Tarty tipparee (gooseberry) cheesecake
Some time back in 2012, I had crossed paths with an exotic fruit named physalis, only to fall in love. I am by now pretty convinced that this little cherry-sized winter fruit with its golden dusky skin, nestled inside a crispy gauzy calyx, is one of the most gorgeous berries ever. You may have seen the ones called Chinese Lanterns adorned on top of cakes, the variety called physalis alkekengi. Their destiny is mostly to sit pretty in dry or fresh arrangements, while another variety called cape gooseberries, inca berries or tipparees (physalis peruviana) from South Africa, is eaten. It’s closely related to the husk tomato, or tomatillo. What looks like a little orange tomato, the physalis peruviana is sweet and mildly tarty and so is used in a lot of pies and jams because its packed with pectin. As I did some reading about physalis, I came to love the many beautiful names that this dainty berry carries. Cerise de terre, or earth cherry, being one of them. The Egyptians call her is-sittil-mistahiya, meaning the shy woman, while the French call her amour en cage, meaning love in a cage.
Six years ago, I had made a conscious sabbatical, and stayed away from blogging. Six years is a long time to not blog. It was the pre-Instagram era, or rather, a time when Instagram wasn’t what it is today. There were no curated feeds, and in its place were pictures with absurd sepia-tones and amateur borders. There were no strategic hashtags, and Instagram stars hadn’t come up yet. So, obviously, I did not have an Instagram connected to my blog. Or any other social media, except a Facebook page. It was a time of purely baking and blogging. I enjoyed what I did, but I crashed and burned. What happened after I put a pause to the blog? I kept making cheesecakes, wrote other food stories, worked in real life jobs, and travelled to the other side of the world.
Back to that night in 2012. Once a basket of tipparee was procured during one of my visits to the market, I plopped one in my mouth. I tasted sweetness and then felt the citrus. What could I make with this one? I imagined the tipparee in a delightful cheesecake. What would make it different, though? I did not want a usual cheesecake that stood tall, that was creamy and sweet. I wanted a thinner cheesecake perfumed with this lovely fruit--that obliged and submitted to the berry. I thought of making a cheesecake pie (wait, isn’t cheesecake a pie? Or is it not?) The pie pan came out happily.
This year, I have made a choice to come back into blogging as the world shrinks, and beautiful flatlays and videos reign. I love reading a good food story, and it’s so great to see that blogs are still thriving and there are good food writing aplenty. I hope my voice can be one of them. I thought long and hard about this one—getting back to writing about my biggest love—cheesecake. There is no other way than this. I have been baking cheesecakes for over eight years now, and in all these years, I have baked hundreds of them. I have baked for friends, I have baked for family, and I have baked for strangers. One would think I would have perfected it by now. Maybe I have, who knows. I know I can bake a cheesecake blindfolded. But the learning continues. In a way, this blog will be also to document my process, yet again.
This was a lemon infused cheesecake pie studded with tipparee halves. And I had decided on a shortbread crust. It’s an easy one, and I had made a very simple and thin layer. Oodles of lemon juice and lemon zest went into this cheesecake, that gave it a lovely citrusy aroma and went extremely well with the tipparee fruit. I normally use sour cream, but had decided to use the crème fraiche I'd bought at Waitrose. It is like sour cream, but thicker, and a little less tangy. If you can get over how pricy a tub of crème fraiche is, try it in your cheesecake the next time.
I have never gotten over cheesecakes. I don't think I really tried doing that, but I think it is time to know if you are still deeply obsessed over a concept when you have crossed five years working on it, isn't? I still get up at midnight, with the same enthusiasm and the same lust to create a cheesecake, as I did years ago. If you are someone who have followed me from back then, you have certainly noticed a big change from how this website was back then. There is a lot more that will be added in, and *hint* *hint*, perhaps a lot of stuff for you to interact more with me. We will get into the details soon.
You know how I really like to take flavours to the next level? This tipparee cheesecake came out just perfect, I remember. Golden sunshine had flown into the room that day, six years ago. I opened the freezer and got a tub of mango-flavoured ice cream. Topped a scoop over the cheesecake. Watched for a bit as the ice cream melted into creamy, milky mango goodness all over the cake. I should tell you that it is an unrivalled taste as the mango, the cream cheese, and the tipparee comes together.
Coming back to where Midnight Cheesecake is headed to, for starters, you could sign up with your email right below this post and get updated. You can follow me on Instagram by clicking here. You could also drop me a line if you see a possibility of collaborating, or if you have other ideas of working along with me. And just like how it has always been, as tradition, my cheesy cheesecake song will continue.