Monday, 19 January 2015

Baked Lemon Cheesecake

If you love lemons, you HAVE to make this cheesecake. I know that I seem to say this every time I post a lemon recipe… but really words cannot describe how delicious this particular cheesecake is!
 
The cheesecake consists of a biscuit crumb base, topped with a surprisingly light cheesecake filling and then a candied lemon layer finishing it off. The cheesecake is baked rather than set with gelatine (or other setting agent) but it tastes so fresh and whilst rich, is not heavy or dense – you’d almost be fooled into thinking that it was one of the set varieties.
 
I was bemoaning how miserable January can be – and believe me last week really felt like the most tedious of weeks where everything was such an ordeal - but when faced with a dessert like this, you cannot help but feel positive, hopeful and optimistic. This is what I love about citrus fruits… they tend to be at their best (in this part of the world anyway) when the weather is its coldest and most bleak.
 
The great thing about lemons in particular, is that they cut through the richness of the dishes in which they are used and, in something like this cheesecake, which really focuses on the lemon flavour, they impart a zingy quality which makes them seem ‘lighter’ to eat. Having said this, a LOT of cream cheese and sugar is included, but this is allowable every now-and-again as a treat.
 
Whilst the cheesecake would be lovely on its own, without the candied lemon topping, I really think that it emphasises and celebrates the flavour of the lemon and looks so beautiful glistening on top of the cheesecake. The key to making the topping is to slice the lemons into thin slices using a sharp knife. If preferred, you could place fresh raspberries or strawberries on top instead… but I urge you to try the candied topping because it is seriously delicious!
 
This is a very straightforward recipe and success is easy to achieve, so do have a go at making it. You could use other citrus fruits, but for me, nothing beats lemons!
 

Ingredients:

Base:
200g digestive biscuits
75g butter, melted
Filling:
600g cream cheese (full-fat)
250g caster sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
150g yoghurt (I used Glenisk Natural Yoghurt)
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
50g plain flour, sieved
Topping:
2 lemons, thinly sliced
125g caster sugar
125ml water
 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 120C/Fan Oven 100C/Gas Mark ¼. Grease the base and sides of a 20cm round springform tin with butter and line the base with a circle of non-stick baking parchment. Set aside.
Base:
2. Place the biscuits into a freezer bag and bash into crumbs using a rolling pin (you can also use a food processor to do this). Place the biscuit crumbs into a small mixing bowl and pour on the melted butter. Mix with a wooden spoon so that all the crumbs are coated in butter and then press into the bottom of the prepared tin, levelling the surface with the back of a metal spoon. Place in the fridge to harden up while you make the filling.
Filling:
3. Place the cream cheese and caster sugar into a medium sized mixing bowl and beat together using a hand-held electric mixer. Once incorporated, add the eggs, mixing them in thoroughly, but avoid over-mixing as this can cause the cheesecake to crack when it is baked.
4. Add the yoghurt, lemon zest and juice and mix these in and finally add the flour, making sure that it is also fully incorporated.
5. Pour the mixture on top of the chilled base and gently shake the tin from side-to-side to even it out. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. It should still seem wobbly in the centre. Leave in the switched off oven for another hour and then remove and allow to cool completely. Chill until ready to serve.
Topping:
6. Place the lemon slices in a small saucepan and barely cover them with boiling water. Allow to bubble for 1 minute and then drain and plunge the lemon slices into cold water to refresh.
7. Place the caster sugar and 125ml water into a small saucepan, place over a moderate heat, let the sugar dissolve and bring to the boil. Reduce heat so that the syrup is just gently simmering.
8. Drain the lemon slices and place into the syrup. All to simmer for 30 minutes and then allow to cool in the syrup.
To serve:
9. Arrange the cooled candied lemon slices on top of the chilled cheesecake and serve cut into slices.
 
Serves 10-12.