Apricot and Amaretto Cheesecake
It’s been a long time since I baked anything. My leek and cheese tart seems like a very long time ago now. I do have a couple of excuses. The first is snow. We had quite a lot of it in the middle of December which meant that the children were off school. The second is that we were having some work done on our bathroom. All of the doors were open, there was no heating and the water was on and off for a few days. Not at all conducive to baking, especially when you get as mucky as I do. I did do a couple of Christmassy things, mince pies, and a very last-minute Christmas cake to be exact, but they’re not very interesting or adventurous so I didn’t write about them.
What I did make is an apricot and amaretto cheesecake. The recipe is from my lovely new book, Sweet, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh. You can find all the details on The Books page, and there’s an edited version of the recipe on the Australian Delicious Magazine website. There’s a hell of a lot of stuff in Sweet that I want to try. I started with the apricot and amaretto cheesecake as an alternative for those who didn’t want Christmas pudding on Christmas day. Amaretto tastes pretty Christmassy so why not? Here’s how I got on.
The base of the cheesecake is made with digestive biscuits and toasted almonds. I put some flaked almonds onto a baking sheet and toasted them in the oven at 150° fan. The recipe says that you need to toast them for about ten minutes or until they’re a light golden brown. Mine took a bit longer than Ten minutes, but not that much. I didn’t do anything while they were toasting. I wasn’t really up to multi-tasking and I didn’t want to end up with burnt nuts (as has happened more often that I want to admit).
Once they were toasted and out of the oven, I crushed my digestive biscuits. The recipe tells you to do this in a food processor, but we only have a spice grinder and it would have taken ages. I used a rolling-pin. Perhaps my crushed biscuits weren’t quite as fine as they were supposed to be, but I thought they looked OK. I mixed them with the almonds and some melted butter and pressed them onto the base of a 23cm cake tin, which I’d greased with butter, but forgotten to line with baking paper.
I’m not sure whether I should have crushed the almonds as well as the biscuits. The recipe didn’t say anything about the almonds. I kept the flakes whole, but if I made the cheesecake again, I think I’d be tempted to crush them up along with the biscuits.
Anyway, once the biscuits and almonds were in the tin, I put it into the fridge.
The first step in making the filling was to roast some apricots. The recipe uses fresh, obviously, but there weren’t any in Tesco, so I made do with a couple of tins. I drained them and dried them a bit and roasted them for about twenty minutes at 190° fan.
For the filling proper, the cheesy bit, I put a lot of cream cheese (and I do mean a lot) into the KitchenAid with caster sugar, vanilla and the zest of a couple of clementines. I was supposed to use orange zest, but I’d forgotten to put oranges on the shopping list and it was Christmas Eve and there was no way I was going to the supermarket again. With the KitchenAid at level three, I held onto it while it beat everything together. I slowly added beaten eggs, sour cream, and then amaretto (a very generous two measures).
Assembly and Baking
To put the cheesecake together, I got the base out of the fridge and lined it with roasted apricots. I poured the cheesecake mixture over the top, put it onto a baking tray and into the oven at 150° fan. I baked it for an hour. I’m not sure whether it was supposed to, but, at the end of the cooking time, my cheesecake seemed to have risen a bit, and was slightly browned on the top. It did have a wobbly centre though which is, apparently, what you need in a baked cheesecake. I turned off the oven, propped the door open with a wooden spoon and left the cheesecake inside to cool. I put it into the fridge overnight.
To serve the cheesecake, I roasted another tin of apricots. Towards the end of the cooking time, I sprinkled them with sugar, water and amaretto. They came out of the oven smelling divine. I let them cool, then put them onto the top of the cheesecake with some flaked almonds.
Was it Worth It?
Well, I think I needed a few more apricots and almond decorations before my cheesecake looked as good as the picture in the book, but it did taste good. The biscuit base worked well with the almonds (although, as I said before, I think I might chop up the almonds a bit next time). The apricots on the base were lovely, and cheesecake itself was rich and, with the amaretto, did taste pretty Christmassy. You couldn’t eat more than a small slice of this at a time though. It took us a few days to get through it but none of us complained. I can’t wait to get my teeth into Sweet, although I may have to wait until our mountain of Christmas goodies has diminished a little before I try anything quite as big.