It’s been raining the last few days. From the tiniest drizzle to a full-blown hail storm, subsiding to the occasional light showers today – preferable when one needs to concentrate on studying. Even amid the most frantic and chaotic revision, I am by no means immune to procrastination, this afternoon in the form of baking (what else?).
My mum requested a cheesecake. And how could I refuse? I haven’t made a baked cheesecake that’s not of the Japanese soufflé variety longer than I can remember. A light, fluffy, moist Japanese cheesecake is always the cheesecake of choice in this household. Even so, there’s a certain portion of my taste buds that’s conditioned to appreciate a good dense custardy New York style cheesecake. For me, the ideal baked cheesecake fits the following profile in order of importance:
- Creamy smooth consistency (no flour in the batter pls)
- Not too sweet, slightly tangy
- Dense and substantial without sticking to the palate, yet light
I remain undecided on the necessity of a crust. Why do cheesecakes have crusts anyway? On the one hand, I like a smooth creamy mouthful without the interruption of crunch. On the other hand, introducing a second texture and/or flavour contributes to variety and a more exciting experience. On this occasion, I decided at the last minute that I would pair the raspberry swirls with a chocolate base.
A lot of recipes call for sour cream or yogurt in addition to lemon, for me that would be overdoing the tangy – subtlety is more fitting for the humble cheesecake. So instead, the creaminess in this recipe is derived largely from the mascarpone. Yes, I admit I’m going through a mascarpone craze phase at the moment, but not without reason, as thanks to it, this cake satisfied all the criteria and more. We enjoyed it with as much enthusiasm as we could garner after a particularly filling meal.
A note on preventing cracks: in my experience with water baths, I feel they’re secondary to a lowered oven temperature when it comes to a smooth top. I’ve had horrible crevices with water baths and perfectly smooth tops without, and vice versa. However I do think steam helps preserve moisture and avoid a crumbly cheesecake, as well as a low placement in the oven. It was so effective there wasn’t a single crack even with semi-intense beating.
Chocolate raspberry mascarpone cheesecake (5″ round cake or equivalent)
For the chocolate biscuit base:
100g chocolate biscuits
~2 tbsp chocolate spread*
1tsp unused coffee grounds
*or whatever you have on hand, e.g. Nutella, nut butter, melted butter, even ganache
For the cheese filling:
250g cream cheese
1 extra large egg or 70g whole eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
25g heavy cream
raspberry preserves/jam/coulis, optional
To prepare the biscuit base, crush up the biscuits with the coffee grounds in a food processor. Or if you’re broke like me, a rolling pin and a ziplock bag. Mix in as much of your preferred binding agent as it takes for the mixture to stick together when pressed.
Preheat the oven to 170C/340F. Prepare your tin by lining the bottom and greasing the sides, and press the biscuit crumbs compactly and evenly onto the bottom. I didn’t bake the crust but you do whatever you’re comfortable with.
Before starting on the filling, bring all the ingredients to room temperature. Beat the cream cheese and mascarpone together until smooth, about a minute on medium speed. Beat in sugar and vanilla, then beaten eggs bit by bit until glossy and evenly incorporated. Add in the cream, scrape the bowl if necessary and whip on high speed for about 10 seconds to aerate the mixture some.
Poor the mixture from a height into the tin to eliminate air bubbles, and smooth out the top. Place the tin near the bottom of the oven. Below it, place a pan of hot water so that it steams the bottom of the cheesecake tin. Bake for ~25 minutes or until the centre wobbles slightly when you gently shake the pan.
Cool to room temp. in the pan, then move to the fridge to chill completely (at least 1-2hrs) so the filling can set up (still in the tin). Remove from tin and decorate as you wish if you wish. In case you admire my marbled cream (I blush), I just painted the inside of my pastry bag with streaks of ganache (2 parts chocolate to 1 part heavy cream) and filled it with whipped cream.