A gorgeous and rich, cheesecake, flavored with rum and vanilla and topped with a summery compote of strawberries and rhubarb.
Sometimes I wonder if we’re quite nerdy enough on this blog. I worry that our readers, steeped as are Westerosian Meisters in the lore of SF and fantasy, will flit from recipe to recipe, searching in vain for just the right clue that, yes, we too know the exact galactic co-ordinates of Gallifrey (*10-0-11-00 by 02), we have read The Silmarillion (*Needed more dragons and fewer diacritics) and we have a perfect theory to reconcile, entirely within the Blake’s Seven mythos, Stephen Greif’s depiction of Travis vs Brian Croucher’s (*I have discovered a truly remarkable proof along these lines, which this blog is too small to contain).
Is it not enough to show you our collection of Alan Moore’s 2000AD, DC Comics and Vertigo works, including not only the obvious Swamp Thing, Promethea and Ballad of Halo Jones but early Doctor Who Weekly? Must we dig out our Battlestar Galactica DVDs? Have we not mentioned that we named one of our pets (Arya) after a Game of Thrones character, and another (Bascule the Rascule) after the protagonist in the best of darling Iain M. Banks’ SF (although non-Culture) books, Feersum Enjinn?
This week we lost young Bascule at the tender age of 3, a mere stripling in human or cat terms. Out of all the cats we have had, he was not the most sociable. He did not do tricks. He didn’t care for catnip, or the dancing red light from our laser thermometer. He didn’t do an awful lot of snuggling (until he got sick). But we loved him anyhow, and we miss him like crazy.
Bascule’s original name, from the shelter we brought him home from, was Koala Bear (I mean, look at those cheeks. Come on.). His sister, subsequently, started as Gummi Bear. When we considered new names, we decided they were less bear-like than the shelter would have us believe, and it seemed appropriate to dub them Swearengen and Trixie. Trixie took to her name quite well, but Swearengen didn’t seem to care for his, so we switched him to Bascule. A little while later we realized how awesome and apposite it would have been to call him Mordred, but honestly “Bascule” had pretty much stuck by then and it was a little too late to change it. (We used to have a cat who had 21 names, and one of these days we’ll tell you that story.)
(The shelter, by the way, is our local Mid Hudson Animal Aid, an excellent no-kill organization who cares for and houses stray and injured cats. They had to completely rebuild after a serious fire several years ago, and they’ve created an awesome environment where cats can roam free-range — they also have specialist areas for senior kitties, expectant and new moms, and cats with FIV. Please consider donating to them or to your preferred local shelter – the volunteers do fantastic and often thankless work.)
There’s no clever segue from here into the cheesecake recipe (by Saveur) other than to say, if you’re feeling blue or have personal sadness, or the world has got you down in general, or you’re just having a rotten day, you could do worse than make a cheesecake. It’s strawberry and rhubarb season, so we got some excellent local berries and stalks and hove to. I (Matt) even made this one entirely by myself, which shows you how straightforward it is.
- A springform pan is essential if you’d like to get your cheesecake out.
- Using wide aluminum foil to wrap the pan helps to ensure that no water leaks in to make your crust soggy. If you can’t find the wide stuff, use several overlapping sheets.
- When choosing rhubarb, the thin stalks are more tender and less stringy. Redder stalks will give the compote a prettier color but won’t affect flavor.
- When strawberries and rhubarb are out of season, you could top this cheesecake with any other fruit you like.
Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake
For the compote
- 1 lb rhubarb stalks
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 vanilla bean scraped
For the Crust
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 6 oz. graham crackers
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Filling and Garnish
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 3 8-oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 2 tablespoons dark rum
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Rhubarb compote see above
- Sliced strawberries for garnish
Make the compote:
- Trim off both ends and chop rhubarb into 1/2 inch slices. Put into a saucepan, add sugar, scraped vanilla bean and vanilla seeds; cook over medium-low until rhubarb breaks down and thickens to a jam-like consistency, about 30 minutes. Stir in lemon juice; let cool and remove vanilla bean.
- Note: save the vanilla bean to make vanilla sugar.
Make the crust:
- Heat oven to 375°. Grease a 9″ (3″-deep) springform pan with butter. Pulse graham crackers in a food processor into fine crumbs. Add melted butter, sugar, nutmeg, and salt; pulse to combine and press mixture into bottom and 1 1/2″ up the sides of pan. Bake until set, 6–8 minutes, and cool. Wrap outside of pan with aluminum foil; transfer to a roasting pan.
Make the filling:
- Reduce oven to 325°F. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat sour cream and cream cheese on high until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl and add sugar and butter; mix on medium until combined. With the motor running, add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add rum, salt, and vanilla extract; mix until combined and pour into prepared crust. Pour enough boiling water into roasting pan to come halfway up the side of springform pan; bake until filling jiggles slightly in the center when the pan is tapped on the side, 50 minutes to an hour. Remove springform pan from water bath and let cool completely; chill until set, at least 3–4 hours.
- Spread Rhubarb Compote over cheesecake and garnish with strawberries; remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.