Cheesecake Recipe

Last piece of cheesecakeIs it “cheesecake” or “cheese cake”? The former looks like it has an “e” too many, and the latter looks as bizarre as “salad pudding”. But you know what I mean.

I made this.. uhh.. cake for the first time on the weekend, from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book 2. Again, this book has come through for me, and I’ve rewarded it by almost completely plagiarising the recipe below (although she calls it the “classic baked cheesecake”). It was much simpler than other recipes I’ve made before that used a water bath, and at least as tasty.


125g Arnotts Nice (or equivalent) biscuits, i.e. half a 250g pack (for base)
2/3 cup almond meal (for base)
60g butter (for base)
1.5 tablespoons cornflour
1.5 tablespoons water
330g softened cream cheese (do not buy Philadelphia spread – buy the stuff in a rectangular box!)
360g fresh ricotta cheese
4 eggs
1 1/3 cups white sugar
1 medium lemon (or specifically, the juice and finely grated rind from one)


If you haven’t yet, get the cream cheese out of the fridge and let it soften.

Crush the biscuits in a food processor (or like me, grind up in a mixing bowl mortar-and-pestle style using the end of a rolling pin). Melt the butter, then add in the almond meal and melted butter, processing (or stirring) until nicely combined.

Grease a 22cm springform tin, line the base with greaseproof paper, and press the biscuit mix into the bottom to form the base. Put it in the fridge while we make the filling. You can probably get the oven going at 150 degrees celcius, too.

If you haven’t yet, grate the lemon to produce about a tablespoon of rind, then juice it to produce about 60 ml of juice.

Mix the cornflour with the water in a medium-large mixing bowl, until blended. Ensure your cream cheese is softened, cut it up into small pieces and drop into mixing bowl. Stir together until it forgets its original shape.

Add in the ricotta cheese (and stir), the eggs (and stir), the sugar (and stir), the lemon rind (and stir), the lemon juice (and stir). Stir until smooth. Or forget all this stirring and just put it in your food processor.

It’s okay to have some small cream cheese “lumps” in the mixture, but squash any large lumps.

Get the base out of the fridge, and pour the filling in. Then put into the oven for at least 70 minutes (according to Donna).

Maybe our oven is stuffed, but after an hour we raised the temperature to 160 degrees, and kept cooking for another hour again. You can tell when it’s cooked because it will be browned a couple of inches from all the edges, and if you poke a skewer into the middle it will leave a hole when it’s removed.

Let the cake cool a little, and then put into the fridge until it is time to serve. Serve with thick cream.

Serves 8.

First speech of the year

Toastmasters has started up for 2008, and someone has it in for me, because I was in the line-up. I guess I’ve had a little break from it, so it was probably about time.

However, despite practicing it out loud, and it taking 5 minutes, on the actual night it took closer to 8 minutes. No idea what happened.

If you care to read it, it’s about what I’ve gotten out of sport. Frankly it’s a surprise to me that I got much, but it was enough to spin into a speech. The purpose of this, my fifth speech, was to include gestures, body language, movement, etc.

Too cute for words. Almost.

Every year, the book club I’m in takes a month out to watch a movie instead. Last year we went to see Babel, also known as the most bleak movie ever made. So, this year we wanted to see something a little more perky. Wish granted!


A very cute coming-of-age movie.

Canadian director Jason Reitman made the great mockumentary Thank You for Smoking, and has followed it up with this cute Canadian tale of a sassy teenager who is dealing with a personal issue. Ok, it’s not telling you anything you don’t find out within seconds of the credits finishing, but the personal issue is that she’s pregnant.

Fellow Canadian Ellen Philpotts-Page plays the eponymous heroine, part of a stellar cast who can do no wrong. They take Juno’s situation and spin it into a cute and quirky tale that explores the question of who makes a good parent. It is sensitive and witty, and the dialogue sparkles.

And did I mention it was cute?

My rating: 3.5 stars

Can you wire me some money?

PayPal (now owned by eBay) has made a mint from mashing up the concepts of money and communications. Originally they were about allowing you to email currency to whoever you wished, debited out of your credit card. These days, they offer a large number of related payment services, similar to other financial companies. However, I find it interesting to consider how similar the businesses of finance and telecommunications are to each other.

Coming from a telecomms background, I am most aware of that side of the fence. Telcos (and cellcos and cablecos etc.) offer credit or store a monetary balance for customers, and support very large volumes of real-time transactions, settling amongst multiple similar companies both nationally and overseas. They also send out bill statements, take money on behalf of others (e.g. when you make a 1-900 call), are highly regulated, and for some reason, no one trusts them. But apart from the operational and customer interface aspects of telcos having similarities to financial companies, there is another important aspect.

Both financial companies and telcos have a facilitating role in society and the economy. If either the financial system or the telecommunication networks collapsed tomorrow, it would be no exaggeration to say that civilisation as we know it would be threatened. However, of themselves, both of these industries do not actually generate the basic goods and services that we consider to make up our civilisation, whether they are music, news stories, furniture, clothing, food, or housing (to name a few). Some may be as harsh as to call these industries parasitic rather than facilitating.

Financial companies have their business in money, while telcos have their business in communication. Each of these simple concepts can be broken down into three main sub-components.

Money is not merely the notes and coins in your wallet. A monetary transaction is a combination of an amount (measured in terms such as US dollars, or grams of gold), a time period (measured in anything from seconds to years), and a risk (which is often not easily measured at all). These sub-components are not independent, and may not even have a single value. For example, your brother may be giving you $10 next week, but he may turn out to only give you $5 and owe you another $5 for the week after, or perhaps the full $10 may never appear. If you’ve ever calculated a NPV (Net Present Value) then you have attempted to incorporate amount, time and risk into a single number, although it is difficult to do this accurately for any but the simplest scenarios.

Similarly, I see a communication having three components, being distance, latency and fidelity. (This differs from the standard theoretical approach to defining a communications channel according to bit-rate, error-rate and latency, but this is too narrow for my purposes here.) A telco enables you to engage in a communication with one or more people, where you get to share some message or receive them from others. You could do this without a telco or technological assistance, but it would need to be face-to-face with the others. So, the first thing a telco enables is communication at a distance, perhaps within your city, or perhaps overseas. Telcos also, by necessity, introduce a certain amount of latency, perhaps less than 1 second, or perhaps several days if you end up leaving your message on someone’s voicemail. Lastly, telcos will provide a different level of fidelity than your average face-to-face conversation, where the communication could be only one-direction at a time versus bi-directional, there may be drop-outs, or the quality of the communication could be impaired through loss of high-frequencies or introduction of noise artifacts. As with the sub-components of money, the sub-components of communication are not independent, e.g. if the communication is occurring on a digital channel, then the bandwidth of the channel will most likely affect both latency and fidelity.

So, both finance companies and telcos deal in complex, multi-dimensional products (money and communication). And both improve the quality of life we experience, facilitating many of the things we do in society.

Quite enchanted

To get out of the oppressive heat, the other night Kate and I went to the movies. At the flip of a coin, we chose to see this film (the other option was National Treasure, if you really must know). Afterwards, I would’ve been happy to go back in, and see it again, and not just because of the air conditioning!

Ironic Fairy-tale romance with a dash of New York humour

It is a little tricky to describe this movie as it twists the genres a bit. Perhaps I can say it is like The Princess Bride crossed with Stuart Little. Or maybe I can say it’s like King Kong crossed with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I’m going to fail either way.

Well, I will say that never since Julie Andrews played a singing nun in The Sound of Music have I seen a character as joyful and naive beyond all reason as the heroine of this film, Giselle. And the fact that Julie Andrews lends her voice to this film as the narrator is just poetry. Giselle is not quite singing as the Nazis invade, but her singing is also catchy and yet clueless.

I suspect that a fair few audience members were not there to see Giselle but the character played by Patrick Dempsey of Grey’s Anatomy fame. Their loss – he is perfect with the stunned and tortured expressions he made famous in Grey’s, but he doesn’t have a taxing role here.

The contrast of fairy-tale plot logic with real-world New York grit is simply fabulous. It shows up quite how much disbelief we suspend when watching the typical Disney cartoon. However, it’s a Disney film regardless, and I had to love it. And left the cinema singing the songs.

My rating: 4.0 stars