Rich, creamy cheesecake, infused with orange, spice and an organic aroma of the pumpkin. Sharp, heady quince topping on a crunchy gingernut base. It’s no wonder quinces have always been eaten with cheese. Their rhubarb-like sharpness counterbalances the tang of any strong cheese.
But not just that – sharpness aside, they possess a heady perfume and a grainy, almost pear-like texture, qualities brought out by roasting. Not far from the famous Spanish marriage of membrillo – that thick, sticky quince paste – and sharp, mature manchego.
This cheesecake is an attempt at doing just this as a sweet concoction. It works like a charm. Don’t leave out the toffee sauce, though. It’s what turns it from an indulgent pudding into pure bliss.
3 glasses of Muscat (or some other pudding wine)
180g of caster sugar
2 bay leaves
Pinch of cinnamon
3 cardamon pods
Powdered gelatine, 2 1/2 teaspoons
2 tablespoons butter
375ml of pumpkin puree*
Full-fat cream cheese, 1 kg
2 egg yolks
Sweetened condensed milk, 375ml
3 tablespoons of cornstarch
Spices: 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg; 1/3 tsp ground cardamon
Zest of an orange
Pure vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons
*To make pumpkin puree, roast a pumpkin for about an hour in a 200℃ oven. Cool and thoroughly blitz. It’s a good idea to puree larger amounts of it to keep in the fridge or freezer for other recipes.
250ml of single cream
1/4 cup of light brown sugar
1/4 cup of golden syrup
1/4 cup of butter
Preparation time: 35 mins
Cooking time: quinces, 2½hr + cheesecake, 1¾hr + toffee sauce, 20 mins
Setting time: overnight
You start off a day ahead – think of it as an advantage, really.
Poach the quinces:
Preheat the oven to 160℃. Peel, quarter and core the quinces. You might find a bowlful of water with some lemon juice quite helpful to sit them in – the flesh browns very quickly when exposed to air.
Make the syrup by bringing the wine, sugar, spices and a cup of water to boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Transfer the quinces into an oven–proof tin, pour over the syrup and cover tightly with foil. Leave to poach gently for 2½ hours. Leave to cool. Process to a thin puree the colour of autumn sun.
Make the cheesecake base:
While the quinces are poaching, whiz up the biscuits and the butter until they look like wet sand – be careful not to overmix. Line a 24cm springform tin with parchment paper. Gently press the biscuit mixture into the tin – don’t be tempted to pack it tightly, you want to keep the crunch. Transfer it into the fridge until you need it. Preheat the oven to 175℃.
Make the cheesecake filling:
In a large bowl, stir together all the ingredients: the pumpkin puree, cheese, eggs, yolks, condensed milk, corn starch, spices, orange zest and vanilla. Pour the cheesecake filling onto the chilled ginger nut base and put the whole lot into the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 120℃ and bake for a further 90 minutes. After this time, take the cheesecake out of the oven immediately and let it cool, before removing the side of the tin. Refrigerate overnight – don’t skip this, as your cheesecake may not set.
Finish off the quince topping:
Tip the powdered gelatine into a small saucepan and add enough water to moisten it. Leave for 10 minutes to soak and slowly, slowly melt over the gentlest heat. You mustn’t let it boil – or the gelatine won’t set the topping. When it’s all incorporated, stir the melted gelatine into the pureed poached quinces. Spread all over the top of the chilled cheesecake and place back in the fridge for the topping to set. This should take sometime under an hour. Keep the cheesecake in the fridge – it honestly does get better with each day. Serve with toffee sauce.
Make the toffee sauce:
In a small saucepan bring to boil over a medium heat equal parts of sugar, syrup and butter and four times as much cream. Let it bubble away for about a quarter of an hour, until it’s just about reduced by half. It will thicken a lot as it cools.
Photography by Arek Zagata