I was given a big, beautiful bunch of rhubarb last week. To me it was as good as giving me flowers. The slender, long, pink stalks still had dirt near the ends and huge leaves at the top. As beautiful as a bunch of roses to a baker.
Their colour instantly bewitched me, and I set about making the crumb cake which I have already written about, and then came the cheesecake.
Cheesecake is truly a divine dessert. A rich, creamy, sweet topping on a gingery, crunchy, crumbly base. A little (or large, I don’t skimp) slice of heaven. I ALWAYS use ginger biscuits for my cheesecake base. I just think that their subtle spiciness pairs perfectly with a cheesecake. I have not made one yet where they did not go, so I’m going to keep using them until I do.
Somehow I managed to lose most of my photos for this post. I’m sure I took a lot more photos than this, but can I find them? Nope. I have scoured every corner of my harddrive, scanned the camera, flipped through my folders. Nothing. So I am very sorry dear reader, these few will have to do. But they are pretty and pinky so I hope you don’t mind too much.
The foundation of this cheesecake is much the same as any other, but the baked rhubarb part. The syrupy, sweet stems placed on top of the creamy cheesecake base are fun to do and not technically difficult at all. So you need a couple of hours to bake the rhubarb and then construct and bake the cheesecake, but are there any better things to do on a Saturday afternoon? I can’t think of any.
Yes, my cheesecake cracked. I know that a crack is an ‘undesirable’ thing in a cheesecake. I could have wrapped the tin in foil and put it in a bain marie and that would have helped prevent it cracking, but you know what? I think that a crack gives a cheesecake character. Either way, This cheesecake was going to be piled with rhubarb and then with sour cream, so who’s gonna see the crack anyway? Nobody, thats who. And you won’t tell right?
I know, no pictures of the cheesecake construction. Shoot. I’m kicking myself right now. Hard. Ouch.
But take my word for it. Its a beautiful cheesecake with the perfect balance of sweet and sour and creamy and tangy. And almost a kilo of cream cheese. how can that not be awesome?
Rhubarb and Orange Baked Cheesecake
Just a warning, this cheesecake is hard to cut. The pieces of rhubarb are awesome but get in the way of the knife a little so that a fresh slice looks a bit like its already been attacked by a tasmanian devil. If you figure out how to cut it cleanly, I’m open to suggestions. Give me some.
What you will need:
800g rhubarb (untrimmed weight)
1 large orange
250g caster sugar
FOR THE BASE
75g unsalted butter
200g digestive biscuits, crushed
2 tbsp demerara sugar
Butter for greasing
900g full-fat cream cheese, such as Philadelphia
250g caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp
3 tbsp plain flour
Pinch of salt
Grated zest of 1 small orange, plus 1 tbsp orange juice
3 large free-range eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
400ml soured cream
2 tsp lemon juice
What to do:
Preheat the oven to 110°C/fan 90°C/gas ¼. Wipe the rhubarb stalks clean, trim off the ends and cut the stalks into 5cm pieces. Peel 3 wide strips of zest from the orange and cut them into fine slivers (like pine needles). Halve the orange, then squeeze out and reserve the orange juice.
Spread the rhubarb over the base of a large roasting tin and scatter over the orange zest, sugar and orange juice. Cover the tin tightly with foil and bake for 1½ hours. Meanwhile, remove the cream cheese from the fridge and leave it to come to room temperature.
Remove the rhubarb from the oven, uncover and carefully lift the pieces onto a baking tray with a fish slice. Leave, slightly raised at one end, to cool and drain. Strain the cooking juices from the roasting tin into a small pan and set aside.
Increase the oven temperature to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Line the base of a 23-24cm springform cake tin with baking paper. For the base, melt the butter in a medium pan, then stir in the crushed biscuits and demerara sugar. Spoon into the tin and press onto the base (not up the sides) in a thin, even layer. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes, then remove and leave to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 240°C/fan 220°C/gas 9.
For the topping, grease the sides of the tin with a little butter. Scoop the cream cheese into a large mixing bowl and beat with a hand-held electric mixer for 2 minutes until smooth and creamy. Beat in the 250g caster sugar, flour, salt, orange zest and juice, followed by the eggs, one at a time, then the yolk. Stir in 200ml soured cream.
Pour the cheesecake mixture into the tin, bake for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 110°C/fan 90°C/gas ¼ and bake for a further 30-35 minutes until just set but still quite wobbly in the centre. Turn off the oven, open the door slightly and leave the cheesecake inside to cool.
When the cheesecake has cooled, set it aside and preheat the oven to 150°C/fan 130°C/gas 2. Mix the rest of the soured cream with the remaining 1 tbsp sugar and the lemon juice. Arrange most of the drained rhubarb in a single layer over the top of the cheesecake. Spread the soured cream mixture over the top of the rhubarb, then return the cheesecake to the oven for 20 minutes. Remove and leave to cool once more, then cover loosely and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight. Add the juices from the baking tray to the rhubarb cooking juices in the small pan and boil rapidly for 5-6 minutes until slightly reduced and syrupy. Leave to cool, then pour into a small jug and chill alongside the cheesecake.
To serve, run a round-bladed knife around the sides of the tin to release the cheesecake, then carefully remove it from the tin. Drizzle over a little of the syrup, then serve cut into wedges with the remaining rhubarb and a little of the syrup spooned around.