I can distinctly remember that it was my Mom who introduced me to cheesecakes around the time I was 13. On its own, that’s not earth-shattering, but what if I told you that my Mom worked just a few steps away from the fanciest cake and pastry shop that I knew of in the ‘90s? Today, Mumbai has some world-class cake and pastry shops all over the city, but at the time, The Oberoi Patisserie was where one could get world-class treats. And treats they were for sure, because despite having an insanely sweet tooth (or perhaps because of it), Mom would make sure to go to the patisserie once a week only and pack something for us. One such ‘treat day’ saw a blueberry cheesecake make its way home. Given my passion for desserts (hint, see the recipes on this blog), I’ve often told you about my dislike for overly sweet desserts. In hindsight, I can identify this as my very first reason to fall in love with cheesecakes. The slight ‘tang’ of cream cheese kept the sweetness in check, and speaking of cream cheese… well, it’s dreamy, creamy and smooth texture deserves a moment of drool worthy silence
Today, I’ve made my way through plenty of baked and unbaked versions of cheesecake to be able to identify that The Oberoi’s was a ‘no-bake’ version, held together with gelatine for a firm texture to combat Mumbai’s cheesecake-melting heat. I know that this might seem blasphemous to fellow cheesecake lovers around the world, but I’ve often left out the pricey Philadelphia Cream Cheese and used local Britannia Cream Cheese (not the cheese spreads!) without anyone being able to tell the difference! Last year, Pamela Timms wrote about how she swapped the cream cheese with homemade labneh, a cheese made by draining yogurt for 24 hours, an experiment that I bookmarked right away.
If you’re wondering how dragon fruit made it to this equation, well, that’s all thanks to my fruitwalla, Raj from Pali Fruit Centre. He pretty much challenged me to bake something with the dragon fruit he was selling. I think I might have shown him one too many pictures of the desserts I’d been making with fresh fruits!
Dragon fruit, particularly the white one you see above, doesn’t have a strong flavour, isn’t too sweet (score!!), and are mostly about texture and freshness than flavour. I pureed them and added that to the cheesecake batter mostly because of the tiny black specks that I hoped would resemble the look of vanilla beans when they are scraped into a batter.
The purple-red variety of dragon fruit is slightly sweet, so I pureed that up with some caster sugar and used it to dot the cake and create little hearts (remember those biscuits called Little Hearts?) by running a satay stick through them. I had some of this sweet puree left that I used as a sauce to top up the cake while serving. It adds an amazing pop of colour and the freshness cuts through the dense cheesecake.
In her column, Pamela Timms spoke about the extortionate price of baking a cheesecake at home, and I agree wholeheartedly. It’s why I thought we should be making Ricotta at home too. As for the crucial taste test, I’ve realized that what people are looking for is a cheesecake that tastes great and reflects all the care and effort you’ve put into it, not the pricey cream cheese. Happy experimenting with this recipe!
Recipe adapted from Mint