No, this isn’t a Turkish recipe! But nowadays cheesecake is a firm Turkish favourite, at least in Istanbul café society.
When I first moved to Turkey, I could achieve instant success with my brownies. I was about to say and with my cheesecake too but that wouldn’t be true because cream cheese wasn’t yet available and I hadn’t discovered lor peyniri although it must surely have been around.
Times have moved on, different tastes have been introduced, more people travel and experience new culinary delights… the two I mention above are nothing out of the ordinary any more and certainly here on Bağdat Caddesi, can readily be found but yet I can still win points because I make these at home.
Today I had the komşu or neighbours round for tea. This was something I have been meaning to do for a long time so I’m glad I finally did it.
Having friends round in the afternoon for çay is a very common pastime here. Turks are very fond of entertaining groups be it their old primary school pals, university friends or former work colleagues: but the group reigns!
Because on the whole they stay put and are not mobile in the sense of moving to different cities for work, say, these groups continue for years, possibly for lifetimes, everyone taking it in turn to host the event, often monthly.
Typical tea party fare is on the lines of dolma and lentil köfte with certainly a börek – a flaky pastry often filled with cheese or spinach – as well as something sweet. Turkish tea parties are serious business! I stick to savoury tarts and cakes myself!
Otherwise,I know the drill: tea is served at the table which is set with your best tablecloth, tea service, cake knives and forks and the like. The silver tray for the tea glasses is polished. First the tuzlu/savoury dishes appear, followed by the sweet or tatlı. It’s all very civilized!
Don’t be surprised if you are the hostess: your guests will each bring you a little present. It’s the custom. Today, gifts ranged from chocolates, flowers, an orchid, a set of guest towels to a set of Turkish coffee cups not to mention a sweet little breakfast set for two! So if you are invited to a Turkish home, don’t forget to take a gift yourself.
This particular cheesecake recipe is an old, old favourite of mine dating back years. It comes from Betty Crocker – I intuitively feel she may be out of favour these days – you don’t seem to hear about her. But this book, Desserts Cookbook, formed the backbone of my fledgling cookbook collection in those rather bleak Ankara days, the days of nothing. Plus it was a gift from my sister so holds a special place in my heart as well as on my shelf!
- 11/4 cups digestive biscuit crumbs/in Turkey use Eti Burçak, about 1 pk+4 biscuits. (The original American recipe says graham cracker crumbs).
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 3 tbsp butter, melted
- 2 **packets (8oz/125g each) + an extra 3oz/75g, cream cheese, at room temperature. (Here, I use a combination of full fat and light ie 1 blue pk Pınar Peynir plus 1 pink pk + the extra 3oz/75g).
- 1 cup/8oz/225g sugar
- 2 tsp zest of lemon
- 1/4 tsp vanilla (this is one item I bring back from the UK. Here, only sweetened vanilla is sold in little packets)
- 3 eggs at room temperature**I have just checked the weight of the packet Pınar cream cheese and see 1pk=180g ie less than the amount specified here but it works perfectly as you can see from the pictures.
- 1 can/16oz/ pitted red tart cherries/ OR here, I box frozen cherries/vişne
- ½ cup/4oz/112g sugar
- 2 tbsp cornstarch/mısır nişastası
- Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F.
- Stir together the biscuit crumbs and 2 tbsp sugar. Mix in butter thoroughly. Press mixture evenly in the bottom of an ungreased 9”/23cm springform pan or tin.
- Bake 10 mins. Cool.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 150C/300F.
- Beat the cream cheese in a large mixer bowl. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating until fluffy. Add lemon zest and vanilla. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Pour over crumb mixture.
- Bake until centre is firm, about 1 hour. I had to bake mine an extra 20 mins.
- Cool to room temperature. Spread with *cherry glaze. Refrigerate at least 3 hrs.
- Loosen edge of cheesecake with a knife before removing side of pan.
*For the glaze:
- Drain the tin of cherries/defrost the packet of frozen ones, reserving the liquid. Add enough water to this liquid to measure 1 cup.
- Mix ½ cup sugar and 2 tbsp cornstarch in a small saucepan.
- Stir in the 1 cup liquid. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat, stir in the cherries.
- Cool before spreading over the top of the cooked cheesecake.
Or, of course, the topping can be something quite different: the easiest is simply to whip up some cream and top with fresh fruit. How about some mixed berries, or as here, kiwi with a sprinkling of grated chocolate?