Kia ora koutou
So I just realised it has been six months (aka HALF A YEAR) since I last posted something. HOW?? How has this much time gone by without it even feeling like it? That is terrifying. As my (almost) four year old nephew would say, I'm getting oooold.
In the last six months we moved out of our little home in Christchurch, moved back to Auckland, went to India for a month, lost a combined total of 17kg between us (thanks India...), bought a wee house, started a new job, lost a new job, found a new new job, and developed a chutney making habit. All of that has been punctuated with the same old caramel slice and ginger loaf making (Dylan knows what he likes) so nothing new has been made to post about here. Until now...
When I was given my two weeks redundancy notice at my old new job I decided to make the most of its Parnell location and visit a cafe nearby called Winona Forever as frequently as I could. I do believe that it was in fact named after Johnny Depp's Winona forever tattoo on his arm, that aside it has the most incredible cake selection. I brought home one evening a wee cheesecake to share. It was a delicious biscuit base with creamy ricotta filling with candied macadamia nuts and salted caramel all over it. It was outrageous and since then I have been eager to make such a delight.
I finally had the occasion and the courage to attempt such a feat. Having made cheesecake only twice in my life (the first being a total fail and the second being a cheats Nigella recipe) I was rather nervous and pawed over multiple cookbooks for tips, tricks, and ideas. There was a recipe in Julia Busuttil Nishimura's Ostro for a roasted fig and grape ricotta cheesecake and a recipe in Angela Redfern's Ripe Recipes - a fresh batch for a gingernut and rhubarb cheesecake. I kind of wanted both at the same time so I combined the two and wrote my own recipe. In hindsight this was an incredibly risky thing to do for someone who next to no cheesecake experience but I guess when a girl knows what she wants she just has to go out and get it.
I was once told that you had to bake a baked cheesecake in a water bath to prevent it from cracking on the top and if you did crack your cake you were a bad person and a failure. I think this is what gave me this idea that cheesecake was incredibly hard to make. I then thought about it and going to the faff of preventing cracks from forming when you are just going to cover it in all sorts of delicious topping is just a waste of time. Even if you aren't going to put anything on top who cares if there are cracks? It's cheesecake, it's comfort dessert, it's meant to be rustic and homely. I won't let those perfection pursuers put me off making something this damn delicious again!
A food processor and a standing cake mixer really help when it comes to making this. If you have neither then a plastic bag, a sturdy arm, and an electric hand beater will do the trick just fine. Patience is also required. This needs to sit in the fridge overnight for it to be sliceable so it definitely isn't an impulsive craving creation (unless of course you can predict your cravings). The relatively low sugar content within the filling itself really makes the creaminess of the ricotta sing as well as being a great complement to the tartness and sweetness of the rhubarb and caramel.
Rhubarb and Ricotta Baked Cheesecake
Makes one 23cm creation
250g Dutch spiced biscuits (speculoos)
250g cream cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
100g castor sugar
Zest of one lemon
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Salted caramel - recipe here
Sliced almonds and edible flowers to garnish
Line the bottom and a few centimetres up the sides of a 23cm spring form cake tin with baking paper. Crush the biscuits in a food processor to a fine breadcrumb consistency and then whizz through the melted butter until evenly mixed. Press the crumbs firmly into the bottom of the prepared tin. Leave to set in the fridge while you do the next step.
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celsius on bake. In a standing mixer with a whisk attachment whisk together the ricotta and cream cheese until reasonably smooth then whisk in the sugar, cream, flour, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk thoroughly between each addition. Scrape this mixture onto the chilled base and then bake in the oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Brown spots should start to appear and the cheesecake should be just set if wobbled gently. Leave to cool on the bench before leaving in the fridge overnight to fully set.
The next day heat the oven up to 180 degrees. Chop the rhubarb into 2-3cm pieces then toss in the sugar and vanilla then bake in a small dish for 30 minutes until soft. Leave to cool to room temperature before using. If making caramel now would be the time to make it (recipe here).
To assemble, run a sharp knife around the edge of the cheesecake, remove the sides of the cake tin and carefully flip the cake onto your hand to remove the base and baking paper then flip again onto your serving plate. Whip together the cream and ricotta (and a touch of vanilla bean if you fancy) then spread that over the top of the cheesecake. Drizzle over some warm caramel and then top with the rhubarb pieces, flaked almonds and flowers if you fancy. Serve with more caramel on the side.