Black-forest-inspired cheesecake

Last weekend we went away for my cousin’s wedding. We stopped off to stay with my parents on the Friday night, and mum had prepared a lovely tea of various interesting homemade salad dishes that were perfect for me and my lack of desire to eat hot cooked food. For pudding she produced a cheesecake that was fridge-set (so no baking involved) and didn’t involved raw egg. Again this was perfect, because it wasn’t too sweet; in fact it was quite tart, and not particularly to Andrew’s liking! He seems to have inherited my sweet tooth (which has disappeared during pregnancy). Then at the wedding reception, what should turn up for pudding but a fridge-set cheesecake, very similar to the one mum had made. None of us minded at all, because we all enjoyed it, and it was just what we needed on what turned out to be a lovely day weather-wise – something refreshing and not too stodgy. I just checked with the chef that it didn’t contain any hidden pregnancy unfriendly ingredients (my main concern is the raw egg that sometimes goes into such things), and he confirmed that it was fine for me to eat.

So these two cheesecakes (one blueberry and one lemon) inspired me to make my own cheesecake using similar ingredients. After all, it involved no baking in the oven, so no smells that I’m not too keen on right now. The secret to making it set in both cases (according to my mum and the wedding chef) is lemon juice. I hadn’t heard of this before, and was curious to try and find out the chemistry behind it (I’m a scientist, this is how I think!) But after some, admittedly not very long, time googling, I couldn’t find anything from a reputable source. I saw a couple of hints at the fact that the acid somehow makes the cheese and cream mixture more solid, which does make sense to me as I think back to science lessons at school. If anyone has a more technical (but still understandable) explanation of how this works, please let me know!

But back to the culinary point, below is the recipe that I came up with. The name ‘Black-forest-inspired’ comes from the fact that it contains chocolate and cherries; this is a winning combination if you ask me, particularly at the moment when cherries are in season, so fresh and juicy. I just guessed at how much of each ingredient should go in to the cheesy mixture, by tasting as I went along. The base is my standard cheesecake base recipe. It turned out very well – nicely soft and fluffy, but solid, and not too sweet. I have to say that it was best on the day I made it. The day after it started to lose its shape and run slightly into the hole that was made by cutting the first slices. It still tasted nice, but the texture wasn’t so cheesecake-y, more like mousse or yoghurt. So the moral of the story is…. eat your cheesecake on the day it was made (I feel we would have been ill if Tom and I had attempted this just between the two of us!)

Ingredients

  • 15 digestive biscuits
  • 100g margarine
  • 300g soft cheese
  • 150ml crème fraîche
  • 75g sugar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 100g chocolate (plain or milk), cut into small chunks
  • cherries, stoned and halved, to decorate

Method

  1. Grease the bottom and sides of a springform cake tin.
  2. Crush the biscuits in a large plastic bowl with the end of a rolling pin.
  3. Melt the margarine in the microwave or over a pan of boiling water, and add to the crushed biscuits. Stir until well combined.
  4. Spread the biscuit mixture on the base of the tin, and pat down until firm and smooth to make the base.
  5. Mix the soft cheese, crème fraîche, sugar and lemon juice together in a bowl until smooth and fluffy.
  6. Add the chocolate chunks and stir until evenly distributed.
  7. Pour this cheesy mixture over the biscuit base in the tin.
  8. Cover the tin and put it into the fridge to set. I left ours for about 12 hours and it was a good consistency.
  9. Decorate with the halved cherries as your creative side takes you!