It’s quite possible that my love of cheese stemmed from the moment, snuggled under blankets on the sofa, we watched Wallace & Gromit’s A Grand Day Out. Those crackers and the plasticine cheese they cut from the moon’s potholed surface looked entirely delectable from a TV screen. After all, it was “like no cheese [Wallace had] ever tasted…” T-10 seconds until lift off…
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Wallace: “Gromit, that’s it! Cheese! We’ll go somewhere where there’s cheese!”
[Looks at Cheese Holidays magazine, then out window]
“Everybody knows the moon is made of cheese…”As a small child, I would upturn the breakfast table stools and climb into them with a colander on my head, rocketing off into outer space – a dark and velvety night sky surrounding me, speckled with dazzling freckles of glowing light, on a mission to the moon. If I was lucky, I’d have my younger co-pilots joining me with our spaceships pushed up against the window, our warm breathe fogging the glass, peering out at the vast expanding world beyond.
At dinner parties, I’d excitedly ask to try the cheeses laid out on the cheese board at the end of the night. A wrinkle across my 10-year old nose as I took my first taste of Stinking Bishop and a tongue stuck out in disgust after Cornish Yarg. And so for a number of years, until my taste buds ripened, I would spread good ol’ Philadelphia over bagels or slather on cucumber sandwiches cut into triangles (because they tasted better cut that way).
I discovered Nigella’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess in the early noughties and never looked back. Her London Cheesecake recipe plied with dollops of Philadelphia and touched with vanilla and a hint of lemon is the simplest but most tasty of recipes in her almanac. The method of baking it in a bain-marie regulates the baking temperature of the cheesecake for an even, slow bake and prevents overcooking, making it thus by far my favourite cooking method. The steam in the oven also keeps it moist and lessens cracking for that perfect finish.
So, even if I may now officially call myself an adult, I still take myself back to those days of sky-rocketing to the moon and back, stealing nibbles of cheese at dinner parties and discovering new bakes as the years pass by…
For the base
150g digestive biscuits
75g unsalted butter (melted)
For the cheesecake
600g cream cheese
150g caster sugar
3 large eggs
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 tbsp vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
For the topping
145ml sour cream
1 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1. Process the digestive biscuits in an electric food processor and pulse until breadcrumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse again until combined. Press the biscuit into the base of a springform cake tin then place in the fridge to set.
2. Set the oven to 180C / Gas Mark 4 / 350F.
3. Beat the cream cheese until it’s smooth, then add in the sugar. Beat in the eggs and egg yolks, the finally the vanilla and lemon juice.
4. Put the kettle on.
5. Line the outside of the cake tin with a few layers of strong silver foil which will protect the cheesecake from the water, as it is cooked in a water bath.
6. Pour the cream-cheese filling onto the chilled biscuit base and place the tin into a roasting tin with high sides.
7. Pour the boiling water from the kettle into the roasting tin around the cheesecake. It should come up about halfway, but be careful not to overfill as it’ll be hard to lift the cheesecake out of the water once cooked.
8. Put in the oven and cook for about 50mins. It should feel set, but not rigidly so. You need to be confident you can pour the sour cream topping on without it sinking in.
9. Whisk together the sour cream, sugar and vanilla and pour over the cheesecake, then place back in the oven for another 10mins.
10. Take the roasting tin out of the oven and lift the cheesecake out gently. Gingerly remove the springform and stand it on a rack to cool.
11. When it’s cooled, put it in the fridge, removing it 20mins before eating to take off the chill. Serve with hot berry coulis.
Taken from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess