Friday, 10 October 2008

Goodbye will power...hello cheesecake!

I've been trying to be good. Having made a pie, and thus broken-in the new pie dish and resurrected the idea of Baking Day (because as some of you might have noticed I did an awful lot of baking over the summer, playing fast and loose with the idea of only baking very indulgent things once a month) I decided that it would be best if I laid off the baking for a while and concentrated on trying not to stuff my face too much before the decadence of Christmas rolls around.

Then the fruit lady had blueberries for the very last time and I couldn't resist. I could have just added them righteously to the top of my muesli in the morning, but N doesn't tend to eat breakfast, and since he's the bigger fan of blueberries it would be mean to save all the pleasure for myself.

So I baked him a cheesecake.

The excuse I used for this was that we'd invited friends round for dinner and needed a dessert idea, one that would use up the berries that had been sitting in the fridge while I pondered their fate. Truth is, two of N's most favourite things are cheesecake and blueberries, and when it comes to the last berries of the season, a season that hasn't once included a single non-tofu cheesecake, not using the berries to make one would be a crime.

And you know what? It was worth the wait. I made a blueberry streusel cheesecake from a recipe I'd cut out of the Sainsbury's magazine months ago. It seemed to combine all the perfect elements: the fresh berries of summer, the crumbly goodness of autumn and of course the all-round favourite of cheesecake. The other good thing about it was it didn't require a bain-marie, just to be put in the oven for an hour and then cooled.

The recipe called for full-fat cream cheese, and in a desperate attempt to make it a little less calorific I used half-fat. I was worried this might affect how it set (as I've had problems using low-fat cheese in cream cheese frosting before), so I added a little more cornflour than the recipe called for. However I needn't have been concerned as it set perfectly.

The crumble topping is also what is packed for the base, and during the long cooking time this becomes almost caramalised. I slightly missed the more traditional (or traditional to me at least) base of crushed biscuits, especially as that tends to be less sweet. However, since the thing that ranks alongside cheesecake and blueberries in its sweet gastronomic greatness for N is caramel, the base went down a treat!

I think when I make this again (which I will be doing as N loved it) I shall lessen the sugar in the streusel (and make less of it as despite being generous on the base and topping I had leftover) and probably double the volume of berries as I felt they didn't come through as strongly as I would have liked. I think this might be because they were late season berries, but even so, more wouldn't do any harm. I might even omit the topping altogeter and put more berries there instead of the crumble. Who knows. I think the recipe is quite forgiving, so hopefully I'll be able to play around and alter it, using different fruits and flavours. I can see this becoming my go-to recipe for cheesecake. For now at least.

Blueberry Streusel Cheesecake - Serves 8-10 (or two gluttons and a cat!*)

Adapted from Sainsbury's Magazine

Base and topping:

200g plain flour
150g light soft brown sugar
100g cold unsalted butter
1 or 2 tsp ground cinnamon depending on taste


225g blueberries
2 tbsp caster sugar
grated zest of two lemons, plus some juice
500g low-fat cream cheese
4 tbsp sour cream
125g icing sugar
15g cornflour
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten

Grease and line a 20cm springform tin and preheat the oven to 180C. Place the flour, sugar and cinnamon into a bowl and mix. Then cut in the cold butter, or rub together, until you get a breadcrumb consistancy. Pour half of the mixture into the tin and press down into an even layer. Bake for 10-15mins, until lightly coloured, then remove and cool. Set the remaining streusel aside.

Put the blueberries in a small saucepan with the caster sugar and 1 tbsp of water and some lemon juice. Simmer over a low heat until the berries just soften and the juices turn syrupy. Cool.

Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Then beat in the sour cream, vanilla extract and lemon zest. Sift in the icing sugar and cornflour and combine. Then gently fold in the eggs slowly, using a wooden spoon so as to prevent air bubbles.

Spoon the cooled berries over the base and then pour the cheese mixture over the top, gently evening and smoothing the top. Bake for 30 mintues, then remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining streusel over the top (I didn't use it all as there was rather a lot there). Return for the over for a further 35mins. Then turn off the oven and leave inside to cool. Once completely cool in the oven, refridgerate overnight.

* Not quite true as our friends did get large portions. But it is amazing how quickly baked goods get eaten in this house and I'm not sure I can blame it entirely on the cat as he's skinnier than both of us!

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