I love a good cheesecake. I don’t, however, love ALL cheesecakes.
*pauses dramatically for the compulsory gasps of horror*
No, to my mind, if you’re going to elaborate on the indulgent simplicity of flavours such as vanilla or maple syrup, cheesecake needs something sharp to act as a contrast to the richness of the filling.
So I say “Away, foul fiend!” to a whole slew of flavours that, to my mind, shouldn’t be paired with cheesecake, mostly in the chocolate, toffee, Banoffi, caramel, praline range, and “Come to Mama!” to all the tart and sharp fruity flavours. Lemon cheesecake was a long-term favourite, but anything that has a sharpness to it is delicious.
There are two main styles of cheesecake: baked and no-bake. I’ve got several recipes on the blog for various baked cheesecakes but haven’t done a no-bake cheesecake, so here we are.
After a little experimentation, I’ve come up with something that will work for any fruit puree you might have to hand. I’ve used gooseberries, but you could also use this recipe for poached rhubarb, plums, damsons as well as raw fruit purees such as strawberries, raspberries, cherries etc.
Another way you can customise this recipe is by swapping in ingredients that will give a texture that you like. A baked cheesecake is usually rich and dense, whereas no-bake cheesecakes tend to have a lighter texture as they rely on gelatine to hold their shape once set.
The filling for the cheesecake in the photo has been made with equal parts of mascarpone, creme fraiche and double cream mixed with the fruit puree, which makes for a creamy but still light texture. If you prefer a denser consistency, you can substitute cream cheese for the mascarpone or creme fraiche or even both. Quark is a fat-free dairy product, but might take the texture towards a mousse rather than a cheesecake. Nothing wrong with that at all, of course, as long as it’s what you were wanting.
A word or two about gelatine. At the risk of stating the obvious, gelatine renders your dessert off-limits to vegetarians. Whilst this might be your dastardly plan, you can still make this dessert so all can enjoy. Vegetarian gelatine is generally available, but not in the sheet form used in this recipe. You should follow the vege-gel guidelines for blooming and using it in your dessert.
The other thing to bear in mind, whichever form of gelatine you use, is that it’s not very fond of acidity. Using the quantity stated on the pack to set a very sharp, acidic liquid is not going to be as firm as if the liquid is neutral in flavour. You might like the texture, but as a general rule, I would advise using extra gelatine to ensure your dish sets as expected.
For example, the recipe below generated 300ml of gooseberry puree. Normally, 2 sheets of gelatine will set 300ml just fine. I used 4 sheets of gelatine a) because of the sharpness and b) because of the volume of filling into which it was to be mixed. The mixture of creams and cheese is quite stiff when whisked together, but adding the puree slackens the mixture off considerably. Having the extra gelatine in the puree meant that all of the filling set, once it had been folded through.
In contrast, for the gel on the top of the cheesecake, I only used a little extra gelatine, which resulted in a much softer final set.
For leaf gelatine, 1 leaf will set 150ml of liquid. Powdered gelatine and Vege-gel are sold in packets that usually set 1 pint (570ml) of liquid. Weigh the granules and divide by four for an equivalent guideline amount.
Last topic before we get on with the recipe – the biscuit base. You can make this from a range of commercially produced biscuits or make your own. Traditionally the biscuit has been Digestives, but other (British) types include HobNobs, Ginger Nuts, Butter Crinkles, Rich Tea – anything crisp. I’ve even used Doriano crackers (similar to Saltines), which give a deliciously unexpected saltiness as well as crunch.
For this recipe I have chosen to use a crumb of Spekulaas, the traditional Dutch Christmas biscuits. They are definitely crunchy and add a nicely spiced note which complements the gooseberries. Any favourite crisp biscuit can be used, merely bake the dough in its breadcrumb-like state and blitz in a food processor when cooled.
No-Bake Gooseberry Cheesecake
You can use either green or dessert gooseberries for this recipe. Green gooseberries (see photo at the bottom of this post) ripen earliest, and pair very well with elderflowers. You can substitute half the poaching water with elderflower cordial if liked. Dessert gooseberries are sweeter and with a rosy blush which makes for the beautifully coloured topping in the top photo. These quantities makes a large cheesecake, so if that doesn’t suit your needs, consider halving the recipe.
For the base
200g self-raising flour
125g dark muscovado sugar
2 tbs speculaas spice mix – or a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, as liked.
1 pinch salt
150g cold unsalted butter
50g unsalted butter – melted.
- Heat oven to 175°C, 150°C Fan.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment. A sheet with a lip will help keep the crumbs contained.
- Put all the ingredients except the melted butter into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade and blitz until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
- Tip the crumbs onto the baking sheet and spread out evenly.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
- Stir the crumb, breaking up any large pieces and then return to the oven for a further 10 minutes.
- Set aside until cold.
- Pour the cooked crumb into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is of an even and uniform crumb.
- Tip the crumb into a bowl and pour over the melted butter.
- Mix thoroughly until the crumb resembles damp sand.
- Press firmly into your chosen tin. I used my rectangular springform tin (28cm x 10 cm) and pressed the crumb up the sides a little to give a little extra support to the filling, but if you’re confident in your gelatine levels, this isn’t necessary (see photo at the bottom of this post). You might like to line your tin with foil or parchment to help remove once set.
- Chill in the fridge until needed.
For the filling
600g fresh or frozen gooseberries, or other sharp fruit
250g mascarpone cheese
250g creme fraiche
250ml double cream
5-6 tbs icing sugar
4 leaves gelatine
- Put the gooseberries and the water into a pan over a very low heat.
- Cover and allow to gently simmer until the fruit is soft. Stir gently from time to time to prevent the fruit from burning (10-15 minutes).
- Pour the fruit mixture through a sieve. Leave to drain. Keep both the liquid and fruit pulp.
- Bloom the gelatine in cold water.
- Sieve the drained fruit to remove the seeds. You will get about 300ml of puree. If you have extra, set it aside and serve as sauce with the cheesecake.
- Put the puree and bloomed gelatine into a saucepan and warm gently until the gelatine is melted. Taste and stir through just enough icing sugar to make it slightly sweet.
- Set aside to cool.
- Put the mascarpone, creme fraiche and double cream into a bowl. Add 3 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar and whip until the mixture is firm. Taste and add more sugar if necessary, but it should only be slightly sweet.
- When the fruit puree has cooled, but is still liquid, fold it into the whipped cheese/cream mixture.
- Taste the mixture to check the sweetness levels and adjust as needed.
- Pour the cheese mixture into the prepared tin. I lined the edges of the tin with acetate which allowed the filling to come up higher than the level of the crust, but this isn’t compulsory.
- Cover lightly with cling film and allow to set in the fridge (2-3 hours).
For the jelly topping
retained juice from cooking the fruit
- Measure the retained juice from cooking the fruit and calculate how much gelatine is required to set it. I set 400ml of sharply-flavoured juice with 3 leaves of sheet gelatine. I like the soft set, but you might prefer something a bit firmer in which case add another gelatine leaf. Stir in enough sugar to sweeten slightly. I prefer to keep the topping quite sharp as it provides a great contrast with the sweet biscuit base and the creamy filling.
- Bloom the required quantity of leaf gelatine in cold water.
- When the cheesecake filling has firmed up, add the gelatine to the juice and warm until the gelatine has melted. Cool slightly, then gently spoon over the cheesecake. Be careful not to pour from a great hight, as you might disturb the surface of the cheese filling and this would make for a cloudy jelly layer.
- Return to the fridge and chill until set, preferably overnight.
Here’s a little something that popped into my head trying to combine a childhood favourite (banana custard) with an all-American classic (banana cream pie).
Instead of using custard powder from a tin, I wanted to make proper, egg-yolk custard with a vanilla bean for flavouring. Whilst scanning the recipes on Tastespotting I noticed several recipes included peanut butter as an additional flavouring. Others had used chocolate. I thought: bananas, peanut butter, chocolate, custard – what’s not to like? Why not pile all four together into one glorious, outrageously decadent dessert?
Let us pause here for a confession – I find that all the huge, towering and generally overblown portions seen on many American food shows make me slightly unwell: it’s just too much food. If it tastes good, why does it have to be stacked 20-25cm high? Do 30 slices of brisket taste any better than two slices? The desserts are frequently the same. It really doesn’t make my mouth water to see a whole mountain of cream and cake and custard and toppings and goo and anything else that can be thrown at a dessert poised precariously on a woefully inadequate plate.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE watching American cooking shows. For a long time I was a great Man v Food fan, although the pig-out ‘challenges’ I found a bit gross. Now I’ve moved on to Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. He shows some delicious food, and best of all, you see the restaurant owners making some of their best sellers, and the recipes are usually available on the food network website. There’s lots that I would like to try, but I’d make them in normal, regular-sized portions rather than the vast quantities shown on the show.
So with this dessert, I wanted great flavours, but in a restrained quantity. The slice in the photograph is just 4cm high, and 10cm long. For all it’s petite dimensions, it tasted amazing. I had to send the rest with my husband to his work, otherwise the temptation might have been too great.
I talked about this a bit on Twitter, but for those that missed it, the rundown of the layers, starting at the bottom, is: chocolate crust, banana slices, vanilla crème patissière, banana slices, peanut butter cheesecake, double cream, cocoa. I’ve tried this layering both ways – custard on the bottom & custard on the top, and I think it actually works better from a texture perspective, with the custard layer on the top, which is not how the slice in the photo was done, but it’s entirely up to you which way round you layer it.
Apart from being OMG AMAZING, this dessert is great because you can make everything separately and then just assemble it when convenient. Having said that, I found it was better if the custard was poured when warm, but you can use it cold just fine. This is very much a Lego dessert – I’ve taken recipes for each element from here and there and clicked them together to make something delicious. The chocolate crust is actually the scaled down recipe from the Midnight Meringue. I halved and tweaked a Raymond Blanc recipe for crème patissière and adapted the peanut butter layer from a pie recipe I found on the web.
I hope you enjoy the flavours enough to give this recipe a try, because together they are fabulous.
100g plain flour
15g cocoa powder
60g caster sugar
60g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 tbsp milk
- Preheat the oven to 200°C 180°C Fan.
- Grease and line with parchment a loose-bottomed, 20cm tart tin.
- In a food processor, mix flour, cocoa and sugar.
- Add butter, cut in small cubes. Blitz.
- Add the tablespoon of milk and blend again until mixture resembles coarse, damp sand.
- Press the mixture into the base of your pie tin. If you’ve got extra pastry left over, you could press it into the sides to make a full tart shell.
- Line with baking parchment, fill with rice/beans/baking beads and bake blind for 10 minutes.
- Remove beans and parchment and return to the oven until fully baked (8-10 minutes).
- Allow the pastry to cool in the tin on a wire rack.
4 large egg yolks
40g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
15g plain flour
250ml whole milk
- Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds.
- Put the seeds into a bowl with the yolks and sugar.
- Put the pod into a small saucepan with the milk and put it over the lowest possible heat to infuse.
- Whisk together the vanilla seeds, yolks and sugar until they are pale and creamy.
- Whisk in the flour and cornflour and set aside.
- Bring the milk to a boil and strain it through a fine sieve to remove the vanilla pod.
- Whilst whisking, pour the hot milk down the side of the bowl onto the egg mixture.
- Make sure , whisking all the time, then return the mixture to the pan.
- Keep whisking the mixture over a low heat until it thickens.
- Pour the thickened custard into a bowl and lay cling film onto the surface to prevent a skin forming.
Peanut Butter Cheesecake
100g cream cheese, room temperature
2tbs icing sugar
100g smooth peanut butter
125ml double cream
- Whisk the cream cheese until smooth.
- Add the sugar and whisk to incorporate.
- Add the peanut butter and mix thoroughly.
- Add the double cream and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
2 medium bananas
200ml double cream
cocoa for sprinkling
This is more of a suggestion than hard and fast rules. Order the layers how you like. If you have some food-grade acetate, use it to line the edge of the tin – it will make for a cleaner edge to the dessert when you slide it out.
- Slice one of the bananas extremely thinly and lay the slices in a layer on top of the chocolate crust.
- Select your next layer – peanut butter or custard. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle and pipe the filling over the banana slices. You don’t HAVE to do this, but just spreading with a spoon tends to make the banana slices lift up and move out of place. Make sure the banana slices are completely covered – this will help to slow down the browning of the banana.
- Slice the second banana thinly and place in a layer over the piped filling.
- Put your second layer into the piping bag and pipe over the second banana layer. Again, make sure the banana slices are completely covered.
- Whip the double cream to soft peaks and spread lightly over the op of the dessert.
- Sprinkle cocoa over the whipped cream.
- Cover lightly with cling film and chill until required.