Vanilla extract

New York cheesecake

baked cheesecake

I’ve been using a Mary Berry recipe for baked vanilla cheesecake for years and I’ve always been perfectly happy with it. Last week though I decided on a whim to try Nigella’s New York version instead and my goodness it was so much better. The texture was smooth and creamy, it was not too sweet AND there were no cracks (probably due to the addition of cornflour).

In true Nigella style this is an expensive cheesecake to make (£11.46 based on my Tesco shop using branded items such as McVities and Philadelphia) but it’s huge and therefore ideal if you’re catering for a lot of people.

Nigella Lawson’s New York cheesecake
(from Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Food’)

Serves 12 generously

For the base

  • 250g of digestive biscuits, crushed to fine crumbs with a rolling pin or in a food processor (89p)
  • 150g of butter, melted (53p)
  • 3 tablespoons of caster sugar (5p)

For the filling

  • 2 tablespoons of cornflour (7p)
  • 225g of caster sugar (28p)
  • 750g of full fat soft cream cheese (£6.40)
  • 6 eggs, serparated (£1.25)
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (47p)
  • 150ml of double cream (60p)
  • 150ml of sour cream (60p)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt (2p)
  • The grated zest of 1 lemon (30p)

Butter the bottom and sides of a 24cm round, springform cake tin.

For the base, mix together the butter, sugar and biscuit crumbs and press firmly into the bottom of the tin. Chill for one hour.

For the filling, start by setting your oven to 170oC.

Mix together the sugar and cornflour. Beat in the cream cheese, egg yolks and vanilla extract by hand or with an electric mixer. Then slowly pour both the creams in, add the salt and lemon zest and beat some more.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff and then fold carefully into the cheese mixture using a metal spoon. Tip into the chilled base and bake for one hour and fifteen minutes (the recipe said for between one hour and one and a half hours so I went with the middle ground).

Turn off the heat (don’t open the door) and let the cake stand in the oven for two more hours.

Then open the door and let it stand for another hour.

Chill in the fridge and serve cold.

You can dust the top with icing sugar before serving if you like.

NOTE: This is lovely eaten just as it is but I served mine with a cheat’s raspberry coulis (basically a tin of raspberries in syrup whizzed up until smooth). I think it would also taste nice with any other fruit coulis, or a caramel or chocolate sauce.


Comfort food – rice pudding

rice pudding 3

Firstly, I have to apologise for the terrible photo that looks like something a cat has coughed up. I’ve just done a quick Google image search though and I think rice pudding is the least photogenic dessert there is. The picture does not do justice to this very delicious rice pudding recipe which comes from a Marks and Spencer ‘Best of British’ cookbook.

If you’re a fan then there’s nothing like a good baked rice pudding on a cold wintry day – it has the effect of a warm comfy fleece blanket on your insides. It’s very simple to make and it will make your kitchen smell all homely and wonderful. It’s best to time the cooking so that you can eat it straight away, but it is still good reheated in the microwave.

Baked rice pudding

Serves 4-6

  • 115g pudding rice
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 450 ml semi skimmed milk
  • 400 ml double cream (although if you’re trying to be healthy you can use an extra 400 ml of milk instead)
  • ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • Whole nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 140oC fan.

Butter a ceramic baking dish (mine is 20 x 30 cm) and pour in the rice and the sugar.

Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan until almost boiling then pour into the dish over the sugar and rice.

Add the vanilla extract and stir well until the sugar is dissolved.

Cut the butter into small pieces and dot over the surface of the milk. Grate a generous amount of nutmeg over the top.

Bake in the oven for 1 ½ hours until the top is well browned. I prefer not to stir during this time so that it forms a nice brown skin.

Serve hot with a good dollop of raspberry jam.

Ode to the digestive – part 4, baked vanilla cheesecake

baked cheesecake

I dream about baked vanilla cheesecake – it’s my favourite dessert of all. This week I’ve been reading about the last food requests of people on death row and this would definitely be my pudding of choice for a final ever meal.

I have tried lots of different recipes for baked cheesecake and have always struggled with the texture. They have tended to be a little on the stodgy side and rather claggy. I think this recipe works well though. It initially started out as a Mary Berry but I’ve adapted it by whisking the egg white to give it a lighter texture.

It’s good on its own or with a raspberry sauce.

Baked vanilla cheesecake

Serves 8

For the base

  • 100g crushed digestives (about 7 biscuits)
  • 50g butter

For the filling

  • 700g full fat soft cheese
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of good quality vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 150oC fan.

For the base, crush the digestives in a food processor or in a food bag with a rolling pin. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the crushed biscuits and stir until incorporated. Tip the mixture into a 20 cm loose bottomed tin (about 8 cm deep) and press down firmly with your fingers or the back of a spoon to form the biscuit base. Cover with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge.

Measure the cheese into a large bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or an electric hand mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat again until well mixed.#

Separate the eggs and whisk up the whites until soft peaks form.

Add the egg yolks and vanilla essence to the cheese mixture and stir to combine. I do this bit by hand with a metal spoon. Next, add just a spoonful of egg white to the cheese and stir in to slacken the mixture. Then very gently fold in the rest of the egg whites attempting to keep as much of the air in the mixture as possible.

Tip the mixture onto the biscuit base and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cheesecake is puffed around the edges but still wobbly in the centre.

Turn off the oven but leave in the oven to cool.

Chill well in the fridge and serve well chilled.

A chocolate twist
For a chocolate ripple version, add just half the finished mixture into the tin in spoonfuls with gaps between the dollops. Then add 150g of melted plain chocolate to the remaining mixture and spoon into the gaps. Finally, swirl the top with a skewer or knife to make a marble effect. Make sure that the chocolate is not too hot when you add it otherwise it will start to cook the eggs in the cheesecake mixture.

Cracks always appear in my baked cheesecake. I have a feeling that the air in the egg white in this recipe probably encourages the mixture to crack, but I’d rather have a light texture and cracks than a stodgy texture with no cracks. To be honest because it’s only an aesthetic thing and it still tastes good I’m not particularly bothered. If you are then there are some tips to avoid cracking in this link. If you hit on a winner then please do let me know. It the meantime I’m going to opt for the last suggestion and cover the cracks with sauce.

Eddie licking the bowl.

Bonkers for blackberries

It’s the blackberry season and my daughter Elizabeth is obsessed. Wherever we go she is on the look-out for ripe ones amongst the hedges and verges – pretty terrifying when she is riding her bike. If we do stop to pick some, and manage to get any home before they’re eaten, then this is my favourite blackberry recipe from Sarah Raven’s ‘Garden Cookbook’. It’s really simple and the finished dish is rather like a baked cheesecake with little blackberry surprises.

PS. For anyone that lives in Nottingham, Clifton Grove close to the River Trent is a blackberry gold mine.

blackberry bush elizabeth with blackberry

Sarah Raven’s baked blackberries and mascarpone (my notes in italics)

For 6

  • 1kg blackberries
  • 2 vanilla pods (or a few drops of vanilla extract)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 500g mascarpone cheese
  • 30g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 200oC. Wash the blackberries and pick them over. Scrape the seed from the vanilla pods.

Mix the mascarpone, egg yolks, vanilla seeds (or extract) and icing sugar together.

Put the blackberries in a small baking dish. Spoon the mascarpone over and bake in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes, until the mascarpone begins to brown.

This makes a great dinner party dish if you divide the mixture up into individual ramekins and dust with icing sugar before serving.