cheesecake

People, we have a situation. My oven is broken. Actually, it’s more than a situation. It’s A MAJOR INCIDENT. I love baking. I find it relaxing. I’ve never been a science nerd, but baking is a science I can really appreciate. You mix wet and dry ingredients in carefully measured amounts, apply heat and…something wonderful emerges. Now that I’m home for good, I’ve been looking forward to doing some serious baking. It turns out that my friends have also been looking forward to it. Two weekends ago a friend said to me, “I’m so glad you’re back. I’ve missed the baking.” This weekend another friend came over for morning tea, and when I told her my oven was broken she expressed genuine angst. Then I fed her cheesecake instead and she felt better.

Cheesecake has turned out to be my rescue recipe in these days of no baking. I started a new job two weeks ago and I was under pressure to bring in a cake because I said I would when they interviewed me. The interview question was something like: “What would you do to break the ice with your colleagues?” and I said I’d bring in a cake. All three interviewers broke into smiles and started writing something down. I imagined it said, “Will bring cake. Employ immediately.”

So the pressure was on. I had in mind some kind of lemon drizzle cake to win friends and influence people. I thought perhaps I’d make a lemon cake with—gasp!—mashed potato in the mixture. I imagined something light and tangy with a satisfying sugary crunch to the icing. I bought the ingredients, came home and, uncharacteristically, turned the oven on before I started mixing things. I put my hand in to check the temperature and a cool breeze blew over it. The oven was blowing cold air. Disaster! But then, baking gods be thanked, I remembered cheesecake. I did much recipe surfing and tweaking to get exactly what I wanted. There’s a deluxe version, with lemon curd on top, or a plain (but still incredibly rich version). It contains the five most important food groups: biscuits, butter, white chocolate, cream cheese and lemon, so we will all get a calcium/protein/carb boost from eating it. Also, no-one will die of scurvy. Here’s the recipe, me hearties:

Lemon cheesecake

Base:

  • 150g biscuits/cookies (Choose whatever biscuits you like. I used gluten free choc chip cookies.)
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 80g melted butter

Cheesy part:

  • 100g white chocolate
  • 500g cream cheese
  • 1 can (395g) condensed milk
  • 2 lemons

Lemon curd topping (for deluxe version):

  • 60g butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 lemons

Crush biscuits in a blender until they’re fine crumbs (or put them in a sturdy plastic bag and bash them with a rolling pin if you need to get rid of some aggression). Mix them in a bowl with the coconut, then pour in the melted butter and mix to combine. Press the mixture firmly into a greased dish. I used a 21cm pyrex dish, which made kind of a cheesecake slice. You can also use a 21cm spring-form baking tin for a more traditional looking cheesecake. Put the base in the fridge while you make the cheesy bit.

Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Try not to get any water in the bowl or the chocolate will seize. Once it’s melted, take the bowl off the pan and let it cool. You can sit it in a basin of cold water to hurry it up. In another bowl, beat the cream cheese and condensed milk. Add the juice and zest of the lemons. Mix it well so that no lumps remain. (But, really, little lumps are okay. See picture above. No-one minds.) Add the cooled white chocolate and mix it in well. Pour the mixture on top of the base and put it back in the fridge, covered. If you’re making the plain and simple version, your work is done. Leave it to set for at least four hours, unless you don’t mind slightly soft cheesecake.

For the deluxe version, make the lemon curd by whisking the eggs with the sugar, juice and zest of the lemons in a small saucepan (non-stick is best). Add the butter and heat the pan slowly, stirring all the time. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens. It takes about 10 minutes. Pour the thickened lemon curd through a sieve while it’s still warm, to get rid of any egg white lumps that may have formed. Let the lemon curd cool then spread as much as you like on top of the cheesecake. Put the cheesecake back in the fridge if you haven’t let it set yet. Otherwise, slice and eat as soon as you feel like it!