It was little sister Patti’s birth-
day on Tuesday
– hi, Patti! - and she likes cheesecake, so when I came across this recipe, I thought: the very thing!
It’s three zillion calories, but it’s supposed to serve 10 or 12 people (yeah, right), so that only a quarter of a zillion calories each.
You have to make it the day before, because it has to chill overnight in a fridge.
Take 300g strawberries, and thinly slice. Add 10 large mint leaves, finely chopped, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon icing sugar. Mix, cover, and leave aside for at least two hours, for the juices to draw.
Pre-heat your oven, to Gas Mark 3-5 (or 170C, or 340F.) Dig out a springform cake tin. Butter it up.
Put 300g dark chocolate digestives in a plastic bag, and bash to fine crumbs. My biscuits were harder than I bargained for, and ripped my baggie, so maybe my crumbs weren’t as fine as they should have been.
Put the crumbs in a bowl, and add another ten finely chopped mint leaves.
Melt 50g of butter, pour over the minty crumbs, mix well, and tip into tin. Press down well. (I used the base of a clean ramekin.) There seemed an awful lot of biscuit to me – but then I love chocolate digestive biscuits, so what did I care?
Stick tin in oven and bake for 15 minutes; then take out and leave to cool.
Now things get a bit complicated.The recipe I was following (which appears in Fiona Cairns’ ‘Bake & Decorate’) tells you to do the following:
Put 3 tablespoons cold water in a bowl, and add 3 teaspoons of gelatine crystals. Every crystal must be wet, or it won’t dissolve properly and will cause lumps. Then do the old bain-marie thing – set the bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Don’t let the water boil, and don’t let the base of the bowl touch the water. Stir until all gelatine has dissolved – but don’t let it get too hot, or it won’t set properly later on.
In another bowl, beat 250g of cream cheese until smooth. (I used curd cheese. Because it's low-fat.)
In a third bowl (this recipe uses a lot of bowls) whip 300ml of double cream and a teaspoon of vanilla essence.
In a fourth bowl – yes, a fourth – separate the yolks of 3 large eggs, and add 45g of caster sugar. The recipe specified golden caster sugar, but I’m sure it doesn’t make a’peth of difference whether it’s golden or white. Whisk with yolks until pale, fluffy and twice the volume (always fun.)
I could virtuously tell you to save the egg-whites to make meringues, or egg-white omelettes, for when you’re dieting later, but honestly, does anyone? I threw my egg-whites and shells in the worm-bin and treated the worms.
Fold cream and cream-cheese into the beaten yolks and sugar.
Drain strawberries, keeping the sugary balsamic juices.
Pile strawberries on the baked biscuit base.
Add the strawberry juices to gelatine mixture, and strain to remove lumps. Fold in a spoonful of the cream mixture, and then gently fold in the rest.
Pour over the strawberries and biscuit base, and put in the fridge to set for 24 hours.
Wash up the bowls. Eat left over digestive biscuits.
Next day, before serving, decorate with strawberries and mint leaves – or however else takes your fancy.
Simplicity, eh? Yes, but I couldn’t find any of these gelatine crystals, only gelatine leaves. So I was doing mental arithmetic – never my strong point – to calculate how many leaves would be needed instead of crystals - until I realised that Patti is a lifelong vegetarian, and has never so much as nibbled a beef-and-tomato crisp in her life. Since gelatine, whether leaf or crystal, is made from cow’s or pig’s bones, it would never do.
Luckily, there was vegetarian rennet right there on the supermarket shelf in front of me. The only instructions were that ‘ten drops’ set a pint of milk, if added when the milk was 32C.
SO – I added the strawberry juices to the cream cheese instead. I carefully heated the cream, in a bain-marie, to 32C, and tried to add ‘ten drops’ of rennet. I hate these kind of instructions. How do you tell how much ‘ten drops’ is? Does that big droplet count as two? How about that little shower – how many drops were in that? My best guess is that I added 12 drops to 300ml of cream.
Then I folded everything together, and poured over the biscuit base. The tin was filled to the very brim. In fact, I had enough left over to fill a small ramekin.
I put it in the fridge, and was worried that it wouldn’t set for several hours. It didn’t seem to be setting. But it did, eventually, though I think it could have been firmer.
But, the proof of the pudding… Personally, I was a little disappointed. Patti will insist that it was yummy, because she’s sweet, but for me it lacked something. I did like the way the mint’s sharpness kept coming through and surprising you, but otherwise, it was a little too subtle for me. I wished we’d had a chocolate brownie at the pub.
If I made this cheesecake again – and I don’t know if I’d bother – I think I’d reduce the amount of biscuit in the base, and perhaps bake it longer, to make it crisper. And perhaps I’d add more sugar, or more balsamic. Or more mint. Something to give it a little more kick.
Or perhaps abandon the biscuit base altogether, and serve it as a junket in little ramekins, with fruit, because the cheesecake mixture on its own was creamy, sweet, soft and delicious.
Sorry Patti – I owe you a chocolate brownie!
Catch up with Blott at my website: www.susanpriceauthor.com