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.

Cheesed off with Lemon Curd

lemon curd 003Check out the Pennine Way Preserves Lemon Cheese. If you can get past the terrible label (who chooses a gothic-style font for jam?) the ingredients swear that there’s nothing but butter, sugar, eggs and lemon juice in that jar. That’s a lot of butter for 340g lemon curd (at £1.99).

The lid is a nice touch; an attractive yellow that sets off the product, but neither it or the great ingredients make up for the disappointing flavour. The lemon is an afterthought, its acid muted in rich butter and sugar.

Not to be outdone, I took advantage of the fact it was made out of real ingredients* in the first place, tipped it into a saucepan and added the zest and juice of one lemon. I boiled it, stirring, for about 10 minutes, then let it cool, and poured it back into the now clean jar. Sterilising the jar seemed pointless because it won’t have time to go mouldy.

So: Pennine Way Preserves. Kudos for using lovely ingredients, but please can we have more lemon?


*those lemon curds with locust bean gum, carranuba wax and other weirdnesses might not behave the way I expect when I boil it. I’m thinking a napalm-like attack when the curd realises the end is nigh.

Lemon Thing

I always thought ‘Chocolate Surprise’ would have been a great name for this pudding – the surprise being that it is lemon. I liked the idea that the person making it for the first time, despite adding nothing vaguely related to chocolate, might on one level expect it to turn into chocolate in the oven.

But to be loyal to my mum, its real name is Lemon Thing; and I could eat a whole one, no matter what size.

Take 20z butter and 4oz sugar and cream together till light and fluffy.
Add 2 egg yolks to the mix and reserve the whites in a dish.
Mix vigorously, as you pour half a pint of milk into the mixture and stir in the zest and juice of 1 lemon. The pale yellow mix will curdle a little.
Fold in 2oz self-raising flour and pour in another half pint of milk and the zest and juice of 1 more lemon.
Whisk the 2 egg whites until you get a lot of foam and fold into the mixture.

You want a preheated oven at 180 deg C.

Pour the mixture into a baking dish and bring it back out 1 hour later with a spongey top and a precarious wobble. At it’s best, you get a lemon custard sauce under the cake; at worst the custard gets a little more eggy, but nonetheless, delectable.