Saturday, 31 January 2015

A little bit of Nigella for Australia Day

Chocolate Baked Cheesecake

Gosh  it's been a long time since I blogged. I assure you I have been cooking quite a bit, but just haven't had the time to blog about it! 2014 rolled on with work, study (almost finished my final year), buying and selling (and shifting) houses, and a bad bout of depression. Now that that is mostly out of the way  and there's no study until March, I thought it was time to share an update and a recipe.
We have bought a home at Warrandyte and moved just prior to Christmas. Warrandyte is like a country village but only 15 minutes further from the city than Doncaster was (and the same distance to my workplace). We really are in the bush and while this means we have to be mindful of bushfire risk,  it is just so beautiful and peaceful, alive with wildlife, and friendly and relaxed. It's like being on holidays all the time!

My son James hand-feeding Barry the King Parrot
Moving day saw our new next door neighbours bring us home made scones fresh from the oven, complete with tubs of home made jam and fresh whipped cream. It was about 3pm and we hadn't had time for any lunch so it couldn't have been a better thing for them to do. Food is a great way to say "Welcome". They had somewhat underestimated our penchant for  consuming scones though (scone eating being a Higgs family tradition) and they disappeared very quickly. These same neighbours have since had us over for home made pizzas from their backyard pizza oven, and these were divine. Sharing food and drinks is such a good way to get to know people. I took a batch of my special choc chip cookies I've been making for years and these were a hit with the kids and adults alike. We have had a few friends and family round for meals on our deck already, but must return the neighbourly favour. Also on moving day the removal truck got stuck in our very steep driveway and could not get out. After an hour of struggling with makeshift tow ropes, neighbours over the road took pity and came over and towed them out. Yes it is very friendly around here.

Our home among the trees
So on to Australia Day (January 26th) and of course we had the good old Aussie BBQ. For dessert on Australia Day, pavlova is always a favourite being an Australian icon, but I wanted to try something new. I've made a couple of cheesecakes lately (as I often do) and the kids haven't liked them as they have had fruit and so forth in them.  I have beautiful recipes for choc-orange and chocolate and raisin, but they wanted plain chocolate. I prefer to make baked cheesecake for special occasions, so I searched and found a recipe for baked chocolate cheesecake from Nigella Lawson. I chose Nigella's as I have never had anything of hers fail me. It was a bit of a fiddly recipe, cooking the cheesecake in a water bath, which I have not done before. But the result was a superbly textured light cheesecake, not terribly sweet. Nigella recommends you can eat it without anything if you choose, but I added her glaze, some berries and some clotted cream. It didn't really need the cream given the texture and lack of sweetness. For me, it probably wasn't sweet enough. I would be inclined to add a sweeter sauce, or a bit more sugar. But it is nonetheless a beautiful dessert, and depends on your taste. Our guests loved it.

Oh, and you have 3 left over egg whites with this recipe, so you could still make that pavlova after all!

I was a little sceptical about the use of McVitie's 'digestive' biscuits in a base of a baked cheesecake, but it was actually quite a nice crisp base. My favourite baked bases are shortbread style. If I made it again I might experiment with a baked chocolate shortbread base. What is a digestive biscuit anyway? I know my late mother-in-law always ate them (she was Irish). Similar to a wheatmeal biscuit, digestives originated in Scotland and were said to aid digestion. They are easy to crumble and you don't require a food processor. I have also used the chocolate topped McVities "Hob Nobs" in a variety of slices in the past.

For the base

·      125 grams digestive biscuits

·      60 grams butter

·      1 tablespoon cocoa powder

For the filling

·      175 grams dark chocolate (chopped small)

·      500 grams cream cheese

·      150 grams caster sugar

·      1 tablespoon custard powder

·      3 large eggs

·      3 large egg yolks

·      150 ml sour cream (or just use a 142ml pot)

·      ½ teaspoon cocoa powder (dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water)

For the glaze (optional)

·      75 grams dark chocolate (finely chopped)

·      125 ml double cream

·      1 teaspoon golden syrup

Ingredients, including McVitie's Digestive Biscuits.


1.   To make the base, process the biscuits to make rough crumbs and then add the butter and cocoa.

2.   Process again until it makes damp, clumping crumbs and then tip them into a 23cm / 9 inch spring-form tin. Press the biscuit crumbs into the bottom of the tin to make an even base and put into the freezer while you make the filling.

3.   Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180ºC/350ºF. Put a kettle on to boil (a big one!). Melt the chocolate either in a microwave or double boiler, and set aside to cool slightly.

4.   Beat the cream cheese to soften it, and then add the sugar and custard powder, beating again to combine. Beat in the whole eggs and then the yolks, and the sour cream. Finally add the cocoa dissolved in hot water and the melted chocolate, and mix to a smooth batter.

5.   Take the spring-form tin out of the freezer and line the outside of the tin with a good layer of cling-film, and then another layer of strong foil over that. This will protect it from the water bath.

6.   Sit the spring-form tin in a roasting pan and pour in the cheesecake filling. Fill the roasting pan with just-boiled water to come about halfway up the cake tin, and bake in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. The top of the cheesecake should be set, but the underneath should still have a wobble to it.
7.   Peel away the foil and cling-film wrapping and sit the cheesecake in its tin on a rack to cool. Put in the fridge once it's no longer hot, and leave to set, covered with cling-film, overnight. Let it lose its chill before un-springing the cheesecake to serve.
8.   To make the chocolate glaze, very gently melt the chopped chocolate, cream and syrup. When the chocolate has nearly melted, take off the heat and whisk it to a smooth sauce. Let it cool a little, and then Jackson Pollock it over the chocolate cheesecake on its serving plate. Use the remaining glaze as an accompanying sauce.
Enjoy if you make this one! And I promise it won't be such a long break until my next blog!

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