japanese cheesecake sandwich

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More often than not, I just can’t make a pretty cake to save my life. Whether it’s underbaking, water leaking, over soufflé-ing, overbrowning, etc., I have yet to make a cake whose appearance I am truly 100% happy with. The same goes for my ongoing mission to perfect the look of my Japanese cheesecakes; I even took extra precautions to make sure it comes out looking perfect this time, like greasing and lining the tin, sieving the batter, baking low and slow… all for it to bake perfectly for the initial 20 minutes or so, followed by an exponential growth in the vertical direction. It puffed up majorly, which a soufflé is bound to do, but simultaneously formed crevices the size you’d fine in Antarctica on the top – there goes my post title ‘picture perfect Japanese cheesecake’.

So I tried to make up in taste where looks fail, and did what is rarely done, which is to fill a cheesecake. It kind of makes sense, as this style of cheesecake is light as a sponge cake and so is much easier to handle than if you were to try and fill a traditional baked cheesecake. Also I have to say that this recipe is probably the best out of, I don’t know, ten that I’ve tried; there’s not one single pocket of unmixed meringue or any lumps, and is satisfyingly fluffy with a mild tang of the cream cheese. Why line up for an Uncle Tetsu when homemade cheesecakes easily rival it?
Japanese soufflé cheesecake sandwich (6″)

For the cheesecake:
110g cream cheese
60g whole milk
20g unsalted butter
2 yolks
20g cake flour
15g corn flour
2 whites
54g white sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice or pinch of cream of tartar

For the filling:
50g heavy cream
1/2 tsp icing sugar
2 tbsp jam

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 6″ round tin and place it on top of a towel inside a larger tray, and fill the larger tray with an inch of cold water (the towel just stops the tin sliding around). If using a loose bottomed/springform pan wrap foil around the pan securely, though I find that water still manages to seep through so I use a one piece tin.

Gently melt the cream cheese, milk and butter together in a double boiler/bain marie or hot water bath and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the yolks, doing it quickly to avoid scrambling. Add the sifted flours and whisk till smooth. Beat the whites and sugar together by hand (I find it easiest to control the stability of the meringue that way) on top of the double boiler from earlier, whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Take off the heat and add the lemon juice/cream of tartar and beat until glossy and still droopy, closer to medium peaks than firm.

Pour the batter into the prepared in from a height, then tap the tin a few times to release air bubbles. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes at 180C, or until the top of the cake starts browning, then turn it down to 150C and bake for a further 40-45mins or until slightly jiggly in the middle when shaken. Cool in the oven with the door slightly ajar until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from tin and cool completely, then transfer to the fridge to chill at least 4 hours before cutting/eating.

If filling, whisk the cream and sugar together until stiff peaks. Add vanilla here if desired. Cut the chilled cake in half and spread the whipped cream in an even layer. Spoon on blobs of jam, and swirl into the cream. Replace the top of the cake, chill a bit to firm up the filling before slicing.

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peanut butter & banana cheesecake

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Now that the presidential and MP elections are over, it means we’ll not have to put up with obnoxious vans blaring out promises and loud music as part of campaigns. Which means peaceful baking times.

Even if you’ve never lived in Asia, you’ll certainly know by reputation that ‘everything’ is dirt cheap here. And that is quite true to a certain extent. I mean, I go out almost every morning to the markets with some AUD$30, and return victorious every time with a trolley full of groceries, sometimes even clothes, with change to spare. So you can imagine my lack of surprise when a jar of peanut butter with a similar price tag to an Australian brand is doubled the size, and thus my wanting to use it in some way other than spread on toast for the 6th day in a row. And that, is the story of how the PB & B cheesecake was born.

It’s a simple recipe: 1 package of cream cheese, 1 egg, 1 banana and a few others, blended together to make what I consider a perfect symphony of sweet bananas and slightly salty peanut butter. And because I persisted and managed to resist my urge to reduce the cooking time, the texture is unbelievably creamy, almost like a mousse except rich and custardy.

 

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PB & B cheesecake (makes one 5″ cake)

For the roasted almond biscuit base:
see pâte sucrée recipe, replace with roasted almond meal

For the batter:
250g cream cheese, room temp.*
40g granulated sugar
15g brown sugar
1 egg, room temp.
dash of vanilla (+ optional bourbon)
1 small banana, mashed w/ few drops of lemon juice
2 tbsp peanut butter

Roll out the biscuit dough to desired thickness of about 4mm, then cut it to the same size as the base of the tin. Place it onto the lined base of the tin and bake at 180C for about 10 minutes until fragrant and the edges slightly golden. Reduce the temperature to 160C and place a pan of hot water on the bottom rack.

Beat the softened cream cheese with the two sugars together (sift brown sugar if lumpy). Lightly whisk the egg and add it to the cheese mixture slowly while mixing. Add the vanilla and alcohol if using. Place the peanut butter into a separate mixing bowl, warm slightly if the consistency is more viscous than the main batter. Add about half of the cheese mixture to the peanut butter and mix to combine. Add the mashed bananas to the other half and mix evenly.

Alternately pour the two flavours of batter into the tin, make swirls if you’d like with a skewer or similar tool. Tap the tin to release air bubbles, and place in the middle rack of the oven to bake for approx. 30-40 minutes, or until the centre is jiggly but the edges are set when shaken gently. Cool completely in the tin on a wire rack, then transfer, still in the tin, into the refrigerator to chill overnight before cutting/serving.

baked cheesecake w/ blueberry compote

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I am officially out of exam hell. Well, not officially because whether I passed this year remains to be seen, but for the moment I am done with studying. *Inserts Frodo “It’s Over Sam” meme* After weeks of SWOTVAC and 4 exams in awkwardly spaced succession, freedom and guiltless procrastination welcome me as an old friend. In the 6 hours following our last exam, we’ve grabbed Korean food, watched a movie and I’ve made my first cake in what feels like forever.

Can you be horny for baking? I certainly was frustrated and experiencing internal turmoil, ready to burst out a whisk and give birth to cake. Don’t even ask. I actually struggled not being able to decide what to make; it was a toss between blueberry braided bread and orange cardamom rolls. Yesterday I was seriously craving cinnamon buns too, or as I call them, SINnamon buns. But my mother, the ultimate cheesecake lover, had already seen cheesecake topped with blueberry sauce being made on TV and demanded that I replicate it. Suits me just fine.

I was reviewing some of my existing posts and to my dismay, so far I’ve failed to admit the mishaps and little accidents, and how I attempted to amend them. That would be completely missing the point of documenting my adventures as an aspiring home baker. So I’ll be forward and say that I, despite making mental notes, totally forgot to prebake the crust. Honestly, it turned out fine and quite flavourful, but I felt like an idiot the second I poured the filling onto the raw biscuit base. I blame the brain cells I’ve lost to all the last-minute cramming sessions in the past month.

With the addition of lemon zest and juice, as well as using yogurt for the dairy instead of the more commonly used cream or sour cream, this is definitely more tangy than the average vanilla cheesecake. Which is a welcome personality considering the sweet fruit topping.

As you can see from the single photo above, the cheesecake barely looks baked with its smooth sides and lack of browning. Does anyone else prefer their cheesecakes to be more custardy in texture than floury? I have nothing against a cheesecake with a beautifully golden crust and puffed rim, this is just the way I prefer as I think baking low and slow ensures creamy texture every time.

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Baked cheesecake w/ coconut biscuit base + blueberry compote
(makes one v tall 5″ cake)

For the coconut biscuit base:
55g flour
15g unsweetened desiccated coconut
pinch of salt
45g unsalted butter, softened

For the cheesecake filling:
250g cream cheese
80g white granulated sugar
2 eggs
200g full-fat plain Greek yogurt
zest & juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla

For the blueberry compote:
150g blueberries (frozen works fine)
1-2 tbsp sugar (depending on sweetness of fruit)
zest & juice of half a lemon

Before starting out, make sure to bring all the ingredients to room temperature, which only took a minute under the 34°C heat today. Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F.

For the biscuit base, mix together the flour, coconut and salt until evenly distributed. Then add the softened butter and mix until a dough/paste forms. Press it into a buttered and bottom-lined tin (but not floured) tightly in an even layer and bake for about 10 minutes until slightly browned. Set aside.

To make the filling, beat together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Avoid beating at too high a speed as it could lead to cracking. Add the vanilla, lemon and eggs one at a time and mix until the batter is homogenous and glossy. Scrape down the sides if there are unmixed bits clinging to the bowl, and give it one last quick spin just to even out the lumps.

Pour the batter into the tin onto the baked biscuit base. Bang the tin gently a few times so the air bubbles can rise to the top. Place in the middle of the oven. On the bottom rack place a pan with hot water so as to retain moisture and gently cook the cheesecake. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until the outside is set and the centre is wobbly and jelly-like when you gently shake the tin. In the last 10 minutes you may like to turn off the oven and keep the oven door slightly ajar so there’s no rapid drop in temperature which can make the top sink down.

Once it completely cools down, cover and refrigerate until completely chilled and set, about 2 hours. Don’t remove from the tin until set as soft filling can easily collapse.

To make the compote, simply stew the blueberries with lemon and sugar on low-medium heat until the juice thickens and the blueberries are soft. It takes about 10 minutes. Leave to cool then cover and refrigerate.

 

chocolate raspberry mascarpone cheesecake

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It’s been raining the last few days. From the tiniest drizzle to a full-blown hail storm, subsiding to the occasional light showers today – preferable when one needs to concentrate on studying. Even amid the most frantic and chaotic revision, I am by no means immune to procrastination, this afternoon in the form of baking (what else?).

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My mum requested a cheesecake. And how could I refuse? I haven’t made a baked cheesecake that’s not of the Japanese soufflé variety longer than I can remember. A light, fluffy, moist Japanese cheesecake is always the cheesecake of choice in this household. Even so, there’s a certain portion of my taste buds that’s conditioned to appreciate a good dense custardy New York style cheesecake. For me, the ideal baked cheesecake fits the following profile in order of importance:

  1. Creamy smooth consistency (no flour in the batter pls)
  2. Not too sweet, slightly tangy
  3. Dense and substantial without sticking to the palate, yet light

I remain undecided on the necessity of a crust. Why do cheesecakes have crusts anyway? On the one hand, I like a smooth creamy mouthful without the interruption of crunch. On the other hand, introducing a second texture and/or flavour contributes to variety and a more exciting experience. On this occasion, I decided at the last minute that I would pair the raspberry swirls with a chocolate base.

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A lot of recipes call for sour cream or yogurt in addition to lemon, for me that would be overdoing the tangy – subtlety is more fitting for the humble cheesecake. So instead, the creaminess in this recipe is derived largely from the mascarpone. Yes, I admit I’m going through a mascarpone craze phase at the moment, but not without reason, as thanks to it, this cake satisfied all the criteria and more. We enjoyed it with as much enthusiasm as we could garner after a particularly filling meal.

A note on preventing cracks: in my experience with water baths, I feel they’re secondary to a lowered oven temperature when it comes to a smooth top. I’ve had horrible crevices with water baths and perfectly smooth tops without, and vice versa. However I do think steam helps preserve moisture and avoid a crumbly cheesecake, as well as a low placement in the oven. It was so effective there wasn’t a single crack even with semi-intense beating.

Chocolate raspberry mascarpone cheesecake (5″ round cake or equivalent)

For the chocolate biscuit base:
100g chocolate biscuits
~2 tbsp chocolate spread*
1tsp unused coffee grounds

*or whatever you have on hand, e.g. Nutella, nut butter, melted butter, even ganache

For the cheese filling:
250g cream cheese
100g mascarpone
70g sugar
1 extra large egg or 70g whole eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
25g heavy cream
raspberry preserves/jam/coulis, optional

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To prepare the biscuit base, crush up the biscuits with the coffee grounds in a food processor. Or if you’re broke like me, a rolling pin and a ziplock bag. Mix in as much of your preferred binding agent as it takes for the mixture to stick together when pressed.

Preheat the oven to 170C/340F. Prepare your tin by lining the bottom and greasing the sides, and press the biscuit crumbs compactly and evenly onto the bottom. I didn’t bake the crust but you do whatever you’re comfortable with.

Before starting on the filling, bring all the ingredients to room temperature. Beat the cream cheese and mascarpone together until smooth, about a minute on medium speed. Beat in sugar and vanilla, then beaten eggs bit by bit until glossy and evenly incorporated. Add in the cream, scrape the bowl if necessary and whip on high speed for about 10 seconds to aerate the mixture some.

Poor the mixture from a height into the tin to eliminate air bubbles, and smooth out the top. Place the tin near the bottom of the oven. Below it, place a pan of hot water so that it steams the bottom of the cheesecake tin. Bake for ~25 minutes or until the centre wobbles slightly when you gently shake the pan.

Cool to room temp. in the pan, then move to the fridge to chill completely (at least 1-2hrs) so the filling can set up (still in the tin). Remove from tin and decorate as you wish if you wish. In case you admire my marbled cream (I blush), I just painted the inside of my pastry bag with streaks of ganache (2 parts chocolate to 1 part heavy cream) and filled it with whipped cream.

rare cheesecake w/ caramelised white chocolate

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Today I backed out of two things I originally had semi-plans for. It seems to be a recurring pattern in my behaviour to look forward to a set due date then lose interest in the wait and regret not doing it in the future. Initiative I have, resolve no.

Initially I wanted to make Milan(o) cookies, like those I used to pick out of biscuit tins. On second thought, cheesecake sounded even better and I decided on one of my favourite blogs dailydelicious’ recipe for a rare yogurt cheesecake. For all the effort saved on breaking out the stand mixer and baking, I wanted to go the extra mile and adorn the top with caramelised white chocolate swirls.

All through the mixing of the batter, everything was running smoothly (literally). I baked the base, poured in the batter, gave it my blessings and sent it off to the fridge. Then I started to caramelise the white chocolate, something I’d heard endless raves and praise about but had yet to experience the euphoria myself, things went slightly downhill. Near the 20 minute mark, instead of gaining a deeper colour uniformly, it started seizing and clumping and caramelising at random spots.

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I gave it more time, and could not revive it back to the smooth glorious caramel I’d seen on others’ blogs even after a whole hour. I was sad and wanted to cry and tasted a bit of the clumpy mess. It was exactly as the name promised, a lovechild of white chocolate and caramel. It was awesome and took all my will not to go in for more spoonfuls. I added a bit of cream, sprinkled in salt and sieved out the clumps and out came yummy-golden-gooey caramel.

Now that that’s been rescued, by the time it look for me to confirm that it definitely wasn’t going to smooth out in the oven the cheesecake itself had mostly set. So adieu to swirlage. What difference did it make if I just spread it all on top? After all when it’s eaten the elements would combine anyway. So I proceeded and let it set up completely. Then the second bit of disaster happened when I tried to unmold it from the tin, the cake slipped off and landed upside down on the countertop. Yup. I may have cursed out loud. Thankfully the cheesecake itself was set and didn’t fall apart too much and only a part of the topping was sacrificed.

It tasted great, despite all the misfires. Light in texture and taste with a slight tang of the orange zest I decided to add in to complement the almondy base. Quite a departure from the sticky mouthfeel and guilty pleasure of a baked cheesecake.

Rare cheesecake w/ caramelised white chocolate

For the cheesecake:
Follow dailydelicious’ recipe and instructions

For the caramelised white chocolate:
Follow Poires au Chocolat’s tutorial

For the biscuit base:
18g almond meal
25g granulated sugar
47g flour
40g cold diced butter

Preheat the oven to 170C/340F. Line the sides and base of a 5-6″ springform tin.

Mix the almond meal, sugar and flour together and add in the small pieces of cold butter. Rub the butter in with your fingers until no visible lumps of butter remain. Work quickly to avoid melting the butter. Alternatively use a pastry blender or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.

Tip the mixture into the prepared tin (both sides and base lined) and press into the sides and base compactly. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden and crisp.