Then came my discovery of Pizza Express in the early 90s and suddenly cheesecake got interesting. Their cheesecake was creamy white, not lurid pink or lilac with berries suspended in coloured gelatine on top. I’ve long since got over my fussiness about jelly, but I still think it has no place on top of a cheesecake. Pizza Express served it with a few slices of strawberries on the side and I thought it was the most sophisticated pudding I’d seen since chocolate profiteroles, but it was, in those days at least, a complete mystery to us how we could recreate it. Not that we didn’t try, but every cheesecake made from my mother’s cook books was set with evaporated milk or similar and set in the fridge. Don’t get me wrong, they were very nice in their own way, but they just weren’t right.
Suddenly, a few years later, the UK was going nuts for New York baked cheesecakes and there was at least one recipe for this stateside beauty in every weekly my mother subscribed to. This cheesecake is an adaptation of our family favourite from an old torn out page from a magazine that’s long since been lost, but luckily not forgotten. I like to serve this best with a simple blueberry compote at this time of year, but it would be equally delicious with roasted plums or poached pears.
Gluten-free New York Cheesecake
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/350°F/Gas Mark 4. You will need a 10-inch deep loose-bottomed round tart tin
For the base
150g gluten-free digestive biscuits
90g unsalted butter, melted
Plus extra melted butter for greasing
For the filling – make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature before you begin.
900g full fat Philadelphia cream cheese
250g caster sugar
A pinch of salt
The scraped out seeds of 2 vanilla pods or 2 tsp. vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 large eggs, plus 1 yolk
200ml soured cream
For the topping
225ml soured cream
1 tbsp. caster sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice
First, blitz the digestives in a food processor and add the melted butter and blitz again. Press the biscuit rubble firmly into the bottom of the tart tin and bake for 10 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Once cool, paint the inside of the tart tin liberally with melted butter and place the tin on a baking tray.
Increase the oven temperature to 220°C (200°C fan)/430°F/Gas Mark 9.
Beat the Philadelphia until creamy, before gradually adding the sugar, cornflour and salt. Add the vanilla, lemon zest and juice, before whisking in the eggs and yolk, one at a time. Whisk in the soured cream and pour the mixture over the biscuit base. Bake for 10 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 110°C (90°C)/230°F/Gas Mark ¼
Bake for a further 25 minutes. If you gently shake the tin, there should be a slight wobble in the middle. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 2 hours with the oven door slightly ajar.
Combine the soured cream, lemon juice and sugar together to make the topping and spread it over the top of the cheesecake, right to the edges. Cover loosely with foil (without touching the top) and pop it in the fridge to set for 8 hours or overnight.
Place the tin on top of an upturned bowl and gently pull the sides of the tin down to release it, before prising the tin base off the cheesecake with a palette knife, while sliding it onto a serving plate. Serve with blueberry compote if you wish.