One of my neighbors and I have been bringing each other baked goods for a while. They love cake and I am glad that my husband I don’t have to eat every baked good I make entirely by ourselves. It’s just not healthy, and sometime ago I went ahead and bought small cake forms, just so that I could halve the recipes. I usually only bake cakes for special occasions, like for birthdays or when we have guests over, but I always save my neighbors some slices if there’s the option of doing so.
When I was diagnosed with celiac disease, my neighbor baked gluten-free on occasion, just so that I could eat her muffins, too. I thought it was very sweet and during the first few weeks of my diagnosis it felt incredibly supportive. Two weeks ago I ran into her and she said that she would bake a cheesecake come the weekend. I was giddy all week and when she arrived in the late Sunday afternoon with a plate in her hands, I was excited. My excitement dropped to a zero, when I saw the package of shortbread in her hands – she’d used the cookies for the cheesecake’s crust, so that meant no cheesecake for me. WhiIe I told my friend about it, she asked why I couldn’t just eat the cheesecake part and leave the crust. I thought this was a fair question (some of you may be asking yourself the same thing), but the thing is that when you have celiac disease, you cannot be flexible like that with gluten and contamination. Even the smallest amount of gluten (and by this I mean even small crumbs) will set off my symptoms and I will be a very unhappy person for at least two days – my body may suffer even longer and if I overdo it, then the risk of developing colon cancer rises, as does the likelihood that I will suffer from osteoporosis. I care for neither of these illnesses (even if old age seems far away now, I am sure that I will be thankful later for making healthy choices earlier in life) and gladly abstain from eating the cheesecake topping off a gluten-containing crust.
But, this little experience of being told I would get cheesecake and then not getting any and having the smell in my home all Sunday evening, because my husband got both slices that my neighbor brought, left me with a craving. I decided to make my own cheesecake. A small one. As if there ever was such a thing as a small cheesecake. I do believe they are all very mighty and fantastic, regardless of how small or large they are. I swear that this cheesecake is the best I have ever made. The cheesecake topping was light, fluffy and incredibly creamy and the crust (made out of gluten-free biscuits) was buttery, crumbly and crispy. I made strawberry sauce from scratch to accompany this culinary adventure and I recommend you do this, too, as it presents an ultimate satisfaction to the palate. For best results – and this is no secret – bring all ingredients to room temperature. This is key if you want a fluffy and light cheesecake filling. All else will fail.
I obviously shared this cheesecake with my neighbours. I didn’t mention this before, but with all this huge amount of great food around, I am also incredibly thankful for not being able to pop everything that appears in front of me into my mouth. It’s a blessing really!
New York Cheesecake
Ingredients (for a small cake dish, diameter of 18 cm)
For the Crust
250g gluten-free cookies (I used one part Schaer Milly Friends and one part butter cookies)
4 tablespoons of sugar
1 dash of cinnamon
¼ teaspoon of salt
For the cheesecake filling
175g cream cheese
200 sour cream
125g low-fat quark
1 package vanilla sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
50 to 100g confectioner’s sugar (add to taste)
2 tablespoons gluten-free flour mix
For the strawberry sauce
100g strawberries (I used frozen ones)
2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp lemon zest
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Transform the gluten-free shortbread into crumbs. I used a wooden pestle (intended to crush lemons into cocktail glasses).
Add the dash of cinnamon, the salt and the sugar. Melt the butter in a pot and add to the crumbs. Mix well. Place crumb-mix into an cake dish that has been lined with baking parchment. Press crumb mix into the bottom of the cake dish with the help of a big glass until it is firm.
Place into fridge for twenty minutes.
Heat your oven to 180 °C.
In a separate bowl, whisk the cream cheese, the sour cream and the quark into a homogenous mass. Add the vanilla sugar and the confectioner’s sugar and whisk until the filling is smooth. Separate the eggs and whisk the egg yolks into the cream-cheese mass. Sift the flower into the cream-cheese mix and combine gently until no lumps remain.
Clean the whisks on your handmixer and whip the eggs until stiff. Gently pull the egg whites under the cream cheese mix. Take the crust out of the oven and pour cream cheese filling into it. Place back into the oven and bake for about an hour until done. You can place an aluminum foil over the dish, but this is a bit risky as the cream cheese filling will rise and in the worst case stick to the aluminium foil, leaving you with a bit of a hole in the middle of the cake if you are not careful (if you look carefully at the picture below, you can see this happened to my small and mighty cheesecake).
Place the frozen strawberries into a bowl, and let defrost for a couple of minutes. Mash with the back of a fork and place into a pot and onto the stove with all other ingredients (except the cornstarch and the water). Heat the pot and stir gently, meanwhile mix the cornstarch and the water in a cup and then pour into the mashed strawberries and bring it to a boil. Remove pot from stove and let strawberry sauce cool.
When the cheesecake is done, remove from oven and let cool on its own time.
The cream cheese filling will sink back into itself, this is supposed to happen.
Serve slices of cheesecake at room temperature with a generous dollop of strawberry sauce and enjoy.
PS.: Typing up this post was the hardest thing I have ever done, I keep wanting to make another small and mighty cheesecake now. Help!