A very Happy New Year to all of you. (No, I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth.) May you have all you need. Yes – need, not want. And may you never want. And what you cannot have may you be able to cook it up.
Do you crave things from long ago, from once-upon-a-time-when-I-lived-in-Cherapunji? One of the things I have craved ever since I left the shores of America, besides New York style bagels, is a slice of cheesecake. I have tried my luck with many restaurants here in Delhi. Other than The All American Diner at the IHC none have served anything worth a second fork-full, most being a jello+whipped-cream-on-a-crumb-base thing.
The discussion on labneh did confirm that my hung-curd-chukka was as good as any Philly. The main ingredient was taken care of then. Yet, despite the craving, I was nowhere nearer baking one. The truth is it intimidated me. Ingredients I had never used together – chukka with eggs? A cake that needed no baking powder? It was never going to turn out well. And all that effort…
Then along came my neighbour and (first!) tenant T. We got to talking about cheesecakes one day. And carelessly, I said – cream-cheese, I know how to make that! And that cracker base – why Britannia Digestive Biscuits were just made for it! She offered to hang the curds… One weekend, with fair warning, she did.
Sunday afternoon, after lunch and after snacking on the delicious Bohri mince samosas T’s mom had made, I emptied my oven – that is where all the bake-ware is stored – and took out the mixing bowls. I was deciding between the wire whisks when I decided to put the food processor and the paddle attachment to good use. The rest was quick since homemade cream cheese is super soft to begin with.
I reduced the recipe (which is based on this and additional reading) to fit my 6″ tin but I had much more filling. Two ramekins and two heart shaped tart-dishes were pressed into service which made great individual servings – perfect when that craving hits!
I put the tin in the oven and watched dumbfounded as the cheesecake rose and rose way above the edges! Thankfully it didn’t pour over! Next day I was checking with the web Gods about my possessed cheesecake. Phew. Yes, cheesecakes rise! So please use a deep pan that will allow it to do its thing.
The cheesecake fell as it cooled in the oven, the edges slightly higher than the center, but not a crack on that surface! Looked perfect but we had to wait till the following day to get a taste; it needed to chill overnight.
Next evening – being my first cheesecake and all – the first slice was scrambled sacrificed, so others may live. I don’t have a spring-form pan. I should probably get one. But do I really need one or do I merely want? 😉
This recipe makes a dense rich cheesecake very much like what I remembered from one Thanksgiving, a long time ago, in Kansas.
New York Cheesecake
For the Crust
2 T melted butter
100gm Britannia’s digestive biscuits, crushed into fine crumbs
1 T fine granular sugar
For the filling
yoghurt made from 3l of 3% or full fat milk, hung overnight; resulting cream cheese (about 600gms) at room temperature
200gms powdered sugar
2 T plain flour
pinch of salt
1 t vanilla essence
zest of 1 lime
2 t lime juice
150 ml soured cream (add a teaspoon of yoghurt to cream and leave to set for a few hours)
Preheat oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Line a deep 6″ pan with butter paper. Put the biscuits in a zip-lock bag and crush with a rolling pin. Combine melted butter, sugar, and crushed biscuits. Press into the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool while you prepare the filling.
Increase oven temperature to 240C/ gas mark 9.
Place the cream cheese in the jar of your food processor. Beat the cheese at low speed till creamy, about one minute. Gradually add the powdered sugar, flour, and a pinch of salt, as the blade whirs. Scrape down the paddle and the sides of the jar a couple of times to ensure the batter is lump-free and the ingredients are well blended. Remove the contents of the jar into a mixing bowl. I do not have a fancy mixer with a whisk attachment. Whisk in the vanilla, lime juice, and zest. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Scrape the whisk and bowl. Add sour cream and beat until smooth. Do not use an electric beater for this. Regular beaters may incorporate more air and lead to cracks later.
Brush the sides of the cake tin with melted butter or oil. You may use additional crumb mixture to line the sides if you wish (I didn’t). Pour the filling in and set the pan on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 110C/ gas mark 2. Bake another 25 minutes. It might be a bit wobbly in the center but will set as it cools. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake inside to cool for 2 hours. Spread the prepared topping. Who needs more cream – I skipped. Chill for a few hours, preferably overnight.
Run a knife around the sides of the tin to loosen the cooled cake. Divide into 8 or 12 slices, depending on your want. Scoop out the first slice and eat. This one doesn’t count. I do not possess a spring form tin. And I didn’t mean to ask for one. I don’t need one.
Serve and indulge. Want some?
It is possible to make great cheesecake in this country of no Philly! There are other substitutes you can try. Some recipes use Ricotta, which is very similar to our chena (paneer)! Make sure to combine chena and eggs thoroughly before adding any liquids; lumps are hard to remove! If you don’t have digestive biscuits handy, don’t let that be an excuse – use whatever kind you have, even wafer biscuits! Stick to the recommended oven temperatures and cool the cheesecake in the oven with the door ajar to prevent cracks from extremes of temperature. If you still get some cracks, cover with topping or fruit. Happy cheesecake baking!