This time last year I made a Sambocade, a medieval Elderflower and Cheese Tart. It was rather lovely but I think only four people ever saw the post and, judging by some of the Google hits I’ve been getting lately, most of them were probably looking for medieval gimp outfits or similar. I was tempted to make it again or even cheat and reblog it but instead – and given that I hate making pastry – I decided to plump for a more modern cheesecake.
There’s something lovely about seeing a froth of elderflowers in amongst the verdant green of early summer. I always find it amazing as well that a plant that has a tendency to smell like tom cat wee can produce such a lovely taste. The elder, like the hawthorn, is a plant with a long history of mythical associations, some of which concern our old adversaries the fairy folk whilst others are more Christian in origin, elder supposedly being the tree on which Judas hanged himself. In terms of cheese-lore, elder was often planted around dairies – perhaps because of its fly repellent qualities – and it was thought to be good at stopping the milk from going sour. Cheese cloths and other linen were hung out to dry on elder trees.
Having gathered some elderflowers I returned home to see a well-timed blog post from midihideaways on making elderflower cordial. Mine is currently still brewing away so I give you this pretty flower photo instead…
For the cheesecake, I used this BBC recipe as a basis but tinkered with it in several ways (not least omitting the lime).
250g digestive biscuits
Half a dozen ginger nuts
225g curd cheese
140g full fat cream cheese
160ml double cream, lightly whipped
Juice of ½ lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
2tbsp elderflower cordial
Fresh elderflowers plus egg white and caster sugar to garnish
Place the biscuits in a large bowl and bash them with a rolling pin until they resemble fine breadcrumbs.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the crushed biscuits and sugar until they are fully combined. Press the mixture firmly into an 8 inch round spring-form tin (or with a lift up base if you’re an idiot like me) and place it in the fridge to set for a couple of hours.
Wash the lemon and grate the skin using a fine grater or zester. Place this zest together with the cheeses and lemon juice in a food processor and mix well. Slowly add the cream and elderflower cordial until it is a smooth thick paste.
Spread this mixture onto the biscuit base and refrigerate for at least three hours.
At this point in the proceedings it is very important to follow the ancient tradition of ‘dropping the cheesecake’. You can drop it on the floor or, as I did, drop it face-down on the worktop as I took it out of the cake tin. Either way, by dropping the cheesecake you will drive out the fairies and bestow good luck upon your house for the following year. Really.
Should you actually want to consume the cheesecake, you should then press chunks of the biscuit crumb mixture into some glass ramekins you find at the back of the cupboard and then add a layer of the cheese mixture. You can remove the old bits of random dried food and cat hairs if you like but it’s not essential if, like me, you’ve had the foresight to make some crystallised flowers as a garnish. I got the idea for these from a post by Mrs Portly’s Kitchen; I didn’t take any photos of the process but you can see how it’s done on her post. In essence, you brush the flowers with egg white and then sprinkle with caster sugar. Except elderflowers are rather small so I got bored quickly and ending up dunking. The resulting flowers are therefore quite gloopy but still rather lovely.
Snip off the smallest bunches of flower heads and use to decorate. You can also use part of the cheesecake to make the old English dessert of cheesecake Eton Mess, traditionally served in a plastic bowl with a garnish of spent lightbulbs and Top Trumps (dinosaur edition). Enjoy!
Because elderflowers are seasonal and there’s cheese in this there cheesecake, I am linking it up to this month’s Cheese, Please! Challenge.
And finally the theme for this month’s Love Cake challenge, hosted by Jibber Jabber UK is flowers: