Chic & Cheesy

How to make old-fashioned cheesecake

As I have implied before, cheesecake has a special place near my heart and is something that I like to make for those who are close to me. In this week’s post, I make a classic cheesecake for my best friend on her birthday.

Birthday cheesecake

While the cheesecake I am more adept at making is a sweeter and an altogether more gluttonous version (see my post on “Mother’s Day Cheesecake”), as my friend has a much cleaner palate I chose to make this more classic and traditional cheesecake. The recipe in question is another of Nigella’s that I’d had my eye on for a while, which resides in her book Kitchen.

As I was to find out, the filling for this cake was other-worldly light yet creamy, while the base consisted of flour and butter, creating a crumbly biscuit foundation for the cream cheese filling. The overall simplicity and homeliness of the cake’s cracked appearance belied its baked deliciousness. And the most convenient part was using the throwaway BBQ foil trays to bake the cake in, which allowed an easy journey on the train from my home to my friend’s.

I acknowledge that the recipe for this cheesecake does require curd cheese rather than cream cheese, however as I couldn’t find any curd cheese I substituted it for the 725g cream cheese and found that this turned out perfectly fine. Certainly I would love to be able to use curd cheese in the recipe if I were to find in the future, as I admit to taking a  secret pleasure in finding ingredients that are difficult to come by, such as cocoa pasta (if anyone does find this somewhere in NSW, feel free to comment and let me in on the secret!).

Below is the scrummy Old-fashioned cheesecake recipe featured in Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen, pp 173-4. Enjoy!

Makes 16 rectangular slabs

Ingredients should be at room temperature before you start.

BASE:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 25g soft unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 45ml full-fat milk

FILLING:

  • 725 curd cheese
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 50g cornflour (or potato flour)
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 250ml thickened cream, softly whipped

2 foil trays OR 1 foil-lined baking tin approx. 30 x 20 x 5cm


Preheat the oven to 170°C and if you’re using the disposable foil trays, put one inside the other – to help with any wibbly-wobbling as you transfer your uncooked cheesecake to the oven later – and put a baking tray in the oven for them to sit on.

For the base, put the flour and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor along with the 50g caster sugar, 25g soft butter and 1 egg. Process and then, with the motor running, add the milk and when the mixture begins to clump together, stop. Or, if doing this by hand, rub the butter into the flour in a bowl and then beat in the other ingredients with a wooden spoon.

Tip the mixture out into a foil tray or foil-lined baking tin. Using your hands or the back of a spoon, press this in to make as even a layer as possible. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Let it cool a little before pouring in the cheese mixture.

Put the curd cheese in a bowl and beat in the sugar followed by the egg yolks. Beat in the cornflour (or potato flour, which is the more old-fashioned and authentic choice, but there’s nothing in it really, tastewise) followed by the lemon juice, vanilla extract and salt, and then fold in the softly whipped cream.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and then add a ladleful to the cheese mixture and stir in vigorously. Fold the rest of the whites in more gently in 3-4 batches.

Pour and scrape the filling into the dough-lined foil tray or tin, then carefully transfer to the oven and leave to bake for 1 hour, by which time it will be set on top and, although it won’t feel cooked completely underneath, the surface should be slightly scorched in places. I love that.

Remove to a wire rack to cool, still in its tin, and be prepared for the fact that it will probably crack a bit as it cools. Regard this as the stamp of authenticity. Chill the cheesecake, covered, overnight in the fridge, before serving.

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