Merry Christmas everyone! I hope it’s been a good’un. I’ve spent the best part of the holiday break lounging around in my pyjamas (and occasionally a very glamorous leopard print onesie!!), catching up with family and friends, and eating my own body weight in gorgeous food. I also seemed to spend a lot of the Christmas break baking.
It seems baking goes hand in hand with Christmas. Every year they bring out fantastic new Christmas recipes to add a twist to the traditions, provide ideas for a Christmas party or ideas for supplementary gifts and even edible Christmas tree decorations. I love it. In our house it’s become a bit of a tradition to bake a lot for Christmas, one that I started taking part in last year, when I took the opportunity to help my dad make the Christmas puddings. I cannot underestimate how good his Christmas puddings are. My auntie lives for them on Boxing Day, and there are never any spares left. So the fact I was given a chance to partake in the magic was an honour!
This year we carried on with the traditions, and made a baking double team. My dad and I manned the kitchen; while my mum and brother made sure the house was covered head to toe in tinsel and fairy lights. Now in my house we don’t have Christmas dinner on Christmas day. (I can hear the gasps already…) This is because all the family don’t come round til Boxing Day, so on the day itself there is only my dad, mum, brother and me. Therefore we have ‘bits’. This is what we have glamorously named picking food, and we love it. We obviously crank it up a notch so it’s a bit more festive then your ordinary run of the mill picking food, but it is one of my favourite parts of Christmas day (along with the falling asleep in front of a movie in the early evening!) and it means dad doesn’t have to spend his morning cooking, giving him plenty time to play with his latest gadget! This year we did it again. However my dad and I decided to add a few new additions to the party food table.
I found it really hard to pick a recipe out of all the lovely concoctions we made, however the one that takes the biscuit for me (no pun intended) is the Cranberry cheesecake. I am so happy to share this recipe with any one that wants to hear about it, because it is fantastic. It is a winner for a number of reasons; it looks fantastic, it’s so easy to make and tastes A-maaaaazing. What more could you want? I was really proud of how it turned out, and judging by the fact it feeds 16 and only lasted 1 day I think the Donnelly clan approved of it too!
I got the recipe out of Jamie Oliver’s Christmas magazine, a magazine we treated as a baking bible over the festive season. I love Jamie Oliver’s recipes; they are so creative and always really yummy. However the main reason I love him? Because he refers to measurements as ‘a splash of that’ and a ‘slosh of this’. That is music to my ears. Saying I’m clumsy is an understatement, therefore following a recipe that refers to dollops rather than one and a quarter of something is like music to my ears!! This cheesecake is made in such a style. Now I know Christmas is technically over (so sad about this) but this cranberry cheesecake is good for any season, and can be easily adapted to summer fruit topping for later in the year. This is a blessing, because it’s too scrumptious to only save for Christmas! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
150g Unsalted Butter
75g Caster Sugar
1 Vanilla Pod, split, seeds scraped
225g Flour (the recipe doesn’t specify which, I opted for plain!)
225g Caster Sugar
1 Vanilla Pod, split, seeds scraped
750g Cream Cheese3
3 tbsp Cornflour
300ml Double Cream
400g Fresh Cranberries
Juice of 1 Lemon
150g Caster Sugar
Preheat the Oven to 170 C/ Gas 3 and prepare a mousse ring (or if like me and you have never heard of a mousse ring a greased and lined 25cm springform cake tin will do the job just fine!)
Firstly make the shortbread base. I am used to the crushed digestives and butter base for my cheesecakes, but this base was a welcome addition and one I would use again. It just gives the cheesecake a little hint of luxury. To make the base firstly beat the butter, sugar and scraped vanilla seeds together in a large bowl until smooth. Then add flour to the mixture and mix til it comes together into a ball. (The ball may be sticky, if so flour your hands a little, but don’t worry too much about it as it will dry out in the oven.) Once in a ball press the dough into the bottom of your lined tin, with whatever utensils you wish (I opted for hand pressing, which gave it a ‘rustic’ look!). Then place the biscuit base in the oven and cook for 15-20 mins until golden. Leave the oven on.
Whilst the biscuit is cooling a little you can start on the filling. Now this is the brilliantly easy bit. Firstly combine the sugar, vanilla seeds (if like me you don’t have many vanilla pods handy a tiny drop of vanilla essence can give you the desired flavour), cream cheese and cornflour in a bowl and mix until smooth. Then stir in the eggs, then the cream until combined. And voila! That’s it. Pour the filling over the shortbread base and bake it in the oven for 45-55 mins, until the filling has just the slightest wobble.
This would be the point to have festive sherry and catch up on Christmas TV like The Snowman and Snowdog (big fans of that in our house). Whilst the cheesecake is cooling you can start on the scrumptious topping. Put 300g cranberries in a saucepan with the lemon juice, sugar and 50ml of water (a ‘splash’ in technical terms...) and simmer for 5-10 mins over a medium heat, until the cranberries start breaking down and the mixture thickens. (If like me your patience runs out after 2 minutes you can always ‘help the process on’ by mashing the cranberries very gently!). Stir in the rest of the berries, then leave to cool slightly before pouring over the cheesecake. This makes a lovely topping, as it is sweet but the cranberries provide a refreshing kick to it. You can change the fruit according to your fancy. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.