Dinner party jitters? Let the only pressure be in your pressure cooker, I say.
With three pressure cookers at my testing disposal courtesy of KitchenwareDirect, I decided to use one for each course at a recent dinner party. For entrees, it was a sweetcorn and basil soup in the electric Cuisinart pressure cooker, mains was a beef and Guinness stew in the Fagor Duo pressure cooker. For dessert? How about pressure cooker lemon cheesecake made the night before? Who said dinner parties shouldn't be easy!
I used the Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker for dessert, mainly because it was the only one that was wide enough to fit the springform tin I was using.
Swiss-made, the Kuhn Rikon is often referred to as "the Mercedes Benz of pressure cookers". Rather than selecting "high pressure" or "low pressure" from the start, a pressure indicator rises to let you know when either has been reached. One row of red dashes indicates low pressure, rising further to reveal two rows of red dashes when high pressure has been reached. This offers greater flexibility and control for the cook, although I found it trickier to control on my electric stove (and yes, I know, I sob over my electric stove every day).
The pressure indicator
The cheesecake is cooked in a foil-wrapped springform tin on a rack over water. Whilst some cheesecakes take up to 90 minutes to bake in an oven, this version requires only 30 minutes in the pressure cooker.
The foiled-wrapped cheesecake in the pressure cooker
I found the texture of this essentially steamed cheesecake, quite different to a baked version. My base probably had a bit too much butter (I've adjusted the recipe), but because it's not baked, it's not biscuitty but more like a chilled dessert slice. The topping was wonderfully light and fluffy, more like a continental (gelatin-set) cheesecake, akin to eating fluffy clouds, albeit sweet cheesy ones.
Tangy with lemon and not overly heavy in the stomach, this is a great and fuss-free way to end a dinner party.
150g digestive biscuits (or use plain sweet biscuits)
3 tablespoons almond meal (ground almonds)
75g butter, melted
250g cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
200g (1 cup) sour cream
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Grease a 22cm springform cake tin on the bottom and sides. Place the tin on a large square of strong foil and wrap around the sides of the tin to make sure no water can seep into the base.
Place the biscuits and almond meal in a food processor and blitz until you have fine crumbs. If you don't have a food processor, place the biscuits in a strong ziplock bag and bash with a rolling pin or mallet.
Put the biscuit crumbs, almond meal and melted butter into a bowl and mix until combined. Press mixture into the cake tin and flatten into an even layer using the back of a metal spoon. Chill the tin in the fridge whilst you prepare the filling.
Beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth using an electric mixer. Add the beaten eggs, sour cream, lemon rind and lemon juice and beat until well incorporated and aerated. Gently pour the mixture into the cake tin.
Cover the tin with foil, making sure the foil does not touch the top of the cheesecake. Fold the ends down the sides of the tin.
Place a trivet (or wire rack) into the pressure cooker and add 1.5 cups of water. Make a foil belt that you will use to lift your cheesecake in and out of the pot by folding a length of foil in half continuously until it is 2cm wide.
Place the tin on the middle of the belt and use the belt to lift it into the pot. Twist the ends of the belt together to form a handle so it will not fall onto the top of your cheesecake. Lock on the pressure cooker lid and bring to high pressure. When high pressure has been reached, reduce the heat to stabilise pressure and cook for about 30 minutes.
Use the natural-release method to release pressure. When all the pressure has been released, remove the lid and use the foil handles to remove the cheesecake (use oven mits or allow to cool slightly if the foil is hot). Loosen the foil and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
The pressure cooker comparison
- which pressure cooker should I buy?
Whilst still relatively new to the joys of pressure cooking, it was interesting to note the different mechanics between the three pressure cookers I tested. Even the variation in packaging was fascinating - the Swiss-made Kuhn Rikon was admirably devoid of styrofoam, using only clever cardboard inserts as packaging protection.
Cuisinart electric pressure cooker
- Reasonably cheap with a RRP of $189 ($169 from KitchenwareDirect)
- Electric makes it an ideal option for small kitchens or busy meal preparation when every stove burner is a precious resource.
- A good option for electric stoves where heat control can be difficult. It could even be used outdoors as long as you had access to power.
- Made for dummies - simply select the pressure level and time required and all the temperature control is automatically moderated
- Has saute, browing, simmer and warming options so no stove is required
- Accompanying recipe booklet has 49 recipes and a handy guide to recommended cooking times for different poulty and meat cuts, vegetables, rices and grains.
- Limited 3 year warranty
Fagor Duo pressure cooker
- Low to mid price range level. The 6L model has a RRP of $229 ($175 from KitchenwareDirect)
- Simple and user-friendly design makes it intuitive to use
- Third lock on the handle provides extra reassurance
- High pressure reachs 15psi, one of the highest on the market
- Includes a stainless steel trivet
- Long handle keeps you a safe distance from heat and steam when carrying the pot
- Accompanying recipe booklet comes with 58 recipes and space for you to record your own recipes and notes.
- Comes with 10-year warranty
- Long handle can make it harder to carry a heavy pot as the weight isn't distributed between two handles
Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker
- Aimed at the serious cook, this is probably one of the most durable, versatile and efficient pressure cookers available.
- Pressure gauge is clearly visible and easily controlled by heat moderation
- Quieter when cooking at pressure
- Includes a stainless steel trivet and steam basket
- 6L model has a wide base which means faster browning (greater surface area) and better options for steaming
- Two handles make it easier to carry a heavy pot
- Accompanying recipe booklet comes with 11 recipes
- Comes with a 10-year warranty and guarantee that replacement parts will be available for 15 years
- One of the more expensive pressure cookers - the 6L model has a RRP of $369.95 (same price at KitchenwareDirect )
- Can be hard to control the heat (and therefore pressure) on an electric stove
Overall recommendation: I'd probably choose the Fagor Duo which is easy to use and offers best value for money. I do see the benefits of an electric pressure cooker, which is probably also best suited for beginner users or those who want ease of use. Serious pressure cookers would no doubt appreciate the quality of the Kuhn Rikon.
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Pressure cooker recipe: Sweetcorn and basil soup
Pressure cooker recipe: Beef and Guinness stew
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8/02/2009 02:22:00 a.m.