Okay I admit it. I am completely addicted to this season of MasterChef Australia. I barely paid attention to the show in the past, but this time around I’ve been well and truly sucked in. It’s a great source of inspiration and I also find myself learning quite a bit.
Recently on the show, Donna Hay showed us how to make a classic baked cheesecake. Now I’ve tried a few different cheesecakes in my time, both baked and unbaked, but this one looked more promising than anything I had made before. I am generally not a fan of Donna Hay’s recipes because I find them to be almost too simple; she is a food stylist afterall, not a chef. But a cheesecake is essentially quite simple, and she demonstrated some good tips on the show which I was eager to try out – plus Muffy demanded cheesecake after catching a glimpse of what was happening on the tv.
The original recipe can be found here. I changed it a little because I didn’t want to use ricotta, but essentially it is the same. I substituted the ricotta for mascarpone which is an Italian style triple-cream cheese. It’s probably not as good for you as ricotta, but then that’s kind of the point. You could also use sour cream or creme fraiche instead, it really doesn’t matter too much with cheesecake.
I served it with a simple fruit salad of pineapple, strawberries and kiwi which did a good job of balancing out the richness of the cake. I also made a quick syrup to pour over using tinned passionfruit pulp and sugar, reduced down a bit in a saucepan.
Unfortunately the cheesecake itself didn’t turn out as good as I was hoping. I know the recipe is not the problem though, because I tasted the uncooked mixture and it was pretty amazing. I have suspected for a while now that my oven runs too hot, and after this cheesecake I am more sure than ever. It rose a lot more than I was expecting (at 150C) and cracked on top towards the end of cooking. Those are the typical signs of an oven being too hot, and baked cheesecake is particularly susceptible to cracking.
I will definitely make this again, but in a cooler oven if I decide to bake it. Or I might just take out the eggs, add some gelatin and turn it into an unbaked cheesecake. The mixture is seriously SO GOOD. You could easily halve the recipe for the filling as it makes a very tall cake, but adjust the cooking time accordingly. I really liked the base of this cheesecake as well. So many recipes call for crushed biscuits but this had a much nicer texture and flavour.
- 1/3 cup almond meal
- 3/4 cup plain flour
- 1/4 cup caster sugar
- 90g chilled butter, chopped
- 500g cream cheese
- 250g mascarpone
- 70g sour cream
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/3 cups caster sugar
- 1 Tbsp grated lemon rind (avoid the white pith which is bitter)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- 1 1/2 Tbsp cornflour
- 1 1/2 Tbsp water
Preheat oven to 130-140C .Donna Hay recommends 150C, but there’s no harm in cooking it for slightly longer at a lower temperature and it will probably come out better.
Place the ingredients for the base in a bowl and rub into course crumbs with your fingertips.
Line an 8″ or larger springform pan with baking paper and pour in the crumbs. Spread it out evenly and press down using the back of a large spoon. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly coloured.
To make the filling, blend the cream cheese, ricotta, eggs, sugar, lemon rind, juice and vanilla in a food processor. Mix together the cornflour and water, and add this to the mixture. Blend until smooth. You want to avoid getting excess air into the mixture which causes the cake to rise unevenly and have a bumpy top. For this reason, a benchtop mixer is not a good choice as it incorporates too many air bubbles. I used a stick blender because I don’t have a processor.
Grease the sides of the pan with melted butter and then pour in the filling. Tap to remove any air bubbles or swirl the surface gently with the back of a spoon.
Bake for 1 hour at 130-140C, and then turn the oven off and allow the cake to stand with the door closed for a further hour. Refrigerate for at least an hour, or until cold before serving.