Sunday, July 8, 2012

Japanese Souffle Cheesecake

OK, so this doesn't really look that exciting. Kind of plain. But zoom in, check out that texture. Really look at how fluffy it is. Texture is what this recipe is all about. And it delivers. It stays true to the Japanese Aesthetic: simplicity and harmony. Simple common ingredients fashioned together in a precise and delicate method so as to bring all the flavors and textures into complete harmony with each other. WOW, I'm getting kind of philosophical here. We're getting deep. The bottom line is that this is a cheesecake like no other, so don't be fooled by it's simple look.

To be honest, this recipe made me nervous. It had no flour in the recipe. How can you make cake without flour? I Googled "Japanese Souffle Cheesecake", found two other viable recipes (one from Joe Pastry, one from Sprinkle Bakes) and they had flour. But I went with my gut and stuck with this recipe (the description had me so intrigued). There were also a lot, I mean A LOT, of steps. Mess up any one step and all would be lost. This recipe made me nervous, did I say that already? But, well, I had to get my kitchen mojo back and if I could master this then I'd be ready to get back at it. So, I took my time, measured all my ingredients, got all my equipment prepped and went for it. I followed each and every step, precisely and methodically. I took no short cuts and made no modifications. And . . . it . . . was . . . glorious. Seriously one of the best desserts I've ever made. It's all about the texture. So unique, so "melt in your mouth". The taste of cheesecake, but a texture that's indescribable, you're just going to have to try it. Oh and, as a totes added bonus, check out the calories at the end of the recipe. About 1/2 what a traditional cheesecake has. That fact alone will have me making this again and again . . . and again.

Here are the simple ingredients: cream cheese, heavy cream, whole milk, butter, cornstarch, lemon juice, eggs (yolks and whites separated), cream of tartar and sugar.

Start by preparing your pan. An 8-inch, high sided (4-inch), removable bottom, cake pan; buttered, bottom lined with parchment, buttered again and dusted with flour. No way this cake is going to stick. I also triple lined the outside with foil to prevent seepage from the water bath. I ain't takin' no chances here. Fo show!

The first of many steps: Melt cream cheese, butter, 100 ml. milk and cream over a double boiler or, like I did, in the microwave (15 seconds at a time) until just melted. You don't want to cook anything here, just get it melted.

Stir until smooth and cool to room temperature.

Second, stir together the 30 ml. milk, 25 g. cornstarch and lemon juice until cornstarch dissolves, then stir into cooled cream cheese mixture.

Third, beat yolks until thick and lemon colored. They don't need to be really light colored, just smooth.

Stir the yolks into the cream cheese mixture and

strain into a large bowl.

Fourth, stir together 10 g. cornstarch and sugar, set aside.
At this point you'll want to get some water boiling for the water bath.

Fifth, put egg whites and cream of tartar into a mixing bowl. The bowl and beater MUST be grease free. Not a speck. Check out the Royal Icing post to see why.

Whip until soft peaks form. See that soft peak there to the left.

Sixth, with the beater running, slowly add the sugar cornstarch mixture a tablespoon at a time and beat until stiff shiny peaks form.

Seventh, take a third of the egg white mixture and stir it into the cheese mixture until well incorporated.

Eighth, gently but quickly fold in the remainder of the egg white mixture.

The batter should be uniform in color and texture with no distinguishable egg white blobs. Be gentle though so you don't deflate the volume.

Pour the batter in the prepared pan and set it in a larger pan that leaves at least 1-inch all the way around and will allow water to come half way up the pan. Fill the pan with boiling water until it comes at least half way up the side of the pan and the pan just starts to want to float. Bake in a 300°F oven for about 25 minutes until the top just starts to brown. Then turn the oven down to 260°F and bake another hour until a cake tester comes out clean. This cake is pretty moist so better to go a bit longer than take it out too soon.

When cake is done remove from the water bath, remove the foil and allow to cool to room temperature on a cooling rack. Agh! Cracks! Agh! Oven too hot? Baked too long at 300°F? Seriously this problem has plagued me with cheesecakes from the beginning. I'm working on it!

Once it cools and settles a bit the cracks kind of disappear, so really, no big! But I know they are there and I'm determined one day to produce a crack-free cheesecake. But, alas, not today.

Once cooled to room temperature, refrigerate until throughly cooled. Then slice and serve. Look at that silky texture. I just can't describe it, fluffy but moist, cheesy and caky at the same time. Denser than a souffle but lighter than a cheesecake. Seriously, it is so unique.

This cake is not overly sweet and works well with a variety of sauce options. I cooked down some sliced strawberries and sugar into a simple sauce and spooned it over the top. It would also be great with a Creme Anglaise or a tart lemon sauce. Really though, it's great on it's own. I kept pinching off little bites with my fingers and before you know it, I'd eaten almost half. Wowza! Give it a try, it's like nothing you've made or tasted and you're going to L-O-V-E it!

Japanese Souffle Cheesecake

226 g. cream cheese
50 ml. heavy cream
100 ml. whole milk
80 g. butter

25 g. cornstarch
30 ml. whole milk
1 T. lemon juice

138 g. egg yolks (about 8 yolks)

150 g. egg whites (about 6 whites)
1/2 t. cream of tartar

10 g. cornstarch
100 g. sugar

Preheat oven to 300°F.

1. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round, high sided (at least 3 inches), cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment and butter parchment. Dust bottom and sides with flour. If using a loose bottomed or spring form cake pan (recommended), cover the outside with 2-3 layers of foil to ensure that water from the water bath does not seep into the pan. For the water bath use a pan that is at least 1 inch larger on all sides and deep enough for water to come at least half way up the side of your cake pan. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.

2. Using a double boiler (or in the microwave) gently heat cream cheese, heavy cream, 100 ml. milk and butter until just melted. Stir until well combined and smooth. Let cool to room temperature.

2. In a small bowl, stir together 25 g. cornstarch, 30 ml. milk and lemon juice until cornstarch is dissolved. Stir into cooled cream cheese mixture.

3. Beat egg yolks until smooth and light colored. Add to cheese mixture and stir well to combine. Strain into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

4. Stir together 10g. cornstarch and sugar, set aside. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Add cornstarch/sugar mixture a tablespoon at a time and beat until stiff peaks form. Mixture will be glossy.

5. Stir 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the cream cheese mixture until well combined. Then quickly but gently fold in the remaining egg white mixture until batter is uniform in color and texture. Be gentle so that there is no loss of volume (air) in the mixture.

6. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and set into larger pan (water bath). Pour boiling water into larger pan until water level comes up at least half the height of the pan and cake pan seems to almost want to float. 

7. Bake in a 300°F oven for 25-30 minutes until top just starts to brown. Reduce heat to 260°F and continue baking for 1 hour or until cake tester comes out clean. Cake does not easily dry out so err on the side of baking longer. Let cake cool completely on counter then refrigerate until ready to serve. Cake will shrink down as it cools.

Serves 8-12
1/8 recipe: 336 cal., 25 g. fat, 13 g. sugar, 8.6 g. protein

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