Lightly Lemony Mascarpone and Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

I know it’s Pi Day and everyone is making pies but I don’t care. This post is about cheesecake and I’m not just talking about the dessert. What I’m talking about is the illustrated art of Alberto Vargas and Gil Elvgren. The cheeky glamour of Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe. I’m talking about those black and white photos of me in 1940s swimwear and cork heeled wedges that I let my friend take the last summer we were in high school.

I mention this not only because I’ve made a cheesecake and want to share the recipe with you, but because there is such a cheesecake element when it comes to marketing women and food. Whether its Padma Lakshmi eating ribs in her underthings and licking chocolate off her wrists or Nigella Lawson provocatively putting pasta in her mouth, so many female cooks are presented like pin-ups. Gorgeous hair, makeup, and plunging necklines over pushed up breasts supported by flirty peek-a-boo bras.

I’m not judging this cheesecake aspect, but where’s the beefcake counterpart? Where is the Magic Mike of Mediterranean cooking and why isn’t he sexfully telling me how to make mezze? Men’s cookery books and television programs are not promoted this way.

While the story behind the term cheesecake is probably apocryphal, I choose to believe. In 1912, James Kane, a photographer for The New York Journal, was positioning a model when a breeze blew up her skirt. As more leg than usual went on display, he tried to think of the greatest superlative to express his delight. Being a huge fan of cheesecake, his response was “That’s real cheesecake!”

I wouldn’t necessarily call Dita Von Teese cheesecake even though some of the photos she has taken are very much so. But she has mastered the art of vintage pin-up glamour better than anyone else. So before I give you my recipe, I’m going to leave you with a video of Dita doing what she does. You’re welcome and I hope you enjoy the recipe.

Gil Elvgren

Alberto Vargas

Betty Grable

 

Marilyn Monroe

padma

Padma Lakshmi

padma2

Nigella Lawson

Ingredients for the base:

3/4 c ground almonds

10 Hobnobs

40 g meted unsalted butter

Method: 

Put the Hobnobs and almonds in a food processor and pulse until they are crumbly like meal. Add the butter and pulse the mixture again. Press the biscuit mixture into the bottom of a 9″ Springform tin. You can use your hand or the back of a spoon to do this. I like to use the bottom of a drinking drink. When it’s all smooth, place it in the refrigerator.

 

Ingredients for the cheesecake mixture:

500 g Mascarpone

100 g cream cheese

100 g caster sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp vanilla bean paste

zest of 1 lemon

4 eggs

Method:

Preheat the oven to Gas 4/180°C/350°F

Put the cheeses in a medium sized bowl. Use a hand mixer to beat them until they are smooth.

Add the sugar, eggs, lemon juice, zest, and vanilla bean paste.

Put the kettle to boil.

Remove the tin from the refrigerator. Twice cover the outside of the tin with strong foil.

Place the foil wrapped tin in a large roasting dish.

Pour the cheese mixture into the tin.

Pour boiling water around the outside of the tin. Don’t pour it more than halfway up the cake tin.

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the center of the cake is set but not rigid.

 

Ingredients for the creme fraiche topping:

175 g creme fraiche

1 tbsp caster sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

 

Method:

Whisk the ingredients together until smooth.

Pour the topping over the cheesecake then put it back in the oven to bake for another 10 minutes.

Remove the roasting tin from the oven.

Carefully remove the Springform. Remove the foil from its outside then stand it on a rack to cool.

When it has cooled completely, put it in the refrigerator to chill.

Lemon Icebox Pie

It’s no secret some of my family can be described as country. Some have owned trailers; others homes in Appalachia with dirt floors. Many own guns. Many love 4 wheelers and most have driven at least 60 miles for the nearest good mall. All have grown up on or near a farm. And in case you didn’t know, yes, my mama was 15 years old when she had me.

So while the way of life I just described wasn’t exactly mine when I was growing up in Los Angeles, I still saw and lived it at least once a year. Generally in the summertime when the lightning bug lit fields of Iowa provided my cousins and I with a playground until well after dark. My point is a person cannot escape her past. No matter how hard she tries, the highfalutin schools she attends, or the manners she acquires, some things are inescapable. Like a hankering for icebox pies.
Despite growing up in Hollywood where there are people as unctuous as Texas gold, I could never hide my country roots. I considered multitasking doing anything with curlers in my hair. And even now in London, much to my Scottish mother-in-law’s chagrin, I use Mason jars as opposed to proper drinking glasses. Why? I prefer them. Also, they remind me of running around barefoot in cut summer grass eating icebox pies during the dog days of a prairie summer. You know those days that are so hot and humid walking down the street feels more like wading in lukewarm buttermilk and every living creature stands still waiting for a breeze, even the flowers? That’s American Midwest summer. During this time only icebox pies will do.
A friend of mine’s grandmother, a Kentuckienne named Miss Hampton, used to say the icebox pie was her favourite. When asked why, she replied. “It requires no cookin’. Just an icebox and a vodka and Coke plus a pack of Kools to pass the time.”
     While I love icebox pies, be cautioned. ‘Tis a slippery slope. Just one slice has been known to lead people to droppin’ Gs and addin’ As to thangs. They also lead to a simple kind of happiness. The kind that can only be found in Bobbie Gentry songs, Kodachrome prints from years past, and Great-Grandma’s icebox of course.multitasking-curlers

baldwin sthermie

my sister trying to steal a pigletRight. Enough of nostalgia. It’s time to tie your hair back with your favorite kerchief and get bakin’. Never in the history of ever has an icebox pie made itself.   P1020859

Graham Cracker Crust

Ingredients:

14 graham crackers or 1 packet of Hobnobs

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons melted butter

Method:

In a food processor, pulse all the dry ingredients until they become a fine meal.  Slowly add the melted butter and pulse some more.  Pour the mixture into a 9″ tart tin and press it evenly against the bottom of the dish as well as up the sides.  I use the bottom of a measuring cup to help.  Place the tart tin on a tray and bake for 5-8 minutes at 350°F/170°C/Gas 3 or just until slightly crisp.

shell

Graham Cracker Trash Lemon Icebox Pie

Ingredients:

1 graham cracker crust  (if you don’t have graham crackers use HobNobs)

2 (14 oz.) cans of sweetened condensed milk

1 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

the zest of 4 lemons

8 large egg yolks

Method:

Heat the oven to 325°F/170°C/Gas 3.

Put the crust into a 9″ tart tin.  I like to use a measuring cup to help me do this.  I use the bottom of the cup to spread the crust evenly and to tamp it down as well as to help shape the sides.

Whisk the milk with lemon juice and set aside.

lemon juice and condensed milk

Whisk the zest into the yolks until the mixture goes pale.  This takes no more than a minute.

yolks and zest

Now whisk the milk mixture into egg mixture.

Pour into the tart shell and bake for 30 minutes or until the center is set like a soft custard.

pre-bake

Cool completely then freeze overnight or at least 6 hours.

freezing

Remove the pie from the freezer 15 minutes before serving.  Top with chantilly cream and enjoy.

out of the freezer

Chantilly Cream

Ingredients:

2 cups cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I like to use vanilla bean paste)

1/4 cup powdered sugar

whipped cream ingredients

Method:

Mix ingredients on medium high until desired consistency is achieved.  Be sure not to over-mix or you’ll end up with butter.

cream

lemon icebox pie