Last week my desk neighbour Mike brought in a bag full of lemons from his tree at home and seeing as it’s been far too long in between lemon desserts, I decided to bake a lemon and mascarpone cheesecake.
The recipe I used was one of Bill Granger’s and it turned out flawlessly. Cheesecakes really aren’t that arduous to prepare but they do take time and patience to get that light, only-just-cooked, quintessential texture.
I had a vision of candied lemon slices cascading over the top but I’ve screwed up endeavours to make candied lemons in the past sans recipe (just winging it and hoping for the best).
So in the interest of success, I consulted the Pinterest bible and found a superb-looking recipe posted by Melina Thompson on Best Friends For Frosting (prediction: I will be attempting the entire New York-style coconut cheesecake with lemons in future, stay tuned)…
The one thing I would tweak is the amount of sugar used for the candied lemons. I was hoping for a citrusy, vibrant, rather tart syrup to offset the richness of the cheesecake but a) I think the ratio of sugar to water was too much; b) it needed additional lemon juice to up the tart factor; and c)… I was rather distracted and let it reduce for too long, tipping it over that crucial point to become toffee…
…which is perfectly fine if toffee is your intention but not so great for drizzling stylishly of the top of a cake.
Encouraging viscous toffee to ‘lightly drizzle’ turns out to be about as easy as separating individual sheets of filo pastry without any tears or holes – it’s fiddly, frustrating as hell and everyone’s feelings just end up getting get hurt.
So after the initial experiment, I suggest using only half a cup of sugar and adding the finely strained juice of couple more lemons.
lemon & mascarpone baked cheesecake
with candied lemons
based on bill granger’s recipe in the february 2011 issue of delicious. magazine
175g digestive or shortbread biscuits
80g unsalted butter, melted
500g cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 cup caster sugar
4 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
finely grated zest and juice of a large lemon
400g mascarpone cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
candied lemons (recipe from best friends for frosting)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 small lemons, thinly sliced and seeds removed
Preheat your oven to 140°C. Lightly butter a 24cm springform cake pan and line the base with baking paper.
Half fill a deep baking tray (or roasting pan) with boiling water and place on the bottom shelf of the oven. This will help prevent the cheesecake from drying out during cooking.
Place the biscuits in a food processor and pulse they form crumbs. If you’re like me and don’t own a food processor, you can always chuck the biscuits in a large plastic sandwich bag or between two sheets of baking paper and bash the hell out of them with a rolling pin (which takes longer, but is rather satisfying).
Add the melted butter to the biscuits crumb and stir through to ensure you have an evenly coated mixture. Press the mixture into the base of the prepared pan. Pop into the fridge until you’ve finished the filling.
To make the filling, place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and cream together until smooth and well combined. Add the mascarpone and whisk again until smooth. With the mixer running, add the eggs and egg yolk, one at time, whisking gently in between additions. Finally, add the vanilla extract, lemon zest and juice, and whisk together until you have a smooth, velvety consistency.
Pour the filling over the prepared base and bake the cheesecake on the middle shelf of the oven for one hour (it will still have a slight wobble in the centre). Leave the cheesecake to cool in the switched-off oven (with the door closed) for a further hour or until completely set.
Transfer the cheesecake to a wire rack to cool completely. Cover the pan with cling film and chill for at least four hours or overnight.
To make the candied lemons, bring the sugar and water to a boil in a large skillet or saucepan. Stir gently until the sugar is dissolved and when liquid is clear and bubbling, reduce the heat to medium-low.
Add lemon slices, arranging them in one layer with tongs. Simmer (do not let boil!) until the lemons turn slightly dark, about 30 minutes. Remove the lemons and let them cool on a china plate, uncovered, until ready to serve.
Let the syrup cool completely before drizzling over the cheesecake and layering candied lemon slices over the top.