Saturday, December 17, 2016

New York, New York - cheesecake, that is

My son had a birthday recently, and he asked me to make his favourite dessert - a plain baked New York cheesecake. The recipe was given to me by the remarkable Augusta Ford, who was on the staff of the teachers' college where my first husband was enrolled. Her husband Bob (who was director John Ford's nephew) was a lifelong socialist and had fought in the Spanish Civil War. As I explained in The Colour of Food (which has a slightly different version of this recipe):
The couple had moved to New Zealand from California in the 1950s to escape McCarthyism. Bob did all the cooking, and Augusta dealt with the cleaning by ignoring it. They were immensely kind and generous; at their spartan book-lined house in Glendowie we stowed our sleepy children in the spare room and sat long into the night over giant T-bone steaks, steadily refilled glasses of Spanish red wine, and bottomless pots of ferociously strong coffee.
Augusta didn't just give me very good recipes - she changed my life by giving me Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, which had just come out as a Penguin paperback. Friedan’s brilliant phrase, “The problem that has no name”, exactly defined how I was feeling about my life at that time.

      The only slightly tricky things about making this cheesecake are getting the base properly formed so it can hold the filling - and getting the right biscuits. In New York this was made from zwieback. In NZ the Fords used Biscottes, which don't exist now.  I used to make it with plain digestives, but when I went to buy them last week, the supermarket's entire range of digestives was covered in chocolate. So instead I used a new Huntley and Palmer oat biscuit, with cranberries, coconut and honey, that's meant to be served with cheese. It worked very well indeed.

Augusta Ford's New York cheesecake

Crust (to be made at least an hour before filling and baking)
2 packets Huntley and Palmer Oat Bran 
1/4 cup white sugar
120g soft butter

Turn biscuits into coarse crumbs by putting them into a plastic bag and crushing thoroughly with a rolling pin, or whizzing in a food processor. Pick out any larger pieces. Put  crumbs in a large bowl  and mix in sugar.
- Use a spoon to work in soft butter.
- Lightly butter the base and sides of a deep, loose-bottomed round cake tin. Cut a round of baking paper to fit the base.
- Press crumb mixture carefully over the lined base and buttered sides to form a case of even thickness and height. (It won't come right to the top of the tin.) 
- Put tin in refrigerator to harden for an hour.

250g plain cottage cheese
250g cream cheese (Philadelphia works best - but get the original, not light, spreadable or flavoured)
2 size 7 eggs
1 c white sugar (I tend to use a little less)
2 Tbsps cornflour
pinch of salt
250g sour cream (not light)
200ml standard milk (not trim - or you can use 150ml trim milk mixed with 50ml cream)
1 tsp natural vanilla essence
cream to serve

- Place oven shelf a little below middle of oven. Heat oven to 180°C (or 160-170 fan forced). 
- In a large bowl, beat cottage cheese and cream cheese together. Lightly beat first egg and add it to cheeses. Beat second egg and add it.
- In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, cornflour and salt. Stir thoroughly into cheese and egg mixture.
- Stir in sour cream, milk (or milk-cream mix) and vanilla.

- Stand tin with case on oven slide. Pour loose batter carefully into case, until it comes as close as safely possible to the top edge of the case - or, if the edge is a bit uneven, to just below its lowest bit. 

- Bake for 1 hour, until filling is set. Turn oven off and leave cheesecake in it to cool for 1 hour.
- Take cheesecake out of oven and leave to cool to room temperature.
- Run a long thin sharp knife carefully around the cheesecake between the crust and the tin. 
- Remove ring of cake tin by standing base on an upside-down bowl a little smaller than the tin, undoing the ring and sliding it down from the base. 
- If you are feeling brave, gently slide entire cheesecake, with baking paper still on the bottom, off the tin base and onto a serving plate. If not, leave it on the base, but place a paper napkin or piece of paper towel on the serving plate before you put the cake on it (so that it won't slide).
- For serving next day, store cheesecake in its tin, loosely covered with a plastic bag, in refrigerator overnight. Remove in time to let it come close to room temperature.
- Serve in moderate slices (it is very rich) with a little softly whipped cream, nothing else.

As you can see, mine cracked a bit - I probably baked it slightly too long. But it didn't matter, Jonathan and his friends loved it, and so did I. It was perhaps even better the next day....


Eve Law said...

What size tim did you use Anne?

AnneE said...

It's 23 cm across and 8 cm deep.