If you gave most families the choice between a cheesecake and Christmas pudding, they would probaly opt for a cheesecake. There is something so comforting about a creamy cheesecake with its biscuity base – with Christmas fruits, it keeps everyone festive.
- 150-200g fresh cranberries
- Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
- 150g caster sugar
- 100ml water
- 1tsp cornflour
- 200g Hobnobs or digestives
- 80g butter, melted >
- For the cheesecake
- 500g cream cheese, such as mascarpone, softened; you can also use Philadelphia
- 300ml double cream
- 120g caster sugar
- 120g prepared weight of vacuum-prepared chestnuts or fresh, roasted and shelled
- Canned chestnut purée (optional)
Put the cranberries in a saucepan with the sugar, orange juice, zest and water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 5 minutes; then dilute the cornflour in a little water and stir into the cranberries. Continue simmering for a few minutes until the cranberries are just coated in the 3-4 tablespoons of the thickened liquid, then remove from the heat and leave to cool at room temperature.
Place the shelled chestnuts on a tray lined with foil and scatter a couple of tablespoons of sugar from the 120g you need for the cheesecake. Lightly toast under a medium grill, turning them as they are cooking, for 2-3 minutes.
In a food processor, crush the biscuits to a coarse breadcrumb-like consistency. To do this by hand, put the biscuits in a plastic bag and smash with a rolling pin. Next, mix them with the melted butter.
Line a 14-18cm round or square removable-bottomed cake or deep flan tin with greaseproof paper. Because the cheesecake is soft, the sides of the tin must be detachable. Pack the biscuit mixture into the tin, firming it down with the back of a spoon.
Using a mixing machine or by hand, whip the double cream and sugar until fairly stiff. In a clean bowl, again by machine or hand, soften the cream cheese then add the whipped cream. If you’re using mascarpone, rather than Philadelphia, you may need about 50g less cream. Carefully fold in half of the cranberry mixture and half the chestnuts to form a rippled effect. Now spoon the mix on to the biscuit base, leaving the top a bit rough. Leave to set in the fridge for 2-3 hours until firm. Remove the cheesecake from the tin – you may need to run a hot knife around the edge – then slide it on to a serving dish. Spoon the rest of the cranberry mixture on top and then scatter the rest of the pecans all over.
If you want to add a little final flourish – as I have done – buy canned chestnut purée. Put a small amount in an old-fashioned piping tube/cylinder and squeeze it over the top of the cheesecake.