So if you’re anything like me you’re probably all “oh my god cheesecake” right now, but before we get to the cheesecake I have a little announcement to make: after a heck of a lot of dithering on the subject (will anyone “like” it besides my mum? How many social media outlets do I really need to be on?) I’ve finally gone and created a Facebook page for this blog. You can find it, rather predictably, at www.facebook.com/milliemirepoix.
On the Facebook page there will not only be links to the latest blog posts, but also other little tidbits: recipes, interesting links, what I’m cooking that day. I’m also hoping it’ll be a place where other people share ideas and suggestions, comments and feedback – perfect if you’ve been shy to comment on the blog but have some thoughts to share. It would be really, really awesome if (after reading about cheesecake of course) you, person reading this right now, stop by and say hello. Who knows, I may even do a giveaway at some stage.
So! Now that that’s out of the way: cheesecake. It had been on my mind ever since that lunch with Chef Wan when the conversation somehow turned to the subject and all I could think of for the next week or so was cream cheese and biscuit-crumb bases and different flavour combinations.
That, combined with the birthday of a dear friend (who never requests I make anything except the occasional “Mika, can you make cheesecake? Please?” to which the answer is usually “but I have no cream cheese, how about pie/cookies/cake/etc”) led me to the shop, finally, armed with a shopping list including cream cheese and mascarpone and malt biscuits: all of the good things.
While I usually prefer a plain cheesecake topped with a bit of fruit, this cheesecake wasn’t for me, but for my peanut butter-loving friend. I found a recipe for peanut butter cheesecake on (who else?) Nigella Lawson’s website, and changed it a bit: I used a combination of mascarpone and cream cheese in the filling and left out the sour cream topping which is baked on at the end. Instead of the topping, I drizzled salted caramel sauce and chocolate ganache over the top. And it was over the top. But in the best possible way.
There’s no denying it: this cheesecake is rich. So rich, in fact, that it conquered my sweet tooth – I couldn’t eat more than a tiny sliver at a time, when usually I don’t (can’t?) show any restraint around desserts. But if you like peanut butter, it’s So Good – dense and creamy and almost stickily peanut-buttery, and with the chocolate and caramel topping it’s almost like eating a Snickers bar in cheesecake form.
It’s incredibly easy to make, too – especially if you have a food processor, but even if you don’t, I imagine it would be pretty straightforward. The fiddliest bit is getting the base (which includes ground up chocolate and peanuts as well as the usual malt biscuit) into the cake tin. Nigella says you don’t even need a water bath for this, because it’s meant to be dense, though I suppose you could use one if you felt like it. I didn’t, and the results were spectacular.
PEANUT BUTTER CHEESECAKE
(adapted from this Nigella Lawson recipe)
Preheat oven to 170C.
For the base, you will need:
200g digestive biscuits
50g salted peanuts
100g chocolate (I used part of a block of 72% dark chocolate, broken into bits, but you could use chocolate chips or buttons or anything you prefer)
50g softened butter
Blitz everything in a food processor* until it resembles fine crumbs and clumps together when you grab it. Press evenly into the bottom and sides of a springform tin and refrigerate to firm it up a bit while you clean out the food processor and make the filling.
For the filling, you will need:
250g cream cheese
3 eggs, plus 3 egg yolks
200g caster sugar
125ml sour cream
250g smooth peanut butter
It helps if all of these ingredients are at room temperature before you start: this helps the cream cheese mix in better and avoids troublesome clumps in the end product. If you have enough foresight, take the cream cheese, mascarpone and sour cream out of the fridge a couple hours beforehand.
Again, put everything in a food processor** and blitz until smooth and creamy. Don’t avoid the temptation to eat this mixture with a spoon: it is heavenly; you will fail. Just don’t eat all the mixture before it goes into the tin.
Pour this into the chilled base in the springform tin and bake for about an hour and a bit or until just set (it’s okay if it’s still a tiny bit jiggly). Start checking around 45 minutes depending on your oven strength – mine took just over an hour.
Let cool until the cheesecake reaches room temperature and then chill in the fridge, preferably overnight.
Once it’s ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the cake tin and make the chocolate ganache and salted caramel toppings.
Finely chop 50-60g good-quality dark chocolate. Put in a metal bowl. Bring 1/4 cup cream to the boil. Pour this into the bowl with the chocolate, whisking as you do, until the chocolate is all melted and it’s nice and smooth. Drizzle over the cheesecake using a spoon or fork.
Salted caramel sauce:***
Melt 1/3 cup brown sugar with 1/3 cup cream and 20g (about 1.5 tbsp) butter in a small saucepan over low-ish heat. Turn the heat up, bring to the boil and cook for a few minutes until it starts to get thick and saucy. Mix in a generous pinch of flaky sea salt until it tastes so incredibly sweet-salty-rich that you can hardly stand it. Transfer to a bowl and let it cool until it thickens a bit more (but not so much that you can’t drizzle it – if it gets too gooey as it cools, just pop it in the microwave or on the stove to soften it up). Drizzle over the cheesecake.
Let the toppings set a little before slicing into the cake and serving up to whoever’s lucky enough to be around. The smaller the slice, the better – it’s very rich, and you can always go back for more if your slice was too small.
*if you don’t have a food processor, I would suggest chopping up the peanuts and chocolate as finely as possible, putting the biscuits in a plastic bag and rolling with a rolling pin until they’re all broken up into crumbs, mixing everything together (maybe putting it all in the plastic bag and smashing it up some more), then rubbing the butter into everything so that it more or less sticks together when you smush it into the tin.
**again, if you don’t have a food processor, you’ll be okay – and this part will be easier than the base. All you need is some sort of mixing implement, be it stand mixer, electric hand mixer, a whisk sturdy enough to beat cream cheese, a fork, a wooden spoon, and so on. Beat everything together until it’s nice and smooth and creamy.
***okay, so it’s not a true caramel because you’re not really caramelising the sugar in the way you normally would: slowly, carefully. But it still tastes damn good. For a great post on proper caramel, see David Lebovitz’s one here.