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Friday, 18 February 2011

Savoury and Sweet Individual Cheesecakes

First of all, apologies to my regular readers who may have wondered at my lack of postings for the last week or so: The Guerilla Griller is having a slightly hectic time at the moment, preparing to move house.  I will be posting new recipes, hints and tips as often as I can, so watch this space/bookmark/follow/subscribe to RSS etc.

This is a very quick cheesecake recipe, and one that you can make infinite adaptations to as your creativity clicks into gear.  The inspiration for this is my friend Sarah, who asked me the other week if you could make savoury cheesecakes: why not, I thought?  In fact, the usual combination of sweet and cheese would perhaps sound more odd if we weren’t used to it.

You could use this method to make one large cheesecake, using a springform or loose-base flan or cake tin, but I’m using ring moulds here to make one-portion individual cheesecakes, which I think are much prettier, especially for a dinner party or whenever you are trying to impress: and yet they are so easy, and can be made well ahead of time.

You can buy ring moulds, (or ring molds), depending on where you are in the world) literally a short tube open at both ends, which are useful to have around the kitchen, but you could also use small food cans/tins (in Britain, the one-portion sized baked bean tins are ideal), cleaned and with the tops and bottoms removed – you can get a somewhat sharp edge though, so be careful, and if in doubt buy some “proper” ring moulds.  I have also seen some people use sections cut from (new) plastic waste pipe, of the type to be found in plumber’s supply shops.

The bases are made from crushed biscuits, held together with a little melted butter, which is then put into the fridge to set.  Use only just enough butter, or you’ll end up with a very hard and tough base.  Digestive biscuits are ideal for savoury and sweet cheesecakes, but by all means experiment with any other dense but crumbly biscuit, such as oatcakes, bath olivers, ginger nuts, hobnobs or whatever you like.  Although it would be tempting to use come kind of cracker for a savoury cheesecake base, I don’t think they would have the right texture, and could also become soggy once crushed and mixed with the butter.

Cream or curd cheese is the usual medium for the body of the cheesecake, but you could use fromage frais, mascarpone or a mixture – well whipped cream can also be added to loosen if necessary – but remember not to make it too sloppy, as you want the cheese to “stand up” and hold its shape once the mould has been removed.

Here’s the basic method: ideas for fillings and toppings follow.

Ingredients (for four individual cheesecakes)

The cheesecake bases:
8-12 digestive (or other) biscuits
2oz/55g butter

Crush the biscuits, either by whizzing them in a food processor, or in a bowl with the end of a rolling pin – try to keep a little bit of texture, so don’t reduce them to powder.  Melt the butter, either in small saucepan (don’t let it brown or burn) or in a microwave.  Mix into the crushed biscuits – you may not need all the butter, or you may need a little more.  You are looking for a soft, but not sloppy, dough.

Lightly grease four ring moulds with a little more butter, and place on a flat surface such as a small board or tray that can be lifted as one and placed in your refrigerator.  Split the biscuit mixture between the four moulds, and press down into the base.  A small, clean, empty glass jar that fits the moulds is ideal for this job, as it produces an even surface, and you can see what you are doing.

Refrigerate the bases for at least twenty minutes before filling.

The filling:

One to two tubs of cream or curd cheese, fromage frais, mascarpone etc – this will depend on the width and depth of your moulds (you don’t have to fill them to the top), how thick you want your cheesecakes and the quantity of other ingredients you decide to use.

Suggestions to be added to the cheese:

Savoury: (you may not need to add salt to the filling, but a grind or two of pepper will usually be good)

Shreds of smoked salmon, finely chopped dill herb/weed, and diced gherkin/dill pickle
Finely sliced red onion and olive
Finely sliced/shredded salami, pepperoni, chorizo etc
Prawns, crayfish or crawfish tails

Sweet: (you can stir in a little icing/fine confectioners sugar to the filling if you like)

Strawberries, raspberries etc, diced or sliced
Chocolate chips (you could also melt a little good quality chocolate and stir it lightly into the cheese so you get nice decorative swirls)
Fudge chips
Broken biscuit – some of your favourite sweet biscuits/cookies, roughly crumbled.


Mix your chosen ingredients well with the cheese.  Fill the prepared ring moulds with the mixture, pushing the mix well down onto the biscuit base.  Decorate the top of the cheese mix with a suitable garnish, such as a little more of your ingredient, a sprig of herb,  a small wedge of citrus etc.  Refrigerate until needed.

To unmould:

Using a palette knife or similar, lift each filled mould onto a serving plate.  Wrap a warm cloth around the mould for a few seconds, remove the cloth, and then carefully lift the ring mould away.  You may need to gently use the palette knife to help this operation, and use it again to “tidy up” the cheesecakes once the mould has been removed.  Garnish the plates suitably: maybe with a little salad and a swirl of dressing for the savoury cheesecakes, and a drizzle of sauce and a slice or two of fruit for the sweet (and/or dust over with icing sugar/fine confectioner’s sugar/cocoa powder through a fine sieve or tea strainer).
More fillings:

I have deliberately kept the fillings suggestion list quite short, just to get you started.  Let your imagination inspire you to find other fillings, and why not post your suggestions in the comments box below?

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