Cream cheese is not local in Sri Lanka and it costs a bomb. I could not find any Philadelphia cream cheese in stores. Not even in Super markets. I remember some time back Cargills had Philly’s. However, lately all super market chains have stopped selling Philly’s cream cheese it seems. There were 150g Happy cow cream cheese packages. But not worthy at all. Whopping Rs.395/=. However, when I wanted to buy cream cheese, even that was not available.
Just because I could not find cream cheese, I was not going to give up the idea of trying out a homemade cheesecake. Atta girl! I found a solution. Homemade cream cheese.
It’s also called hung yogurt, Greek yogurt or yogurt cheese.
You can buy curd (made out of buffalo milk) or plain yogurt (Made out of cows’ milk) from stores. I recommend buffalo milk yogurt because it has lots of fat than cows’ milk. DO NOT use yogurt with gelatin. It does not separate whey and curd. Use cultured yogurt. One and only one ingredient should be milk (and culture). I bought 1L of curd and mixed it with 200ml fresh cream (35%). If you want low fat version try without cream. Buffalo milk yogurt produces creamy cheese even without additional cream.
I placed the curd-cream mixture over a clean double-fold muslin cloth (You can use 2, 3 fold cheesecloth or a thin cotton cloth alternatively). Then tied the cloth over the yogurt as a bundle. Hang it on something like doorknob and place a quite large bowl underneath to collect the whey (yellowish sour water oozes from the curd) Keep it overnight. Please note that your cheese will a bit tangy if you hang it in (warm) room temperature. If you want it to be less tangy, hang it inside the refrigerator. I have read that some people squeeze the bundle of curd or place it in a colander and put some weight over it for quick results. I am not sure which way is correct. I think cheese requires some fermenting. Therefore, I chose to hang it overnight. 5 to 6 hours would be ideal. Even 8 hours would be fine.
Do not throw your whey. You can drink it plain or mixed with fruit juices, use on pancake/bread batters, ferment seeds, chicken etc, You even can put them as a fertilizer on your plants or feed your pets.
Back to the cream cheese business. Next day morning you will get approximately 500g (1/2 of yogurt you used) creamy cream cheese. Cows’ milk yogurt produces less yogurt like 300g out of 1L. If you don’t use the cheese immediately, put in a clean air tight container and place in the refrigerator. Shelf life will be the shelf of yogurt you bought. This is what I read on the internet I can’t assure as my cream cheese has never lasted more than 5 days without going inside my tummy. After 2,3 days in the refrigerator, tang taste gradually fades away.
Here comes the Cheesecake recipe. It’s a baked cheesecake.
250g digestive biscuits or graham crackers crushed.
5+ table spoons of butter
500g cream cheese/yogurt cheese at room temperature,
200g condensed milk
100g sugar or 150g if you want it to be really sweet
1/3 cup corn starch,
200ml cup fresh cream(35%),
1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract.
1 teaspoon lemon juice, (optional)
Jam or fruit comport as required,
whipped cream as required.
Method to prepare the base: Melt butter and mix with biscuit crumbs well. Put it into the bottom of a greased (7 or 8-inch) spring form pan and press well. You can use a flat bottomed glass or a bottle for this. I used an aluminum foil lined, greased cake tin. If you use a cake tin instead of a spring-form pan, keep some foil sticking out of the dish so that you can pull the cake out of the dish easily. Now bake this in preheated oven at 180°C/355°F for 10 minutes. And take the pan off and let the oven to continue preheating.
Method to prepare the filling: Powder your sugar or you can directly use powdered sugar. Mix sugar, cream cheese, condensed milk, corn starch, fresh cream and lemon juice with a wire whisk until everything is just mixed. Add vanilla. Do not over-mix. We do not need any air incorporated in cheesecakes. Pour the mixture into the unbaked base. tap the dish on the table to get rid of air bubbles.
Bake in a water bath in the middle rack of the oven for 45-60 minutes at a preheated 180°C/355° or until the cake is just set. The cake is done when the entire surface is light golden brown. Cake should jiggle a bit in the middle once properly baked. Let the cake cool in the oven itself for a couple of hours. Run a sharp knife along the edge of the cake to avoid cracks.
Take off the cheesecake from the oven in a couple of hours and refrigerate it for about a day. Top it with fruit comport of your choice or jam melted in a double boiler with a but of hot water or maple syrup. You also may serve a dollop of whipped cream. I recommend to keep the cake refrigerated for a couple of days or at least one day before trying it. It tastes much better after the 2nd day.