Wow. This is an absolutely beautiful baked cheesecake. Best I have ever had. Unfortunately, I can't lay claim to the recipe - it is an adaptation of Rose Beranbaum's Cranberry Cheesecake from her beautiful book, Rose's Heavenly Cakes.
My pastry school uses this recipe as the teaching recipe, and it has certainly earned it's place there. One thing you may notice is that the cheesecake uses a lot of sour cream. Almost double the amount of cream cheese in the recipe. It almost makes it a sour cream cake, rather than a cheesecake! My teacher and I both ummed and ahhed over this - it just didn't seem right. But, fortunately, we decided to stick with the recipe and what we got was a beautiful soft, moist, creamy cheesecake. However, the cheesecake mix makes quite a large amount, so I would recommend making this in two smaller pans to ensure it cooks completely without browning on the outside. You could top both cheesecakes with different berries, or fold a flavour through one of the cheesecake batters.
For our class we made everything from scratch, but I would recommend purchasing items such as the sponge fingers to save time. You can get excellent quality sponge fingers, unless you have a lot of spare time I wouldn't say it was worth bothering. However, if you do make them, I recommend making a very large batch and freezing them. Sponge freezes very well, and stocking up like this means you won't need to buy or make any more for your next few tiramisu's or cheesecakes. I have provided a recipe to make your own if you wish to give it a go!
For the crust, you can use whatever type of biscuit you like. For a plain crust, use Marie biscuits or Graham crackers. You could also use Honey Maid biscuits for a honey crust, I have also successfully used a half/half combination of chocolate tiny teddies and oreo's. If you are going to use a biscuit with a cream filling, try and only use it for half the amount and use a plain biscuit for the other half. If you are using a filled biscuit, I would reduce the sugar to half the amount as the cream filling will sweeten the mixture substantially.
Raspberry Crown Cheesecake
Purchased ladyfingers, sponge fingers, savoiardi
To make 35 sponge fingers:
6 egg yolks
1/2 vanilla pod (optional)
4 egg whites
50g/2oz cornflour, sifted
75g/2.5oz plain flour
icing sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/356ºF.
Add a quarter of the sugar to the egg yolks and stir through. Add the seeds from the vanilla pod if using. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until foamy. The sugar should dissolve completely and the mixture should turn a pale yellow.
Beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Little by little, with the beater still running, trickle the other three quarters of the sugar into the bowl and beat the sugar and egg white mixture until thick and shiny.
Fold the sifted cornflour bit by bit into the meringue base, very gently so as not to break the air bubbles in the mixture and cause the whites to fall in on themselves.
Incorporate the foamy egg yolk and sugar mixture into the egg whites. Stir around the bowl with a wooden spoon while letting the mixture run in slowly.
Lastly, sift the flour over the sponge mixture. Then, again with a circular motion draw it carefully into the mixture.
Spray a baking sheet and line with baking paper. Using a piping bag and fit it with a large plain nozzle. Pipe thick fingers of batter onto the baking paper, about 20cms long (this way you can cut them in half and use each half, rather than trimming off and throwing away one end to make a flat bottom). Put some icing sugar into a fine sieve and dust the tops with icing sugar. This will make for a crisper biscuit.
Bake until light gold in colour, not for too long as they will be too crisp. Check on them after 8 minutes to see how they are coming along. Once done, remove from the oven and immediately remove from the paper using a spatula, or flipping over the piece of baking paper carefully onto a cooling rack, and peeling the paper down and off the sponge fingers.
Biscuit Crumb Crust
1 1/3 cups biscuit crumbs, lightly packed (see note on biscuit types above)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 pinches salt
71 grams unsalted butter (5 tablespoons)
In a food processor, process the biscuits, sugar and salt until fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse about ten times until just incorporated. Spray a 9 by 2 1/2 - 3 inch springform pan (or two smaller ones). Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan and a centimetre or so up the sides. Using a flat surface such as the bottom of a bowl or cup, press the crumbs down so they are evenly distributed and compacted. Refrigerate until ready to use.
454g/1 pound cream cheese
1 cup (200g/7oz) sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature (150g/5.3oz)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (47g/1.7oz)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups sour cream (726g/25.6oz)
Beat the cream cheese and sugar in medium-high until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, beating until smooth and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the lemon juice, vanilla and salt until incorporated. Beat in the sour cream until just blended. Place in refrigerator.
Cut the sponge fingers so that one end has a flat bottom that can sit on the crumb base when you place the sponge fingers vertically. Make them the right length so that they almost reach the top of the pan. Line the sides of the pan with the sponge fingers, flat side pressed down into the crumb mixture. You will have to do a little jenga to get them in properly, they need to be packed tightly together with no gaps (if you need to, cut a sponge finger in half widthways to fill a small gap) so that the cheesecake mixture does not leak to the outside of the sponge fingers.
Using a silicone spatula, scrape the cheesecake mixture into the inside of the sponge finger 'crown', making sure you stop pouring before you reach the point where the spong fingers start to taper off (the cheesecake mixture will leak to the sides if you go over this level). Set the pan into a large roasting dish and fill the roasting dish with 1 inch of hot water. Bake for 45 minutes in a 175ºC/350ºF oven, covering loosely with foil after 30 minutes to prevent the tips of the sponge fingers from overbrowning. To check if it is done, give the pan a bit of a wiggle. It should look set on top but still have a little jiggle in the middle. Do not let the cheesecake mixture brown at all, it should remain perfectly cream with no golden spots. If it starts to turn golden turn down the oven.
Remove from oven when cooked and cool. Once the tin is cool enough to touch you can place it in the refrigerator to cool. Undo the springform, and it should easily remove.
Raspberry Crown Topping
1 cup frozen raspberries (or blueberries/cranberries any other sort of berries)
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
In a small saucepan, place raspberries, sugar and vanilla and heat until rasbperries have released some of their juices and are defrosted. Remove a little of the juices to a small bowl and stir through the cornstarch until thoroughly mixed. Return the cornstarch mixture to the pan, stir gently, and leave over the heat until the juices thicken a little, swirling the pan by the handle every now and then.
Leave to cool a little and then pour on top of the cheesecake.
Other options for toppings are fresh berries. Place them on top, melt a little currant jelly in the microwave and brush over fruit for an easy glaze.
When cutting, using a knife that has been dipped in hot water and dried after each slice to create clean cuts.