Sunday, 3 November 2013

Ricotta Cheesecake with a Spiced Crust and Caramellized Macadamia Nut Topping

 6 pm and it's pitch-black outside. I guess winter is finally here. As I'm typing this the storm doesn't only shake the leafes off the trees, it also throws tiles off roofs and blows away everything that's not nailed down - not that I don't like sitting inside with some warm tea wrapping myself up in some huge blankets, but the weather really keeps things upside down right now. We'll have some rest Monday and Tuesday until the storm swings back in on Wednesday - so it's time to enjoy two outdoor runs without the fear of getting hit by all those branches coming down.

Other than that the days start getting back to normal - autumn holidays are over and the changing of the clocks doesn't really makes things easier: absolutely no fun to leave the house while it's dark and come back when it's dark again: nooo time for food photography :-(

So weekends are my only chance: sunday mornings at their best: a warm breakfast bun with homemade jam and a fresh brewed coffee, enough to fill me up for bakery adventures and the shooting afterwards!

This time I choose something a little more sophisticated: A spiced crust (the coldness outside drives my christmas anticipations to new heights) filled with the most creamy yet light ricotta cheesecake and as this might not be enough topped off with the "queen of nuts": macadamias - coated in a caramellized sugar crust. Unexpectedly easy but all the way enough to wow your guests or just make you feel a little more special.

Exactly what I needed today: celebrating one month of blogging (I know I'm crazy, no one bothers about such short times but I don't care ;-)) and the last relaxed day before the school-marathon 'til the christmas holidays begins. I spent the last couple of days visiting relatives and maan I tell you it was fun! One of those too short family get-togethers included a visit of a botanical garden: spices like vanilla, cinnamon or pepper and fruits like mangos, pineapples and bananas waited along the way in all their beauty - nature's magic at it's best! So somewhere between the tropical greenhouses and the steppe-area the idea of this cake combining some of the seen spices and resembling the seasons feeling popped in my mind so here it is:

Ricotta Cheesecake with a Spiced Crust and a Caramellized Macadamia Nut Topping
- makes one 20cm/8"inch cake

- 1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour (you can easily sub all purpose)
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 3 1/3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 pinch cloves
- 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp Oil (I used Sunflower Seed Oil)
- 1/2 cup water

1. Preheat you oven to 175°C. Grease or line your pan with parchment paper.
  Combine all dry ingredients. Mix in the Oil with a fork.
2. Gradually add in the water, mixing well after each addition until a slightly firm yet not crumbly dough starts to form - this means you might not need the whole 1/2 cup as the consistency depends on the used flour.
3. Press the dough on the bottom and sides of your prepared pan, making sure it's well spread.
4. Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes until slightly browned, take it out and let it cool in the pan.

- 500g Quark/fromage frais (you might want to try substituting it with blended cottage cheese)
- 200g Ricotta
- 2 eggs, seperated
- 100g Sugar
- 1 pckt Vanilla Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Cornflour
- Milk

1. You might want to strain both cheeses overnight (I did it here), but it's perfectly fine if you don't.
2. If you've turned you oven off heat it to 175°C again. Cream together the quark, ricotta cheese, egg yolks, vanilla sugar and 75g of the sugar until well combined.
3. Beat the egg whites, gradually adding the remaining sugar until stiff peaks form and the mixture is glossy.
4. Mix together the cornflour with some milk until a thick paste forms, now add it to the cheese mixture.
5. Carefully fold in the egg whites, making sure not to deflate it too much.
6. Fill the mixture in the prebaked crust and tap the pan on your counter several times to prevent remaining air bubbles from cracking the top during the baking process.
7. Put the cake in the oven, with a water filled pan at the bottom. Bake it for 15 minutes then lower the temperature to 160 °C and bake for some further 50 minutes.
8. The cake is done when the edges are set yet the centre is slightly wobbly (don't worry it will firm up during the cooling). Turn off the oven and open the door yet keeping the cake in the oven for a slow cool off (this also prevents cracks) for about 1 1/2 hours. Now you can eather top it with the caramellized macadamias right away (read on for the recipe) or refrigerate it, tightly wrapped in foil until needed.

Caramellized Macadamia Nuts
- a loose handful/ ~40g macadamia nuts
- 50g brown sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- optional: spices like cinnamon/ chocolate for further cake decoration

1. Combine all ingredients in a pan and heat it to medium-high heat, stirring constantly until a thick brown mixture forms. You're done when the nuts put in cold water form a sugar crust immediately.
2. Garnish your cake with the still hot nuts (right out of the pan, you need to work quickly here as it will harden or burn immediately).
3. Optional: You can melt some dark chocolate and drizzle it around the nut topping on the cake for the little something to round up the appearance.

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