I let my mind wander too far down some strange path last night and had to escape to the outside to remember how to breathe. The air was cold, really cold but the light wind that whipped drizzley rain about my face held so much warmth in it. It is that warm Northern wind that brings with it a sense of madness or urgency, the herald of change and anticipation. I had my first taste of this year's Autumn last night, and it is delicious.
I love this time of year. There is still warmth in the sun despite the shadows lengthening and we still have some of those beautiful summer fruits; figs, apricots and plums. I seem to recover the energy that has been leeched from me by the oppressive summer heat and a manic need to create takes hold. Now is the time to learn new things. Such as the different pathologies to aberrant behaviours, knitting thick woollen blankets using just my arms, playing Kate Nash songs the ukulele, how to sing in French, testing and retesting on a quest to find my perfect pie crust and the perfect vanilla cake to layer (if you lovelies have with recipes you swear by let me know!).
Someone once told me it was bad blogging and boring writing to wax lyrical about the weather but I can't help it. And I am not sorry. The seasons are so very important on what we grow and how I bake. February and March always pass in a haze of plum recipes. This is the time to start getting couch cosy, with cups of tea and tasty baked sweet treats. My cookbooks are covered in post-it notes, bookmarking recipes to try (but probably never will) with hastily scribbled additions or random sparks of inspiration (or idiocy depending on the day). And so that brings me to this baked cheesecake with the last of our plums roasted in the oven, decadent and delicious and oh so comforting.
I made this mascarpone cheesecake a week ago. I put my faith in the beautiful Yossy Arefi from Apt. 2b Baking Co as I have never made cheesecake before so I have no real clue of what cheesecake should be like (unless you count my attempt at vegan cheesecake bars at the beginning of the year, which I don't because they are unbaked and have no cheese). The only cheesecake I can remember eating was in a tapas bar in Wellington New Zealand whilst I sat opposite a guy in glasses who wrote indecipherable songs on a napkin. The cheesecake we shared had a burnt sugar crust on top and tasted like a cloud of winter lemons. This cheesecake is nothing like the one I ate in that delicious memory but it is still bloody excellent. I roasted some of our last remaining plums in maple syrup and ground cinnamon then placed them on a bed of velvety baked cream cheese and mascarpone. I added cardamom and ginger into the biscuit crust for some autumnal warmth. This cheesecake is creamy rather than cakey thanks to the mascarpone but this does mean it needs a longer sit time in the fridge to set and if you don't bake it long enough the centre can collapse a little under the weight of warm plums.
- Ensure your ingredients are all at room temperature before beginning.
- Don't place warm plums directly onto the cheesecake as it will soften it and it will likely collapse
- Begin the day before so it can benefit from setting overnight in the fridge.
BAKED VANILLA MASCARPONE CHEESECAKE WITH ROASTED PLUMS & NATIVE VIOLETS
For the Roasted Plums;
- 1 kilo/ 2 Pounds fresh plums, halved and de-seeded
- two large pinches of ground cinnamon
- ½ Cup Maple Syrup
- 2 Tbsp Water
For the Cheesecake:
- 1 Packet Digestive Cookies (coarsely broken)
- ½ Packet Butternut Cookies (coarsely broken)
- 1 tsp, Ground ginger, heaped
- ½ tsp Ground cardamom, heaped
- 200 g butter, melted
- 250 g/ 8.8 oz cream cheese
- 250 g/ 8.8 oz mascarpone
- ½ Golden Caster Sugar
- 2 Large eggs
- 2 tsp Vanilla bean paste
- Pinch of salt
- Grease a 20cm/8 inch springform cake tin or loose bottom fluted pie tin. Place the digestive and butternut cookies in the bowl of a food processor with the ground cardamom and ginger and process until they resemble fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and process until well combined.
- Transfer the cookie crumb mixture to the prepared pan and press the mixture firmly over the base and sides of the pan. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.
- Preheat oven to 180°C/355°F. Using electric hand-beaters or an electric mixer beat the cream cheese and mascarpone together. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla bean paste and salt and beat until smooth and well combined.
- Place the pan with the cookie base on an oven tray and pour the filling into the prepared cookie pan and bake for 30-40 minutes until tart appears set ( a little bit of a jiggle in the centre is ok). Leave the cheesecake to cool to room temperature then refrigerate for at least 5 hours but preferably overnight.
- To make the plums, place the plums cut side up in a roasting tray. Sprinkle with cinnamon and pour over the maple syrup and water. Toss to combine. Bake in 160°C/320°F oven for 30-40 minutes. Stir them once or twice during their cook time. They should be soft and the juices should be syrupy Cool to room temperature.
- If using edible flowers like my native violets cut them fresh, make sure the stem is removed and wash. Lay on paper towel to dry.
- To serve place the cheesecake on a serving platter and top with roasted plums and the syrup. Scatter with crushed pistachios and native violets.