A Little Cheesecake
Everyone loves a cheesecake. Oh — but the calories! And how do you eat an entire 23 cm cheesecake? I balk when I see a recipe calling for two to three 250 gm blocks of cream cheese! Sometimes you want just a little cheesecake, perhaps to share with your partner or a friend over a cup of tea, or as a decadent dessert after dinner for four. Here is a versatile recipe that uses just one block of cream cheese, which can be cooked in the oven or in a slow-cooker. It is a great way to use up a bit of fruit you might have lingering in the freezer or refrigerator. You can have fun playing around with alternative ingredients until you have your perfect little cheesecake for a tea-time treat.
Serves 4; Prep: 15 mins; Cook 45 mins-1 hour in the oven, 2–3 hours in the slow-cooker; Gadgets: food processor, oven or slow-cooker
125 g sweet biscuits (about half a pack) — Marie or digestives work well
40 g butter, melted
250 g cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup caster sugar (add more if you have a sweet tooth)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150 ml (1/2 cup) sour cream or plain yogurt
150 ml (1/2 cup) fruit compote or frozen fruit — e.g., mango, cherries, mixed berries or blueberries.
1) Butter and line a small 15–18 cm pie dish, cake tin, or oven-proof dish with baking paper and heat the oven to 180°C. If using a slow-cooker, ensure the dish fits into the slow-cooker insert. N.B. A silicone dish will not require any buttering or lining; a spring-form tin will need double layers of foil wrapped around the outside to protect the cake from the water-bath.
2) To make the base: process the biscuits in a food processor, or crush with a rolling pin. Mix the crushed biscuit with the melted butter in a bowl, and press the mixture into the prepared cake dish. Put the dish into the refrigerator to chill while you make the filling.
3) To make the filling: in the food processor, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth, then add the eggs and process until incorporated. Briefly pulse in the sour cream or yogurt, and ¾ (or all) of the fruit. N.B. You can use a cake mixer if you do not have a food processor, but a processor will incorporate less air, so it will be less likely for the cheesecake to rise and then deflate in the middle. Try not to over-beat if you use a cake-mixer.
4) Pour the filling into the chilled base and smoothen out evenly. If you have reserved some fruit, top with the reserved fruit, or swirl the fruit through the filling. Tap the dish on the table-top to remove any air pockets.
5) To cook in an oven: Place the cake dish in a roasting pan, place this in the oven, and then carefully add hot water from a boiling kettle to come up about half way up the dish. If using a spring-form dish, remember to protect it from the water with two layers of foil. Bake in the oven until the cheesecake is firm when a skewer is inserted in the centre, about 45 mins to an hour. Remove the cake from the oven to allow it to cool down on a rack, then chill in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
6) Alternatively, to cook in a slow-cooker: place a ring of crunched up foil at the base of the cooker, pour in about 2.5 cm of water and sit the dish of cheesecake on top of the foil so it sits above the water. Wrap a dish-cloth around the lid and cover the slow-cooker. Cook on HIGH setting for 2–3 hours until the cheesecake is firm when a skewer is inserted in the centre. Let the cake cool down, then chill in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
7) You can serve the cheesecake with extra fruit, yogurt, or if you feel very indulgent, some cream. Eating the cake plain, will still be delicious!
Pumpkin cheesecake: beat in pumpkin puree instead of fruit with the cheese and sugar, replace the caster sugar with brown sugar (add an extra tablespoon of dark muscavado sugar for added caramel tones), and replace the vanilla with ½ tsp of mixed spice, a pinch of nutmeg, and ½ tsp of ground ginger. Ginger biscuits may provide a complimentary gingery base, if you like.
Banana or mango tropical cheesecake: beat in mashed banana or pureed mango instead of fruit compote. Serve with fresh sliced fruit on top of the cake.
Cream topping: whisk up 100 ml sour cream with 1 tbs caster sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, pour on top of the cheesecake 10 mins before its done, and return to the oven for a further 10 mins.
Let me know if you have tried the recipe and if you would suggest any improvements