Valentine Cheesecake

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I’ve become a bit of a dab hand when it comes to cheesy Valentine’s bakes.  I recently made this loaf cake for work but couldn’t stop there so kept going with this Pistachio, Pomegranate and Clementine cheesecake.  The swirly heart pattern is achieved by dotting blobs of pomegranate coulis on top of the cake, then pulling a cocktail stick through them.  It’s a lot easier than it looks, but you will need a pipette or a syringe to get really exact dots.  You can, of course, omit the hearts and simply serve the coulis on the side- also delicious.  These gorgeous shots are courtesy of Faith Mason – photographer extraordinaire.  

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Pistachio, Pomegranate and Clementine Cheesecake

You will need:
200g digestive biscuits, blitzed to a fine crumb
100g unsalted butter, melted
75g shelled pistachios, finely chopped
2 pomegranates, juice only (try my stain-free method in step 2)
2 tsp cornflour dissolved in 4 tsp water
100g icing sugar, plus extra to taste
4 gelatin leaves
300ml double cream
300g cream cheese, room temperature
zest and juice of 2 clementines

20cm loose bottomed cake tin
One plastic pipette

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Method:

 1. Mix the biscuits, butter and pistachios until well combined.  Pack firmly into a loose-bottomed cake tin, spreading out with the back of a spoon so that it is evenly distributed and coming slightly up the sides of the tin.  Chill until needed.

2. To extract the juice from the pomegranates, split one open then place in a large bowl of water.  Working under the water, separate the seeds from the hard skin.  Any bits of white pith should float to the top, making them easy for you to discard.  Drain the seeds and sort through to remove any extra bits of pith.  Repeat with the second pomegranate then place the seeds in the bowl of a mixer and blitz briefly.  Strain the juice  into a saucepan.  Add the cornflour in water and sift in a few tbsp of icing sugar, to taste.  Gently heat until you have a thick, but still drizzle-able coulis. Allow to cool completely.

3.  Meanwhile, soak the gelatin leaves in a small bowl of water for 5 min.  Pour the cream into a pan and bring to a simmer then remove from the heat.  Squeeze any excess water out of the gelatin leaves and add to the warm cream, stirring until dissolved.  Allow to cool slightly.  Beat 100g of icing sugar into the cream cheese along with the clementine zest and juice.  Add the gelatin cream along with 3tbsp of the pomegranate coulis and beat until smooth.

4.  Pour the cream cheese mixture into the biscuit base. You are now ready to decorate- hope you have a steady hand! Starting in the very centre of the cake, use the pipette to dot tiny circles in a spiral motion all the way around the cake.  I let my dots get bigger as I worked my way around.  Finally, starting in the middle again, use a toothpick to pull through the dots in continuous line- try not to lift your hand up if you can help it!  You should end up with a spiral of little hearts.

5.  Cover the tin with cling (be careful not to touch the top of the cake!) and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight, until set.

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A Bit of Brightness


There is a glut of clementines about at the moment.  Every shop I go into, every fruit and veg stall I pass, there they are in gargantuan, abundant piles.  Often accompanied by an enormous 2-4-1 sign.  This strikes me as surprising, given that I read a while ago that sales of oranges have actually gone down in recent years.  Apparently we are too lazy to peel them- we simply can’t be bothered.  Perhaps this is because these days we only really know how to use our fingers to text.  And, obviously, this ability will soon be replaced with only knowing how to use our thumbs for touch screens.  Other fingers will become superfluous.

But, all is not lost because clearly clementines are bucking the trend!  The supermarkets would have you believe that they are immensely popular, even this time of year, post Christmas.  The problem becomes what to do with them when you don’t have a stocking to put them in anymore.

I’ve been looking at ways to use up ours and decided to whizz up this Clementine Cake, created by Rangemaster’s home economist Alison Trinder, brought to my attention by the ACHICA website.  ‘This wonderfully moist and tangy cake is very easy to make and perfect for fan ovens,’ is how it was described.  ‘Gentle, consistent heat ensures that the cake will cook evenly and retain essential moisture for an irresistible afternoon treat.’  All very well put, Alison.  And I would agree, it is a joyful cake, with almost Caribbean zest and zeal (just look at the colour!  Only really very slightly enhanced in post-production, I can assure you.  Sort of.)    Having said that, the cake was a bit too much of a faff for me.  I enjoyed eating it, as did my boyfriend, flatmate and colleagues (it makes for a mighty big cake).  However, I wouldn’t say that all the different component-y, bit-y stages (separating the eggs, whisking the whites, grating the rest, making the syrup from x many clementines, using the pulp from y, etc, etc.) was necessarily worth it.  Just my opinion.  But give it a go. Tell me what you think.





Clementine, Yogurt and Polenta Cake


Ingredients
12 seedless clementines, satsumas or tangerines
450g/16oz caster sugar
200g/7oz butter, softened plus a little for greasing
the grated zest of 1 lemon
3 medium sized eggs, separated
300g/10oz ground almonds
100g/4oz polenta or semolina
150ml pot of natural yogurt


Method


1. Melt 250g of the sugar in a small pan with 330ml of boiling water, bring to the boil and reduce the heat to simmer.

2. Meanwhile, thinly slice five of the fruits horizontally, discarding the ends. Add the slices to the pan with the sugar and water. Cover and simmer until the skin of the fruit is tender – this will take about 20 minutes.

3. Grease and base line a 25cm/10″ loose bottomed tin. Remove the fruit slices from the pan when tender, and arrange as neatly as possible over the base of the cake tin.

4. Grate the zest from the seven remaining fruits and put to one side.

5. Squeeze the juice from four and stir into the syrup. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until thick. Allow to cool.

6. Mix the remaining 200g sugar with the softened butter, lemon zest and the set aside zest. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time.

7. Peel the three remaining fruits, removing as much pith as possible, and whiz in a food processor until pulpy.  Add the fruit pulp to the cake mixture with the almonds, polenta and yogurt. Then whisk the egg whites until stiff and gently fold in to the mixture.

8. Carefully spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and place into a pre-heated oven 160ºC Fan oven, 170ºC Conventional oven, Gas 4.

9. Bake until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour, when the cake will be golden brown and risen. Cool the cake in the tin.

To serve: Invert the cake on to a serving plate, spoon over some of the syrup to glaze the fruit slices. Serve with cream, ice-cream or crème fraiche and the remaining syrup.