Charged with the task of creating a gluten-free dessert for my guests this sunny spring weekend, and with the early rhubarb finally getting into gear down at the allotment, I decided to experiment with a rhubarb and orange cheesecake. Rhubarb and orange are already one of my favourite combinations for a roast rhubarb compote, so it was just one step further to imagine it as a delicious topping for a light cheesecake. The base couldn’t be the usual biscuit crumbs, of course, so I wondered about trying crushed amaretti biscuits for a change. Rhubarb and almonds are another flavour twosome made in heaven, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. I’m delighted to report that it went down a storm – and was even better the following day when the flavours had really married together, although the base wasn’t quite as crisp. Here’s how:
Rhubarb & Orange Amaretti Cheesecake
250g bag of amaretti biscuits*
100g melted butter
500g mascarpone (2 standard tubs)
300ml double cream
Juice and grated rind of 1 orange
100g caster sugar
4-6 tbsp light brown sugar
Juice and grated rind of two oranges
2 tbsp amaretto liqueur (optional)
Cut the rhubarb (unpeeled unless really thick and woody – shouldn’t be necessary with early-season produce) into 2” batons, halving the stems first if really chunky. Place in a shallow, rectangular baking dish and sprinkle with the brown sugar (to taste), orange rind and juice. Cook in a pre-heated oven at 160°C (Gas 4) until tender, but still whole, for about 30-40 minutes. Leave to cool, then add the amaretto liqueur if using.
Make the base by crushing the amaretti biscuits in a food processor (or in a large plastic bag with a rolling pin), then mix in the melted butter until thoroughly blended. Tip into a 23cm round springform cake tin, greased and base-lined with a circle of baking parchment. Chill in the fridge while preparing the filling.
Whip the mascarpone lightly in a large bowl with the caster sugar. Stir in the grated rind and juice of 1 orange. Whip the double cream separately until softly stiff, then fold into the mascarpone mix. Scrape the mascarpone/cream mixture onto the prepared base and chill the cheesecake in the fridge for at least 6 hours.
Just before serving, drain the rhubarb batons from the liquid (retain the liquid to serve separately in a jug) and arrange over the cheesecake, removed from the springform tin, as decoratively as you can.
Serve and enjoy!
The rhubarb compote is also delicious served on its own or as a sublime accompaniment to panna cotta. I love Nigel Slater’s slightly lighter recipe from Kitchen Diaries, also ideal for anyone avoiding wheat or gluten for whatever reason:
Rosewater & Yoghurt Panna Cotta
300ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1.5 sheets leaf gelatine
3-4 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
2 tsp rosewater
150 ml thick, creamy yoghurt
Put the double cream and milk into a small pan, the add the vanilla bean paste. Put the pan over a moderate heat and simmer for 5-6 minutes. The mixture will reduce a little during this time. Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in a small bowl of cold water until soft. Remove the cream from the heat and stir in the sifted icing sugar. When dissolved, add the drained gelatine and the rosewater. Fold in the yoghurt. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a large jug, then pour into six lightly greased moulds placed on a tray – or use small espresso or tea cups if you can’t face turning them out afterwards! When cool, cover the whole tray with clingfilm and refrigerate until set – preferably overnight.
To serve, turn out – you may need to quickly dip the mould in boiling water or run a hot knife around them! Or place the cups on a pretty dessert plate if you’re not upturning, of course. Serve with the rhubarb and orange compote.
In season, I have also served this with a gooseberry and elderflower compote, cooked in the oven the same way as the rhubarb, but with a tablespoon of elderflower cordial rather than the amaretto. In this case, you could also add elderflower cordial to the panna cotta instead of rosewater.
*Note: true amaretti biscuits (or home-made macaroons) shouldn’t contain any wheat flour, but some of the mainstream brands may. I’ve just checked on the Doria Amaretti I usually use and surprise, surprise they do contain wheat flour. Fortunately my guests weren’t coeliac, but PLEASE check if it’s an issue for you.