Cheesecake

Delicious on its own with a cup of coffee, this cheesecake also makes a first-rate dessert if topped with soft summer fruit such as raspberries or blueberries. Like quiches, the image of cheesecakes suffers from the abuse exerted on them over many years by large-scale manufacturers. A well-made, authentic version can be a revelation. You will understand their original appeal once you have stripped away the choc-ripple type of additives usually inflicted on them.

Ingredients

For the Pecan Crust

  • 150g (5 oz) digestive biscuits (1 cup graham cracker crumbs)
  • 25g (1 oz/1 tablespoon) pecan nut halves
  • 3 teaspoons caster (granulated) sugar
  • 75g (3 oz/¾ stick) butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

For the Filling

  • 450g (1 lb/2 cups) cream cheese, cubed and softened
  • 120 ml (4fl oz/½ cup) soured cream
  • 175g (6 oz/scant 1 cup) caster (granulated) sugar
  • 3 large (extra-large) eggs
  • the finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthways

For the Topping

  • 350ml (12½ fl oz/ cup) soured cream
  • 1 tablespoon caster (granulated) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

Prepare the crust by grinding the digestives or graham crackers into fine crumbs in a food processor. Finely chop the pecans and add to the crumbs with the sugar. Pour in the melted butter and mix until thoroughly combined.

Heat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Lightly butter a 23 cm (9 in) spring-form tin. Press the pecan mixture in an even layer along the bottom of the tin and about 2.5cm (1 in) up the side. Bake for 10 minutes, then leave to cool.

Set the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Prepare the filling by beating the cream cheese and soured cream until smooth. Gradually beat in the sugar, then the eggs one by one. Beat in the lemon zest and the seeds scraped from the vanilla bean.

Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 45 minutes until firm at the centre. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes.

Raise the oven temperature to 220°C (425°F/Gas 7). Make the topping by mixing together the soured cream, sugar and vanilla extract. Spread evenly over the top of the cheesecake and return to the oven for a further 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

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