Cheesecake is a pretty fabulous dessert but I haven't had a set one (as opposed to a baked one) for years - well, unless you count the supermarket ones, which I occasionally develop an unfathomable craving for, despite their complete lacking of any flavour besides refined sugar and utter unclassiness. But last weekend my sister sent me an email asking if I had a good recipe, which I did, and I realised I needed to dust it off myself (which reminds me, how did your cheesecake turn out, Beth?).
Have I mentioned how much I'm loving strawberries right now? I'm sure you're all completely sick of me rambling on about them so I'll try to avoid mentioning them except when I absolutely have to - but I made a feature of them. And white chocolate. The inclusion of white chocolate meant I had to have some help from Mr Cake, who I have made hide my delicious Callebaut as I just can't stop dipping my hand into the bag for a few little nibbles, which is probably not in my best interests. So wanting to use it means I have to put in a request to get my chocolate back. Does anyone else have to resort to such measures or am I alone in my complete lack of willpower? ;-)
I thought ginger in the base would go nicely with the rich white chocolate, so used some digestive biscuits and some gingernuts - secretly I needed to use up the digestives - but you could use all of either one depending on your preferences. If you don't want ginger in the base add cinnamon instead - you won't really taste it but it will round out the flavour a bit.
To make the base, you first pulverise your biscuits then add melted butter. And then mix it up, press it into the tin you're using, and cover it with chopped strawberries. The strawberries are also optional but without them it will just be "White Chocolate Cheesecake" and I'm warning you, it is crazy rich - the kind of crazy rich that is nicely offset by some fresh berries. ;-) Also, they'll look cool when you hack into it if you do this.
For the filling you have the choice between the richer, fabulous marscapone and the cheaper but workable sour cream. I used marscapone because I'm all about richness and hey, pretty much all my spending money goes very happily into the food budget. If you have other financial priorities you may wish to substitute sour cream. ;-)
I understand both are pretty easy to make and really should get around to trying that out, but as yet I haven't so for now I'm using store-bought.
The cream cheese needs beating into submission before you do anything else - then add the marscapone or sour cream and sweetened condensed milk and combine.
Melt the white chocolate - I really recommend using decent white chocolate, as the flavour comes through (Cadbury Dream actually has a pretty respectable 27% cocoa butter). A minute in the microwave was enough to melt mine - if you don't know the power of your microwave start with 30 seconds, and do it in little bursts thereafter.
And last but not least, that most delightful of substances; gelatine. I used hot tap water to dissolve - that was fine, leave it to sit for a few minutes. I checked it by rubbing some of the liquid between my fingers (ew, slimy) to check there were no undissolved bits. When you pour it in don't worry about any undissolved or gloopy bits - the cheesecake will survive without them and the last thing you want is a rubbery or grainy mouthful.
I imagine agar flakes would also work for this if you prefer vegetarian desserts. ;-)
Mix the melted chocolate into the creamy stuff, and then the gelatine. I added them together and though it worked out okay in the end there was a moment where I thought the chocolate was going to seize and ruin the whole thing, so I'd recommend not doing it my way!
I love the way this looks - the creaminess enveloping and concealing the fruit. Make sure there's a tiny bit of space between the strawberries and the edge of the tin and no-one will know they're there till it gets cut. Sneaky!
Note that I used a 25cm pie dish, not 20cm as the recipe recommends. If you are serving this as a dessert the smaller dish would be better, as it will be easier to cut nice-looking slices and it will be a bit taller, which generally looks better - but if you're after feeding a crowd a flatter, wider version is easier to distribute to the masses. ;-)
I strongly recommend using a pan with a loose base for this, unless you want to spoon it straight into your mouth - it would be quite the challenge to get a slice out otherwise. I used a pie dish, but a springform cake tin would be fine too.
I topped it with a little nest of gingernut crumbs and strawberries. I cut the cake using a tip I spotted on Lifehacker a month or so ago - by cutting a circle (albeit not a very circular circle!) and cutting slices from the outer ring before cutting the smaller circle left in the middle. This is a great way of getting smallish pieces from a round cake - and since this is pretty rich a small piece might just be all you want. I got at least 34 slices (possibly a couple more) out of this cheesecake.
White Chocolate and Strawberry Cheesecake (serves 12)
160g gingernut or digestive biscuit crumbs
1 tsp ginger or cinnamon
80g melted butter
300g cream cheese
200g marscapone or sour cream
150g sweetened condensed milk
3 tsp powdered gelatine
125ml hot water
220g white chocolate
1 punnet of strawberries
Mix biscuit crumbs, butter and spice together and press into a 20cm pie dish. Refrigerate.
Beat cream cheese until fluffy, then add marscapone or sour cream and sweetened condensed milk and beat to combine. Melt chocolate, and beat into mixture. Dissolve gelatine in hot tap water and stir until crystals have dissolved, then mix into filling until just combined.
Halve the strawberries and place over the chilled base, starting in the centre and working outwards. Pour the mixture over the strawberries and chill for 3-4 hours to set. Serve chilled, with extra berries if desired.