PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY CHEESECAKE

Seeing as it's American Independence Day, the only way to celebrate is with one of my all time favourite flavour combinations, and an American classic, peanut butter and jelly. However, whereas usually the ‘jelly’ component is what we’d call jam in the UK, here I’ve gone a step further and made a jellified jam. It needs to set, so this is best made the day before eating.

(c) Matt Russell 

Ingredients (serves up to 10)

For the praline

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 150g salted peanuts

For the base

  • 300g digestive biscuits
  • 120g unsalted butter

For the cheesecake

  • 750g full-fat cream cheese
  • 150g smooth, sweet peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 eggs, separated

For the jelly top

  • 2 gelatine leaves
  • 340g jar seedless raspberry jam 1 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp cherry brandy (optional)
  • Salted peanuts, to scatter

Essential equipment

  • Foil and baking paper
  • 23cm/9-inch deep springform cake tin 

Method

First prepare the equipment. Place a large sheet of baking paper on the worktop to set the hot praline on – you may want to put this on a baking sheet to protect your work surface. Wrap the outside of the cake tin with foil to make it waterproof, and ensure you have a roasting tray into which the cake tin fits, with room for water to come halfway up the sides of the tin. Line the base of the cake tin with a circle of baking paper.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas 4, and boil a kettle of water.

Make the peanut praline by placing the caster sugar and water in a saucepan. Mix together while cold, then place the pan on a high heat. Using a wet pastry brush, sweep down any sugar crystals from the sides of the pan, but don’t stir the contents at any time or the mixture will crystallize. Allow to bubble away for about 5 minutes until a lovely amber colour. You can swirl the pan to ensure even browning, but don’t stir. Once you have achieved the amber colour, remove from the heat, pour in the peanuts and stir until well covered. Tip this on to the baking paper and flatten down with a spoon. Allow to set until cold and brittle.

Make the base by blitzing the digestive biscuits to fine crumbs in a food processor, then add the butter and blitz again to a sandy rubble. Break up the peanut praline and add to the food processor, then pulse until the praline is broken up and evenly distributed among the rubble – you don’t want to pulverize the praline, just break it a little and evenly disperse it. 

Tip the contents of the food processor into the cake tin and, using a spoon, press everything down until compacted and evenly spread. Place in the fridge.

To make the cheesecake, place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a large mixing bowl with the vanilla. Mix together well, but gently, with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add the sugar, flour, salt and egg yolks, and beat again until smooth. Place the egg whites in a separate and clean mixing bowl, and whisk until they just hold their shape. Mix one-third of this into the cheese mixture to slacken it, then gently fold in the remaining two-thirds.

Take the cheesecake base from the fridge, pour the cheesecake mixture over it and place in the roasting tin. Put in the oven, but before you close the oven door, pour the hot water into the roasting dish – being careful not to splash any onto the cheesecake. Bake for 3040 minutes. You will know the cheesecake is perfectly baked when the top has a sheen and there is a slight wobble in the middle. Remove from the oven, and from the water bath, and set on to a cooling rack until completely cool – about an hour.

When the cheesecake has cooled, make the jelly topping. Fill a jug with cold water and soak the gelatine leaves in it. Place the jam in a saucepan with the water and set over a medium heat. Stir as it heats to prevent the jam burning. When it is hot, but not boiling, remove from the heat and stir in the cherry brandy, if using. Take the gelatine leaves from their soaking water – they should now be very floppy – and squeeze out any excess moisture. Add to the jammy mix and stir until completely dissolved. Allow this jelly to cool for about 30 minutes before pouring over the top of the cheesecake. Cover the whole thing with cling film, though don’t allow the film to touch the jelly, and place in the fridge overnight to set.

You can decorate the cheesecake by scattering salted peanuts over it, but I also think it is perfect with its gleaming jelly top unadorned: take your pick.