Basque-ish Burnt Cheesecake

Here's a hack for the burnt cheesecake that's been making the rounds all over food-focused social media feeds. It's Basque-ish, because the real Basque version uses only 5 ingredients: cream cheese, heavy cream, sugar, eggs and flour. Also known as tarta de queso, it was actually created just 30 years ago, in 1990, by chef owner Santiago Rivera of La Viña, a bar at the famous Calle 31 de Agosto in San Sebastian, Spain. This version includes a teaspoon of vanilla, or vanilla-based rum, if you want to go bolder. If you want to skip the vanilla or rum altogether, that's fine too; then you'll get the authentic version.


What makes Basque burnt cheesecake so memorable? For me, it's the burnt, deeply browned top and sides that give it a rustic yet more sophisticated vibe (compared to cutesy or gimmicky cheesecakes, encasing a jiggly yet sturdy centre, and its overall creamy umami flavour with a hint of caramel.


The baking time takes about an hour and 10 minutes, and while some recipes prefer a smooth dark burnt top, I prefer cracks and lines to give the cheesecake some character. Cracks at the top are caused by uneven moisture in the cake -- which means if you're manually beating the batter, you'll tend to get more cracks, versus a stand mixer. But if you prefer a smooth browned top and softer centre, you can raise the oven temperature from the recommended 200 degrees Celsius to between 230 to 250 degrees, and bake it for half the time prescribed.


When you flip the baked cheesecake to bake the bottom part, there may be parchment lines caused by creases from when you pour the batter. I'm not fastidious about this, because the imperfections (lines and cracks) add character to the burnt cheesecake.


Baking time: 1 hour or 65 minutes

Yields: 1 large cake (10-inch diameter)

or 2 small cakes (6-inch diameter)

or split each ingredient measurement in half for one 6-inch diameter cake. I did the math for you below. You're welcome.


Ingredients:

Splash of olive oil (for pan)

907 grams of cream cheese, room temperature for large cake or 454 grams for small cake

1.5 cups sugar or 3/4 cup sugar

6 large eggs or 3 large eggs

2 cups or 480 ml heavy cream* or 1 cup = 240 ml heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt or 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or Don Papa Rum) or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup all-purpose flour or 3 tablespoons all purpose flour


*To substitute heavy cream for whipping:

Add 2 tablespoons (19 grams) of cornstarch to 1 cup (240 ml) whole or skimmed milk and stir until thickened



1. Beat cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-low speed, scraping down sides of bowl, until very smooth, no lumps remain, and sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. You can also do this manually, but expect to have sore arms after.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Oil baking casserole, then line with 2 overlapping sheets of parchment, making sure parchment comes at least 2 inches above top of baking casserole on all sides.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, into the mixer. Beat each egg about 10 seconds before adding the next one, and so on. Make sure to scrape the sides of bowl, then reduce mixer speed to lowest speed. Add cream, salt, and vanilla and beat until combined, about 30 seconds.

4. Turn off mixer and sift flour evenly over cream cheese mixture. Beat on low speed until everything is incorporated, about 15 seconds. Keep scraping down sides of bowl and continue to beat until batter is very smooth and silky.


Make sure your parchment paper is at least 2 inches high so when you bake the

burnt cheesecake, there's enough space for the parchment edges for you to lift up

from the casserole.


5. Pour batter into parchment-lined pan. Bake cheesecake until deeply golden brown on top and still very jiggly in the center, for about 50 minutes. Carefully remove cake using parchment paper and flip it. Bake bottom side up for another 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing into wedges…or chill it in the refrigerator to be enjoyed for up to 3-4 days.