Sunday 13 April 2008

Free-form Cherry Cheesecake for the Bloggers Banquet #2

I feel bad about the delay in posting, but this week was once again very hectic at work and then over the last few days I've come down with a wretchedly heavy cold and have been feeling too feverish to write coherently. I'm spending the weekend confined to my bed recuperating, dosed up to the eyeballs on Codral (thank Christ it's still possible to buy the original formula with the good stuff in it, even if it means having to put on a bit of a song and dance for the pharmacist), listening to cheesy old showtunes and munching on baklava and other sweet sweet Middle Eastern pastries my delicious friend O bought in Sydney Road and gave me last night.

Mutemonkey cheesecake

Last Saturday I drove down to Dromana and attended the Bloggers Banquet #2, organised by PG. We each had to bring a dish - at the last Bloggers Banquet I made Coconut and Lime Syrup Muffins (recipe here), but this time I wanted to make my Free-form Cherry Cheesecake, topped with crushed up macadamia brittle.

Macadamia nutsSyrup for brittle

I made the macadamia brittle the night before, using Nigella's recipe.
- 1 cup macadamias
- 3/4 cup (175mL) water
- 1 cup (200gm) caster sugar
Chop up the macadamias into halves or quarters. In pan, place water and sugar on low heat and shake a little until sugar melts. Boil. Let syrup bubble gently until it thickens and goes a light caramel colour (about 10 mins). Add chopped nuts and then quickly turn out onto baking paper, making sure nuts are distributed evenly.

When cold, chop into bite sized pieces or, if you're using it like I was, crush in a blender to serve over a dessert or ice cream.

Macadamia brittle

Next, to make the Free-form Cheesecake. I normally make single quantities and divide it up into six individual little trifle dishes (aka stemmed water glasses). Using a tall spoon to make sure the layers don't smudge is fiddly, but worth it - especially seeing as the rest of the recipe is so easy to prepare. However, for this particular cheesecake I doubled the ingredients below and just made the one big dish.

Ingredients for layers

Free-form Cherry Cheesecake(s)
100-150g amaretti biscuits, crushed (a rolling pin or wine bottle over kitchen paper should do the trick)
250g cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 lemon, zested and juiced
250g mascarpone
400g black cherries in syrup
1 tabsp cornflour dissolved in 1/4 cup water

Beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy, then beat in lemon zest and juice, then beat in mascarpone.

To prepare the fruit, drain the cherries from the syrup and set the cherries aside. In a saucepan, combine the syrup with the cornflour mixture. Place over medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until the liquid thickens considerably. Pour/spoon the mixture into a bowl, stir in cherries, then refrigerate. (Note: because I was making it at the last minute I didn't have a chance to refrigerate it. I also mixed in a portion of stewed rhubarb I had in the fridge, on a whim. Actually, stewed rhubarb in place of cherries makes for a really delicious variant of this recipe - ideally suited to colder weather...)

Cheesecake layerBiscuit layerFruit layerLayers finished

The layering begins! First a layer of cheesecake mixture, then sprinkle a layer of crushed amaretti biscuits, then spoon on a layer of fruit (taking care with each layer to not smudge the sides of the bowl so that the layered effect can be appreciated). Repeat the process, then (optional extra) sprinkle the crushed up Macadamia Brittle over the top - but, if I were to make this again in a bowl, I would leave sprinkling the brittle until just prior to serving, as it sort of melted into the cherry syrup on the drive down to Dromana and didn't look quite as pretty. Either that, or make greater quantities of cheesecake mixture, and add another cheesecake layer between the fruit and brittle.


The finished product! And the best part is, it can be prepared well in advance if you're having a dinner party - no last-minute stress... :)

Well, no last-minute stress unless, like me, you were running late in the first place! I blame my slow start on that Saturday morning on the fact that half of my electronic devices had already gone back an hour for daylight saving but half hadn't, so I didn't know what the hell time it was - hence I was in a bit of a flap by the time I bunged the finished cheesecake in the car and drove through traffic-choked suburbs to pick up Cindy and Michael. We were, ahem, rather late down to Dromana - entirely my fault. Sorry!

Bloggers Banquet spread

Bloggers Banquet spread

Others have already written up the Banquet, far more eloquently than I can in my currently fluey state, so please read all about it here, here, here, here, here and here. We had a jolly fun time but as you can see, were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of food! The cheesecake seemed to go down well - the portion we didn't eat was spooned into tupperware by PG and Vida for leftovers the morning after.

My favourite dishes at the Banquet were:
-PG's fig, blue cheese and caramelised onion tart;
-Cindy's oven-roasted soy bombs (with her equally sensational Chinese style barbeque sauce);
-Agnes' caramelised onion tarlets (that gal makes a mean pastry! Honourable mention to her homemade bagels); and
-Duncan's violet and rose/lemon macarons - even if he DID mock me when, given the success of his salted caramel macarons last November, I eagerly asked upon arrival whether he'd brought macarons again... hey Duncan, at least I don't call them macaroons! ;-)

Duncan's macarons

Many thanks to PG for her gracious hospitality, and to Cindy for giving me a delicious gift of coffee walnut splodges for chauffeuring her and Michael down to the Peninsula!


Cindy said...

Ah, Claire, I'm sorry to see you've been unwell! I hope all's better soon.

Thanks for publishing your decadent cheesecake recipe - I'll put a link to it on my BB post.

And of course, thanks again for the driving. It was not only great to travel in comfort, but to have you to chat to on the way. :-)

Agnes said...

Oh no, you poor gal! Hope you're feeling better. It was lovely to meet you, and your cheesecake was delish!

Anonymous said...

Get healthy! :) Codral rules.

You get brownie points for the macarOn. :)

Ange said...

This look like a fabulous cheesecake & so different to anything else I have seen. I only wish I could have been there to sample all of the goodies on offer though unfort I am a bit more restricted with my time these days thanks to the gorgeous Chloe!

Ange said...

This look like a fabulous cheesecake & so different to anything else I have seen. I only wish I could have been there to sample all of the goodies on offer though unfort I am a bit more restricted with my time these days thanks to the gorgeous Chloe!