Thursday, 18 August 2011

Lemon Cheesecake with raspberries

I adore a proper homemade cheesecake, its creamy velvety texture a true indulgence on so many levels. You need time and patience for the baking and the chilling, and your wallet need not be too slight either, with all that cheese, cream and fresh fruit this is far from the cheap through-it-together cakes I make on a more regular basis. And as for what the ‘health police’ would have to say….. But what a glorious treat it is and once in a while a true pleasure both to make and to eat.  Sometimes, to coin a phrase, you are worth it. And so are your loved ones. On this occasion I was inspired by the glut of cheap raspberries in the shops at the moment, but any seasonal fruit would be lovely, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries - whatever feels right. 
As a small aside, I used the leftover lemon, cut in half, to shove inside a chicken I was roasting that evening - the best strategy I know for ensuring a fragrant and moist bird. Whilst I have no plans to give up eating chicken, watching the hens up the garden as I do this gives me a new level of respect for these gorgeous feathery creatures.
A note on the tin: I normally make a cheesecake in a round spring form tin, as is the norm. But on this occasion I chose a rectangular loaf tin, simply because I fancied the idea of cutting a neat square slice rather than a wedge and I’m happy to report it worked well. But do use a more traditional round tin if you prefer.
For the biscuit base
175g digestive biscuits
45g butter, melted
For the cheesecake:
600g full fat cream cheese
125g full fat creme fraiche
2 large eggs, plus 1 yolk 
150g caster sugar
Finely grated zest 1 lemon
Raspberry topping:
300g fresh raspberries
1tbsp icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 160°C. Then prepare your tin - either a 25cm diameter springform tin or a long loaf tin of about 30cm. Line the base with baking parchment, and butter well on the sides. With my loaf tin I cut a long strip that came up the sides to help lift the cake out.
Whizz the biscuits in a food processor until they form fine crumbs, then pour in the melted butter and pulse until thoroughly mixed. Tip into the prepared tin and press down firmly with the back of a metal spoon. Chill in the fridge for a few minutes whilst you make the topping.
In a clean food processor, or in a bowl with a wooden spoon, beat together the cream cheese, cream fraiche, eggs and egg yolk. When they are really smooth stir in the sugar and lemon zest. 
Take the tin out of the fridge and wrap the base and sides in a double layer of foil then lower into a large roasting tray. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the biscuit base and level a little with the flat of a knife. Add enough boiling water to the roasting tray so it comes just over halfway up the side of the cheesecake tin. Cooking in a water bath creates a more gentle and nurturing heat, resulting in a really smooth textured cheesecake. If you are going to the trouble of making a cheesecake I think this extra step has got to be worth it.
Carefully transfer the roasting tin to the oven and cook for 45 minutes. Then turn off the oven and let it cool, with the door shut, for 30 minutes. Lift it out of the roasting tray, unwrap the foil and place the tin on a cooling rack. When it has reached room temperature transfer to the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours, a little longer if possible. 
Slide a knife round the tin to loosen the edges and ease out the cake. Transfer to a serving plate and scatter with about two thirds of the raspberries. Puree the remaining raspberries with a little icing sugar to make a quick coulis and drizzle over the top. 

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