It’s been the sort of day where one arranges emergency therapy (blow me down, the NHS, you’re marvellous) and mutters “Good lord, good god, good god alMIGHTy” in between bursts of sobbing. However, it’s also the sort of day when there is a home-made cheesecake in the fridge, and another in the freezer, and since it’s thirty degrees (thirty! thirty! I did not move from the heathen East for this) a frozen lemon cheesecake is just the right sort of thing. Also, the cold tin is very soothing on puffy eyes.
The nice side of making things that need to chill overnight is that sometimes you forget they are there until the middle of a storm. This is not something I recommend you make, mid-storm, but it’s certainly something I recommend you eat right then. While you’re still crying, preferably. It’s hard to cry with a mouthful of mascarpone.
This is my second go at this cheesecake, and while it isn’t perfect, it’s pretty fucking good.
Good Lord Lemon Cheesecake
Makes about twelve slices, but what slices they are. 30 mins prep, chill overnight
250 ml double cream
250 g mascarpone
100g icing sugar
150g salted butter
150g ginger snaps (that’s one value packet)
Medium sized cake tin; preferably a spring-form one, but mine wasn’t, and it has been fine as paint. I actually made three cheesecakes in decreasing size (practising tiers for a wedding) but I will give measurements for one 20-cm cake.
Whisk (mine has, like Mr. Magnolia, only one beater. Missing beater, please come home!)
Two large bowls, one heatproof; a saucepan; a grater/zester; a mug or something to crack eggs into; a fork; a large heavy object that you can crush things with. A hammer, possibly, or a rolling pin. I used a meat tenderiser, because it’s a lovely object.
A fridge, or a freezer.
Let’s start with the lemon curd. This is Nigel Slater’s lemon curd, and I make no apologies, because Nigel Slater is a genius, and I love this lemon curd. First, zest your lemons. You may well have a proper Microplane thing; I, for some reason, have only a nutmeg grater. But of course. Zest the lemons. It will not look like a lot of zest. That’s okay. Juice the lemons. There will be a lot of juice. That’s okay, too. Everything’s okay.
Put all the lemon bits into the heatproof bowl. Weigh out the butter- cold!- and dice it; weigh out the sugar; put them in the bowl, too, and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water over a medium heat. The water should not touch the bowl, which is slightly tricky to gauge, but do your best. Whisk it briefly, and then turn your attention to those four eggs.
Three of them, crack whole into a mug; from the fourth one we only need the yolk, as above. Break the eggs up lightly with a fork. Whisk the lemon mixture until the butter and sugar have melted; add the eggs, and whisk. Keep whisking. It’s so gold, isn’t it? So very gold. Leave on the medium heat, and whisk and whisk with your little fists. It will come together, and thicken. It will be custardy in texture, and it will smell gorgeous, and lemony, and when it starts to cling thickly to the thin wires on the whisk, you can turn off the heat and set the bowl, whole, on the side (or in the fridge, if you aren’t fussy, and in a hurry) to cool.
While the lemon curd is cooling, take your packet of biscuits and tip them into a bowl. Hit them with a big hammer. As I write this I note that this is the third of my recipes to require hitting things hard with a big hammer. I am not sure what this says about Eating With My Fingers, but it is very satisfying. Hit the biscuits with the big hammer until they are a fine dust- you may have to sort of grind them a bit, too. This kind of texture.
Melt an equal weight of butter (I KNOW, but it’s not for EVERY DAY). Pour the butter into the biscuit dust. Mix together, with your two clean hands, to form a loose and crumby dough. Press this dough into the cake tin. Wash your hands, and possibly the bowl: I only have two cooking bowls, so this step is very necessary.
In the bowl, put your double cream, and whip it, á la Willow Smith, real good.
Add your mascarpone, and your icing sugar. Mix briefly with a fork (to stop the icing sugar atom cloud); whizz very quickly with the one-beater whipper. Poor lonely whisk. With a biggish spoon, smooth this good dollop of sweet soft cream cheese thickly across the biscuit base. Even it out as much as you can: it will look prettier this way when it comes out of the tin.
Next, the lemon curd: it should have set to a spoonable consistency. Put that on top, and smooth. Cover the whole thing in tin foil, and put it in the fridge, if you’re a reasonable person, or the freezer, if it is thirty degrees and the whole city is full of car fumes and body odour.
YOU MUST LEAVE IT TO SET. This is the point where you can go away and have your breakdown, or dealing with crises, or whatever it is you’re doing. Sleeping, probably, given that it sets best overnight, and not everybody decides to deal with shit at four in the morning. LEAVE IT TO SET. DO NOT HURRY THIS PART. If you hurry this part, you will have deconstructed cheesecake.
When you wake up, check the cheesecake. No, it’s not ready yet. Go to emergency therapy and call your grandparents.
Come home. Turn the fan on. Check the cheesecake. Eat, like the best kind of decadent ice-cream. Maybe a glass of limoncello, too. It will make you feel Italian. Yes, it will. Don’t cry any more. Say “good lord” a lot, but in a good way.