When I say 'elder', I don't mean some sorry old fart or has-been, but someone who has earned the genuine respect of his peers - and his many younger protégés - by spending decades honing his pen, his palate, his knowledge and his exceptional people skills.
'Exceptional people skills' is just another way of saying that Michael Oliver is one of the nicest people I've met in a long time.
I've learned, over the years I've been writing this blog, not to drag whines, whimpers and politics into my posts, but I'm going to make an exception here and say that I'm genuinely outraged that this lovely man has been yanked unwittingly into a nasty blogging and Twitter war that rivals anything I've seen in the roughest school playground.
I'm not going to put dirty paw prints all over my nice clean-sheet of a blog by spelling out the details, but if you want more information [Links redacted. Irrelevant.]
But back to more important things. Namely cheesecake.
I've used buttermilk in this recipe because I think it's a most under-used ingredient, and because I love its taste: cultured buttermilk is tart, with a slight sweetness, and has a nice creamy consistency. And - agree with me please - it has a delightful name.
You can use any seasonal fruit as a topping: this cake is very good with granadilla [passion fruit] or mango. Use the same ratio of fruit pulp to gelatine, as laid out in my recipe, below.
Buttermilk Cheesecake with a Strawberry Topping
For the biscuit crust:
one packet (200 g) Eet-Sum-Mor biscuits, or similar shortbread biscuits
100 g unsalted butter, softened
For the filling:
⅓ cup (80 ml) water
4 tsp (20 ml) powdered gelatine
one 250 g tub of cream cheese
1 cup (250 ml) cultured buttermilk
1 cup (250 ml) caster sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
finely grated zest of a small lemon
1 cup (250 ml) cream
For the topping:
a punnet (about 250g) of fresh strawberries, hulled
2 T (30 ml) water
1 tsp (5 ml) powdered gelatine
lemon juice and caster sugar, to taste
Break up the biscuits and process them to fine crumbs in a food processor (or crush them with a rolling pin). Place in a bowl, add the soft butter, and stir well to combine. Butter the base of a non-stick 24-cm springform cake tin, cover with clingfilm, and butter again. Tuck the edges of the clingfilm under the base, and place it in its ring. Press the biscuit mixture evenly onto the base of the tin and place in the fridge while you make the topping.
Put the water in a little heat-proof bowl and sprinkle the gelatine on top. Set aside for a few minutes to sponge. Place the bowl in a pot of simmering water (the water should come half-way up the sides) and stir occasionally as the gelatine melts. When the liquid is clear, remove the bowl and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Put the cream cheese and half the buttermilk into a large bowl and, using a whisk, beat until quite smooth. Beat in the remaining buttermilk, the caster sugar, the vanilla extract and the lemon zest. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream until thick and soft. Gently fold the cream into the cream cheese/buttermilk mixture. Strain the warm gelatine into the bowl and mix well. Pour the mixture over the crumb crust and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, or until firm.
Now make the topping. Sponge and melt the gelatine and water, as described above. Put the strawberries in a liquidiser, add a few tablespoons of caster sugar (depending on the sweetness of your strawberries) and blitz to a purée. Measure out a cup (250 ml) of this purée and to it add a few drops of lemon juice. Strain the warm gelatine into the purée, stir well and pour it evenly over the top of the cake. Refrigerate until set.
Warm the sides of the tin (as described below) and release the cake. Slide a palette knife between the crust and the clingfilm, turning the cake as you go, and then slide the cake onto a platter. Slice the cake using a knife dipped in hot water.
Makes one 24-cm cake
There are various methods of loosening a gelatine-set dessert from its mould. Professional chefs use a blowtorch, which is briefly flicked over the outside of the tin, but this is a risky business, as a few seconds too long can liquefy the outside of the cheesecake and, besides, it's useless if you're using a plastic jelly mould. A better way is to dip a kitchen cloth in boiling water, and press it to outside of the cold tin for a few seconds. But the best way of all, I've found, is to use a hot pack designed for soothing acheing muscles.
If you don't have a Happy Hugger, here's how to make one yourself. (I keep one of these in my kitchen drawer for the sole purpose of loosening jellies!). Steal a long cotton sock from someone's drawer. Fill it with rice or barley, and tie a firm knot in the open end. Place the sock in a microwave oven for 2-3 minutes, or until very warm to the touch. Press the hot pack around the edges of the tin, for 30 seconds at a time, moving it around the edges as necessary. At the same time, release the spring-form lever (or lift the cake ring) in small increments.
When you cut the cheesecake, use a hot knife (heated over a flame, or in a bowl of boiling water) for slicing. Print Friendly