Thursday, 13 March 2014

Individual Honey and Walnut Cheesecakes

Dessert Challenge time has rolled around once again!  And once again we have a classic combination that I have never encountered before!  This month's ingredients are honey and walnut and my contribution is little, individual cheesecakes!  Also, as an added bonus, these cheesecakes are both sugar free and wheat free, as all the sugar is replaced with honey and the base is made of nuts! 

When I sat down to think about this challenge I was at a bit of a loss.  Honey and walnut is not something I've really used in combination and I've only used honey...once I believe as a significant ingredient, back when I made that honeycomb layer cake.  Oh wait, there was also that honey wheat bread.  But yes, for the most part, not really worked with this month's ingredients.  Hence I decided to turn to Google and see what came up for the two of them.  Of course, the most popular result was baklava!  I did consider baklava.  But it does involve my nemesis: pastry!  And you know me, I am wanting to make my own pastry.  I can't just buy it from a shop!  But baklava requires phyllo pastry, which is possibly one of the most terrifying looking pastries to make and I didn't think I was quite ready to attempt that.  Besides, I don't have a big enough table for all the stretching.

So it was back to the drawing board.  To be honest, I am not entirely sure how I eventually ended up at cheesecakes.  I have never made cheesecake ever.  Nor have I eaten it.  It just doesn't really appeal to me.  But that never stops me from making something.  Some browsing around yielded that I could use walnuts to make a base so that was great and I figured I could get the honey bit into the cheesecake's filling somehow.  It was then I had an idea!  Honey can be used as a sugar substitute so why not substitute the sugar in the filling for honey!  Clearly this was a stroke of genius!  So I looked into ratios and advice of substituting honey.  When it came to cheesecakes though, most places recommended against it due to the liquid content.  But one site did have some suggestions on how it could be done so I took inspiration from there.  I then found a simple looking cheesecake recipe to work from and was set!

Now obviously, when you have no experience either making or eating something then it is clearly a great idea to mess with a recipe!  You may have guessed that the first attempt did not go quite to plan.  Its main problem was the base.  My first issue was that I did not have ground almonds.  Well, I did but they were out of date so I couldn't use them and I hadn't ordered more.  I should really not be so lazy about walking over to the kitchen and checking these things when I am ordering my weekly shop.  Anyway, it meant I ended up substituting in more walnuts.  I also did not bake the base on its own, because the recipe I was adapting didn't either.  I had also read that nuts could burn much more easily than a biscuit base and didn't want to risk cooking them for too long.  The result after baking the whole thing was that I had a greasy base that remained rather gross and soggy even after the cases were removed.  They also fell apart very easily and were apparently quite bitter tasting.  Oh dear.  The topping was apparently quite nice according to my lovely tasters at Markinch Primary School, which was something at least because I had no idea if it had come out correctly.  I had kept them in the oven a lot longer than recommended because I could not work out if they were cooked or not.  However, overall, I was not happy.  So I made a second attempt the following weekend.

This time I made some changes.  I actually put the ground almonds in this time and I baked the base sans topping for a bit first to try and firm it up somewhat.  I had also been unhappy with the presentation of the previous cakes because I had used very large cases to line my tins.  Too large and so they folded in and caused the final cakes to have weird shapes.  This time, I used smaller cases.  I also decided to pipe my filling in, rather than use a spoon since it gave a smoother finish.  I stuck to the cooking time too.  I could actually see a change in colour on this attempt.  I couldn't with the last batch which is why I cooked them longer than I should have.  My final changes came with the decoration.  Before I had just drizzled them with honey and topped with a walnut.  I figured I could do better and go a bit fancier.  So I made a honey glaze to coat the walnuts and then roasted them!  And then made a honey sauce for drizzling.

And the final result?  A VAST improvement!  For a start, they looked much nicer and more appetising.  The bases were not greasy though they were still a little soft in comparison to a normal cheesecake base.  And the taste was much, MUCH better according to my tasters.  These ones were scoffed!  I was very pleased.  I am definitely getting better at this baking thing if I can mess with a recipe to such an extent and get a great result on the second attempt.  Of course, I would have preferred it to be right first time around but I am still very happy!

Recipe - inspired by Bill Granger, via GoodFood
Makes 12 individual cheesecakes

  • 100g/3.5oz walnut halves
  • 55g/2oz ground almonds
  • 50g/1.7oz butter 
  • 400g/14oz cream cheese
  • 55g/2oz runny honey 
  • 100ml/3.5fl.oz sour cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Zest of half a lemon
Honey Roasted Walnuts:
  • 30g/1oz runny honey
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 55g/2oz walnut halves
Honey Drizzle:
  • 55g/2oz runny honey
  • 15g/0.5oz butter
  • 1 tsp water 
  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3 and line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.
  2. Blend the walnuts into crumbs in a food processor.
  3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and then add it and the ground almonds to the walnuts.  Mix to combine.
  4. Divide the nut mixture between the paper cases and press flat.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, make the filling by first mixing the cream cheese, sour cream and honey together in a large bowl until smooth.
  7. Add the egg yolk, vanilla extract and lemon zest and mix to combine.
  8. Either spoon or pipe the mixture into the prepared cases on top of the walnut base.
  9. Put back in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the topping has puffed up and started to change colour.
  10. Switch off the oven and leave the door ajar.  Let the cheesecakes rest in the oven for about 30 minutes before removing and carefully transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  11. Whilst the cheesecakes cool, make the honey roasted walnuts.  Cover 2 small trays with baking parchment and preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 1.  
  12. Put the honey in a small saucepan and heat gently until it becomes thin and very, very runny.
  13. Stir in the cayenne pepper with a rubber spatula.
  14. Add the walnut halves and stir until they are fully coated. 
  15. Spread the coated walnuts out onto one of the trays in a single layer and then bake in the oven for about 10 minutes.
  16. Remove from the oven and transfer to the other tray and allow to cool so that the glaze sets.
  17. When the cheesecakes have cooled, press a glazed walnut piece into the top and then store in the fridge until ready to serve.
  18. Make the glaze shortly before serving.  Put the honey, butter and water into a small saucepan.
  19. Cook over a gentle heat until the butter melts and the honey turns thin.  Whisk together for about 5 minutes.
  20. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  It will darken and thicken.
  21. To serve, remove the cheesecakes from their cases and plate.  Give the sauce a quick whisk and then drizzle over the top of the cheesecakes.


  1. good thing I've already made my mom's birthday cake, she'd have gone nuts for this one instead!

  2. Oh, this would be a favorite in our house! It looks great, and I love that you roasted the walnuts!

  3. Wow they are a show stopper. I love how you used the walnuts in the crust.

  4. Baking brings back those great recollections and keeps my grandmother at the surface of my heart and musings in an exceptionally extraordinary manner.