13 Sep 2010

Cheesecake Nathalie

Serves 8 generous slices
Preparation: 15 mins
Cooking: 40 mins

My first taste of the recipe dates back to 1987, as a student on a week-long linguistic trip to Oxford, while staying with a host family in nearby Cowley. Although that first taste involved the 'delights' of a ready-mix, I was hooked. Ruth, my English tutor, helped me crack the code, and once back in France, I perfected a recipe that still serves its purpose to this day, based around French alternatives, but don't let this lead to scepticism, for my version of the cheesecake certainly has an army of aficionados on both sides of the Channel, with my brother Steph its number one fan!

Why is my cheesecake a winning recipe? Because it combines the caramelised, sugary flavours of Speculoos with the subtle tang of lemon, and is built around a duo of textures that complement each other: the blitzed crunchiness of the biscuits set against the soft melting, yet plump bite of the filling. Also for those of you who are no fans of anything cream cheese and the likes (and this includes yours truly!), this cheesecake simply does the trick.
  • 500g 'Speculoos' biscuits (or plain 'Rich Tea' biscuits or Graham crakers)
  • 25g butter, cut in chunks
  • 50g flour
  • 10g baking powder
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla-flavoured sugar (optional)
  • 2 eggs, with yolks and whites separated
  • 50cl double cream
  • 500g fromage frais
  • 3 small organic lemons (or 2 bigger ones), juiced
Line a sandwich tin (preferably one with a removable base, i.e. a springform cake tin) with greased parchment paper. Break the Speculoos biscuits in halves and blitz them in a food processor to a fine powder. Alternatively, lay a clean kitchen towel on a work surface, break each Speculoos in half, and fold the towel over to cover them; then roll a rolling pin over the towel several times until the biscuits have turned into thin crumbs. Pour the biscuit powder into a mixing bowl and add butter. With your fingers, carefully mix the butter and crumbs together, and then pour the biscuit mix into the tin, making sure you press it down evenly. Reserve in the fridge.

Pre-heat the oven (190°C). Prepare the filling by blending together with a spoon the flour, baking powder, sugar, vanilla-flavoured sugar, 2 beaten egg yolks, double cream and fromage frais. Add the lemon juice and mix again together. Then whisk the 2 egg whites until firm and add them delicately to the preparation, being careful to keep them fluffy and not to dissolve them in the process. Pour the filling onto the biscuit base (that you had reserved in the fridge), and place the tin in the oven. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, check the consistency of the filling with a knife: although it still needs to stick to the knife, it also needs to be set. Besides the cheesecake should present a nice mottled golden colour as per picture.

Remove the cake from the oven, let it cool down completely before placing in the fridge. Serve on the day - or better still the following day - either on its own, or with a fruit coulis: strawberry or raspberry work very well in taste, colour and flavour.

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