What is it?: Quite possibly the world’s most decadent cheesecake
Occasion: Baking rota
The first thing I did after receiving my copy of Short & Sweet as a Christmas gift last year was to go home and bake its three cheesecake recipes. I did this for two reasons – firstly, I was having a lot of people over for supper in those few days between Christmas and new year and thought they would make excellent desserts, and secondly, I just frickin’ love cheesecake. I have eaten an enormous variety of cheesecake which range from the good (beautiful, skyscraping vanilla cheesecakes in NYC), the bad (frozen supermarket cheesecakes – often served barely defrosted) and the unusual (savoury goats cheese-cakes with chutney) and, aside from the second example, cannot get enough. Most people tend to enjoy them, there are a wide variety of different flavours you can introduce and they are relatively easy to make – an entertaining win-win if ever there was one. This week, it was my turn to bake for my colleagues on the ever-growing Baking Rota, so I decided to pull this old crowd-pleaser out of the bag.
Because of my utterly gluttonous nature, my favourite of the three Short & Sweet cheesecakes had to be the cherry crumble cheesecake. It is beautiful and decadent, just like the others, but up to warp factor ten. It consists of a sponge base, topped with black cherries stirred into black cherry preserve, topped with a vanilla cheesecake mixture using nearly a kilogram of cream cheese – and, if this isn’t enough for you – topped with a hefty sprinkling of cinnamon crumble. What more could you possibly ask for?! There are a lot of processes and ingredients, but the end result is well worth it. The only amendment I decided to make was to swap the sponge base for a digestive biscuit one – the words ‘messy to serve’ in the description led to me seeking a more robust base, after all, this wasn’t going to be served at a table with a full dinner set, it was going to be served up to hungry colleagues in an office where we make do with plastic cutlery and napkins. I don’t like to mess about with Dan’s recipes too much, but I think in this instance, our office cleaners would thank me for it, if nobody else. The cheesecake is assembled, without the crumble, and baked for half of the cooking time before the crumble is added – this allows the cheesecake to bake enough without burning the crumble.
The result of this combination of cheesecake and crumble is decadent, incredibly rich and delicious. The crunch on both the top and the bottom gets rid of the overwhelming clagginess you often associate with quite tall cheesecakes. Due to its height, you can also get away with serving it in very thin slices, although it is difficult to cut them out. Despite swapping the base for biscuit, it was still incredibly messy when served in my office, which led a number of my colleagues to ingeniously scoop the various components into a plastic cup, inventing a kind of cheesecake-sundae. Perhaps not the best things for huge crowds with limited tableware, but definitely a top-class dessert for any other situation. This is one I will be making again, and again, and again.
In other news:
In recent weeks I have been getting increasingly disappointed with the lunch options over in White City. The Crussh is kind of OK, and our work canteen often has moments of genius (especially Thali Wednesdays) but this can become somewhat monotonous. Once in a blue moon we have some food carts that set up outside and sell decent shwarmas and hog roast sandwiches, but we are by far the least well-served part of London in terms of affordable and delicious lunches. This disappointment is only heightened when I see London’s well-known street food vendors delighting workers in every other area of London except mine. So when I found out that there was a rather good falafel stand a ten-minute walk away from my office, I immediately rounded up my colleagues and headed down there. Mr Falafel reportedly has the best falafel in London, which he serves up from a small outlet just inside Shepherds Bush Market. The long queue from the door was encouraging and the falafel itself did not disappoint. I had the ‘Supreme’ wrap which contained three succulent and delicious falafel, houmous, tomatoes, fried aubergines, feta, olives, avocado and pomegranate syrup. NOM. My only small gripe is that the ‘hot’ chilli sauce I asked for as extra was not quite spicy enough, but then again I am rather fiendish where chillies are concerned, and it was still an excellent wrap and a total bargain at £5.
Mr Falafel, Unit 4/5, New Shepherds Bush Market, Uxbridge Road, London W12 8LH