Generally my ideas come all at once, fully formed, or not at all. Like I’ll stare at my wardrobe for a literal forty minutes, paralysed with the inability to choose a simple garment to prevent my public nudity (admittedly, ritalin has helped alleviate these vibes) or I’ll wake up being like “I’m going to channel Victor Garber playing Jesus in the 1973 film adaptation of the musical Godspell and this is exactly how I’m going to do it!” I submitted a cocktail to Wellington on a Plate this year for work and I came up with it, concept, recipe, title and all, in precisely five seconds, but on the very last day that submissions were open. There’s other examples, just imagine I’ve given them to you (I’m very tired right now.) All of which leads us to this pomegranate cheesecake that I made on Tuesday night, simply because the words “pomegranate cheesecake” plus the entire recipe appeared in my head suddenly, and I was like…guess I better act upon this. Who am I to ignore the voice telling me to make a cheesecake that no one was asking for nor needing in their life? Who am I to not act upon every damn whim that occurs to me, no matter what it is? Who indeed?
Luckily the cheesecake was as delicious as my odd little brain promised.
This is an extremely easy cheesecake to knock together, and in fact the only difficult part is sourcing the one key ingredient: not actual pomegranate, because I am a heathen who decided to forge ahead with this despite the fruit in question being wildly out of season, but instead: Monin Pomegranate Syrup. I’ll be honest with you, some of their fruit syrups are spectacular and some of them are…less so…but the pomegranate stuff is pretty magical: lip-smackingly, butt-smackingly sour, zestily sweet, and appealingly pink in colour. If you live in Wellington it’s easily available at Moore Wilson’s, otherwise I would try buying it online, or using something like Six Barrel Soda’s Cherry Pomegranate Soda syrup, or perhaps scout your local bars for who has it in stock and ask nicely if you can borrow a small quantity in a takeaway cup in return for a slice of cheesecake. Or you could change tack completely and look for a good-quality raspberry syrup, the kind which real fruit was harmed in the making of; you’ll still get that appealingly sour red fruit flavour. OR you could go archly artisinal and use pomegranate molasses while upping the sugar content: in fact I’m now extremely curious about this variation and want to try it.
But back to the actual cheesecake that I actually made, actually. (Cheesecake…actually…is all around.)
I went into work on Tuesday night to knuckle down and overhaul the till to add and remove and shuffle a zillion buttons to make it more useable (it’s one of those ancient systems that’s about on the level a Brick Game or even, for those of you in the audience from the previous generation, an Atari, but also like, it’s MY system that I know how to USE and if anyone changes it I’ll be mad because I can’t be BOTHERED learning new THINGS.) I also had an ulterior motive: I was going to make this cheesecake, and then feed the troops with it the following evening once it had chilled sufficiently overnight. Yes, it’s a refrigerated cheesecake, not a baked one, and I honestly kind of prefer them. I’m down if you are to engage in a lively debate about this.
All of which means it’s fantastically easy to make. The filling itself is just cream cheese and whipped cream which somehow holds together and I do not question it, the lack of effort involved is enough for me. This concept is based on a Nigella Lawson recipe, so you know you can trust it. I made the base before starting on the till, refrigerated it while I got stuck in on said till, made the filling when I needed a break after realising I’d been programming everything completely wrong and was about to cry, and then put that in the refrigerator and ploughed ahead until some progress was actually made on the damn till. The next day, I came in and photographed the cheesecake, and then left it there to be consumed by whomsoever happened to be around and desiring surprise treats.
So that’s how I got there, but what in the heck did it taste like? Absolutely amazing. I didn’t actually eat the finished product as a whole but I can tell you I ate an alarming amount of the biscuit base as I was pressing it into the cake tin, and also a near-on hilarious amount of the filling as I was making it, so I can confidently say, with my hand on my heart and one hand in my pocket and the other one flicking a peace sign, that it’s a really, really good cheesecake. The tartness of the cream cheese echoes the tartness of the pomegranate syrup but it’s in such a sherbety kind of way – not truly sour, just fizzy and fruity, softened by the billowing cream. The biscuit base tastes good because of course it does, it’s smashed up biscuits and lots of butter, I don’t have to explain that to you. The colour, a merest blush of rosy pink, is really pretty, and that is also important.
While I’m being extremely heathenish and cavalier with regards to the seasonality of produce, I did buy a package of pomegranate seeds to put on top and they kind of tasted like nail polish remover but they looked so nice that my love of aesthetic won in the end. Besides, as I reasoned, you can always flick them off before you eat your slice of cheesecake. If this horrifies you too much or you just can’t access pre-packaged pomegranate seeds, simply drizzle the cheesecake with more syrup, or leave it as a plain expanse of pale, pale pink.
a recipe by myself
- one packet of plain biscuits, the boring kind that are only useful for cheesecake bases
- 100g butter
- 250g cream cheese, full fat (I’m not trying to be cute, low-fat has a weird texture)
- 300ml cream
- half a cup of icing sugar (just spoon it in, don’t pack it down, you can always add more)
- 60ml Monin pomegranate syrup
- Pomegranate seeds to decorate (optional)
Get yourself a 20cm springform cake tin and line the base with a sheet of baking paper. Then, get those biscuits crushed. Either put them in a food processor and blitz them into dust, or put them in a plastic bag and bash them with something heavy (in my case, it was a muddler that I usually use for making, like, caipirinhas.) Apply some heat to the butter till it’s anywhere from extremely soft to totally melted, it really doesn’t matter, and mix it into the biscuit crumbs. Tip all this into the cake tin and use the back of a spoon to press it fairly evenly across the base (I find if you run the spoon under water it helps the crumbs to not stick.) Pop this into the refrigerator while you get on with the filling, which is a matter of moments.
Make sure your cream cheese is at room temperature otherwise you’ll never get anywhere, in cheesecake or life. Mix it, the icing sugar, and the pomegranate syrup together briskly. Taste to see if it needs either more sugar or pomegranate. Then, whip the cream until it’s softly bulky but not like, super stiff, and fold it into the cream cheese. By the way, you can do this in a food processor or blender, mixing up the cream cheese first, removing it, and then blitzing the cream, but just be really careful to not overwhip the cream. Spatula all this on top of the biscuit base, smooth out the top, and refrigerate it for at least three hours, but ideally overnight.
When you’re ready to go, run a knife around the inside of the caketin and carefully unclip the springy bit to remove the sides. Transfer it to a cute serving plate, and either scatter with pomegranate seeds or drizzle over more syrup, but basically just do something aesthetic, okay?
I came into work later the next night: the cheesecake was all but gone, a slender wedge remained. Obviously overtired largely-broke hospo people will eat a pile of dirt if someone implies that it’s free food (just me?) but I took that as a sign that yes, it was delicious, and yes, it was a good idea, even if I have no idea why it appeared or whether I truly needed to follow through on it.
On the other hand, I am also considering making it a weekly thing now, so, thanks brain. That good idea was a good idea.
title from: Barbados gave us rum and it gave us Rihanna, both of which are true blessings. Rihanna’s song Work is as glorious as she is. Please enjoy both versions of the video, don’t deprive yourself.
Mint Chicks, Bad Buzz. This song is not on spotify and it hurts my feelings because I can’t put it on a work playlist till it is!! It’s so good!
Lorde, Liability. It’s so inconsiderate of her to release music in my lifetime when it affects my heart so much? But here she is anyway. Well Lorde, I don’t respect it, but damn it: I respect it.
next time: The weather is getting colder rapidly so I’m keen to respond in a culinary way. Something slow-cooked and extremely comforting. Either that or I’ll wait until an idea hits my brain with a bang.