I never made cheesecakes until recently.
In fact, I am quite ignorant when it comes to baking and desserts. My loved ones think that is because I can never bring myself to implement a recipe without modifying it and that is why I never got interested in them.
Maybe. It is true that modifying desserts is a lot harder and usually ends up in catastrophe. But recently I discovered that I could just focus on desserts I could modify without much risk.
The first cheesecake is something I saw Nigella Lawson make in her new program called Nigellissima. I tried it the next day and true to form, promptly proceed to modify it.
The recipe is very simple as it is a no-bake cheesecake. This link will give you her version.
You take 250 grams of digestive biscuits, crumble them into a food processor, add some soft butter (i.e. at room temperature) and (in her case) add a table spoon of Nutella.
In my version, I refrained from adding Nutella to the base. Instead I used chocolate coated digestive biscuits. Tastewise, it works out to be the same. I just did not want chocolate hazelnut flavor to be everywhere.
You press this mixture into a springform pan with a removable bottom, like this pan on the left.
Use your hands or a spoon but make sure the mixture is densely packed. It should go up the side for a couple of inches to form a nice crust.
Put the whole thing in the fridge for half an hour or so.
Your cream cheese and Nutella should be at room temperature. Just mix them up. You can use a food processor, I did it by hand.
Nigella uses 60 grams of icing sugar.
The first time I made this, instead of icing sugar, I added a little bit of honey (to taste). The second time, I used Stevia as a sweetener.
Also, for the second effort, instead of Nutella and cream cheese, I used Philadelphia cream cheese with milk chocolate. In Paris, the package identifies the chocolate as originating from Milka, but I understand elsewhere the chocolate could be coming from Cadbury. The advantage of my modification stems from 13.5 % fat content as printed on the package (whereas half of Nutella's calories come from fat, 40% from sugar and it contains palm oil). The disadvantage is that you do not get the hazelnut flavor with my version. I suppose you could add a table spoon of Nutella for hazelnut or use some hazelnut paste.
Just spread the mixture on top of the cold base using a plastic spatula. Nigella tops her with roasted ground hazelnuts. I used roasted ground pistachios. Leave it in the fridge overnight. If you are in a hurry, four hours would be the minimum duration.
This is Nigella's version.
And this is mine.
The original recipe for this was for a regular cake using a springform pan.
I decided that I wanted to use ramekins. They make smaller portions and are easier to serve. Also, the best pumpkin cheesecake I ever ate came in that individual size (that was Charlie Palmer's pumpkin cheesecake as served at Metrazur in New York Grand Central Station, which became an Apple store, sadly).
The starting point is the same, that is, digestive crackers. You need about 300 grams of them. I used plain ones and chocolate covered one. I added 100 grams of soft butter and some pecans to the food processor. I wanted to have a hint of chocolate and pecan in the base but you do not have to add them. Some people use ginger snap crackers or add some ginger into the mix. Another good idea is a touch of cinnamon.
For the filling I used canned pumpkins. They are soft and perfect for this. I added 500 grams of cream cheese, honey to sweeten (no quantity as it is to taste, really, I personally don't like syrupy sweet desserts), cinnamon and nutmeg.
All the recipes I read recommended 4-5 eggs to be whipped and folded into the mixture. If you make this dessert into a large springform, I think you will need to use the eggs as a binding agent. I decided that I did not need them in my ramekins. You should know that after you bake the cheesecake the final product will develop cracks within a few hours. They were negligible in a ramekin but might make a larger cake a lot less presentable. The decision is yours.
After I took out the ramekins I let them cool completely and then filled them up with the pumpkin mixture. I baked them for 60 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 180°C.
As a result of a minor kitchen emergency, I could not take a photo of the baked cheese cakes. I can tell you that there was a nice thin crust on top which began to crack with a few hours. But since I was going to use whipped cream to serve I did not care much.
The only other tip I have is to use cinnamon powder when you whip your cream. I brings a very intense aroma before you take the first bite and complements the dessert nicely.
So, who says you cannot modify dessert recipes.