Oh, I made such a big mistake when I was on leave. I went to Toorak to visit the Xocoalatl store, and on the way back I found the Prahran Market, which turns out to be a Catherine trap of the most diabolical kind. Worst of all, within the Prahran Market lurks The Essential Ingredient, possibly the most dangerous shop of all time for a Catherine, since it contains both fancy ingredients and a large collection of cookbooks.
Nothing good could come of this, and nothing did, at least as far as my finances were concerned. I escaped with three cookbooks, rose harissa, fancy chocolate-coated pectin jellies from France, a large bag of top-quality cocoa, packets of strawberry gum and finger lime powders, a box each of candied mint leaves and violets, and a packet of candied Yuzu. (For those who are not familiar with Yuzu, it is an Asian citrus fruit with a strongly perfumed aroma and taste – somewhere between mandarin and orange and lemon but with a floral personality to it. It’s lovely and super trendy at present.) And that was just the Essential Ingredient shop. We will not speak of the pie shop, the fresh pasta shop, the bakeries, and most certainly not the Turkish Delight shop, which has the motto ‘You don’t need teeth for Turkish Delight’ prominently displayed above its wares.
Anyway. One of the cookbooks was called Konditor and Cook, by ?, and it was reduced from $50 to $15 and was full of the most fascinating baking recipes I have seen in some time. (It also, however, contains a scone recipe that uses eggs as an ingredient, so I cannot recommend it completely without reservations. A man who would put eggs in scones is capable of anything, I fear.). One of these was a beautiful looking raspberry and ricotta cheesecake with lemon thyme, and I was determined to make it at once.
Alas, my local market and supermarket were both completely out of raspberries and nobody had any lemon thyme. But blackberries were out in force, and I always have culinary lavender, and both these flavours are delicious with orange. How could they fail to be even more delicious with Yuzu?
(It is rather on-brand of me to decide I want to try a recipe from a new cookbook and change all the key flavour ingredients, don’t you think? I’m not sure why this is my brand, but I don’t think I can pretend it’s out of character, either…)
The results were very good, if rather more subtle in flavour than my usual style. The lavender in the crust was just right, but was almost the dominant flavour – the Yuzu was sort of more a dream than a flavour – you knew there was something magical going on with the ricotta, but it was hard to pin down. I think I’d use a little more later. The blackberries were nicely sharp, but I felt that more sharpness would have been even better – serving the cheesecake with berries was a good balance.
Your shopping list
- 100g salted butter, cold
- 3 eggs (you will have one egg white leftover)
- 50 g caster sugar + 85 g
- 150 g plain flour + 3 tbsp
- 1/2 tsp dried lavender
- 300 g ricotta
- zest of 1 lemon
- 30 g candied yuzu
- 80 ml milk
- 250 g blackberries
Now what will you do with it?
First, make the pastry. You can do this the night before, and probably you should, it delays everything, she says, grumpily.
Chop your butter into cubes and put it into the food processor with the 50 g sugar and that first egg yolk. Pulse until combined, then add the 150 g of flour and the dried lavender. Process until it comes together into a dough.
Roll out into a thick slab, wrap in clingfilm, and refrigerate for an hour.
Once the dough is cold, roll it out on a floured surface into a circle about 26-28cm diameter. Transfer it to a 20 cm springform tart or cake tin (or in my case, just a 20cm springform cake tin). I have no tips on how to do this. I tried every method I know, and the results were all terrible, because this pastry is quite sticky. In the end, I managed to lower the pastry upside-down on the baking paper I had rolled it out on into the cake tin, and peel it off, mostly, and then patch the horrifying results. It doesn’t matter, it’s all going to be covered with cheesecake…
Anyway, use whatever means necessary to line the tin, making sure the pastry goes about 3 cm up the sides or to the top if possible.
Rest the pastry in the fridge for half an hour. Rest yourself, too. That was stressful. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Line the pastry case with foil and fill it with baking beans or rice or sugar. Blind bake for 15 minutes, then let stand for 5 minutes. Lift out the foil, and bkae for a further 5 minutes, until it starts to get golden.
While all this is happening, prepare the filling. Finely chop the candied Yuzu (have a taste first, it’s incredible – so tangy and perfumed!), zest the lemon, and add both to the ricotta along with the 3 tbsp flour and the remaining two egg yolks. Beat with a fork until well combined, then add the milk and beat until smooth (ish. There will still be little bits of Yuzu, but that’s what we are all here for, let’s face it…).
Beat the two egg whites (remember, you aren’t using that third one!) until it is thinking about forming soft peaks, then slowly add the caster sugar and whisk until you have a soft meringue. Fold this into the ricotta mixture and pour into the pastry case. Arrange the blackberries on top.
Bake at 180°C for ten minutes, then reduce to 150°C and bake for 20 minutes, until the filling is rising in the centre. Remove from the oven (but keep the oven on), and leave for 15 minutes before returning to the oven for a final 15 minutes. This will allegedly stop the filling from rising, cracking, then collapsing. But I won’t hold it against you if this turns out to be too much faffing around and you just cook it for 50 minutes.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Slice and serve with berries – this is quite a rich cheesecake.
First, if you can’t get hold of candied Yuzu, I beg of you, do not use mixed peel. It will not be the same thing. Instead, I’d suggest using the zest of an orange or mandarin in addition to your lemon zest. That won’t be the same either, but it will be closer. If you have proper glace orange, that would also be good here, I think. But a nightmare to chop.
Moving back to dietary requirements, this cheesecake is nut-free, and can be made very easily with gluten-free flour (which would also make it fructose-friendly), but you’re not going to be able to make this dairy-free in its current form. However, if you have a preferred dairy-free cheesecake recipe, it wouldn’t be hard to plug these flavours into it. I suspect you could do fancy things with chia seeds for yolk and aquafaba for the meringue, but again, I’d recommend finding a good vegan cheesecake recipe and using that. Or – here’s a thought – if you aren’t worried about dairy or gelatine (and there is a very good vegan substitute called Jel-It-In on the market now), I bet you could make this work just fine as an unbaked, refrigerated cheesecake. The pastry would come together with iced water replacing the egg-yolk, I think, or you could make a biscuit crust with plain granita biscuits and add the lavender when you pulse them to make crumbs.
In terms of flavours, I am positive the raspberry and lemon thyme version would be delicious, of course. It’s tempting to go a bit cassata-ish, remove the berries, and add some cocoa to the base, then some pistachios and glace fruits to the ricotta filling along with the Yuzu. But it’s pretty yummy as it is.