I have made this cheesecake at Christmas time in the past, as I found it in Gordon Ramsay's Christmas book, but the other week I was thinking about a dessert to make for a family get together and this came to mind. I guess Amaretto is the element that makes it 'festive' but I still think it's a great dessert any time of the year. It looks great on the table and it actually doesn't take as long as you might expect. And most importantly it tastes amazing!
To poach the pears
2 large pears
50g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
For the base
150g digestive biscuits
50g unsalted butter
2 tbsp chocolate spread, such as Nutella
For the filling
300g full-fat cream cheese (i.e. Philadelphia or similar)
125g caster sugar
550ml double cream
3 tbsp amaretto liqueur
100g amaretti biscuits, lightly crushed
120g good qality dark chocolate
Icing sugar, to dust
OK, so having reminded myself here of the ingredients, yes you will be right in thinking this is a dessert where you will not want to linger too long on the calories involved...but it's a dessert to indulge in for a special occasion and we all need to indulge once in while so enjoy it! It really is worth it and it will impress too.
- Poach your pears first, by peeling, quartering, coring the pears and cut them into 1cm dice. Dissolve the sugar in the water in a small saucepan over a low heat. Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds into a large bowl; set aside for later. Now add the pod to the sugar syrup mixture and simmer for a a few minutes to infuse. Now add the diced pears and poach them gently for around 3 minutes. Drain and leave to cool.
- Now for your cheesecake base, whizz the digestives in a food processor to fine crumbs, or put them in a freezer bag and whilst holding the end closed, bash them with a rolling pin. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the chocolate spread. Add this to the biscuit crumbs and mix together well. Spread this mixture over the base of a 23-24cm springform cake tin, pressing down lightly. Now chill this for 20 minutes at the minimum until set.
- For the filling, mix the cream cheese with the sugar and stir in the vanilla seeds (that you set aside earlier). Use a hand whisk, to beat the mixture until well blended. Add 450ml of the cream and the liquer and whisk this to form soft peaks. Fold in the crushed amaretti now along with the poached pears.
Now spoon this filling on top of your biscuit base and level the surface. Chill for at least 30 minutes, or until firm.
- Once it is firm, spread over the remaining cream on top to form a thin layer, then chill again.
- For the decoration on top, melt the chocolate into heatproof bowl over a pan of hot water, then spread this in an even layer on the underside of a clean baking sheet (or on a marble slab it says in the book). Leave this to just about set, then draw a sharp knife across the surface at an angle of about 25 degrees to shave off large curls. I actually used a potato peeler which I found worked quite well. This is a little long-winded I know but it's very effective when finished. I think you can probably buy chocolate shavings perhaps though if you wanted a shortcut.
- To release the cheesecake from the tin, run a hot thin-bladed knife around the edge and remove the side of the tin. Slide a palette knife under the cheesecake and transfer to a flat plate (I skipped this bit I have to say, I was too scared it would fall apart so I just removed the outside of the tin and left it on the tin base).
- Arrange your chocolate curls on top, and dust with icing sugar.
This will keep in the fridge for a day or two.