Friday 3 December 2010

Buttermilk Cheesecake with a Fresh Strawberry Topping

This delicate fridge cheesecake is perfect for a light finish to a summer meal, with its creamy, barely-set filling and zingy topping of fresh strawberries. I made this cheesecake a few months ago, and have been itching to share it with you ever since, but I held it back because I created the recipe specially for the fourth issue of South Africa's ground-breaking digital food & wine magazine Crush! Online, which went live yesterday.  Now that the December edition of Crush! has been released into the wild, I feel I can let my little cheesecake out of its cage.

Buttermilk Cheesecake with a Strawberry Topping

I'm very tickled to have been invited by Michael Olivier, editor and owner of Crush!, to contribute five of my original recipes to his regular 'Which Wine? Which Food?' feature. Michael - whom I first met less than a year ago, at the first South African Food Blogger's Conference - is an esteemed and well-loved elder of  the Cape's buzzing food and wine community.

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.

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.

 [Postscript: Try using fresh maas in this recipe!]

Buttermilk Cheesecake with a Strawberry Topping
Use a knife dipped in boiling water to cut perfect slices of this cheesecake.

A challenge with an unbaked cheesecake like this one is getting it out of the tin in one beautiful piece. My method is to line the base of the pan with clingfilm, which allows you easily to loosen the crust. Use a microwaveable hot-pack, or a cloth dipped in boiling water, to warm the sides of the tin before you unmould it (see Cook's Notes, below).

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 Fresh Strawberry Topping

For the biscuit crust:
one packet (200 g) Eet-Sum-Mor biscuits, or similar shortbread biscuits
80 g (80 ml) unsalted butter, softened or melted

For the filling:
⅓ cup (80 ml) water
4 tsp (20 ml) powdered gelatine
one x 250 g tub of cream cheese
1 cup (250 ml) cultured buttermilk or maas [amasi]
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 Tbsp (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 or melted 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. Alternatively, you can melt the gelatine, in its bowl, in your microwave, but be sure to do this in 7-9 second bursts, on high.  Don't allow the gelatine to boil, or its setting properties may be affected.

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, until you have a smooth mixture. Strain the warm gelatine into the bowl and mix well.  In a separate bowl, whisk the cream until it has formed thick, soft peaks.  Gently fold the cream into the cream cheese/buttermilk mixture. 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

Cook's Notes

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.
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Adele said...

Thank goodness I don't do Twitter, all this drama is too much for me. However, this beautiful buttermilk cheesecake looks like a winner. Cheers!

PinkPolkaDot said...

This sounds really yummy and looks quite easy to make! I just love the colour - it is soooooo festive!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this recipe,have been looking for a 'light' cheese cake recipe that doesn't use a 'gazillion ' tubs of cottage cheese for a while

Gaby866 said...

Hi Jane.. do you think it would work if one includes pieces of strawberries in the cheesecake mix?? or even liquidize a bunch of strawberries to make the cheesecake pink ??:)