Do you ever have some days or weeks where you are craving a certain food or flavour and you just can’t get it out of your head? Last weekend for me that was cheesecake. I just had a craving for it that wouldn’t go away. Normally my dessert of choice is something cakey or spongy, but last weekend I wanted rich, creamy indulgent cheesecake!
Being coeliac sadly means I can’t pop down the shops for a quick cheesecake fix, but have to make one myself. However this has its advantages. Not only do I love baking, but baking it yourself allows you the freedom to be as simple or wacky as you want with the flavours, plus at the end you end up with an entire cheesecake to devour, rather than a single slice wahhhha!
As I went cream cheese hunting I instead discovered a different sort of soft cheese called Quark. This cheese is almost like a cross between cream cheese and ricotta and feeling adventurous I decided t use it as the base for my cheesecake. This proved to be a very good idea as the Quark was thicker and creamier than normal cream cheese, which I’ve found can sometimes go a little runny when I’ve baked with it in the past. Like ricotta, the Quark is made with strained milk, meaning it’s a lot healthier than cream cheese too, all the more reason for a bigger slice!
I had a jar of Morello cherries in syrup that I had been wandering what to do with and so decided to make a cherry studded cheesecake. Cherry Brandy flavoured ice lollies used to be one of my favorites. I’d buy them from the ice cream van outside school and feel ever so grown up as it had ‘brandy’ in the title (can you still get these?) I decided to soak the cherries overnight in Brandy to give them a bit of more a kick.
Chocolate always goes well with cherries and so I made a chocolate biscuit base for my cheesecake, which also added a nice colour contrast. While preparing my cheesecake I suddenly decided to create a hidden middle layer of chocolate cheesecake, encased in the cherry cheesecake. This created a fun surprise when the cheesecake was sliced, as from the outside all you could see was the pale cherry. Chocolate and cherry are also a fabulous flavour pairing.
As I still had some cherry juice leftover I made a quick cherry jelly using a little of the agar agar powder I have been experimenting with recently. This finished the cheesecake off nicely and gave it a wonderfully glossy mirror top.
I was really pleased with my finished cheesecake and it certainly satisfied my cheesecake cravings. Morello cherries steeped in brandy, a hidden chocolate layer, a rich chocolate base and a glossy cherry glaze and combined into a velvety smooth and creamy cheesecake. What’s everyone else been craving recently?
Cherry Brandy & Chocolate Surprise Cheesecake
For the cherries
100g drained, pitted Morello cherries in syrup (reserve the syrup)
For the base
90g gluten free shortbread or digestive style biscuits
20g caster sugar
10g cocoa powder
For the cheesecake
400g Quark or soft cream cheese
100g caster sugar
50g dark chocolate
For the cherry jelly
130ml cherry syrup reserved from earlier
20g caster sugar
½ tsp agar agar powder
The day before, remove the cherries from their syrup, cut them in half and place into a small bowl. Pour over the brandy, stir and cover with clingfilm. Set aside for 6 hours, or preferably overnight to allow the cherries to steep and absorb the flavour of the brandy.
The following day, line a 6inch/15cm deep springform tin with baking parchment. Wrap the base and sides of the tin with a large sheet of foil, you want it cover the whole base and up and sides of the tin in one piece. Repeat so you have two layers of foil wrapped around the outside of your tin.
For the base, blitz the gluten free biscuits in a food processor until they resemble fine crumbs. Add the sugar and cocoa powder and blitz again briefly.
Melt the butter, pour it over the cocoa crumbs and pulse briefly until and crumbs resemble damp sand.
Tip the biscuit mix into the base of your lined tin and press down into an even layer. Place the tin in the fridge to chill while you prefer the filling.
Preheat the oven to 175C.
For the filling, beat the Quark or cream cheese until smooth. Add the eggs and sugar and beat again until well combined.
Now remove one-third of this mixture and place it into a separate bowl. Melt the chocolate and add this to the removed third of the cheese mixture, stirring it together until well combined. Set aside.
Sift the cornflour over the remaining two-thirds of mix. Then pour the soaked cherries and their brandy liquid into the cream mixture and fold in to incorporate. It will turn a light pink colour and be quite runny, this is fine.
Pour half of the cherry cheesecake mixture over the chilled biscuit base, spreading it into an even layer.
Place small spoonfuls of the chocolate cheesecake mix over the top of the cherry cheesecake until it is all used us. Gently try and smooth the chocolate cheesecake into an even layer, but don’t worry too much about making it perfect.
Then pour the remaining cherry cheesecake mix on top, covering the chocolate filling inside. Tap the cheesecake on the counter 2-3 times to remove any trapped air.
Place the foil wrapped tin into a larger deep baking tray.
Fill the tray with boiling water so that it reaches halfway up the sides of the cheesecake tin.
Carefully transfer this to the 175C preheated oven to bake for 50-60minutes. The cheesecake should be set around the edge but still a little wobbly in the centre when gently shaken.
Once baked, quickly remove the cheesecake tin from the water bath and return it to the switched off, but still warm oven. Leave the oven door ajar and leave the cheesecake to cool down gradually for 45-60 minutes.
For the jelly, start this once your cheesecake has been cooling in the oven.
Add another 130ml of cherry juice to a small pan along with the sugar and agar agar. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
Bring the mixture to the boil for 15 seconds, then remove from the heat and allow to cool for 3 minutes.
Remove your partially cooled cheesecake from the oven and carefully pour the hot cherry glaze over the top. It must still be hot, or else it will have set into a solid.
Carefully transfer the cheesecake to the fridge and allow to chill for at least 4-6 hours before serving.
Makes 1 x 6inch/15cm cheesecake