I’m a little embarrassed to say this, particularly on a blog devoted to everything sweet, but for a long, long time, I didn’t really care for cheesecakes. It’s not like I hated them, they just weren’t on my radar. I never chose to eat them and I certainly never chose to bake them.
Then something happened that changed my life forever. My boyfriend suggested that I bake a cheesecake for a dinner party we were throwing and begrudgingly I agreed. I chose a recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess because hey, it looked easy enough and who doesn’t love a bit of Nigella? I threw the cheesecake together, ignorant of the fact that I was soon to be a changed woman.
Have any of you had the pleasure of making/eating this cheesecake? You’ll know what I’m talking about. Baked in a water bath, it was silky smooth and creamy. The rich sweetness is kept in check by a layer of sour cream poured over the top towards the end of baking. The base, simply made from digestive biscuits and melted butter, is a goddamn savoury revelation. I ate so much of that cake, confident in the fact that my life as I knew it was over. I was in love with a cheesecake.
Since then, I’ve baked many cheesecakes in an attempt to emulate the perfection of Nigella’s recipe. They’ve been good, sure, but not knock-me-out-of-my-chair good. Until now. I happened to have some left-over goat’s cheese and mascarpone in the fridge, and does that not just scream cheesecake to you? The goat’s cheese does not overwhelm, but makes its presence known in a pleasing way, perfectly complimented by the spiciness of the gingersnap crust. The poached strawberries are a great tart accompaniment, but feel free to use whatever fruit you have on hand. I initially envisaged this recipe with apricots, if only they were in season! I still believe that combination would be heavenly.
This is a long recipe but don’t let that fool you as it’s unbelievably easy. Both the base and filling are one bowl recipes and the poached strawberries only take five minutes! I made my own gingersnap cookies for the base and included the recipe, but store bought would work just as well.
Goat Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust and Poached Strawberries
Adapted from The Craft of Baking by Karen Demasco
240g/1 1/2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
165g/3/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar
125g/4 1/2 oz./1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
70g/3 tbsp. treacle
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
20g/1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, treacle, vanilla and ginger and beat until combined.
With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.
Roll the dough into balls about 2cm/1/4″ in diameter. Evenly space them out, with room to spread, on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until biscuits are a deep golden brown. Let cool on the baking trays for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Adapted from The Craft of Baking by Karen Demasco
210g/2 cups gingersnap crumbs, from the recipe above or store bought.
75g/1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. firmly packed brown sugar
15g/1 1/4 tbsp. plain (all-purpose) flour
3/4 tsp. salt
70g butter, melted
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease and line the base of a 25cm/10″ springform cake tin with baking paper.
Whisk together the gingersnap crumbs, sugar, flour and salt. Add the butter and mix until combined. Press some of the mixture with your fingers. If it doesn’t hold together, add some cold water, a tsp. at a time, until it does.
Press the mixture into the base of the prepared cake tin, using your hands or the back of a spoon to make sure it is firmly packed and level.
Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes before baking for 15 minutes until the base is set.
1 x 250g punnet/9 oz. strawberries
125ml/1/2 cup water
70g/1/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar
Half a vanilla pod, split
3 or 4 slices of fresh ginger
Cut the tops of the strawberries and cut them into quarters (if the berries are small) or eight pieces (if large).
Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the strawberries, ginger and vanilla, and simmer until the berries are just starting to lose their shape.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the berries from the poaching liquid and set aside until needed.
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
600g/21 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
300g/10 1/2 oz. soft goat’s cheese, at room temperature
60g/2 oz. mascarpone, at room temperature
95g/3 oz. unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g/1/2 cup caster (superfine) sugar
40g/1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat all the ingredients together until combined and smooth. Be careful not to over-beat, as the excess air incorporated can cause the cheesecake to crack as it bakes.
Pour onto the base and smooth the top. Bake until the edges are set but there is still a wobble in the center. Turn the oven off, open the door fully and let the cheesecake slowly cool in the oven for an hour before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely (2-4 hours). Slowly cooling the cheesecake in this way will help to prevent the cheesecake cracking.
Top with the poached strawberries, pistachios and a drizzle of honey. I had some leftover gingersnap cookies that I crushed up and added for a bit of a textural element. Enjoy!