We had a Sunday luncheon at our house last weekend. It was one of those "hot, summer's gone and autumn's here but you'd never know it" sort of Sonoma Sundays. The kind of weather we have up here around this time of year. It's good for the grapes. Sunday lunches are thing I started doing about a year ago in an experiment in bringing my VL (virtual life) in sync with my RL (real life). It's always nice to know that the people one talks to in one's head actually exist. Just so it doesn't turn into some Lifetime Movie MySpace Tori Spelling vehicle from the 90's crossed with a Luis Bunuel nightmare party from hell, these are not just random Tweeters we invite, but people I've been reading and tweeting to for quite a while.
I've had three of these luncheons so far, and I'm planning to do more. It's fun getting people together who don't know one another but might have one thing or another in common. Of course one thing I always check before any of this stuff is food dislikes and allergies, That's one thing about serving Indian food to people who are not familiar with it. I don't want to put a big steaming plate in front of someone with a lot of stuff that they either hate or will break out or worse after eating. This last weekend I had one guest who was a vegetarian who also includes fish in his diet, and another who has a gluten allergy. The meal was easy to plan since Indian food is a pretty great diet for gluten free people, and as for vegetarian dishes, it's no problem at all since many Indians eat a vegetarian diet. The problem for me was as usual, dessert.
Part of the dessert issue for me was wanting to make something I'd not made before. and making sure that that something would be gluten free and also contain no gelatin (made from meat). I thought a nice cheesecake would go well with the rest of the menu I had planned but a lot of the recipes I had, contained gelatine or flour. Then I remembered my friend Sanjana who writes over at K.O. Rasoi. She's a master if Indian vegetarian cuisine and always manages to whip up the most amazing desserts with believe it or not, eggless baking. I thought that if anyone out there had a recipe that would fit the dietary needs of my guests Sanjana would. Boy howdy was I right! I clicked over and there it was, a magnificent cheesecake, no eggs, no gluten, no problem.
Even though I'd never tried eggless cheesecake baking before, I was in. I was destined to make this cake. I loved the idea of a saffron cheesecake and decided to give it my own twist and add mango to the batter, and serve it with a macerated mango topping. This cheese cake needs to cool in the fridge for at least 8 to 10 hours before serving so it's a great make-ahead dessert. As a matter of fact it's a must make ahead dessert.
Mango Saffron Gluten Free Cheesecake
Here's What You Need:
250 grams of gluten free graham crackers or ginger snaps, finely crushed
3 Tbs of unsalted butter
500 grams of ricotta cheese
500 grams of softened cream cheese
1 and 1/2 cups of sugar
1 and 1/3 cups of whipping cream
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 and 1/2 tsp of vanilla
1 small mango peeled and finely chopped
1/4 tsp of toasted saffron
A 10 inch spring form pan
butter for greasing the pan
Here's What To Do:
Preheat the oven to 320 degrees.
Toast 1/4 tsp of saffron by placing it in a small microwave safe dish and heating it for about 15 seconds.
You want to get the saffron dried so that it can be easily crumbled. Depending on your microwave, it may take a few seconds more or less. I usually toast my saffron in a cast iron pan and this was the first time I'd tried this method. It worked very well and was much faster.
Crumble the dried saffron and set it aside for later.
Grease the spring form pan bottom and sides with butter and set aside.
Grind the graham crackers or cookies in a food processor or blender until they are fine crumbs.
Mix the crumbs together with 3 Tbs of melted butter.
Press the butter crumb mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan.
Cover the crumb mixture with plastic wrap and set it int the fridge to chill for at least an hour.
Making the filling:
In a large bowl gently mix together the ricotta, cream cheese, whipping cream, vanilla, and corn starch.
You DO NOT want to over mix this.
I used my hand beater just to be on the safe side, and even then I was worried. How much is too much? The story of my life.
Fold the finely chopped mango and the crumbled saffron into the batter.
Pour the batter on top of the crumb crust in the spring form pan and pop it into the oven on the middle rack.
Place a pan of water beneath the cheesecake to prevent it from cracking while cooking.
Bake for 1 and 1/2 hours or until the cheese cake starts to turn golden and firm up.
This was what had me worried. How the hell was this thing going to shape up without eggs or gelatin....or anything? Since the cheesecake has be baked the day before serving, I was making mental battle plans of alternate desserts to save my ass. I envisioned unmolding it, unleashing a sea of curdled ricotta and mango bits floating across the dining room table right into our guest's laps.
"That's what you get for going to a strangers' house for a meal", I thought.
It took a while but it finally did firm up and was a nice light golden color with little flecks of saffron. "What the hell had happened in there?" I wondered.
Unmold it and serve it up.
This cheesecake was light, delicious, not too sweet. It was a perfect dessert . As to how it managed to come together there in the oven and later in the fridge I have no idea. It's some sort of eggless magic I suppose. Or chemistry. Or something.
The meal was a success, connections were made and no one wound up with an axe in their head. Another hostessing triumph. I'm going to be doing another of these lunches before the Holidays really set in. It's great to bring the virtual into the real every once in a while and vice versa. Coming up next a fast mango topping for cheesecake, or ice cream or whatever your heart desires. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori