This month’s Cheese, Please! challenge was to create something cheesy and seasonal.
Right from the start I wanted to make something sweet. My mind more or less instantly focused on cheesecake and stayed there with such a dogged determination that it was difficult the believe that I would make anything else for this month’s challenge.
The only problem was that there is very little fruit in season at this time of year (according to this helpful little chart). I know that strawberries are starting to appear in abundance in the supermarkets, but technically when I came to make this month’s recipes, they weren’t.
I had a choice of three fruits – banana, kiwi and rhubarb.
Bananas – not grown in this country, so I discounted them.
Kiwis – again, not grown in the UK, and as much as I love kiwi fruit, the thought of them with a cheesecake made me pull a funny face.
So, rhubarb it was.
Now I was faced with a different problem. For a fruit that is supposed to be in season, I couldn’t find any. Anywhere.
The internet is awash with rhubarb recipes at the moment. Gloriously bright pink rhubarb to be exact (although sometimes it is paired with strawberries, therefore emphasising the pink-ness). Forced rhubarb with give you this candy-like pink colour, but unfortunately I had left it so long that it had been and gone and the un-forced rhubarb had yet to make an appearance. There is some very pink (un-forced) rhubarb growing in the garden, but that isn’t ready yet either.
As luck would have it, I walked into a supermarket just in case they had some, and there it was, one lonely packet of rhubarb languishing on a discounted produce trolley with only some radishes and baby sweetcorn for company. I all but pushed a woman out of the way in order to get to it (she looked like she was going to snaffle it, and I needed that rhubarb). I triumphantly put it in my basket and started to gather the rest of the ingredients for the cheesecake (I hadn’t bought any cream cheese, just in case I had to re-think everything. It all hinged on finding some rhubarb).
However elated I felt at finding my much longed for ingredient, I knew there was still going to be a slight issue with this recipe, primarily when it came to photographing it. I’m sure you’ve noticed it already. I’m sure you have already made, albeit in your head, some snide comment.
Yep, my rhubarb was more green than pink.
And rhubarb that is more green than pink cooks down to a sludgy brown colour.
And sludgy brown rhubarb does not a pretty photography take.
But for all it’s sludgy brown colour, it still tastes delicious. So please bear that in mind whilst looking at the photos accompanying this post / recipe. Do not berate my rhubarb for being ugly. It is still yummy.
Let’s talk about the actual cheesecake for a moment:
I used some left-over Speculaas biscuits for the base. The spices in them go really well with the rhubarb, but you could use whatever biscuits you wish. In order to keep the amount of sugar down I swapped the caster sugar for coconut sugar which is why it is a slightly caramel, golden brown colour. If you use caster sugar, your cheesecake will be much creamier in colour and potentially a little sweeter.
So there you have it, the trials and tribulations of trying to take part in another Cheese, Please! challenge. Jeez, it can be stressful.
Pass me the cheesecake . . .
Rhubarb Vanilla Compote with Baked Vanilla Cheesecake
- 450g rhubarb, cut into 2cm pieces
- 4 1/2 tsp coconut sugar, or soft light brown sugar (you may need a little more, depending on how tart your rhubarb is)
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 125g Speculaas biscuits, or another sweet biscuit of your choice, crushed
- 65g unsalted butter
- 375g cream cheese
- 82g coconut sugar, or caster sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 egg white
- 90ml double cream
- Line a 21cm / 8.5 inch round springform tin with non-stick baking paper.
- Melt the butter and add the crushed biscuits. Mix until combined. Transfer to the prepared tin and spread them carefully with the back of a wooden spoon, so that they cover the base of the tin in an even layer. Refrigerate for 20 – 30 minutes, until set.
- Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 160 Celsius / 140 Fan / 325 Fahrenheit.
- Place the chopped rhubarb, 4 1/2 tsp coconut sugar and 1 tbsp vanilla extract into a ovenproof dish with a lid. Stir so that the sugar coats most of the rhubarb and then set aside.
- Beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl with an electric mixer, until smooth.
- Add the lemon juice, egg yolks and cream and beat until light and fluffy.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white (either by hand or using a clean electic whisk) until it forms stiff peaks.
- Fold the egg white into the cheese mixture carefully.
- Take the set biscuit base out of the fridge and place the tin on a baking tray. Pour in the cheese mixture and then place in the oven, along with the rhubarb. Bake for an hour, until the cheesecake is firm to the touch but still wobbles a little when the tray moves. Turn the oven off and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven, with the door slightly ajar, however take the rhubarb out.
- Remove the lid from the dish with the rhubarb in and stir to break it up. Taste to see if it needs a little more sugar. Leave to cool.
- Once the cheesecake has cooled to room temperature, place it in the fridge and chill for at least 3 hours before serving (remember to remove it carefully from the tin).
- Both the cheesecake and rhubarb compote will keep for 3 days in the fridge.