Cheesecake were originally in a pastry case, but I prefer a biscuit crumb base. However, do try both and see which you like. Orange-flower water was substituted for rose water in some. English dishes towards the end of the 17 century. Few gardens had fallen orange blossoms to make this scented water, so it was usually imported from France or Portugal. Both orange-flower and rose-water continued in popularity as food flavourings all through the 18th century, but then lost favour. Recently, there has been a renewed interest and they can be brought at grocers or chemists. Cream cheese has been made in Britain since Roman times and a cheesecake of a similar recipe dates back to the 17 century, it’s not, as some people may imagine, a modern invention from North America. Bake this tart the day before serving.
225g (8oz) digestive biscuit
225g (8oz) butter
700g (1lb 9oz) cream cheese
225oz (8oz) castor sugar
1 tsp orange-flower water
1 level tbsp grated orange rind
150ml (1/4 pint) soured cream fresh orange slices, for decorating
Put the biscuits in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Melt 115g (4oz) butter and mix together with biscuits crumbs in a mixing bowl, press into a 23cm (9in) spring-release cake tin to cover the base. Refrigerate while making the filling.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Slowly beat in sugar until evenly blended. Add the remaining butter, melted in a small saucepan, and the beaten eggs, orange-flower water and grated orange rind. Continue beating until the mixture is really smooth. Pour into the chilled crumb base. Bake in the centre of a preheated oven at 150°C, 300°F, gas Mark 2 for 45 minutes, turn off the oven but leave the cheesecake in the oven for a further 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool. Leave in a cool place overnight if possible.
To serve. Remove the sides of the tin and loosen the cheesecake from the base with a palette knife. Slide it on to a plate and spread the top with soured cream. Decorate with fresh orange slices.
Author: Sara Paxton-Williams