Sunday, January 12, 2020

Honey ginger cheesecake with tomato jam

This is a very Taiwanese take on cheesecake. For one thing, it’s small and cute and light. 

Second, the sweetness has been cut way back. Not only that, but honey is used instead of sugar, which both matches that lovely jam from last week and also inserts a gentle warmth into each bite. Amplifying all this is a crust made from gingerbread cookie crumbs. 

And finally, that tomato jam beautifies an already stunningly caramelized top. A flavor profile like this is completely in line with the Chinese love for surprise, since the red jam suggests that cherries are in the offing, when actually something else is decorating the cake.

Even if you’ve never baked a cheesecake in your life, this way with cheesecakes is so easy to pull together that you will be amazed. 

Not chocolate... caramelized honey!
Here are a couple of secrets to make sure that the cake doesn’t crack and keeps its beautiful, mirror-like top:

First, use only room-temperature cream cheese, yogurt, and eggs. 

Second, use a handheld mixer to beat the cheese mixture. It’s too easy to work a bunch of air into the cheese with a stand mixer, but if that’s all you have, then be sure to keep the stand mixer’s speed on low and mix for as short a time as possible.

Third, let the cheesecake cool down slowly. Release the sides with a knife to prevent the cake from clinging to the pan as it continues to gradually collapse in an even manner. Then, refrigerate the cake when it’s come to room temperature.
Chunky cookies...

Honey ginger cheesecake with tomato jam
Fēngmì jiāngxiāng rŭlào dàngāo  蜂蜜薑香乳酪蛋糕
My take on Taiwanese pastry
Serves 6

Spray oil
¾ cup | 90 g gingerbread cookie crumbs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

cooked down to a smooth crust
6 tablespoons | 135 g honey
Around 1 pound | 500 g cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup | 75 g sweetened Greek yogurt
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten
½ teaspoon lemon extract, optional

Boiling water, as needed

1. Spray the inside of a 6 inch | 15 cm springform cake pan with oil. Wrap the outside with two sheets of foil to prevent the butter from dribbling out into your oven and making a smoky mess. Set your oven rack in the center and heat the oven to 350°F | 175°C.
Fill the pan

2. Place the cookies in a plastic bag and bash them about with a rolling pin. You don’t have to crush them finely, as they will smooth out as they bake. Toss the crumbs with the melted butter and then spread this over the bottom of the cake pan. Bake the crust for about 8 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned. Remove from the oven, but keep the foil wrapped around the pan.

3. Spray oil in a small measuring cup before pouring out the honey, as this will make it a whole lot easier to scrape out all the honey. Use a handheld mixer to beat the cream cheese only until it looks creamy – you don’t want to beat lots of air into it at any point, so stop when you can’t seen any large lumps. 

Water bath for even heat
4. Mix in the honey, yogurt, and salt only until they disappear into the cheese, and then gently beat in the eggs and optional lemon extract. When the mixture looks like sour cream, scrape this into the cake pan and gently shake the pan to even out the filling. 

5. Set the foil-wrapped cake pan in an 8-inch | 20-cm square pan and pour boiling water around the cake pan to create a water bath (aka a bain marie). Place the pans in the oven and bake for 75 to 90 minutes, or until the cheesecake is barely set. The top will caramelize somewhere along the way, and the cake will smell incredibly good. It will also have risen a whole lot like a soufflé at this point. 

6. Remove the pans and set them on the stove to cool off for 5 minutes or so – don’t remove the cake pan from the water bath, as you want the cheesecake to cool down very slowly. After 5 or so minutes, carefully run a sharp knife around the edge of the cheesecake to release it, as this will help reduce cracking. 
Souffle action!

7. After about 30 minutes, remove the cheesecake from the water bath to let it cool down a bit faster. After another 30 minutes, cover the cheesecake and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight, but keep the bottom wrapped in foil just in case some butter has escaped down there.

7. Just before serving, remove the cake from the pan to a pretty plate and either cover its top with the tomato jam or serve it on the side.

Canned tomatoes provided by the folks at Greatest Tomatoes from Europe - grazie