Darren Purchese’s Cherry & Almond Cheesecake

cherry cheesecake.jpg

This stunning and professional-looking cheesecake is surprisingly simple to replicate

There are three recipes to nail before assembly, but they are all totally achievable and you can take your time as they don’t have to be made together.

This means you have a great looking and tasting dish without the stress. Darren uses frozen pitted cherries, as cherries were not in season at the time, but feel free to switch up fruits as you wish – the cheesecake works well with nearly all fruits, especially berries.

For the almond crumb base:
• 20g plain flour
• 20g flaked almonds
• 25g soft light brown sugar
• pinch bicarbonate of soda
• pinch salt
• 25g unsalted butter, melted

For the cherry compote:
• pinch agar agar
• 70g jam-setting sugar
• 500g fresh or frozen cherries, pitted
• 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
• squeeze lemon juice

For the lemon and vanilla cheesecake:
• 2 egg yolks
• 35g caster sugar
• 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
• 2 gold-strength gelatine leaves, soaked and drained
• 100g cream cheese
• 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
• 120ml thickened cream

1 For the base, preheat the oven to 170°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place the flour, almonds, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl and mix well with your fingers.
2 Add the cooled, melted – but still liquid – butter and mix well with your fingers to form a crumble.
3 Press the crumble into a 15 cm pastry ring placed on the prepared tray, and compact the crumble well with your fingers. Bake in the oven for 20–25 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes before removing the ring.
4 To make the compote, mix the agar agar with the sugar and stir in 100 ml water. Add this to a saucepan with the cherries and vanilla seeds and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.
5 Lower to a simmer and cook for 1 minute before removing from the heat and squeezing in the lemon juice. Stir and leave to cool completely in the refrigerator before use.
6 For the cheesecake, place the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until the temperature reaches 65°C. Put the bowl back on the mixer and whisk on medium–high speed for 10 minutes.
7 Heat the lemon juice and gelatine in a bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds to melt then pour the mixture into the whisking eggs while the mixer is still running.
8 In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese with the vanilla seeds and lemon zest.
9 In another bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks then fold this into the cream cheese mixture.
10 Fold this mixture into the egg yolks. Pour the mixture into a 15 cm diameter pastry ring set on a lined baking tray and tap the tray gently to level the mixture in the ring.
11 Place in the freezer for a minimum of 4 hours to harden.
12 Once frozen, take the cheesecake out of the ring by warming the side of the ring with your hands.
13 Take a palette knife and carefully place the frozen cheesecake on the cooked almond base. Allow the cheesecake time to defrost before topping with the cherry compote.

Recipe courtesy of Darren Purchese, extracted from Lamingtons & Lemon Tart. Photography by Patricia Niven © Hardie Grant 

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