Thursday 27 March 2008
[I never ate sweeter pyjamas than yours – Very vanilla cheesecake]
The soft noise of the raindrops hitting the window gently wakes me up, making me more and more aware of the pressure of the thick duvet cover (love*love that word so much; reminds me of someone special who taught it to me) against my skin. Probably one of my favourite feelings in the world.
Encore un jour pluvieux, I say quietly.
In a smooth movement, I stretch and realise how cold it is outside. Outside my nest. My cocoon. My bed.
Merde, j’ai encore oublié d’allumer le chauffage.
As it happens from time to time, I have forgotten to put the heater on and the living room, which also happens to be my bedroom, is probably as cold as it is outdoors.
After that hesitant attempt, I can’t really convince myself to get up, and spot that beautiful branche morte I found yesterday.
Not without effort, I reach it and tentatively grab it, first with a couple of fingers then holding it firmly in my hand.
I roll onto the other side of the bed. Closer to the heater. And working slowly with the branch, I manage to turn the heater on. Nine. The warmer, the better.
While I patiently wait for the room to warm up, I take the time to examine les lovely petites choses that surround me. The beautifully old parquet. The latest fabric hot-air balloon I sewn, which seems to be floating in the air.
As minutes pass by, my thoughts get sidetracked and my mind is now overrun by old-fashioned English puddings. I clearly picture Ms Beeton-like brightly-coloured wobbly jellies, cloud-white blanc mangers and other marvellously inspiring puddings.
I need to make a cheesecake.
A rich and thick yet feathery one. Fragrant with vanilla. Lots of vanilla seeds. And a milk chocolate crust; officially, to complement the subtleness of the vanilla, unofficially, just because I love milk chocolate.
Cheesecake très vanille
I have a devouring passion for cheesecakes. Although, cheesecakes as you know them – i.e. not French tarte au fromage blanc or tourteau au fromage – are not part of my food culture, I can say that many years of my life have been devoted to the hunt of the perfect cheesecake.
I came pretty close when I made Nigella’s London cheesecake. It’s all a cheesecake is supposed to be. However, on that Saturday morning, after having turn my heater on using a branch, I felt a little adventurous, and made a cheesecake au pif. Luckily for me, it worked; and the result is more than satisfactory. This cheesecake has a deep and comforting vanilla flavour: a good opportunity to use my favourite Madagascar vanilla beans here. The crust is sweet and crumbly but a pleasing buttery aftertaste.
I didn’t bake mine in a water-bath as none of my large pots fit in the tiny cube I call an oven. The texture isn’t affected by this, but your cheesecake will definitely be golden-brown instead of the pure white you would have gotten using a water-bath. This is not a problem though, as I spread a thin layer of tempered chocolate onto the cooked and cooled cheesecake, which provides a nice texture and makes it look pretty.
This is absolutely lovely as it is, but I must say I can’t wait for the first raspberries either to serve them alongside or even better, to fold them into the cheesecake batter.
Cheesecake très vanille
225g sablés au beurre [butter cookies], finely crushed
100g milk chocolate, melted
600g cream cheese
seeds from one vanilla bean
1tsp natural vanilla extract
50g milk chocolate, tempered or melted
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
In a bowl, combine the crushed cookies with the melted chocolate and mix well until all the crumbs are evenly covered with chocolate. Using your hands, line the bottom and side of a 20cm spring-form tin with the mixture. Chill while you get on with the filling.
Using a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (alternatively a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese for 5 minutes, until smooth. Add the vanilla seeds and extract and mix for a further minute. Sprinkle the sugar then mix in the egg, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Pour this over the prepared base and bake for 60 minutes or until firm to the touch. The top will be golden brown, but that’s ok.
Open the oven door and allow the cheesecake to cool into the oven for another hour. Remove to a wire-rack and leave until it reaches room temperature. Then chill for at least 4 hours or preferably, overnight. The next day, thinly spread the tempered chocolate over the unmoulded cheesecake using a spatula. Allow to set in the fridge and serve.