The first time I ever tasted cheesecake was KFC cheesecake. I’m showing my age because many moons ago, before some Gen Y marketing person decided the name had too many syllables to remember, KFC was always referred by its full name, Kentucky Fried Chicken. If you didn’t know this then you were probably born in the 90’s and have never bought a cassingle in your entire life. You might not have also known that KFC also used to have lemon cheesecake, chocolate mousse, buttery corn cobs and tangy bean salad on their menu because they have now been replaced with that hideous popcorn chicken crap and crispy strips bullshit. But I remember the lemon cheesecake in its little single serve tub being delightful, so vividly yellow and probably made entirely from synthetic ingredients. I then graduated to cheesecakes from The Cheesecake Shop, a tacky yet glorious place where if you wanted only half a cheesecake they would cut a whole cake in half, foil tin and all (yes they came in foil tins). This story is making me sound like I grew up in a trailer park but I assure you I had a totally decent upbringing.
From these humble beginnings my taste buds have been well trained and refined, and I now love nothing more than eating amazing food. I’m not a fussy eater in the least, but over the years I seem to have cultivated some kind of expensive food bitch image where people think I’ll only eat at Michelin starred restaurants when I’m perfectly happy to ravage a bowl of 30 cent two-minute noodles sitting on the floor. Some people have even been embarrassed or nervous to serve me food they cooked or baked – listen, I’m just someone who loves to cook and eat, not Gordon fucking Ramsay.
Here are some other things that I’m happy to eat just to prove I’m not a food snob. Tinned oysters. Suspect-looking street food on skewers. Food made by a sweaty man and sold from his van. That pretend seafood stuff they make to look like crab. Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Any other food that replaces ‘and’ with ‘n’.
This baked New York-style cheesecake is meltingly fluffy and light, so if you’re looking for a dense cheesecake, this isn’t it. I forgot to buy biscuits for the base, so I had to make a giant cookie from scratch first, which is a little inconvenient but you earn instant domestic goddess cred if you do. Use full fat everything because it makes an absolute difference, and I only speak the truth here. This cheesecake has a subtle lemon/vanilla flavour which is refreshing and comforting all at once, and not overly sweet. I would have added glossy blueberries in syrup to the top of the cheesecake but I forgot to buy those as well because I was distracted at the supermarket by the free sausage and yogurt samples they were giving out that day. Is it just me that eats the free food and tells the lady it’s delicious and then pretends to take a phone call and sneaks away?
Obviously, I do enjoy beautiful food worth paying for – like the house roasted chicken from Victor Churchill which is a whole organic chicken flavoured with herbes de Provence, comes in its own special chicken shaped container and was lovingly massaged with fresh butter by the virgin daughters of a king oh who am I kidding. Give me that bucket of KFC.
NEW YORK STYLE BAKED CHEESECAKE
Base (adapted from Christina Tosi, Milk Bar)
55g butter, melted
115g butter, at room temperature
75g light brown sugar
40g white sugar
1 egg yolk
80g plain flour
120g rolled oats
1/8 tsp baking powder
Pinch of bicarbonate of soda
750g cream cheese, must be at room temperature (this is very important for a smooth cheesecake)
1 cup caster sugar
5 egg yolks
500g sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp lemon juice
5 egg whites, beaten stiff
¼ cup of icing sugar for dusting
For the base:
Preheat oven to 180C. Beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed in an electric mixer until fluffy and pale yellow (2-3 minutes). Scrape down sides of bowl. On low speed, add yolk. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until sugar dissolves and mixture is pale (1-2 minutes). On low speed, add flour, oats, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and ½ tsp sea salt. Mix until dough comes together – the dough will be a slightly fluffy, fatty mixture. Scrape down sides of bowl. Spread to 5mm thick on a 25cm x 31cm oven tray buttered and lined with baking paper. The dough won’t cover the tray; this is okay. Bake until caramelised on top, puffed slightly but set firmly (15 minutes), cool completely and break into pieces.
Pulse oat cookie, in a food processor until mixture resembles wet sand. Transfer to a bowl, add melted butter and knead until moist enough to form a ball. If it is not moist enough, melt an additional 14gm-25gm butter and knead it in. Press into a 20cm springform tin (there will be some left over if you’re only making a base, feel free to bring the crust up the sides of the tin if preferred or use the remaining to make another cheesecake or tart)
For the filling:
Preheat oven to 140C. Beat sugar & cream cheese in a mixer on low until well combined and smooth. Add yolks, sour cream, vanilla, and lemon juice; beat well until smooth. In another bowl using the whisk attachment, whip egg whites until stiff. Fold in two-thirds of the egg white into the cream cheese to lighten the mixture, then add the rest and fold in carefully until combined. Be careful not to knock too much of the air out of the filling.
Pour into 20cm springform tin. Bake for 1 ½hours. Turn off heat, open door and let cake remain 1 hr longer. Cool and then chill several hours, overnight if possible. Remove cheesecake from tin. Dust with icing sugar to serve.