‘Perfection’ is a word you hear a lot these days, and particularly in reference to baking. On the baking shows that are currently so popular the judges constantly remind us that they are looking for perfection, and, just in case anyone was wondering, nothing less. How something so subjective – taste and appearance – can be judged as ‘perfect’ is a discussion for another day but in a world of digital media the message we often get is that anything less than perfect is not worth having. Looks, relationships, clothes, experiences, life: it all needs to be perfect.
I think it’s important to remember that baking at home really serves two purposes. It’s not just about making something to eat. You do it because baking brings you joy, or calms and settles you, or just fulfils a need to create. And because the people you are baking for enjoy and appreciate your efforts. If you are getting both of those things out of baking then you have succeeded. It really doesn’t matter if your swiss roll has cracked, or if your cheesecake has a cavernous gap across the middle: they still taste the same. Far better that they taste amazing and look less than perfect than look perfect but don’t taste great.
Life is not perfect. Relationships are not perfect. People are not perfect. And neither is cheesecake. But if your cheesecake cracks it really doesn’t matter. With this particular one you can cheat anyway: fill in the cracks with blueberries before anyone even notices. And remember, if you are actually being judged on the appearance of your cheesecake and found wanting, maybe it’s time to make new friends! So serve this cheesecake with pride: the contrast of the purple berries and the white cheesecake is magical. I have deliberately kept the cheesecake mixture lower in sugar as the jammy berries and the burnt sugar topping provide enough sweetness. It may look a little rustic but I’m starting to think perfection is over-rated anyway: let me know what you think!
250g digestive biscuits
700g full fat cream cheese
150g double cream
200g caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
30g plain flour
350g blueberries, plus extra in case your cheesecake cracks
75g-100g brown sugar
Grease, and line the base of, a 9″ springform cake tin.
Turn the biscuits into crumbs, either by putting them in a large bag and banging them with a rolling pin, or in a food processor. Put them into a large bowl.
Melt the butter and pour over the biscuit crumbs. Mix well and tip into the base of the tin. Press down firmly with the back of a spoon.
If you have the opportunity, encase the base and sides of the tin with several layers of aluminium foil so that you can bake the cheesecake in a water bath as this may help the cheesecake to not develop cracks as it cools. If you don’t have the time, inclination or opportunity don’t worry.
Refrigerate the base while you make the topping.
Set the oven to 220°C.
Mix together the cream cheese, ricotta, double cream, eggs, caster sugar, vanilla extract and flour until properly combined and smooth. Do not overbeat as you don’t want to incorporate too much air.
Line the cheesecake base with a layer of blueberries.
Pour over the cream cheese mixture gently: the berries will float to the top:
Put the cheesecake on a baking tray, or if you have waterproofed your tin as described above put it into a deeper tray with half an inch or so of water in the base. Bake at 220°C for 10 minutes and then lower the temperature to 150°C. The cheesecake should take around another hour to bake until it is set in the centre but still a little wobbly.
Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven until the oven has cooled completely. If you are lucky it won’t crack as it cools but if it does it doesn’t matter.
When the cheesecake is cold refrigerate in the tin for a few hours if possible.
Remove carefully from the tin and transfer to something that will go under the grill if you will be using a grill to brûlée the cheesecake, or a plate if you have a blowtorch.
If the cheesecake has cracked you can fill the cracks with blueberries.
Carefully sprinkle a thick layer of soft brown sugar over the top of the cheesecake and press it down very gently:
Either put under a heated grill until the sugar starts to melt and bubble, or use a blowtorch. If you are lucky the cracks will no longer be obvious but if they are it really doesn’t matter.
I like this served at room temperature but you may prefer it chilled. Either way it’s delicious.