Thursday, March 23, 2006

How the British do cheesecake

So, I don't actually know how the British do cheesecake. For all I know they could do it just like Americans, although I didn't see any cheesecake factories on my last visit. But I do know how Gordon Ramsey does cheesecake. Or did cheesecake once in a cookbook titled "A chef for all seasons". Light, lime, both unbaked and sans gelatin, this dessert is much more a mousse than cake.

The dominating flavor in this dessert is lime. Clean, bright, refreshing lime. In order to bring such a clean release of flavor to a dessert that is often intentionally (and delightfully) overly rich, this cheesecake leaves out all the eggs, and much of the sugar. Cream cheese is paddled with creme fraiche and sugar, and dosed with fresh squeezed lime juice and zest. When this mixture is smooth it is folded with whipped cream and set in molds.

Ramsey set his cheesecake over a graham cracker crust in molds lined with poached rhubarb. With the first of season rhubarb cropping up in stores, this cheesecake is a tempting reason to purchase it.

But as this has been on the menu for 3 weeks now and rhubarb is barely available, I have been serving this lime cheesecake filling differently. First, I about doubled the cream cheese to pronounce the classic cheesecake flavor and increased the lime juice to my liking. I have set the filling atop a crushed gingersnap crust, laced with citrus zest and honey. Aside the individual cheesecakes are sunny-sweet, fragrant candied kumquats and tiny gingersnaps.

As for the molds, I am using an old trick I first saw in culinary school. Instead of purchasing 50 somewhat expensive ring molds, I had a length of PVC pipe cut into 2 inch cross sections at the hard ware store. These molds have to be lined with strips of parchment or acetate as there is no way to release the contents by heating the outside. And these molds must NEVER go in the oven as they release noxious fumes and would turn what ever is in them into cancer cakes. But the cost was under 20 dollars for a total of 50 molds. You do have to find a hard ware store willing to make 50 cuts on their saw for you. Home Depot did it once, but the next time they told me I was limited to 2 cuts per visit.

Lime cheesecakes

2 cups crushed gingersnaps
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp honey
1/2 cup melted butter

1 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup cream fraiche
1/4 cup sugar
zest of 2 limes
2 to 4 tbsp of lime juice, to taste
1 cup cream (kept very cold to whip)

6 4-inch ring molds or an 8 inch spring form pan lined with parchment

1. Melt the butter with the honey and zests slowly. It shouldn't sizzle or heat up so the milk solids separate and cook. Let cool slightly and pour over the gingersnaps. Mix evenly with your hands, breaking up any clumps. It's best to add the butter in batches. Depending on the moisture already in the cookie, you may or may not need all the melted butter (and you may need more)

2. Distribute the crumbs evenly between the ring molds or over the bottom of the parchment lined spring form pan. Press with your hands or the smooth bottom of a glass and chill.

3. Beat the cream cheese until smooth and even (about 30 seconds to 1 minute on medium speed in a kitchen aid). Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

4. Add the sugar and mix on medium for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

5. Add the creme fraiche and mix until evenly combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

6. Add the lime zest and juice and mix on medium until the mixture is even and it begins to stiffen a bit.

7. Scrape the sides of the bowl so the mixture is in a mass. Place plastic wrap directly over the surface and store in the refrigerator while you whip the cream. Do not leave this for too long or it will set up stiff. You are just keeping it here to stay cool while you whip the cream.

8. Whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold half of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until just barely mixed. Fold in the remainder of whipped cream until the mixture is even.

9. Pipe or spoon the mixture into the prepared molds or cake pan. Smooth the tops with the back of a warm spoon or an off-set palate knife. Chill for 4 hours or over night.

To unmold, warm the sides of the molds or springform pan. You can do this with your blowtorch, or with a towel that has been wet with hot water and rung out.

Alternately for the crust you can also use graham cracker crumbs mixed with pinches of cinnamon, ginger, and clove to mimic the flavors in a gingersnap. Reduce the honey to 1 1/2 tbsp and add a hint of molasses.

I like to zest the limes directly over the sugar. This captures all the oils that spray out while zesting. Then I mix the zest into the sugar with my fingers which breaks it up evenly assuring there are no clumps of zest in the finished dessert.

Candied Kumquats

3 cups of kumquats, washed and sliced
2 cups sugar
1 cup water

1. Bring the sugar and water to a boil.

2. Add the kumquats and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes, undisturbed.

3. Push the kumquats back under the syrup gently, letting the bottom come to the top, and vice versa. Cook for 5 minute more.

4. Check for doneness, which will differ depending on the thickness of your slices. The skins should be translucent and it should have lost much of it's acidity. It will continue to candy away from the stove while it cools and is stored in the syrup.

5. Let cool at room temperature. Store the kumquats in their syrup, which is delicious drizzled over the plate (and mixed with a little bubbly water like a cordial.... me thinks even a granita could come from this syrup with some water adjustment)

The Kumpuat recipe isn't exact. The measures I give are guidelines. To put is as simply as possible, use a nice bowl full of kumquats, sliced up all pretty like, and a syrup in a ratio of 2 parts sugar to 1 part water.


Blogger Sam said...

My mum's British and her cheesecake was made with gelatin and condensed milk and grapes. Or maybe it was evaporated milk. One thing is for certain, I never liked cheesecake until i left home and discovered some different types.

But I bet you any money that Gordon really used Digestives instead of Graham Crackers!

This has given me an idea, I think, but i may have to wait til another fruit comes in to season to do it.

we will see

March 23, 2006 11:06 AM  
Anonymous faustianbargain said...

i too made a cheesecake for a birthday! actually, i made 12 servings on mini loose bottomed tins. and it is a chilled cheesecake made with condensed milk with an accentuated lime flavour. topped with a halfmoon of brandysnap.

for the filling(texture: smooth). double cream. cream cheese(i made my own. not bad at all and *very* cost effective). condensed milk(sweetened). finally, limes: zest and juice.

i feared that it would be too sweet, but it played out quite well with limes. condensed milk is really versatile. its not 'elite', but its delicious!

March 25, 2006 4:26 AM  
Blogger Dana said...

Sam- I'll bet he uses digestives too! Who wouldn't given the chance.

Faustianbargain- sounds like great minds think alike, You, Sam, and Gordon.

Or maybe it really is how the British do cheesecake!! All I need to do is make the crust from Digestives and add condensed milk!

March 26, 2006 9:31 AM  
Anonymous Ivonne said...

What a wonderful post!

The British have a knack for cheesecake. I actually make a lime cheesecake that's from a Nigella Lawson book.

But I really like this recipe. I've clipped it and will give it a try.

This is my first visit to your blog ... keep up the great work!

March 30, 2006 8:05 PM  
Blogger Mouser said...

The Germans use quark instead of cream cheese in their cheese cakes and quite often they don't have a crust. I find that quark makes the cake grainy and sour. No wonder the cheese from "In the Sweet Kitchen" that I made was such a hit! What is the difference between a lime cheese cake and key lime pie? Mascaropone also makes a great addition to a cheese cake filling.

March 30, 2006 11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love your post and the pipe cutting idea! Going to try your recipe thanks.

March 31, 2006 3:57 AM  
Blogger Dana said...

Ivonne- Welcome! I like Nigella Lawson too. I have a thing for British cookbooks, chef's, and the like.

Libby- Mascarpone is a great ingredient for cheesecake too, but it doesn't have the acidic flavor like cream cheese. Or creme fraiche. We should find you a cream cheese recipe so you don't have to use the watered down version of Phillidelphia the german stores stock.

Annonymous- the pipes are great, and I get a thrill going to the hardware store. Makes me feel tough.

March 31, 2006 9:29 AM  
Blogger J said...

hi dana, this sounds awesome; i especially like the addition of all time favourite cheesecake recipe comes from maida heatter (baked in a water bath for an incredible 8 hours at 200 degrees Fahrenheit...incredible but true, and deliciously creamy, almost custardy...)

April 01, 2006 10:20 AM  
Blogger Dana said...

J- Maida Heatter is one of my first cookbooks. I adore her polka dot cheesecake with perfect chocoalte spheres that show themselves when you cut into it. Which book is this 8 hour recipe in?

April 02, 2006 11:16 PM  

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