A kick up the eighties.
There is something about cheesecake that makes it the ultimate comfort food. When you’ve been feeling like the universe is out to get you. When things seem a little bleak. Sitting in front of your favourite film with a huge plate of cheesecake and a fork just takes the edge off. And this strawberry and cream cheesecake is a real doozy. Light as a feather but packed full of flavour. Perfect for over the summer months. I’ve changed and updated the recipe just a little but the original version comes from an old book that is simply called Cheesecakes by Anne Ager. Originally published in 1981 it has a good range of cakes. Baked and unbaked. Sweet and savoury. And sure. Some of the recipes are a little out of fashion now. Especially the savoury ones. I don’t think anybody these days would be tempted by the summer salad cheesecake complete with peppers, cucumber and salami for example. But the sweet cheesecakes all look mouth-wateringly delicious. So if you do chance upon a copy it is well worth a look. And besides. If cheesecake was good enough for the Golden Girls it will do for me.
Back in the eighties the nearest most folk got to a homemade cheesecake was a packet of Greens original cheesecake mix. Each box contained a packet of white powder and a packet of biscuit crumbs. You mixed the biscuit with melted margarine and pressed it into the cake tin. You whisked the powder with milk until it started to thicken. Then you tipped it over the base and stuck the whole thing in the fridge. I was surprised to learn recently that you can still buy those packet mixes from the major supermarkets. It all seems a world away from the fancy recipes we have today. Some of them seem more like works of art. The first cheesecakes I ever made when I started baking were the proper American style baked cheesecakes. I’ve worked my way through all kinds since then from chocolate or banana through to peanut butter or pumpkin pie. So whenever I’m tasked with making a cheesecake recipe that doesn’t fit neatly into the category of baked I always feel like a bit of a charlatan. But when you chance upon a recipe that is this darn good, you can’t a-fraud to miss out.
Setting the record straight.
Baking with gelatin can be a huge hassle. There, I’ve said it. Really. What is the deal? I don’t just mean the unfathomable difference between granulated and leaves. It’s as if the manufacturers can’t even decide for themselves. The size of the leaves seem to change more often than is necessary. They must be down to a quarter the size of what they were in years gone by. There seem to be vegetarian and meat based varieties. The leaves have different gradings of platinum, gold, silver and bronze. They need to be soaked in cold water first to soften before you can use them. Then there are the granules. Some are flavoured and some not. There are varieties that need to be bloomed in warm liquid first. Powders that are designed to be thrown straight into your mix. And it’s all well and good telling us that three leaves are equal to 7g of granules. Or the ratio between the gelatin and the amount of liquid mixture it is able to set. Most recipes just don’t work that way. A recipe will usually just say the amount of leaves or how many teaspoons of granules. If the size or strength has changed that information becomes useless. So if like me you get a bit discombobulated by gelatin, you’ll be glad to know this recipe is built around a simple packet of Hartley’s strawberry jelly cubes. So there’s no need to throw a wobbly.
A tin to bake it in.
The cake tin I used for this recipe was a 23cm spring form tin. I bought mine from the Tesco for about £5. The one thing I will say about spring form tins is that they need to be fairly good quality and sturdy. You are best off trying to find one where the base fits tightly into the groove on the sides of the tin when you clip it together. That way there shouldn’t be any problems with the cake mixture seeping out during your baking sessions. Just to be on the safe side I like to wrap the base in tin foil before fitting it into place. To make the join even more snug. As for this cheesecake. Don’t be too afraid to use different sized tins. I find that 23cm is a nice size. But when needs must I have made the recipe in a slightly larger tin to feed more people. The only thing that changed was the depth of the layers. And because it’s a fridge set cheesecake you don’t need to worry about timings. Just leave it to set overnight and all will be well. This cheesecake might be an oldie but I promise you that it’s berry tasty. The perfect treat for when you just want to chill. Now here’s that recipe… Enjoy.
Creamy Strawberry Cheesecake.
- 300g Digestive Biscuits.
- 120g Unsalted Butter (melted).
- 1 x 135g Packet Strawberry Jelly.
- 200g Cream Cheese.
- 20g Strawberry Syrup (optional but very tasty).
- 2 Eggs Yolks.
- 50g Caster Sugar.
- 2 Egg Whites.
- 50g Caster Sugar.
- 150ml Double Cream.
- 300ml Double Cream.
- 30g Icing Sugar.
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract.
- Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4. Cover the base of a 23cm spring form tin with tinfoil. Do not grease the tin.
- Blitz the biscuits in a food processor. Slowly pour in the melted butter until the mixture just starts to come together. Pour into the prepared tin and spread out to cover the base. Press down to create an even layer.
- Bake in the oven for 20 minutes then set aside to cool completely before making the topping.
- Cut the jelly into small pieces and place in a bowl. Add 150ml boiling water and stir until the jelly has completely dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temperature while you make the rest of the topping.
- In a large bowl and using an electric whisk – whip the double cream just until soft peaks form.
- Add the cream cheese, strawberry syrup, egg yolks and 50g caster sugar. Beat together until smooth and with no streaks. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Slowly add the remaining 50g caster sugar and beat until combined and no grains of sugar remain.
- Add the cooled strawberry jelly to the cream cheese mixture and gently mix everything together using a hand-held balloon whisk until evenly combined and with no streaks.
- Carefully whisk in the egg whites in three batches until fully incorporated and with no streaks.
- Pour the topping onto the cooled biscuit base and smooth the surface.
- Leave to set in the fridge for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
- For the cream topping – whisk together the cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract until the mixture holds soft peaks.
- Drop the cream in fairly small mounds on top of the set cheesecake and gently spread out into an even layer. If you place all the mixture in one big dollop it will sink down into the strawberry layer.
- Place back in the fridge to set for at least 1 hour.
- To serve, run a warm palette knife between the cheesecake and the tin to separate. Carefully remove the sides of the tin. Lift or slide the cheesecake (whole) onto a serving plate.