09 Mar // Too long between cheesecakes

"It's simply been too long between cheesecakes" is what I told my sister when she asked me why I spent yesterday morning making cheesecake. I had seen this photo on Ottolenghi's instagram and been intrigued, the recipe from his Mother's Day column on The Guardian. It's a gorgeous menu of lamb koftas, broccolini with anchovies and lemon oil, a curried carrot mash with brown butter and quick-pickled chillies, and this cheesecake. A honey and yoghurt set cheesecake. It all looked so delicious, with that perfect mix of accessible yet impressive.    

I’m as obsessed with Ottolenghi as ever, and with my happy new home life combined with a big break from the stress of deadlines, my joy for cooking has returned. This recipe was chosen because, well, do we need an excuse to make midweek cheesecake? But also because I had all the ingredients (not the biscuits, but some near expiring cream cheese and a wilting bundle of thyme) - something that was a big tick for whether I tried a recipe when I was a kid. 

It's not super rich thanks to the yoghurt, and although I was pretty dubious when I pulled it out of the tin (the base crumbled, the topping seemed soft) I cannot fault it on flavour. This is an utterly delicious, beautifully balanced, not-too-rich-but-still-lush cheesecake. 

Dutifully your recipe dissector, a few notes. I halved the recipe (which serves 8) and made that into two minis. As I said, the base was crumbly because I didn't put in enough butter, and if you can't find hobnobs (a truly great biscuit in its own right, especially the chocolate ones) you could use a digestive, or another plain biscuit. The topping was soft, and this is probably due to the fact I used natural yoghurt (rather than greek style) and should have strained for longer. The recipe says to put a clean tea towel over a sieve, and strain the yoghurt of liquid. I only did this for a short time, but I would advise doing that step (and leaving in the fridge) a couple of hours before making this, just to be safe. 

When I tasted the crumbly base I thought it was overpowering with thyme. But my god, once I'd drizzled the honey and had a full mouthful, it was balanced and luscious, and textural issues aside it was nigh on perfect.

I highly recommdend giving this one a go, either a mini version for a weeknight on the couch, a fancy dinner or lunch if you're on dessert, cold out of the fridge the next day for breakfast, or if simply, it's been too long between cheesecakes.   

Ottolenghi's Honey and Yoghurt set Cheesecake

The original recipe appears here on The Guardian. I halved the recipe, and as I said above, would strain the yoghurt longer and maybe add a little more butter for a less crumbly base. 

Ottolenghi's Honey and Yoghurt set Cheesecake 

500g Greek-style yoghurt
200g Hobnobs (I used wholewheat digestive biscuits) 
60g unsalted butter, melted
1½ tbsp thyme leaves
400g full-fat cream cheese 
40g icing sugar, sieved
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (1 tsp)
150g white chocolate, broken into 1-2cm pieces
60g honey

Line a 23cm springform cake tin with greaseproof paper. (I used two small pans instead and that worked fine!) 

Line a sieve with a clean tea towel and set it above a bowl. Spoon in the yoghurt, then draw up the sides of the towel and squeeze the yoghurt into a ball, pressing out as much liquid as you can: you should end up with about 350g thickened yoghurt. 

Put the Hobnobs in a clean plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin until finely crushed. Mix with the butter and a tablespoon of thyme, then spoon into the base of the cake tin, pressing it down to form an even layer. Refrigerate while you make the cheesecake mixture.

Whisk the cream cheese, strained yoghurt, icing sugar and lemon zest until smooth (use a free-standing or handheld mixer).

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl is well clear of the hot water. Stir for two to three minutes, until the chocolate melts; take care not to get any moisture into the chocolate or it will seize up (white chocolate is much more temperamental than milk or dark). Scrape the chocolate into the cream mix and whisk together.

Spread the cheesecake mix evenly on top of the biscuit base, then refrigerate for two hours, until set.

To serve, warm the honey in a small saucepan with the remaining half-tablespoon of thyme leaves, until runny, then drizzle over the top of the cheesecake. Release the cheesecake from its tin, cut into eight slices and serve.