The sweet portion of a meal can leave me cold — whether there’s ice-cream or sorbet on the plate or otherwise.
Dad jokes aside, while I tend to focus attention on all that is savoury and umami, a dessert either stunning, or lazy and lacklustre, can set the tone for an entire dining experience.
And while there have been some standouts over the years, the cheesecake is something which can fall into either of those categories.
Traditionally, back in the day, it tended to be the gelatine-heavy kind. I know people very close to me who have a real fondness for a wobbly Baileys or mint-chocolate iteration, with a base, almost as thick, and a compressed digestive biscuit mess. You might find the odd raspberry compote accompanying one in a restaurant to this day.
There’s also tendency for many cheesecakes, especially shop bought, to be claggy, thick, gelatinous, and have a base as dense as a neutron star (I’ve Googled them and apparently they are indeed, very dense).
Then there’s the high-end US-style baked cheesecake. I remember the first time I visited the iconic Carnegie Deli in New York — probably the second most famous spot of its kind after Katz’s.
While waiting for the skyscraper-tall pastrami sandwich to appear from the kitchen, I spotted a glorious display of baked goods. They weren’t cheap. But they were superbly unctuous and rich.
However, fear not, there’s a happy medium. Basque cheesecake (sometimes referred to as a burnt cheesecake) forgoes any form of claggy and carb-heavy base. Instead, it’s all about the rich, decadent and balanced creamy cheesecake, which is cooked until the top is anywhere from dark brown, to a shade not far from black.
It originates from a small bar called La Viña in San Sebastian, and while there are a host of versions and recipes doing the rounds online, I’ve had great success with a variation from No Recipes online.
The Grateful Bread at the American Bar also does a really good job with it. It’s light, airy and texturally creamy and rich, without being cloying.
But it’s something you can certainly try your hand at in the kitchen. You’ll need a large, or several small, non-stick spring form cake tins to get the best result.
The mixture contains 500g of cream cheese, 230g of double cream, two eggs, 15g of plain flour, 100g of sugar and teaspoon of vanilla extract. You can add a tiny pinch of salt, too, but it’s personal preference.
Then, mix together in a blender, or by hand with a whisk, thoroughly. Let it sit for a few minutes to get out remaining air.
Pour into the cake tins lined with grease paper (tightly formed into the shape), filling close but not all the way to the top, then carefully knocking out any remaining air bubbles to ensure a smooth finish.
This is one you have to watch closely. Bake in an oven at 230°C until the cake is risen and turning dark brown. I find it takes between 20-25 minutes.
You want the centre still soft and jiggling. I’ve tended to make smaller cheesecakes, so if you’re doing a single larger one it may take more time.
Remove and let cool fully before cutting. Use a sharp knife heated under some boiling water when slicing to ensure smooth slices.