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One of my favourite desserts has always been cheesecake. Sweet, tangy, creamy. What’s not to like? But in my family (and I suspect most Aussie families), the cheesecake of choice (other than the ubiquitous frozen Sara Lee variety) to make at home is cold-set. Quicker to make plus no oven equals a cooler kitchen in summer which is when we tended to have them. Baked cheesecake to me has always been a bit hit and miss. Too easy for it to be dry and heavy rather than light like the cold-set versions.

But then I went to New York and had several pieces of divine New York style baked cheesecake (including the class Junior’s) and decided one day I should attempt to make some.  Which led to me putting it on my  foodie challenge list earlier this year. Yesterday was my crit group meeting and it was my turn to bring dessert so I decided to give it a go.  I’d pinned a couple of cheesecake recipes on my pinterest food board which all sound delicious but I decided to go with a classic Martha Stewart one (as I figured it would be well tested).

I did hack the crust as one of my crit group peeps has a wheat intolerance and I wanted an alternative crust. After cruising la internets for a while, I decided to go with a make-it-up-myself nut crust.  Which translated as hazelnut meal, blanched almonds and a few salted cashews. I whizzed up the almonds and cashews in my food processor until they were breadcrumbish (same as you would for cookies/biscuits in a cookier/biscuit crust) and ended up with about a cup in total. I mixed that with about 1/3 cup not firmly packed brown sugar and 80 grams or so of melted butter. I pre-baked it for about 10mins at 375 then let it cool.  I suspect you could also cold set it but the nuts went a nice toasty gold in the oven (watch nuts, they go from toasted right to BURNED in an eyeblink and no one wants burned nuts (minds out of the gutter, people!).

After that it was follow the recipe all the way.  No, wait, I lie, I used half low fat cream cheese and half regular as a sop towards dietary responsibility : )

Ready to cook

My oven is fan forced so I lowered the temp a little but it still only took about an hour and twenty minutes to be just set in the middle (and getting a little too coloured on top…one rack lower next time!) rather than the 1 3/4 hours suggested in the recipe, so it’s a case of watch and know thy oven I guess.

This is what it looked like straight out of the oven:

All cooked


As I said, slight too gold on top but not quite as gold as it actually looks here (late night cell photo, sorry).

I let it cool in the oven out of the water bath for 20 mins with the door open a bit (based on a tip from my sil) and then let it cool a bit longer out of the oven before popping it in the fridge to chill overnight. Technically you’re meant to let it cool most of the way before putting it in the fridge but it was getting late at this stage (note to self, need to bake cheesecakes in the afternoon, not at night). There was a bit of condensation on the plastic wrap in the morning but it didn’t seem to be harmed really. I just changed the wrap.

I headed off to crit group a little nervously (as one is with new recipes) but it came out of the tin nicely.

Ready to slice

And it looked pretty tasty with a bit of passionfruit and cream…

Ready to eat

That’s the first slice where the crust crumbled a little.  It stayed whole for the others. And I’m happy to report that everyone declared it yummy (including me). It would be fine without anything on the side but is a classic enough lightly lemony cheesecake that you could serve it with almost any toppings.  You could also add spices to the crust (ground ginger or cinnamon) depending on what flavour cheesecake you were making.

I’m currently experimenting with how it freezes as I didn’t want to have half a cheesecake sitting in my fridge, so I sliced it up, wrapped each slice in gladwrap and foil per Mr. Google’s suggestions and popped them in the freezer. I’ll try a piece tonight to see how it defrosts.

So there you go, part one of the cooking challenge is a success!

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