
(The Bean – she who loves all things orange vegetable and won’t eat a meal without meat in it – loved it. Of course. She was always eating all of the things I didn’t like, and in double portions too.)
So I suppose, in light of my fairly recently acquired affection for things earlier spurned, it should come as no surprise at all that I’d never (well, not until this time) thought it necessary, or even enticing, to try bake a cheesecake of my own.
Frozen, layered and chilled cheesecakes had been well and truly conquered though, as had gelatine filled wobbly messes that had dessert goers scraping the bottom of the serving dish.
But to bake one? Oh, it seemed nigh on impossible what with the waterbaths and the jiggly-yet-set-centres and the cracked middles that need to be covered up with layers of frosting.
(And the whole waterbath thing? Yeah, no. Can’t do it. Seems too weird.)
And then, almost imperceptibly, something changed.
That something being the need to cook a Greek-ish dessert for a Christmas luncheon, and my even greater unwillingness to make galaktoboureko on the morning of what was looking to be a fairly long and hot day.
So I improvised and galaktoboureko’d a cheesecake recipe. Sort of. I mixed up the ratios of cream cheese and ricotta, for a smoother, more custardy finish. I added honey and molasses and cinnamon for a warm, spicy flavour.
I planned on topping it with sheets of honey soaked phyllo pastry (to complete the galaktoboureko experience) but ran out of time. And ran into berries instead.
Needless to say, it was a cracking, uncracked (yes!) success – creamy and moreish – and one that I’ll be replicating at Christmas-dinner-the-fourth (being the Christmas dinner that’s actually held on Christmas day).
Though it’s a recipe that wouldn’t be out of place at any gathering, saviour-inspired or non. Especially when it’s as impressive to look at as this.
(Double especially as no water bath, or expensive baking equipment, is needed.)
cinnamon & honey baked cheesecake
You will need to start this recipe off the day before you intend to serve it (though it keeps quite well in the freezer, and is almost ice-creamy in its semi-frozen state, should you wish to serve it up that way). Being a cheesecake first-timer, I’ve adapted this recipe from Donna Hay.
you will need:
for the cheesecake base:
250g roasted almond meal
125g butter (melted)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
for the cheesecake filling:
500g cream cheese (softened)
350g ricotta cheese
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup honey
rind from one lemon, zested
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp lemon juice
blackberries & honey to top
how to do it:
1. Melt the butter and mix together with the roasted almond meal, brown sugar & cinnamon until it looks like wet sand.
2. Line the bottom of a 23cm-ish springform tin with baking paper. Grease the paper and the sides well with butter. Press the almond mixture into the base of the tin and up the sides a little bit. Use a glass to smooth out the base.
3. Place the base in the freezer for about half an hour or so (whilst you make the filling) so that it can set.
4. Combine the cream cheese, ricotta, eggs, sugar, molasses, honey, lemon zest, cinnamon and vanilla bean paste in a food processor and blitz until it is uniform and creamy.
5. Combine the cornflour and water to make a smooth paste and stir it into the cream cheese mixture. Give the bowl that the cream cheese mixture is in a few big bangs onto the table top or floor. This will force the air bubbles out and up towards the surface.
6. Pre-heat your oven to 150C.
7. When the oven is just about hot enough, take the base out of the freezer and top with the cream cheese mixture. Give it another couple of big bashes to get the air out. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, then pop it in the oven.
8. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the cheesecake wobbles just a little bit in the centre when you tap it, but has a firm looking top.
9. Remove the tin from the oven and set it on a tray to cool. Run a little knife just around the top edge of the cheesecake so that it doesn’t crack when it contracts. When the cheesecake is at room temperature, pop it into the fridge overnight to set.
10. Serve with berries on top and a drizzling of honey.