Saturday, 12 June 2010

Elderflower Cheesecake

Highly perfumed lacy umbels are adorning the elder trees, begging to lend they're unique flavour to my cooking.
I have tried all the usual recipes from jellies to cordials and everything in between, but I was longing to try something different, which led me to research some ancient uses for the woodland flowers.
During Medieval times, something called Sambocade was prepared as a dessert using curd cheese baked in a tart case. This immediately struck me as something I'd like to make. I doubt my version is anything like the original, but as an experiment, it turned very well indeed, if I may say so myself.
The pastry makes a nice crispy container for the soft, light, fragrant and fluffy cheesecake-like filling. It is not like your usual baked cheesecake, as the texture is not as dense, but I think the lighter consistency makes it all the more summery.

I was perhaps a little lazy on this occasion, as I didn't make my own pastry, but good quality shop bought pastry is just fine and saves some time.
Don't wash your elderflowers, as that will remove all the vital pollen that is essential in giving the wonderful taste, just shake the flower heads to remove any bugs and inspect them carefully. It pays not to be too squeamish, with some insects being so tiny, it is inevitable that you'll end up eating some of them!

500g sweet shortcrust pastry
250g ricotta cheese
2 medium eggs, separated
100g caster sugar
2 tblsp plain flour
2 tblsp double cream
grated zest 1 lemon
3-4 large elderflower heads

Preheat the oven to 190C / 375F / Gas 5.
Roll out the pastry to about 4mm thick and use to line a 20cm round non-stick spring form tin. Work the pastry in so that it fits nicely. It doesn't matter if there are a few folds, just make sure to avoid any holes, although these can be patched up with spare pastry. Leave the pastry roughly hanging over the edges at the top – no need to trim as this will crumble away later for a rustic look. Put into the oven and bake blind for about 10 minutes.

Now the fiddly bit. Pick all the tiny flowers off the stems, discarding the thick green parts. You should now a have a nice pile of free flowing flowers. Set to one side.

In a large bowl, beat together the ricotta cheese, egg yolks, caster sugar, plain flour, double cream and lemon zest. When it is smooth and glossy, stir in the elderflowers and mix well. Set aside.

In another bowl beat the egg whites until they are stiff.
Take a small amount of egg white and stir well into the elderflower mixture. Fold the remaining egg white in, a little at a time, taking care not to knock out the air. When it is all well incorporated, pour into the pastry case and bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour.
When the cake is ready it should be risen and golden on top and wobble slightly.
Switch off the oven, but leave the cheesecake in with the door open to cool. The cake will sink slightly with some cracking, but this is normal.
When completely cool, remove from the tin and transfer to a serving plate.

Keep refrigerated.

Photos: ©childsdesign 2010


cribs said...

I wonder what will be bursting outside! Now this is worth trying. I am so curious.

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