Is there anything more richly, absurdly, deliciously heart-stoppingly, stroke-causingly, happiness-inducingly good as a baked cheesecake? I was late coming to the cheesecake party, enjoying my first baked cheesecake (mars bar cheesecake from Babar's Cafe in Woden, to be exact) circa 2003. I have subsequently made up for the lack of cheesecake in my early life, though always with a hint of caution, knowing just how much cream cheese, sour cream and sugar goes into a terrific baked cheesecake. For me, it's always a "special occasion" dish - I even ordered the aforementioned mars bar cheesecake for my 23rd birthday cake, I seem to remember - largely because the amount of dairy in the average cheesecake seems to make my tummy a little "delicate" if I eat too much, too often... but a little bit of cheesecake is okay, right? It's wafer thin...
So, what better cake to produce for a fabulous, if gluten intolerant (don't worry Matt-in-the-Hat, I don't hold that against you), friend on his 31st birthday? I did my research, quizzing my other best friend with the Coeliac husband on the best gluten-free base (gluten-free coconut biscuits), then spending extra time experimenting with the crushed-biscuit-to-melted-butter ratio. Finally, the end result was actually better than my "usual" arrowroot biscuit base for baked cheesecake. The gluten-free biscuits made a far stronger, more durable base (with a hint of coconut to add undertone to the flavour) and used significantly less butter than the normal base... although when you're adding about a litre of cream to the recipe, what's 50 grams of butter between friends?
I initially thought I would do a plain baked New York cheesecake, but then I discovered a jar of lemon curd in my cupboard just begging to be eaten. I added a couple of tablespoons of sour cream to make it slightly more pourable, spread it over the top of the cake and served it up, dripping over the edges, to much acclaim (there were a number of birthday candles involved).
The acidity in the lemon curd cuts through the creaminess of the cake perfectly, and the colours tone in well. The curd also covers up all the cracks in the top caused by refrigerating the cake before it was fully cooled. I don't know about you, but who has time to wait around a couple of hours while a cheesecake cools in the oven? If you are on the same page, stress less, refrigerate, then douse in lemon curd at the end. It tastes better anyway.
Incidentally, I love the Women's Weekly "Cheesecake Cookbook"... I have shamelessly used their recipe as my base recipe, but have amended it to make it gluten-free and added far more lemon zest than they have dictated, and then added the lemon curd. Buy this book, if you are keen on cheesecakes.
Lemon Curd Cheesecake
- 500 grams gluten-free "coconut" biscuits
- 75 grams melted butter
- 750 grams cream cheese (full fat, I like Philadelphia... but I like labels - and don't forget to soften it!)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 cup caster sugar (I prefer raw caster sugar, it gives it a caramelly flavour)
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup sour cream (full cream)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (I love using lemon's from my Mum's tree - no pesticides = no nasty additions)
Sour cream topping
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons caster suger (again, I will repeat, raw caster sugar)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
Lemon curd topping-for-the-topping
- 1 cup lemon curd (store bought is fine, but I will include a homemade recipe soon!)
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
First heat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius (160 degrees if it's on a fan forced). Next get yourself a 24 cm springform cake tin. Don't bother with greasing the tin, but I recommend adding a small amount of baking paper to the bottom.
Next, crush your biscuits in a food processor until it's nothing but crumbs. Pour in the melted butter and pulse briefly. Spread over the bottom of the tin, pressing into the base with a small glass, then press the remaining crumbs into the sides of the tin with your fingers. Now pop this lined tin in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, to firm up.
For the next step, I used a benchtop mixer (I love my Kitchenaid), but you can also use a hand-held beater. Beat the cream cheese, then add in the lemon zest and combine, allowing the cream cheese to soften and whip. Add the sugar and, when well mixed, the eggs - but only add them one at a time and make sure each is well mixed through before you add the next one. Now add the sour cream and the lemon juice. Again, mix until combined, but not much more than that. Too much air in the mix and you'll increase the chance of cracking during the baking phase.
Next, pour the filling into the now-cold base, then put into the oven and bake for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. Keep an eye on it, it should be starting to brown on top and be firming up, but it's okay if the middle is still a little liquid - it will continue to cook as it goes. Now take it out of the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes on the bench.
Separately, in a small bowl, add the sour cream, the remaining lemon zest, lemon juice and caster sugar. Mix well and then pour over the top of the cooled cheesecake. Return to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes. Finally, cool as long as you possibly can with the oven turned off and the oven door ajar. It's okay if you don't have time to wait while the cheesecake cools completely - you're not perfect, so why expect a cake to be too. Now move to the fridge and allow to cool completely, for at least 3 hours.
Right before serving, mix the lemon curd and sour cream in a small bowl, which should make it liquid enough to pour. Pour over the top of the cheesecake, and serve. We had defrosted frozen berries on the side.