Old Style Baked Cheesecake (credit to Nigella)

With one thing and another (actually at least one new crisis every day for two weeks) there hasn’t been much time for cooking and baking. To look at my kitchen, you’d think that I have a flock of laying hens in the garden. About 18 eggs, gratefully received over two weeks ago with the good intentions of having a baking frenzy, and then not baked. Not fried. Not coddled. Nada.

That’s all changed a little today. I didn’t really want to bake, but I forced myself into it. Apart from anything else, the process of cooking is important to my wellbeing. So I did enjoy it, despite my weird ennui.

old style lemon cheesecake

Old Style Baked Cheesecake with grateful credit to Nigella Lawson since it’s her recipe which I reduced because I didn’t have 725g curd cheese. I had 227g. I added some cream cheese (Philly-style) and the total cheese came to 281g. This resulted in some very peculiar quantities, but if you want to read the original, please check out Nigella’s Kitchen (US Nigella Kitchen) page 173.

So that I could see how large (or small) a tin I would need (a 7 inch round loose-bottomed tin), I mixed the topping first, though Nigella logically stipulates the base before the cheese.

Set the oven going at 170 deg C.

The Topping

Take 281g curd and cream cheese, bash it about with a wooden spoon to soften it, and add about 60g vanilla caster sugar. Beat that in, and follow it up with 2 free range egg yolks (save the whites). Beat in about 20g cornflour – yes, sieving it is usually essential, but I didn’t, and there were no icky lumps in the mix. Add in about 3 teaspoons of lemon juice (and at this point I should have added the zest of one lemon, not instructed by the recipe but with 20-20 hindsight), a pinch of salt, and fold in about 100ml softly whipped double cream. Put everything to one side.

Line the tin with foil. (I did so with difficulty. Do not ask how.)

The Base

About 90g self-raising flour (Nigella wisely says plain but I didn’t have any because I keep buying self-raising when really I need plain flour) whizzed in the machine along with 20g vanilla caster sugar, 14 g soft butter (should’ve been about 10g, but I like living dangerously), and 1 whole egg, until everything looks breadcrumby. Then splash some whole milk (I said a splash) and whizz it on a pulse setting till it clings together like dough. Dump it onto the bottom of the foil lined tin, smooth it out (I used wet fingers) and shove it in the oven for around ten minutes.

If you make it with SR flour, it rises. That would be obvious. I just pressed it down with the back of a spoon. It made for a very light base, which was nice.

Whisk the saved egg whites into soft peaks (no prizes for throwing out the original egg whites and having to crack open two new eggs at this point), firmly beat a large dollop of froth into the topping mixture, and fold in the rest.

Fold thoroughly. Just be gentle. Once I was a coward and didn’t incorporate whisked egg whites properly; my cake rose on one side and not at all on the other. Just saying.

Pour the mix onto the base and place in the oven. The original recipe said 1 hour, but that was nearly 3 times the size, so I whipped it out within about 35 minutes, and it was pretty darn perfect. Set and scorched on the top, wibbley-wobbley beneath.

Nigella says the surface may crack, but that makes it more authentic. Presumably because I’d messed around with her recipe, it wasn’t remotely authentic and didn’t crack. It isn’t overly sweet or rich at all because the curd cheese is low fat and I probably underguessed the quantity of sugar. It wasn’t lemony enough by far, so next time I will get that zest in.

And there will be a next time. It’s got a great mouthfeel, firm and unctuous at the same time.