Yesterday was the Big Guy’s birthday. In his native Sweden, it is customary for the rest of the family to get up early, and prepare a pancake cake. Some members of his family also insist on having spaghetti with tomato ketchup for breakfast as well.
Since I am not going to sin against the Flying Spaghetti Monster and neither of us are morning people, these are not a traditions that I intend to uphold. Although you should probably try the pancake cake I linked to on Ted’s blog, they really are very good.
However, he does get to choose whatever he wants for his dinner, and then we usually go for drinks with friends.
This year he asked for a lasagne and a cheesecake.
I am not about to blog a recipe for lasagne. I know from experience that everyone thinks that they make the best one, and this way trouble lies. There are a million different ways to cook it, and most of them were based on lasagnes they had in childhood.
However, the BG did get a baked cheesecake, which is something that I do infrequently, I prefer the ease of the non-baked version, but I have recently stumbled on a formula that seems to work quite well, and is quite easy too.
This version requires little faffing, no fiddly water bath techniques, and looks as though you have gone to a lot of effort.
Recipe: Baked Raspberry and Chocolate Cheesecake
200 g digestive biscuits
80 – 100 g melted butter – I find that the digestives in the Netherlands are a bit more absorbent than the ones in the UK, and so require more butter to glue them together
250 g mascarpone cheese
200 g cream cheese – or make it easy on yourself a tub of each
120 g icing sugar
3 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract – please don’t use vanilla essence, it is horrible
Zest of a lemon (use unwaxed)
200 g raspberries, plus more to decorate
100 g chocolate. I used a really good milk chocolate, because I can’t stand white. You use whichever sort you like.
Firstly, crush up the digestives. This is quickest done in a food processor, but you can also crush them in a bowl with a rolling pin, or wine bottle; or you can stick them in a plastic bag and crush them with the aforementioned wine bottle, or even with your hands. If you choose the latter method, you can do it in front of your favourite soap on the telly. Last Night of the Proms would also be suitable, I guess, but that is only on once a year.
Once your biscuits are in a fine crumb, then you need to add the melted butter and mix well. The biscuits and butter should form a solid-looking base in the bottom of a spring-form cake tin, when pressed with the back of a spoon. If they don’t then add more butter and mix in again. Keep trying the tin, until you have the desired base. Remember that the butter will harden, so don’t make it rock solid at this stage – the crumbs just need to look as though they are sticking together nicely.
Bung the tin in the freezer to harden off the base while you make the cheesy bit.
In a bowl mix together the cheeses, the sugar and the lemon zest until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs, vanilla extract and the flour, and mix these in well. The mix should be fairly sloppy at this stage. If it isn’t add an egg yolk.
Gently crush the raspberries with the back of a spoon. The idea is that you want to get fewer large raspberry lumps, but not that you have crushed them so much they become a coulis.
Break up the chocolate into manageable sized lumps. I kept my chunks quite big – maybe half the size of the chunks that the chocolate bar comes divided into, but this will depend on the size of the chunks the manufacturer makes. You don’t want them too small or the chocolate will melt when you bake it. Too big, and you risk people getting stabbed in the roof of the mouth by a too-chunky chocolate corner.
Mix the raspberries and the chocolate into the cheese mixture, then pour the lot onto the biscuit base. Bake it in the oven at 180°C for about 40 minutes. You want the cheesecake to be set, but to have a slight wobble in the centre. Don’t bake too much or it will crack, although this is just an aesthetic consideration, because it will still taste just as good.
Leave it in the tin to cool, then decorate with some more raspberries. Great served with lemon cream. Or just a cup of tea.