Sunday, 29 June 2014

Bringing NY to the UK

In the form of the best cheesecake ever.

I've always been a bit disappointed by the 'cheesecake' that people in the UK seem to find acceptable. It's not really cheesecake. It's light and fluffy and almost mousse-y. This is not cheesecake. Cheesecake is dense, crumbly, intense and cheesy! I found this recipe from Smitten Kitchen a few years ago when in my final year of vet school, and every Friday was 'Cake Friday'. It was such a hit that not only did one of the scarier professors tell me that it reminded him of his visit to NYC, but I also was requested to make it not once but twice more. It really is that delicious!

If you want to see really yummy and fancy looking pictures, or just go straight to the deliciousness that is the recipe, I suggest you head straight-on over to Smitten Kitchen, because hers looks way more professional than mine does. I'll let you know some of my little alterations to her recipe that I've found helpful for life in the UK.

First off - Graham Crackers. They are a distinctly American cracker/biscuit that is kind of sugary and cinnamony and honey-molassassy and amazing (the preferred brand of with is Honey-Maid. Nothing compares!). I will never understand why they aren't a thing here in the UK, but I have yet to find them and most British people don't understand the concept. Sometimes I manage to bring a box or two over with me for special occasions like Thanksgiving, where graham cracker crust on a pumpkin or pecan pie is pretty much necessity, but I don't usually have them on hand. So the nearest thing is digestive biscuits. I like McVitties originals, as they're the most similar things I've come across, and I use about 225g of them, all mushed up.

I also line my pan with baking paper. Partly because I don't have a tall springform pan, and last time I tried making anything with a springform pan the sides came away with the pan. So I use baking or parchment paper. I probably would try to cut it off a bit more evenly at the top, because it can get in the way of the cake puffing up.

Here's the crust all pressed into the pan. Try to really get into the corners and press them well, because otherwise you end up with a giant wedge of crust in every piece, which I find a bit much.

I also use vanilla bean paste (or if I have an actual vanilla bean on hand I use that), because I love the look of the little seeds, and it tastes a bit better in my opinion.

My pan here is a bit too short. You really need a TALL springform pan for this. Like really tall. My cake puffed up at least 4 inches beyond the pan, and as a result cracked a bit. I have yet to make one that doesn't crack. Hence why a topping is sometimes nice to cover up the mess that is the top of the cake. I didn't make one this time mostly out of laziness, but I'm bringing some nice Blackberry jam in with it. I have, however, made SK's cherry topping in the past and it is fantastic.

This is my result. I had to chop off the top as it was burnt, and then popped it back in the oven for another 10 minutes to try and cook the top a bit. I'd gotten pretty good at this when we lived up in Edinburgh, as we had a fairly new oven, and I felt like I could trust the temperature reading (plus the oven actually was able to get hot enough to cook it properly). This was my first time making this recipe in my much older oven in our current house, and, as you can see, it's a bit of a disaster. The oven only went up to 250 C despite needing to be at 300 for the beginning, and it's a bit top-heavy on the heating coils, even with the fan oven on. Usually I put some foil over the top to prevent the top from burning, and tend to have better results, but wasn't really thinking it through this time and didn't really know how this oven would behave anyway. Oh how I can't wait to get back to Edinburgh!

Here's the result once the pan and paper are off. It collapsed a bit in the middle (and every time I look at it as it cools it seems to be sinking a bit further, so it may have been a bit raw in the middle. Hopefully the girls at work will appreciate the cheesecake despite it's somewhat disastrous appearance. It really does taste amazing!

I can't believe my last day of work is tomorrow, but seriously I am so ready for mat leave. This weekend I've started to really feel the discomforts of being so big and whale-like. I think this might mean the baby has dropped, because it feels like I have a cantaloupe sitting in my pelvis. I am imagining that standing up to do surgery for 4 hours tomorrow is going to be really uncomfortable!

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