Saturday, May 28, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Classic Baked Cheesecake and Cooking Tips

Last weekend I was making pumpkin soup and lamented on Twitter and Facebook that the hardest thing about making pumpkin soup (click on the link for the recipe) is peeling the pumpkin. It didn't take too long before I had several people who offered me a variety of tips.

One was to not peel it at all if I was using Butternut pumpkin, because by the time it is cooked in the slow cooker the skin will be soft and therefore when you blitz it you won't be able to tell it was there. Other options were to wrap the pumpkin in cling film and put it in the microwave for a while which will soften the skin and make it easier to peel (be careful though because the pumpkin will be hot), or to roast the pumpkin and then scoop the flesh out and use that in the soup.

When making hamburgers one of my favourite cooking tips is to shape the burger using a quarter cup measuring cup. It means that you get consistent size and shape and makes it easier to get even, well cooked burgers.

Then on Masterchef the other day, Australian celebrity cook and food stylist Donna Hay shared her tips on creating the perfect Baked Cheesecake. Now, I love cheesecake, but when I make cheesecake I always make the chilled version of cheesecake. In fact, I will be making my absolute favourite cheesecakes at least once next weekend, but I am thinking that this one looks pretty achievable too.

Watch the video to see a couple of very handy tips, especially one about using springform cake tins.

Donna Hay's Classic Baked Cheesecake

1/3 cup ground almonds (almond meal)
¾ cup plain flour
¼ cup caster sugar
90g chilled butter, chopped

330g cream cheese, softened
500g fresh ricotta
4 eggs
1 1/3 cups caster sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
¼ cup lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ tablespoons cornflour
1½ tablespoons water

Strawberries and raspberries, to decorate

1. Preheat oven to 150°C.

2. To make the base, place the ground almonds, flour, sugar and butter into a bowl. Rub mixture with your fingertips until it forms coarse crumbs.

3. Line the base of a 20cm spring form tin with non-stick baking paper. Place the base mixture in the tin and press gently with fingers until even and then smooth out with the back of a spoon. Bake for 15 minutes or until light golden, set aside.

4. To make the filling, place the cream cheese, ricotta, eggs, sugar, lemon rind, juice and vanilla in a food processor. Combine the cornflour and water until smooth and add to the cheese mixture. Process the mixture until smooth.

5. Grease the sides of the cake tin with a little butter and then pour the filling over the base. Tap lightly to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and stand the cake in the oven for 1 hour, leaving the door closed. Refrigerate until cold and serve with fresh berries.

I had never, ever even considered turning the base of the springform pan over, but it makes perfect sense!

So my question for all my Weekend Cooking peeps is...

What's the best cooking tip you have ever been given?

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. 


  1. I've done the butternut squash thing. It is so easy, that I never want to use another pumpkin again ^_^

    Also I was wondering if you could answer a question for me regarding measuring cups. I live in the Netherlands so to me a cup is not a unit we use, as you might know. So I now use tea cups if a cup is required... This doesn't always work, so I was wondering if you know a shop where I would be able to import my own set of American measuring cups? It would make the use of American recipes so much easier :) Thanks!

  2. Not sure Uniflame. I use Australian measuring cups.

  3. Hey Marg :)

    I don't cook, so no real tips ^_^; It's funny because I think that in North America, baked cheesecake is much more popular. I didn't even know about the chilled version until I watched a cooking show two years ago ^_^;

    Anyway, you're watching Masterchef? What do you think of this year's season? I don't know, I prefer the contestants from last year...

  4. Hi Nath, we are watching the Australian version. It has taken Australian TV by storm for the last few years, and really is making a difference here. My son for example is much more interested in cooking as a result of watching Junior Masterchef last year.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Like your previous commenter, I have always made baked cheesecakes, and my recipe is pretty similar to this one, down to leaving the cake in the oven for an hour, although I leave the door half-open.
    I don't know if this qualifies as a tip, but the best advice I ever got was to use parchment paper when I bake very delicate cookies.

  6. Hey Marg :) LOL, sorry, I wasn't clear. I am watching the Australian version as well. I think the Australian version is far superior to the US one, because you really get to know the contestants and it's constructive. Also, being 6x a week, it's just great LOL.

    I was just wondering what you were thinking of this year's contestants :P I'm rooting for a few... but I don't know if it's the editing or something, but I liked the people from last year better. More personality... I think this year ppl are taking it a bit too competitively...

  7. Love cheesecake, I think I've only had the baked version, mine always crack, even with a water bath, but I took a peek at your unbaked version and it looks so good, I would love to try!

    Some excellent tips!

  8. Uniflame, I've got a set of measuring cups and I got them from Dille and Kamille (a cookery shop) - I've got the 1c cup, 1/2, 1/3, and 1/4 cup measure and it's so handy!

  9. At Marg: I had no idea, sorry :)

    @Leeswammes: Thanks!! Will check that out :)

  10. Such a great post. That cheesecake looks sensational. I'm watching Masterchef, but don't see it every night and hadn't seen this recipe. The tip about turning the base of the springform pan over is a good one- so simple, and makes so much sense, makes you wonder why you never thought of it before- the base is always annoying.

    The best tip I ever had was from Nick Nairn, and it was about adding stock or water to soup. He always adds hot stock or boiling water to his soups, and says that it gives them a fresher flavour, and stops the vegetables seeming stewed- and I have to agree with him. I've never made it any other way since I came across his tip, what was probably 10+ years ago.

    I love pumpkin soup- I usually use Jap, and greatly prefer it roasted first for flavour, and it is of course easier to roast it unpeeled and then scoop the flesh out. That isn't quite right for every pumpkin soup though. I'm always amazed how astringent pumpkin is when you cut it- your fingers always feel tight, and I daydream about the millions I'm going to make from a pumpkin skin firming lotion one day.

  11. I love cheesecake! Anyway, I haven't heard of that springform trick -- I'll have to try it.

    For fluffy omeletes or scrambled eggs: warm up the eggs (in the shells) in warm to hot water -- it really does make a difference. I saw that on the USA Food Channel a few years ago.

  12. I just watched the whole video and loved it. It's my first time seeing MasterChef. I don't believe we can get it in the US. I can't wait to try this Baked Cheesecake now.

  13. i love Donna Hay. I'm from the US where she's not as well known. The only issue is that while I LOVE her recipes-- they are tricky to decipher b/c the ingredients and measurements and different here in California! Thanks for sharing this! I'll have to watch this program.

  14. ps you can watch Masterchef online in the US-

  15. Rebecca, if you ever need help deciphering let me know. I lived overseas for 5 years so know that sometimes things are called different names in different countries.

    Margot, I think there is a US version of the show, but I am not sure where you can see it.

    OH, good tip. Thanks Beth!

    That tip makes a lot of sense Louise! I haven't been watching a lot of this years Masterchef myself but do like the Masterclass episodes

    Carol, I love that chilled version, and all my friends constantly ask for it.

    Nath, I think the thing with the new contestants is everyone is really aware what is at stake. Lots of last years contestants are still very visible, whereas the year before there were only a couple. Who are you rooting for?

  16. Thanks for the link Rebecca!

  17. True what you're saying, Marg. Which is why I always think the first few seasons of a competitive show are the best. Once after, there are way too aware and much more strategic :(

    Hmmm, this year? I like Kumar, but I have a soft spot for older people :P I liked Peter and Craig at the beginning, but I'm starting to re-consider... After seeing Ellie in action, I'm starting to like her. I'm also probably with half the population rooting for Hayden... and finally, Kate :)

    What about you?

  18. One of the first recipes I ever posted on my blog was for a cheesecake - it is a bit different from others but is my very favorite. Easy to make and delicious. If you are interested here it is:

  19. My tip is about knives. Sharp knives are much safer than dull ones. If your knife is dull you will press much harder with it and if you slip the cut will be much worse. Also, you need to hold your food properly when cutting. Don't put your hand out flat to hold something down, put your fingers as straight down as possible or even curl them a little bit under, that presents a smooth veritical surface to the flat of the blade.

    This video shows it well:

  20. Heather, sharp knives are important for sure!

    Nath, I have only been watching the Masterclasses really, which doesn't give a lot of opportunity to decide who I do and don't like!