02 October 2013

IHCC - Hello There, Donna Hay!

This week, the I Heart Cooking Club welcomes a new chef to the rolls! Hello there, Donna Hay! 
But first ...

This is a chai-spiced cheesecake. It will be served with a warm sauce of cooked apple bits, apple cider and allspice.  I got the apples when we went to Norway Hill Orchards in Hancock, New Hampshire this morning ... the trees were loaded and the picking was so easy. We picked Cortlands ... and knoshed a couple Macouns that were 'drops' from a neighboring row of trees.

The morning was perfect for poking along and stopping now and then to get some pictures of the foliage ... SB and I know a few back roads, so we tend to avoid the more congested roads during foliage season.

We stopped along the way to check out a new find on the vintage/antique store circuit ... I did a little Christmas shopping (don't hate me!) and picked up a pretty bowl for fruit and a small casserole pot that will hold just enough for two.

Then, on to the orchard where the apples were clustered co closely on some of the trees that it amazed me. We picked a large bag in just a couple minutes and then had time to stand and chat with the orchard's owner and a visitor who had ridden her beautiful Morgan horse up through the orchard - it was such a nice morning!

Home again, I began thinking about dinner guests coming and Donna Hay, who is the next chef/food writer that we will concentrating on for the I Heart Cooking Club's homage to famous folk in the foodie world. I'm familiar with Donna's work, as she was highlighted as one of the 50 most influential women in the culinary world. Last year, Mary Bergfeld of One Perfect Bite challenged her readers to join her in researching, cooking, and posting on each woman on Gourmet Magazine's of 50 Woman Game Changers, so I learned about Donna and her highly successful career Down Under. She has been dubbed a 'southern hemisphere Martha Stewart' up top here, because of her clean and fresh style, remarkable business savvy in developing her brand, and her ever more successful presence in the home styling, cook book production, and television lifestyle show marketplace.

Anyway, for the first recipe from Donna's treasure trove, I chose her chai-spiced cheesecake tarts. I don't have individual tart pans, so I opted to make the recipe as a conventional 9-inch cheesecake. Her gingernut cookie and ground almond cheesecake crust lent itself well to making a gluten-free crust, as I buy these really good gingersnap cookies at the market that are GF - perfect for one my dinner guests, who has celiac disease.

This was an over the top cheesecake recipe. Very tasty, but some of the ingredients needed a scale back to fit my taste. There was way too much butter in the crust, so I scaled it back by 15 - 20 g. The crust was still very buttery and I suspect I could trim off even more of the butter content the next time I make this cake. There was also a large amount of brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger in the cheesecake batter. I trimmed the brown sugar to three-quarters of a cup, the cinnamon to 1 tsp. and the ginger to 1/2 tsp., leaving the mixed spice measure alone (I used five spice powder in my recipe). The cake was lightly spiced with the five spice chai flavour coming through nicely without being overpowering.

Just so you know, though, I'm giving the recipe as it was delivered on Donna Hay's website, which is a gorgeous rabbit hole for you to fall into when you have an hour or so to really lose! The next few months of cooking Donna Hay's recipes will be really fun ... why don't you join us at IHCC ... check out this link!

In the meantime, here's the recipe. Read up while I finish this last piece of cheesecake with my morning coffee ... breakfast of champions!

Gluten Free Chai-Spiced Cheesecake Tarts
a Donna Hay recipe

Crust Ingredients:

330 g. gluten free gingersnap cookies
60 g. ground almonds
130 g. butter, melted

Filling Ingredients:

500 g. cream cheese, soft
120 g. sour cream ( ½ c.)
175 g. light brown sugar ( 1 c.)
1 vanilla bean split and seeds scraped ( or ½ tsp. vanilla extract)
½ tsp. mixed spices
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon plus more for sprinkling
1 tsp. ginger
3 large eggs

Making the Cheesecake Tarts:

  1. Place the cookies and ground almond flour in a food processor bowl and whiz to combine thoroughly. Add the melted butter and whiz until the dough forms.
  2. Divide the dough into eight equal amounts and press with the back of a spoon into small individual tart pans (or into a 9-inch spring form pan).
  3. Place the shells in the fridge for 30 minutes to set up the butter in the crust.
  4. Preheat the oven to 300 ° F (150° C).
  5. Place the cream cheese and sour cream in the bowl and whip until smooth and creamy with no lumps.
  6. Add the vanilla and spices and the brown sugar and continue whipping until the sugar is dissolved and the spices are speckled smoothly throughout the batter
  7. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions.
  8. Place the chilled tart shells or cheesecake pan on a baking tray.
  9. Pour the batter into the chilled tart shells and bake until the tarts are set up, but still just a bit ‘jiggly’ at the center – about 20 minutes for little tarts and about 55 minutes for a 9 –inch cheesecake.
  10. When the centers look right, turn off the oven, crack the door open, and let the tarts or cheesecake cool down a bit in the oven. Then remove the cheesecake(s) and cool on a rack.
  11. Chill the tarts/cheesecake in the fridge for two hours before serving.
  12. just before serving, dust the tops of the tarts with some cinnamon and serve as is or with a spiced apple sauce.

Spiced Apple Sauce

4 large Cortland apples, peeled and chopped into ½- inch dice
4 pinches allspice powder
1 c. apple cider
1 tbsp. butter
⅓ c. light brown sugar
A small amount of cider in a measuring cup with about 2 heaping teaspoons of cornstarch

Making the Sauce:

  1. Place all the ingredients except the cornstarch slurry in a small saucepan.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the temp to a simmer, letting the apples soften. They should have a bit of ‘bite’.
  3. Then, add the some of the slurry and increase the heat a bit to thicken the sauce to a thick syrup consistency.
  4. Serve over chilled slices of cheesecake.


  1. Oh my! That looks totally luscious and decadent. But I'm sure a slice of it counts as 1 serving each of fruit and dairy from your food guide so it's totally acceptable for breakfast ; ) !

  2. Wow, your cheesecake looks so good! And fresh apples, I am so jealous!

  3. Gorgeous, Susan. I love everything about this cheesecake from the crust up. I love the idea of the ginger nut biscuits in the base, and various spices in the filling. I'm sure the chai spiced flavours make for a wonderfully different cheesecake, and the spiced apple sauce sounds like a delightful accompaniment.

  4. I would have this for breakfast any time! What a gorgeous post--I love all of the photos of your apple picking excursion. ;-) Chai spices are such a great idea for a cheesecake and the crust looks delectable too. A perfect welcome dish!

  5. Fall is my very favorite time of year and I really enjoyed your pictures. The foliage on the trees is stunning! I think you chose a beautiful recipe in ring in our time with Donna Hay. I also like how you scaled back the spices on the cheesecake. I tend to do that with desserts because I find I just like a mild spice as opposed to a full on spicy flavor.

    This cheesecake looks simply beautiful on the plate with the spiced apple sauce. A stunning fall dessert!

    So glad to have you cooking Donna Hay's recipes with us!

  6. This is the type of recipe that makes people rush through dinner so they can get to dessert faster! Your photos of it are stunningly beautiful. Actually, this might be the type of dessert that everyone skips dinner for! Nice choice.

  7. First, thank you for these beautiful pictures. We don't get fall color...or apples right from the tree here, I'll enjoy these things through you! Second, this cheesecake is a beautiful way to kick off our next round. Pinning!

  8. Cheese cake is my favorite dessert ever. Now I know I have to make this one. It looks amazing.


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