The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
Cheesecake doesn't tempt me at all.
It never has.
Maybe it is the texture. Or the idea of a custard made mostly with cream cheese. Biting into a cheesecake, no matter how well-made, is not too far off from biting into a softened wedge of cream cheese that just happens to be sweetened.
For four years, I worked for a company built on cheesecake. I visited the plant that made our cheesecake and tasted the samples that were put out every day for quality control checks. I tasted new upscale versions at our meetings and helped give feedback on what our final commercialized version should taste like. I led brainstorming sessions where we developed new versions of our cheesecake, ones that were turtle or fruity or chocolatey.
And I never developed anything even approaching love. Cheesecake may have built our house, but it certainly wasn't welcome in mine.
The only cheesecake I ever really liked was something I recall eating in Japan in the 80s. Just down the street from my host family's home in the countryside outside of Nagoya was a small tea room called Mary Chantee. A big after-school treat for us was a selection of Mary Chantee's pastry and a cup of instant coffee (it was before the cheap fresh-brewed coffee revolution hit Japan). Their 'nama kurimu' (unbaked cream) cheesecake was my favorite. I couldn't really understand how it was made until years later when I learned about "French Cheesecake", an American favorite (it is what made Sara Lee famous), a cheesecake set with gelatin in the refrigerator instead of set with eggs in the oven. Mary Chantee's "nama kurimu' was a not-too-sweet, light-tasting and snow-white version of that cake (some French cheesecakes have a light yellow tint to better match the perception that cheesecake has eggs). It was irresistable.
In my last pastry job at the Four Seasons, I was frequently responsible for baking dozens and dozens of cheesecakes for large functions. There were several important attributes that the cheesecakes could not have:
- fallen centers
- evidence of boiling
To achieve an even bake (the lack of which caused the appearance of attributes 2-5), we baked our cheesecakes in deck ovens on top of inverted sheet trays (putting the cakes directly on the deck would have meant overcooking the cakes) at low heat in hot water baths. If we had more time to spare, we could turn down the oven to about 215-220 and skip the water bath but cover the tops with additional sheet pans.
I made a lot of cheesecake. I made a lot of cheesecake crust. And, the moment I left baking and the professional kitchen, I never made another one.
And then I spent a summer on a goat dairy in Northern California. We had an abundance of fresh goat cheese, goat milk, and fresh eggs. We also sold the cheese at a weekly farmers market. So once a week I made goat's milk cheesecake and sold it for $2 a slice. It was delicious. And since everything came from the farm, I felt good about eating it, thought I didn't eat much of it.
That was in 2002. Since then I haven't made cheesecake. Seven years. And I haven't missed it at all.
And then this month the Daring Bakers made cheesecake their challenge. Oh no. Cheesecake. My old frenemy. What to do?
Goat cheese cheesecake, of course.
This time, sadly, I wouldn't be able to use fresh-from-the-farm goat cheese or goat's milk, though I did find some from our local-ish Westfield Farm about 40 miles from my house. And I don't like using UHT milk, so I skipped the available goat's milk in the market. Instead I used fresh milk and buttermilk.
The results are a tangy, bright cheesecake that is snow white flecked with white vanilla beans. It tastes even better drizzled with local raw honey, which takes the sour edge off the goat cheese.
And of course I just made up a new recipe. I'm really bad about sticking with recipes when they don't conform to my culinary, ah, peculiarities.
Cake and Commerce's Vanilla Bean Goat Cheese Cheesecake
Yield: 7" cheesecake
- 1 C Graham Cracker Crumbs (want to make your own graham crackers? here's my recipe)
- 1 oz Coconut Oil
- 1 T Rapadura
Combine all ingredients. Into a prepared pan (see below) place mixture. Press down on crust and push some to the side and up the edge.
Bake in a 350 F oven for 10 minutes and allow to cool.
- 12 oz goat cheese
- 5 oz Agave Syrup
- 1/2 Vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 3 oz Egg Whites (about 3)
- 1/2 C Buttermilk (can be replaced with goat's milk)
- 1/2 C Milk** (can be replaced with goat's milk)
- 1/2 t Vanilla
- fine zest and juice of one lemon
Preheat oven to 275 F. If using convection, set oven to 235 F.
Line a 6" or 7"" round baking pan (or springform pan) with parchment. Cut a long strip for the sides and a circle for the bottom. If you are using a springform pan, wrap the bottom with plastic wrap then cover with aluminum foil. Prepare and bake crust and allow to cool. I use a ring or a regular cake pan - I've gotten pretty good at flipping cheesecakes out of pans, but unless you have experience with it or aren't afraid of failure, I wouldn't do it.
Scrape out vanilla from vanilla pod with the blunt end of a knife and scrape into bowl of stand mixer.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine vanilla bean, goat cheese and agave syrup and mix with the paddle attachment until smooth. Add in egg whites and mix until combined. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the buttermilk and milk. Add in lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla and mix until combined.
Pour the batter into the pan that you have prepared with a crust. Place pan on sheet pan and place on center rack in oven. Pour about 4 C of hot water into pan - either just off the boil or instant hot.
Bake until set - 1.5-2 hours. The cake won't be jiggly at all, and that's fine. For slightly less set cake, pull from oven when still a little jiggly like Jello. The fat from the crust may have seeped out a bit - also okay. Allow to cool completely before moving from baking sheet. I like to refrigerate my cheesecake overnight, and when I am ready to depan it, I warm the bottom of the pan with hot water and then depan it to make sure it comes out cleanly. Make sure when you place it in your refrigerator i is in your original pan or a cake circle or another perfectly flat surface or it will break when you move it.
Serve with local raw honey or the topping of your choice.
**To make the cake a little more sour, replace milk with buttermilk
To see more Daring Bakers Challenges, check out the blogroll.