Every two weeks my research group has a regular meeting, and as we nourish each other's brains with interesting scientific discussion it is my task, as the official baker, to provide physical nourishment. This gives me a regular opportunity to try out new recipes that I've come across, and also gives me opportunities to watch weird late night TV as I stay up to all hours of the night baking, waiting and icing. Happily the late night shenanigans have not been such a regular occurrence as my casual job has quietened off a bit, but I may find myself missing Beauty and the Geek.
Given that today's meeting centred largely around one of the members practising her proposal defence presentation on us, I thought it fair to ask if she had any special requests. Cheesecake was the answer, which filled me with a mixture of excitement and fear. Cheesecake? I think I've only ever made cheesecake once in my life, and it was when I was about 10 years old. To be perfectly honest the memory is a little hazy, although I do remember it was my Aunty Suzannah's lemon cheesecake recipe. Well, anything my 10 year old self can do, I can do better, right? Exceptions to this rule may or may not include the wearing of fluoro bikepants.
So in my search for a nice, interesting cheesecake recipe I came across a Marbled Jaffa Cheesecake on Taste.com.au, my first port of call when hunting for a recipe. I figured it covered a few bases, with chocolate for the taste-conscious, orange for the health-conscious, and Grand Marnier for the unconscious. I altered the recipe slightly as is my wont, to create the following recipe.
Jaffa the Cheesecake
375g biscuits (I used a combination of Nice and Granita, IGA had no digestives!)
185g butter, softened
500g cream cheese, softened (I used the light stuff, they had run out of normal)
1 cup (215g) caster sugar
300g sour cream (I used light sour cream)
300ml thickened cream
1/4 cup (60ml) Grand Marnier (holy shit this stuff is expensive)
1 tbs finely grated orange rind
100g 70% cocoa dark chocolate, melted
1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Line the base of a round 23cm springform pan with butter then baking paper.
2. Place the biscuits in the bowl of a food processor and process until they resemble fine breadcrumbs. Add the butter and process until well combined. If you don't have a food processor, you can smash the biscuits using a mortar and pestle, or a ziplock bag and rolling pin, then just mix together with the butter.
3. Place biscuit mixture in the prepared pan and use a straight-sided glass to spread and press it on the base and side. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.
3. Meanwhile, place the cream cheese and sugar in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, processing well between each addition. Add the sour cream and thickened cream and process until combined. Pour evenly among two medium bowls. Add the Grand Marnier and orange rind to one portion and stir to combine. Add the chocolate to the remaining portion and stir to combine.
4. Pour half of the chocolate mixture in the prepared base. Pour half of the orange mixture over the top. Continue layering with remaining orange and chocolate portions.
5. Bake for 60 minutes or until just set. Turn off the oven and set aside for 2 hours to cool, letting it cool gradually to prevent cracking and the need to dash to the shops for crack-hiding cream and chocolate (note: while the cheesecake is cooling you may want to prepare the glace oranges so they are ready to go when you are ready to garnish). Transfer to the fridge to chill completely.
Bag of Jaffas
250 g caster sugar
250 mL water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Blanch the orange slices 2-3 times.
2. Mix sugar, water and vanilla extract in a large pan, stirring over a medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add sugar slices and simmer gently, turning occasionally until the rind softens and becomes translucent. This took me an hour, but my slices were pretty thick.
3. Remove orange slices and allow to cool on a rack/plate until ready to garnish cheesecake. (Note: if the slices are stuck to the rack/plate when you are ready for them, just warm a little in the microwave to loosen up the syrup).
4. Decorate the chilled cheesecake with the glace oranges and jaffas (either whole or pieces - banging a Jaffa with a pestle tends to split it very neatly in half! Magic!) and maybe a little drizzling of melted chocolate too. If one or two Jaffas happen to end up mysteriously disappearing during this process no questions will be asked.
5. Cut into wedges of deliciousness to serve.
Okay, so I guess my 10 year old self was a little more trusting of recipes (plus probably less inclined to fiddle with them), as I don't recall the stress of trying to figure out if the bloody thing was cooked enough or not! It is quite difficult to tell, even after a thorough googling for assistance. Unfortunately a cooked cheesecake jiggles quite a lot, looking undercooked. I just ended up hoping for the best and turning off the oven once the edges started to look cooked and the jiggle was not so crazy when I prodded the pan. I guess it continues to cook a little when it is cooling, and also will set much more once cool, so you just have to hope that you didn't prematurely turn off the oven and end up with an oozing mess when you serve. What with this big decision making, and all of the warnings of horrendous cracking on every baked cheesecake related website, it is a wonder I didn't calm myself down by eating the whole thing last night.
Happily, I am able to report that after all of this, the cheesecake was a chocolatey, orangey, non-oozing success story! I was particularly happy with how the glace oranges turned out, as I had not made them before either, and I managed to create orange slices that you could happily eat pith and all! The orange and chocolate layers in the cheesecake married very nicely, and were offset really well with the biscuity crunch of the base. I think I will definitely be making this again, particularly as I have now invested in a bottle of Grand Marnier and I'm not exactly a regular Crêpe Suzette eater. Although, in a chicken-or-the-egg type conundrum, perhaps I am not a regular Crêpe Suzette eater due to a lack of Grand Marnier and now this will change. Only time will tell...