Yorkshire Pink ‘Champagne’ Rhubarb Cheesecake
This is a modern cheesecake, deep and rich, offset by sweet ‘forced’ rhubarb. Forced rhubarb from the Yorkshire Triangle has recently been given the sought-after protected-name status by the EU. Rhubarb is thought to have been introduced to Europe by Marco Polo as a medicine, but by the eighteenth century it was a popular, beneficial foodstuff. The sweet-tasting pink variety favoured today is the result of an accidental discovery in the Chelsea Physic Garden in 1817, when a bright pink rhubarb plant was found growing under a mound of soil. This ‘blanching’, covering the plant with soil so it doesn’t get the chance to turn green and fibrous in the light, has now become big business in Yorkshire and tourists flock in the spring to ‘see’ the rhubarb growing in pitch-dark sheds, where it’s harvested by candlelight.
|For the base:|
|100g||digestive biscuits, crushed|
|50g||unsalted butter, melted|
|For the filling:|
|900g||good-quality cream cheese (not low-fat)|
|Grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon and 1 unwaxed orange|
|1 tsp||vanilla extract|
|4||medium free-range eggs, beaten|
|For the topping:|
|275g||young pink rhubarb|
|3 tbsp||good strawberry jam or conserve|
You will need a 22-23cm springclip tin, greased, and a baking tray.
Heat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas 2. To make the base, mix the biscuit crumbs with the melted butter, tip into the prepared tin, then press down with the back of a spoon to make an even layer. Chill while making the filling.
Put the cream cheese, grated lemon and orange zests, vanilla and sugar into a mixing bowl, or the bowl of a food mixer. Beat at low to medium speed with an electric whisk or the mixer until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time. Gradually beat in the eggs, followed by the sour cream. When thoroughly combined, pour the filling into the tin, set on the baking tray. Carefully transfer to the oven (the tin will be almost full) and bake for 1¾ hours, or until just firm. The mixture will puff up, then sink on cooling (it nearly always cracks too, but the topping disguises this). Turn off the oven but don’t open the oven door, and leave the cheesecake to cool slowly for 1½ hours. Remove from the oven and, when completely cold, cover and chill overnight.
The topping can be baked alongside the cheesecake. Rinse the rhubarb, trim off the ends and cut on the diagonal into 2 to 3cm lengths. Spread the jam over the base of a large ovenproof baking dish and arrange the rhubarb on top. Cover tightly with foil, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. When ready to finish the cheesecake, remove the rhubarb from its liquid, draining well. Spoon the rhubarb cooking juices into a small pan and simmer over a low heat for a few minutes until syrupy. Unclip the tin and set the cheesecake on a serving plate. Arrange the fruit on top, and brush generously with the hot syrup. Chill until ready to serve.