To me, dates are synonymous with the holy month of Ramadan. I understand that it is wise to consume dates upon breaking fast to gently ease your digestive system into accepting food. Dates are packed with vitamins and minerals and are a good source of iron. My mum used to boil red dates with honey and consume it as a health drink. Unfortunately for me, I didn't like the smell of the red dates. Every time my mum boiled her health concoction, I would feel "pening" (dizzy).
There was only once that I found dates pleasing. It was on a MAS flight back from Terengganu to KL. It was just after Hari Raya and dates were served on the flight. Those dates were oblong in shape and did not have that characteristic date smell that makes me want to faint. In fact, they were rather tasty.
As it is now the fasting month, I find dates here, there and everywhere, displayed prominently at the supermarkets. These days you can also find designer dates at specialty shops, stuffed with nuts and chocolate. Have you ever eaten fresh dates? They are crunchy and taste a little bit like green apples. That took me by surprise. And I tried growing the seeds. Nothing came out of that which was a good thing. It would not do my messy garden any good to have a date palm growing in it's midst.
|Finely chopped dates. They were very sticky and tasted rather good.|
When I chanced upon this Middle Eastern inspired cheesecake, I just had to try it. Dates and ginger in a cheesecake. Doesn't that sound exotic? Frankly, my initial response was "yeeeeearrrr.....what a weird combination", given my attitude towards dates. But it did conjure up images of camels languidly navigating the
|One of the most effective way to crush biscuits is to use the good old lesung from the lesung batu (pestle from your mortar and pestle). Very good way to relief frustration, whatever they may be. My weapon of choice.|
My first task was to get hold of some gingernut biscuits for the base. This gingernut business reminded me of a rather cheeky postcard my mum brought back from Scotland. I'm afraid I can't tell you that story. Oh, OK I will. It has a cartoon of a Mr McSomething in his kilt standing atop a ladder. He was looking for gingernut biscuits for his customer when the good lady looked up and remarked that she has spotted them already :D
This cheesecake also contains Candied Ginger and I still have some in the fridge. I found the gingernut biscuits to be pleasant but they were not crunchy and rather hard. Not like the usual cookies which are crispy and crumbly. Are they supposed to be that way or had air leaked into the packaging? By the way, how do you say "biskut dah lemau" in English?
|Finely chopped candied ginger.|
Since I was not happy with the biscuits, I went to Cold Storage and got another one called Ginger Crunch or something like that. This one said "more gingery" on the package and it was more crunchy like a regular cookie or biscuit. Tasted very nice too but a bit sweet for me. So the biscuits were sweet and so were the dates. And not forgetting the sugar from the candied ginger. I had to make sure that the cheesecake is not overly sweet.
|This is how it looked like just out of the oven. For the first time my baked cheesecake is cracked and wrinkly. But I am not complaining because everything was fine after it cooled down completely.|
The recipe calls for a mixture of cream cheese and Kashta cheese. Kashta cheese is a heavy cream style of fresh cheese but I doubt if I can find it here. Besides, even if it is available, I would not buy it because generally I am scared of cheese. I only eat three types of cheese : Cheddar (in sandwiches or omelette), Mozzarella (in pizza, I will not touch it in any other form) and of course cream cheese (must add vanilla essence, if not I "pening" [get dizzy]). I still remember tasting blue cheese when I was a little girl. Uawghhh!!! I swore it stung my tongue. I had to drink a few glasses of my grandpa's iced coffee to kill the taste. So excuse me if I make a face when anybody mentions blue cheese dressing for salads :(
When it was time to taste the cheesecake, I was worried. If I didn't like the taste, I would throw away the whole cake. I would not serve something that doesn't taste good to me. So here goes........hmmmm! mmmm! mmmmm! My eyes became big as I kept spooning the cheesecake into my mouth. This is rather good! I couldn't believe it! The sweetness of the cake was just right and all the ingredients complemented each other so well. There's the creaminess from the cream cheese, the chewy gooey texture from the sweet sticky dates and the light gingery flavor and crunch from the candied ginger and biscuit base. Beautiful!
I adjusted the amount of ingredients used in the original recipe and baked the cake in a 9" pan. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have baked it in an 8" pan for a taller cake. But still, sometimes a flatter cake does have an elegant look to it. And thanks to this month's chosen ingredient ginger on Little Thumbs Up, I have taken the risk of trying out this "strange" recipe :)
Ginger Honey Cheesecake
Recipe source : Adapted from Favorite Cupcakes and Cheesecakes (page 140)
My notes and adaptations in red.
- 250g gingernut biscuits, finely crushed (I used 200g)
- 1 tablespoon sugar (I omitted because the biscuits are already so sweet)
- 50g butter, chilled
- 500g cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup honey (I used 1/4 cup only because the dates and candied ginger are sweet)
- 1/2 cup sugar (I omitted)
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 300g Kashta cheese (I used 200 ml whipping cream)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (I omitted)
- 1.5 teaspoons vanila extract
- 3/4 cup dates, finely chopped (I used 1/2 cup, but will use 3/4 cup in future)
- 2 tablespoons glaced ginger, very finely chopped
Preheat oven to 180C (I used 140C for all my cheesecakes)
To make base :
1. Butter only the sides of a 23cm springform pan.
2. In a bowl, mix the crushed biscuits and sugar.
3. Add the butter and rub it in well with your fingers.
4. Distribute the crumbs loosely but evenly in the pan and push them slightly up the sides.
5. Cover and chill while you make the filling.
Note : I melted the butter and mixed it into the crushed biscuits until they resembled wet sand. Then I distributed the mixture evenly and pressed them firmly on the base of the pan. I did not push the up the sides.
To make filling :
1. Using an electric mixer, cream the cream cheese, honey and sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.
3. Then add in the remaining ingredients and continue to beat until evenly blended.
4. Pour the filling into the pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. (I baked mine for about 50 minutes because it was already set and slightly browned).
5. Cool thoroughly on a rack, then cover, still in the pan and refrigerate for 12 hours before removing from the pan and slicing. (My cake pulled away from the sides when cooled so I removed the ring of the pan before chilling)
6. Dust the cheesecake with icing sugar before serving.