A few days ago, for some unknown reason, I was overcome with such a craving for cheesecake. Now I do adore the local delicacies such as crema catalana and almond-based confections such as La Delicà (a specialty of Gandia) and freixepa, but there is nothing like the mouthfeel of cool, silky cheesecake with a contrasting texture of crisp crust. I haven’t had cheesecake in almost a year. Okay, allow me qualify that — I’ve had tarta de queso in several restaurants here, but they haven’t come close to what I’ve had elsewhere, also called cheesecake. (Trying to be gastronomically tactful here :-p)
I had in mind an easy-peasy, no-bake version, since it was the first day of the heat wave with 40°C temperatures in the valley below. Indoors in our mountain cottage it was a pleasant 27°C but the prospect of faffing about with a hot oven just did not appeal. Here’s the result of my quickie cheesecake, adapted from an online recipe with ingredients locally available in my local supermarket in Southern Valencia .
One thing I learned that has increased my respect for good plasterers (for home interiors, that is) — it is extremely time-consuming and difficult to get a mirror-smooth finish on any surface, let alone that of an unbaked cheesecake. I did try for perfection though. As well, I used a fork to mix the filling, instead of the mixer, hence the little bubbly bits on the surface. (Sometimes the effort of washing the mixer bowl and components seems too much, particularly during a heat wave.)
Even without a mirror-like finish, this cheesecake met my expectations and certainly satisfied my craving. And it was good enough for me to consider breaking my 4-month abstinence from coffee this morning. I shall be tweaking the recipe a bit –- perhaps a tad more lemon juice and experiment with Greek-style yogurt instead of the thickened cream (nata para cocinar, cooking cream) that I used. (Not having used this before, I had expected a liquid cream that needed to be whipped beforehand. I will have to investigate whether there is such a thing as double cream for whipping. There’s got to be, I just have to check the dairy section more thoroughly. (Thanks to a friend who lives in Sevilla: cream for whipping is nata para montar; whipped cream, often found in the frozen products section, is nata montada). Oh, and I will definitely use a mixer for the filling as well, for a homogeneous mixture.
If you’d like to try making it, here’s the recipe. I got all the ingredients from the Mercadona supermarket in Villalonga.
250 g digestive biscuits (Hacendado Digestive Fibra 23%), crushed (place in a ziplock plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin, or whirl in a food processor)
125 g salted butter, melted (Hacendado Mantequilla con sal)
2 x 300 g cream cheese (Hacendado Queso Blanco Pasteurizado, para untar, sabor natural), softened
200 ml thick cream (Hacendado Nata Fresca para Cocinar — I found this too rich and would use thick 10% fat Greek yogurt or crème fraiche next time)
2/3 cup or 79 ml sugar (I used 1/3 cup at first, and after tasting the filling, added 2 tablespoons. The biscuits in the crust were sufficiently sweet. Adjust to your taste.)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence (optional — the original recipe included it, but I didn’t)
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons powdered gelatine or 6 sheets gelatine (Hacendado Gelatina Neutra en Laminas)
Prepare the crust: have ready a 30 cm/12 inches round springform pan.
In a bowl, place the crushed biscuits and thoroughly mix in the melted butter. Spread on the bottom and slightly up the sides of the springform pan. Set aside.
Prepare the gelatine: in a small heatproof bowl, rehydrate the sheets in 4 tablespoons cold water. (The instructions on the packet say mix directly with hot water, which I did not follow.) Set aside while mixing the filling. Once the filling is ready, place the bowl of gelatine over (not in) a pan of boiling water, stirring until completely dissolved. Mix gelatine thoroughly into filling.
Prepare the filling: in a large bowl using a wooden spoon or fork (or in a mixer bowl), thoroughly mix the cream cheese, cream, sugar, zest, and lemon juice until smooth. Taste, and adjust the sugar and lemon juice to your preference, bearing in mind that the crust is quite sweet. (I tasted a biscuit beforehand.)
Stir in thoroughly the dissolved gelatine and spoon the filling evenly over the crust. Smooth the top.
Cover pan with foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, before serving. Buen provecho! Or as they say here in Valencia, Bon Profit!