My next door neighbour, but one, caught me in the garden the other day and informed me that her husband and her were off to London for a few days and that she would appreciate it if we could pick (and use up) some of the raspberries growing in her garden. Having used her raspberries before to make a raspberry coulis, it didn’t take much persuasion and before long, Jo had picked a large punnet of raspberries.
Mindful that I had a punnet of raspberries in the fridge, I thought I should set about doing a bit of baking. Whilst flicking through Donna Hay’s ‘Basics to Brilliance’ for her chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe, I came across her recipe for a raspberry swirl cheesecake. Raspberries and baked cheesecake, what more could you ask for? So, on Saturday evening, exhausted from our first session at British Military Fitness, I set about baking the raspberry swirl cheese cake.
The first step was to make the raspberry syrup. The second step was to make the ricotta cheesecake base and filling. All went well with the first two steps, or so I thought…. The third step was to swirl the raspberry syrup through the ricotta cheesecake base. At this point, I realised that my syrup (after cooling) had become less of a syrup than a jam and rather than being swirled through the ricotta cheesecake it seemed to slide inelegantly through the surface of the cheesecake only to disappear beneath the surface. Not deterred by my disappearing raspberry syrup (or should I say, jam) I placed my cheesecake in the oven at 150 degrees Celsius for 50 minutes. After which, I turned off the oven and left my cheesecake in the oven for a further 50 minutes as instructed. After an hour and forty minutes, I placed my cheesecake into the fridge to cool for at least an hour. At the point that I placed my cheesecake in the fridge, it looked very much like a cheesecake, albeit without a raspberry swirl.
After an hour (there is only so long that a girl can wait for her dessert), I removed the still slightly warm cheesecake out of the fridge to cut a couple of pieces for our dessert. A couple of smallish cracks had appeared on the surface of the cake but I wasn’t overly bothered. I finished off the cheesecake with a handful of fresh raspberries and all was well in the world of cheesecakes again. As suspected, the raspberry syrup/jam had sunk to the bottom of the cheesecake i.e. between the base and the cheesecake topping. While this may not have been as aesthetically pleasing as raspberry ripple it certainly did not affect the taste of the cheesecake. The cheesecake was a taste delight, even if I say so myself. It took a lot of will power to refrain from having a second slice.
The following morning, and in preparation for a large family do at my younger sister’s house, I set about baking my second raspberry bake of the weekend, raspberry Bakewell. Although I had mentioned to my husband that I needed more raspberries for my second bake the night before, he had either not heard or registered my request so in the morning, as I started my bake, I asked him where the freshly picked raspberries were. He said that they weren’t any. Reluctantly, he ventured into the neighbour’s garden in the light of the morning to pick me the raspberries for my bake. He came back with 200g of the 250g of raspberries I needed for my bake, but I didn’t have the heart to ask him to pick anymore. I hoped that 200g would be enough. Following the recipe to the letter, including processing all the ingredients in a food processor (the first time I have made a cake in a food processor), I scattered my raspberries over half the cake mixture in the tin and then covered them with the other half of the cake mixture as instructed. Not convinced by the texture of the cake mixture (a lot more dense than normal cake mixture), I placed my cake in the oven and baked as instructed. I was surprised to see that the baked cake had such a good rise and looked as it did in the photo of the BBC Good Food site. Still a bit nervous, I cut into my bake at my sister’s house after lunch and was very pleasantly surprised to see that the cake had a light, spongy texture and the combination of the almonds and the fresh raspberries went very well (200g of lovely sweet raspberries was enough).
I should mention that I did take some of my raspberry cheesecake to the lunch as well, albeit somewhat reluctantly as in the morning after my cheesecake bake, I discovered that the cracks on top of my cheesecake had multiplied and deepened overnight and my raspberry cheesecake was no longer the fine looking specimen from the night before. Knowing that it had a delicious taste and ignoring the adage that ‘you eat with your eyes’, I thrust my cheesecake onto my family members while apologising for its less than perfect appearance. Let’s just say that taste won the day and my family members were very happy with their dessert options, which also included a delicious Mary Berry chocolate cake, which my younger sister had lovingly prepared. I have pondered about the cracks since and my theories are as follows: (1) I should have left the cheesecake to cool at ambient temperature first before putting it in the fridge to cool – the cold fridge could have ‘shocked’ the warm cheesecake or (2) as the raspberry syrup was more of a jam than a syrup, perhaps the density of the jam in the light cheesecake caused the cheesecake to crack, especially as the jam and the cheesecake mixture could have cooled at different rates. Your thoughts?
On Sunday evening, still uncomfortable with his early morning raspberry forage, I armed my husband with two slices of cheesecake (the best two slices, I might add) and two slices of the raspberry Bakewell and suggested that he took them around to our neighbours to thank them for their raspberries. Happy that he had confessed to his ‘early morning crime’ (the neighbours were not concerned in the least – funny that!) and giving the neighbours something in return for their raspberries, my husband was able to relax for the rest of the evening with a clear conscience.
The following morning, my husband received an email entitled ‘We know Coln’s best pastry/pudding chef!’ with the message ‘.. many thanks, Bridget and Jo. Crowned a perfect evening!’ Our neighbours had been at the local pub with a couple of friends and had followed up their meal at the pub with the raspberry cheesecake and Bakewell cake. We were even sent a photo of the four of them tucking into their pudding with glee.
So while the raspberry may be seen as a ‘gone wrong strawberry’, it can still bring delight to many and make me feel that maybe, just maybe, my change in career my be worth it, even if it takes a bit of time to establish myself.