The title of this blog: “Test for the Best” was voted amongst others by those who know me best…I’m always jotting down dishes that I’ve tried that I’ve really liked or ideas that come to mind about creating others. Then whenever I get time, on my kitchen-lab, I start the testing to try to recreate those memories or ideas. There are many “basics” I keep testing…not that the results of those tests aren’t good (most often they are, others…not so much!!! We learn by trial and error!:) ) but they are not exactly what to me would be perfect! For instance, “the perfect roast chicken” or “the perfect brownie”…it may sound simple, but I never get quite that “oh my, I’m searching no more” with some of these dishes.
Cheesecake, plain cheesecake, has been one of those long, test after test, quests! Not that I have an embedded memory of a fantastic cheesecake I’ve tried before that I want to recreate. Spain is not known for it’s cheesecakes! nor have I tried my heavenly one elsewhere! Most are too thick, or have a bit rubbery feel, or are way too sweet, or they stick on your palate! I’m not a big fan of overly sweet desserts and those who’ve read me before will know that I like creamy, soft, melt in your mouth textures…That’s what I had in mind, a custard-like cheesecake (I learnt from McGee that it is in fact a custard, so it should be handled as such) that would withstand being cut into portions without falling apart. A cheesecake with a fresh, lactic sour cream flavour with the just right touch of sweetness.
The (again, to me) perfect companion sauce, I discovered before I succeeded with the cheesecake recipe. I found on the web a recipe for a strawberry sauce to accompany it (I wish I could tell you the source, but I don’t even have the recipe I scribbled down at the time, I just kept the idea). It was so simple and so good, the idea behind it was to just mash up some fresh strawberries, add sugar to taste (and I always add a drizzle of lemon) and instead of reducing it to a soft jam texture, you add a bit of cornstarch (or flour) to the mixture, so to get the same consistency, you barely need to cook the fruit, so the resulting flavour is extraordinarily fresh! It keeps well for a few weeks, not like jams, but great in case you have extra berries…and I prefer the taste over any jam! Simple and delicious! I’ve tried various berries with great results, but for this cheesecake, I wanted a tad of sourness and…could not resist using fresh raspberries (from our plant!). The flavour matches perfectly, and the slight acid mellowed with enough sugar (depending on how sweet the fruit is) brings out the sour cream flavour even more (or so it seems to me!).
Finally came the cheesecake, after a few months without any further testing, yesterday I made the adjustments I had jotted down from the last test (less eggs, much less cooking time, less sugar) and today I awaited to try the result. I cannot do other than tell you that…HURRAY!!!! I MANAGED TO GET MY PERFECT CHEESECAKE!!! Honestly, I’m soooo happy, one more recipe succeeded, so no need to look any further! It is just what I wanted and with the raspberry topping it’s a little piece of heaven!!!If not ask my dad, diabetic (non-practicant, ehem), who gulped down two filling servings, still expecting a third! It’s a pity photos don’t make it justice, really. You will just have to try it, it’s almost the same texture of the crème brulée, which makes it much lighter to eat than the usual cheesecake…and the flavour: no words!I hope you try it and it becomes your perfect cheesecake too!!! If not, if you prefer the denser type, just let me know and I’ll share that recipe too.
Sour cream cheesecake & fresh raspberry sauce
(for a 20 cm springform pan)
For the cookie crust:
120g digestive biscuits (or the cookie you choose, like graham crackers)
5g of powdered sugarFor the filling:
40g of butter (melted)
500g cream cheese (I used philadelphia)For the raspberry sauce:
100g powder sugar (I milled granulated with a spice blender)
50g sour cream
3 medium-sized eggs
1 tbsp of lemon juice
pinch of salt
200g fresh raspberriesThe cheesecake ideally should be made the day before you want to serve it, as it needs time to cool slowly and set properly, so take that into account when you plan to make it.
aprox. 90g sugar
drizzle of lemon juice
It’s really very simple, but for cheesecakes not to crack there are a few rules:
1) all ingredients at room temperature, that is bring out your cream cheese, eggs and sour cream, at least 1 hour ahead of starting to make it….or if you haven’t planned ahead, like me, put each on the microwave over a very low power setting for a few seconds at a time until they get to room temperature
2) when you in incorporate ingredients, in particular the eggs, do it slowly to avoid incorporating air to the mixture, as it’s one of the reasons for cracking.
3) Bake on a low oven (ideally over a bain marie) as this will allow the trapped air and steam to disperse gradually.
4) Don’t overbake, remember it is a custard, so overbaking will dry the filling and cause it to shrink.
5) Finally, allow the cheesecake to cool gradually, either in the oven with the door open ajar, or I prefer, out of the oven still inside the water bath until it cools slightly, as cooling causes the trapped steam to contract and doing so slowly, allows for the surface to be pulled in gently
So, let’s begin!
First, let’s prepare the cookie crumb crust. In the US, most cheesecake cookie crusts are made with graham crackers…I’ve never tried them, so I cannot tell if they are the best to use, or if I’d like them best. Here I’ve always used McVities (now Fontaneda) Digestives biscuits. I think they make an excellent cookie crust, but choose any cookie you like!
Preheat your oven to 180ºC.
For the cookies, you could blend them in a food processor until you get the crumbs, but I like the roughness of doing it by hand. So, for this, place them inside a bad a bit broken up and press them with a rolling pin or a bottle until you get crumbs of uneven thickness, they give texture, but still fairly small.
Place the crumbs on a bowl and add the powdered sugar and the melted butter and work it just a bit to coat them all evenly.
Grease a springform pan with a bit of butter and line it with a circle of parchment paper for the bottom and a band running along it’s sides.
Then place some of the crumbs evenly on the bottom and press with a flat bottom of a glass or a bowl scraper. You could use all the mixture, but I make the bottom a bit thinner and use the rest of the crumbs when serving a portion to place on the sides.
Place in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes. While it’s inside, this is the trick that I’ve found works for me so that the crust doesn’t become soggy over the time it sits in the fridge! Beat an egg white until it foams a bit, to make sure it’s broken up and liquidy. So, as the pan comes hot off the oven, you brush the crust softly to coat it and with the residual heat it will set the white and make a protective coating from the filling. If you are unsure it has cooked, just place it 30 second more in the oven. This really works! My first crusts were always soggy, but with this they last for a week with the touch of crispness!
Now, to begin the filling, begin by lowering the oven temperature to 150ºC.
Then, in a bowl large enough to fit all the filling, cream your cheese softly with a wire whip until smooth. Add the powdered sugar (like I said, I just give granulated sugar a whiz with the spice blender) and a pinch of salt and continue mixing slowly until fully incorporated and smooth again.
Then, incorporate your thick sour cream and integrate as well. See how smooth?
Finally start adding the eggs slowly, one at a time (remember, it’s important they are at about the same temperature, so the mix doesn’t separate and they integrate well) until fully incorporated and smooth once more.
Last, adjust the acidity to taste with the lemon juice, if you like it a bit more sour like me.
That’s it for the mix!
I said that my trick for not getting soggy crusts was the egg white coating, well another reason for why they get soggy is when the water from the bain marie slips inside…ruining your crust completely! I used to wrap the spring-form pan with aluminum paper, but it ripped sometimes and did not always work. Until I read in an American forum that a great trick was to place the pan inside a turkey roasting bag! Great idea, but where do I get that!? I haven’t still, but on a trip to turkey last year, in the surpermarket I found smaller chicken size roasting bags (now available here, by the way!!!) so, I just cut it in half and with a rubber band, hold in in place…as if I were wrapping my pan as a present!
Then, pour the filling inside and let rise the pan over your working surface a little bit and let it fall flat to make any bubbles inside rise to the surface. Finally, place the pan inside a high tray that I fill up with boiling water half-way up its sides…and in it goes to the oven!
To me, the perfect timing, at the right temperature (I checked with two oven thermometers since I discovered my thermostat is not so reliable!) is exactly 40 minutes.
After that time, open your oven, give it about 5 minutes and then bring it out still in the water bath. If you shake the pan a bit, you’ll see it’s wobbly in the centre, it’s ok, in fact, it’s a good sign! Just let it cool a bit on the bath and after about half an hour you can take it out to cool down over a rack.
You shouldn’t place it in the fridge until it’s cool, as you want to cover it, so it doesn’t absorb any flavours (from the fridge…maybe I’m just really fuzzy) and if you cover it even if only slightly warm, the heat will condense and make it sweat! So, when cool, cover it well and leave it in the fridge, ideally overnight.
Time for the sauce! Super simple, incredibly tasty! Just important to note that the amount of sugar needed greatly depends on how naturally sweet the raspberries are, I’ve made the sauce a few times, and each time to get the same sweet-sour balance the amount of sugar needed varies…So, I recommend you use less than suggested and add more as needed.
Simply place the raspberries in a pan, with a potato masher or a fork, mash them up, add the bit of water, the sugar, a pinch of salt and the drizzle of lemon juice (it brings out the taste much more!). swirl around a bit to dissolve the sugar, taste, and adjust as needed. Then, add the cornstarch and place it over low heat until you see it thickens up a bit.
Like for custards, test its texture by running your finger across a coated spatula: the mark should stay in place.
That’s it, let cool down, and you’ll have your sauce ready.
Ready to serve your cake? To slice it cleanly, I suggest you warm up a long thin knife (ideally)…usually it’s done by placing it in a pan of warm water, like for scooping out ice-cream. But, I cannot be bothered to prepare it, so since I have a blowtorch, I just lightly warm up the blade (don’t do this with your favourite tempered knife, though!).
You’ll get a clean cut!
Then, if you like place some of the crumbs on the end
And finally serve with the sauce as a topping or on the side!
I wish you could taste it and feel the texture!
I don’t know if from the photos you can tell, but it is soooooo creamy!
Like I said, I hope you try it and like it as much as I do! Bon ap’!