christmas week 2015 - caramel macadamia cheesecake
Food goes in and out of fashion and trifle is super-hot at the moment. This year every food magazine to which I subscribe has produced a Christmas trifle feature. I didn't want to look as though I was following the trend so there's a trifle embargo on the blog. Secondly although I love trifle, it’s always seemed more of an assemblage than cooking to me. I buy the little Swiss roll sponges from the shop rather than making them from scratch; the port wine jelly comes from a pack and the custard isn’t an anglaise stirred for hours, it’s made from a packet custard mix! So instead of my trifle ‘recipe’, I thought I’d share this recipe for an Ottolenghi inspired Caramel Macadamia Cheesecake.
I’ve made this cheesecake a few times for my work Christmas lunch and it’s very popular. I photographed it for the blog a few years back but I didn’t include the recipe at the time. The cheesecake recipe is my own but the caramel sauce and macadamia topping are straight from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook.
I use 2 types of cheese in my recipe, dry cottage or farm cheese and cream cheese but you can just use cream cheese if you prefer. The cheesecake is best made the day ahead and as these days you can find salted caramel sauce in the supermarket and candied macadamia nuts as well, if all that sugar work seems too draining by all means take some short cuts. If you think all that caramel and toffee would be too sweet I think the cheesecake would go really well topped with the raspberry compote featured here.
This recipe makes a 16 cm cake but if you’d like to make a 23 cm cake, just double all the ingredients and bake for the same length of time. I didn't reduce the quantity of candied macadamias as they're so tasty you'll eat half of them while you're decorating the cake. You may have a bit of left over caramel sauce which you can serve with the cheesecake.
For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.
Caramel and Macadamia Cheesecake
For the base
55g unsalted butter
¼ cup caster sugar
½ cup plain flour
½ tsp vanilla extract
For the cheesecake
250 g cream cheese
125 g cottage or farm style cheese
⅓ cup - ½ cup (80 - 110g) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 egg yolk
2 tbs cream/yoghurt
Icing sugar for dusting
For the nut topping
150g macadamia nuts
90g caster sugar
1 tbl water
For the caramel sauce
40g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
75 ml cream
Pinch sea salt flakes
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly grease a 16cm spring-form cake tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment.
To make the base, whiz all the ingredients in a food processor to form soft dough. Transfer the dough to the lined tin and flatten with the back of a tablespoon to create a level base. Bake the base in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until just lightly coloured. Cool on a wire rack while making the cheesecake filling. Reduce the temperature to 170°C/325°F.
To make the cheesecake, wipe out the food processor and place the cream and cottage cheese, the ⅓ cup sugar, vanilla and egg into the bowl. Process until the mixture is smooth. Test for sweetness and if the farm cheese is bitter, you may need to add a little more sugar. Remember you'll be adding caramel sauce and candied nuts later on, so don't go overboard. If the mixture looks a little too thick you can add an extra tablespoon or so of cream or yoghurt. Pour the cheesecake mixture over the base and return to the oven. Bake for 45 minutes or until the cheesecake is just set. Leave in the switched off oven for a further 15 minutes then cool at room temperature before removing the side of the tin. Refrigerate the cake for a few hours or overnight.
To prepare the nut topping, scatter the nuts over a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 180° for about 8-10 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan. Cook gently until the toffee turns a golden-brown caramel. Do not stir it at any stage. Carefully add the toasted nuts and mix gently with a wooden spoon. When most of the nuts are coated in caramel, pour them on to the lined tray and leave to set. Break bits off and chop them very roughly with a large knife. It’s nice to leave some of the nuts just halved or even whole.
To make the sauce, put the butter and sugar in a thick-bottomed saucepan and stir constantly over a medium heat with a wooden spoon until it becomes a smooth, dark caramel. The butter and sugar will look as if they have split. Don’t worry; just keep on stirring. Once the desired colour is reached, carefully add the cream while stirring vigorously. It will spit so stand back while stirring. Remove from the heat, add a pinch of salt and leave to cool.
To finish the cake, dust the edges and sides with plenty of icing sugar. Spoon the sauce in the centre, allowing it to spill over a little. If the sauce thickens too much as it cools, warm for about 30 seconds in the microwave before spooning over the cheesecake. Scatter lots of caramelised nuts on top then sprinkle with a little more icing sugar.
The cheesecake will keep in the fridge for 3 days, just bring the cake to room temperature first and sprinkle a little more icing sugar over the top before serving.
The cheesecake in all her glory.
See you all I'll tomorrow with my final Christmas week post.