Need a dessert to impress? Try a cheesecake.
It’s rich, creamy, and looks really, I daresay, sexy on a plate. I mean, just look at that picture – doesn’t that just look marvelous?
Making a cheesecake is not a difficult matter in the slightest. But it does involve a lot of waiting. I like to call it delayed gratification. All the extra steps built in are mostly to ensure that the top of your cheesecake is smooth, even, and free from cracks.
For me, cheesecake is just as much about a nice hearty crust as it is about a smooth filling. However, if you want something much more sophisticated looking (albeit much less structurally sound), halve the ingredients for crust. (Although, don’t come crying to me if your cheesecake base falls apart.)
200g digestive biscuits
100g unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp lemon zest (opt.)
2 (8 oz.) packets cream cheese, softened
150g caster sugar
115g sour cream or yoghurt
60g all-purpose flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
Makes one 9″ cheesecake.
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 175°C (350°F). Grease and line one 9-inch round cake tin, even the sides which I normally only grease. (Just add a strip of baking paper going around.)
Step 2: In a sealed plastic bag, pound the digestive biscuits until you get a fine crumb. Mix with the melted butter, caster sugar, and lemon zest (if using), and tip onto the base of the cake tin. With the back of a spoon, spread and press down the crumbs to form an even, tightly-packed base. (Take your time getting this as flat and as even as you can.)
Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and cool. In the meantime, bring a pot of water (about 4 cups) to the boil.
Step 3: In your mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar and sour cream for a good 5-10 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Mix in the flour. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Finally, add in the vanilla and milk. You should have a runny, pale yellow batter.
Step 4: This step is optional, but if you want to ensure there are no air bubbles in your batter (which become unsightly holes in your cheesecake) pass the batter through a sieve when pouring it into the cake tin. (Sieve the batter more than once if you have the patience for it.)
Step 5: Finally, bake the cheesecake in a bain-marie or water bath. That is to say, place the cake tin in a larger tin, and fill that larger tin with hot water until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the cake tin. The water allows the oven’s heat to transfer much more evenly to the cake, reducing the risk of cracking. I would advise putting the cake tin in the larger tin, put both tins in the oven, then filling the larger tin with the hot water. Much less risk of getting splashed by hot water that way.
Bake for 45 minutes, then simply turn the oven off. Do not open the oven door. Leave the cheesecake in the oven to finish cooking and cool gradually for about 2 hours. This slow cooling process reduces the chances of cracking.
Step 6: Refrigerate the cheesecake for 6 hours, or better, overnight. To remove the cheesecake from the tin, submerge the tin in some warm water for a minute, then flip the cheesecake out onto a flat board. Then, place your serving platter on the cheesecake (which should be crust-side up), invert the whole thing, and remove the flat board.
For clean, picture-perfect slices, soak a sharp knife in hot water before slicing into the cheesecake. Clean the knife and re-submerge the blade in hot water in between slices.