Monday, May 27, 2019

Super light Taiwanese orange cheesecake

Taiwan’s cheesecakes are sublime. They’re light and fresh, plus they’re not very sweet, but the taste is off the charts.

These are nothing like New York cheesecakes, which are dense and creamy and very cheesy. Rather Taiwanese cheesecakes are almost like chilled soufflés.  

When I worked in Taipei, my girlfriends in the office would often take me along to a bakery whenever they needed an afternoon pick-me-up, and there these exquisite cheesecakes would beckon. 

Part of the allure would be the mirrorlike glaze that contained shimmering bits of colorful fruit. They looked so decadent, and yet turned out to be (almost) diet food because of their cloudlike texture.

These cheesecakes often are baked without a graham cracker crust, which lessens the sweetness by many decibels. This also means that all of the focus in this dessert is aimed at the cheesecake and whatever topping is slid on top.

Pretty as a picture
Finally, these are even more sensible because they’re make in very small sizes – only 6 inches or 15 centimeters in diameter – which makes a very good case in my mind for commandeering the whole thing for myself. 

I mean, these are relatively lo cal, right?

Taiwanese style orange cheesecake
Táiwān zhīshì júxiāng dàngāo 台灣芝士橘香蛋糕
Taiwan pastry
Makes one (6-inch | 15 cm) cake and serves around 6

Spray oil

2 large egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon orange juice
3 tablespoons sugar, divided in half

Rest of the filling:
About 4 ounces | 110 g cream cheese, room temperature
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1½ tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons | 85 ml whole milk, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Cracked surface is A-OK
3 tablespoons cake flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Finely grated peel of 1 orange

Boiling water, as needed

1 envelope gelatin
¼ cup | 60 ml cool water
1 (11 ounce | 312 g) can mandarin orange segments in light syrup
Orange juice, as needed

1. Start this a day before you plan to serve it. Line a 6-inch | 15 cm springform pan with aluminum foil, spray lightly with oil, and then line it with yet another layer of parchment paper. Set a rack in the center of your oven and heat the oven to 350°F | 180°C.

2. Place the egg whites, orange juice, and half of the sugar in a very clean mixing bow. Whip on high with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in the rest of the sugar and beat until the whites are a stiff meringue, but not dry. Scrape this into a clean work bowl. 

Arrange the orange segments
3. Place the cream cheese in the mixing bowl and beat with the paddle attachment until light. Beat in the butter and then the sugar. Slowly beat in the milk, egg yolks, cornstarch, flour, salt, and orange peel. 

4. Use a balloon whisk to fold a quarter of the meringue into the batter, and then gently fold in the rest. 

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan. Set this into a deep baking pan and add enough boiling water so that it comes up at least 1 inch | 2 cm around the cake pan. Bake the cheesecake in the water bath for 15 minutes, at which time the surface should start to barely turn brown. Reduce the heat to 250°F | 120°C and continue to bake for around 35 to 40 minutes. The edges will pull away from the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean when it is ready. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and set it on a rack to cool for about 10 minutes.

6. Release the cake from the rim. Pull the parchment paper gently away from the cheesecake and then let the cake cool down to room temperature. 

Jeweled topping
7. Next, make the jelly top: Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and give it about 10 minutes to swell up and bloom. Drain syrup from the orange segments into a measuring cup and add enough orange juice (from that same one you used for zest) to get ¾ cup | 190 ml. Microwave this juice for a minute or two so that it almost boils, and then stir the gelatin into this hot liquid until the gelatin dissolves.

8. The cake will shrink as it cools, so the easiest way to mold a jelly top is to line the cake pan you just used with plastic wrap and use this as your jelly mold. You will then cut away any extra jelly later on. So, arrange the mandarin orange slices in the bottom of the pan in an attractive pattern. Pour about ¼ cup | 60 ml of the gelatin mixture over the orange segments and chill. When this has firmed up, pour in about ½ cup | 125 ml over the jelly and chill again.

9. When the jelly is very firm, remove it from the plastic and flip it over onto the plastic wrap and return it to the pan so that the oranges are on the top – this will give you a shiny surface on the finished cake. Pour in the rest of the gelatin mixture and then set the cheesecake on top. Cover and chill overnight.

10. Unmold the cheesecake onto a serving plate and trim off any excess from the jelly layer. Use a sharp knife to cut it into wedges, and wipe the knife with a hot, moist towel between slices to get sharp edges to each wedge.