Let’s get this straight, British desserts rock. Italians maybe the past masters at gelato – read my post ‘Decamping the Ice Cream Myth’ – chased only on the commercial edge by the Americans; the French may claim fruit tarts, custard based crèmes and le soufflé; the Portuguese have heavenly custard tarts and Australians the pavlova; but no one else does ‘puddings’ like the British do. Sticky toffee, suet, bread and butter, upside down and not forgetting Christmas’s ‘figgy’, all hearty warming puddings that smothered in custard stick to your soul and offer comfort. I am not sniffy about fruit pies and crumbles, but the inclusion of fruit itself, has an air of health surrounding it that is contrary to what a real pudding should be about. In my ten years and some living overseas, my cooking prowess was significantly raised by the inclusion of English puddings in my supper menus. Oh, the wonder of someone who has not experienced a jam roly-poly before, never mind having a first taste of custard. Many a tin of Bird’s Eye was smuggled in a suitcase under a layer of undies. One Christmas in Haiti, I even went to the trouble to scrape off, render down, strain and refine a mass of suet surrounding a large cow’s kidney, so that I could make a proper festive pudding. It wasn’t a great success, as despite my administrations the pudding still smelt of all things cow.
On my return to the UK, these familiar and common garden desserts didn’t hold the same sway, so it was time to expand my culinary repertoire. In addition, supper party cooking had to planned around a busy work schedule and the feeding of four children with their accompanying assortment of au-pairs. Thus, preparing desserts the night before became essential. Here I found the luscious Nigella, the most sensible of cook book writers, to be the person to read. Her second book ‘Feast’ had many a statement that busy, multi-tasking working mothers wanted to hear – “Regard the glaze as optional: it makes it into more of a dinner party thang, but there is no call to get busy if you’d rather not.” Relief felt all around.
A cheesecake was something I hadn’t tried before. I had eaten them a plenty, especially crafted under American hands, but baked and unbaked they had always seemed to be either too bland or too sickly. Nigella offered a recipe for chocolate cheesecake that sounded more interesting, a worthy combination you would think, apart for one thing, its colour. Cheesecake in my mind’s eye, should be cream coloured and of course this was brown, dark brown, chocolate even. It was then I decided to stick my neck out, and substitute white chocolate, not the Milky Bar kind, but organic Green & Blacks. Cheesecake also seemed to need a bit more variety so I started dribbling on raspberry sauce over the top, after it had just set in the oven, so that the sauce would sink in and create a ripple effect. Extra sauce was also poured over the top just before serving. For any other decoration, Nigella wisely states that, “A few raspberries alongside would be heavenly, but again, not need to bother adding a single thing.” Thank you, Nigella for being the working women’s sort of cook.
White Chocolate and Raspberry Ripple Cheesecake
Preparation Time 90minutes. Will serve 10-12 portions.
For the Base
250 digestive biscuits (gluten free digestives are fine too)
3 tbsp white chocolate drops or cut white chocolate into tiny pieces
For the Filling
175g Green & Blacks White Chocolate chopped into small pieces
500g Philadelphia cream cheese
150g caster sugar
1 tablespoon Birds custard powder
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
150ml sour cream (or just use a 142ml pot)
1 tsp white chocolate powder (Whittards sell one. Dissolve in 1 tablespoon hot water)
For the Raspberry Syrup
Juice from ½ an orange
4 heaped tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp cornflour
NB: M&S has a strawberry or raspberry ice cream syrup which will work just as well.
Process biscuits to make rough crumbs. I find a food processor tends to make the crumbs too fine. I put mine in a paper bag and either go over them with a rolling pin or crush with a meat tenderiser – very satisfying. Add butter and with a fork scrunch it all up until well mixed and it forms damp, clumping mounds. Tip into a 23cm spring form tin. Press crumbs into tin to make even base. Put in freezer whilst making filling.
Place sugar, raspberries and lemon juice in a heavy pan and cook over a medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Stir often as the raspberries start to break down. Mix together cornflour and a spoonful of sauce in small bowl, then stir into the raspberry sauce. Cook for 30-60 seconds, until thickened. Put to cool and set in the fridge until needed.
Preheat oven to gas mark 4/180C. Melt the chocolate either in microwave or a bowl standing in a pan of simmering hot water – ensure that there isn’t too much water to spill over the edge of the bowl. Set aside chocolate to cool a little.
Beat cream cheese until soft. Add sugar and custard/cornflour, beating to combine. Beat in the whole eggs and then the yolks and sour cream. Last add the cocoa dissolved in hot water and the melted chocolate, mix to a smooth batter.
Take spring form pan out of freezer and line the outside of the tin with a good layer of cling film, then cover that with a layer of strong foil. Sit the tin and its coverings in a roasting pan and pour in the cheese cake filling. Fill the roasting pan with boiling water to come about halfway up the cake tin. Bake in the oven for 10 mins. Quickly dribble the fruit sauce over the semi-cooked cheesecake – I have even dropped whole raspberries in at this stage, but return to oven as quickly as possible. Bake for another 35 to 40 mins. The top of the cheesecake should be set but the underneath should still have a wobble.
If in season, do serve with fresh raspberries if you are trying to impress.