FoodBasque cheesecake steals the spotlight in dessert world

Basque cheesecake steals the spotlight in dessert world

Basque cheesecake
Basque cheesecake
Images source: © Adobe Stock | FomaA

3:46 PM EDT, May 30, 2024

Caramelized on the outside, hiding a delicate, almost creamy interior – the Basque cheesecake is winning the hearts and stomachs of dessert lovers worldwide, becoming the undisputed king of the internet recently. What's the secret of this cake?

The cheesecake is not a modern invention, as cheese-based cakes, usually made with goat cheese, were eaten as far back as ancient Greece. A 5th-century BC physician named Aegimus even wrote a treatise on the art of making these cakes called plakous. A cake made of flour, eggs, crumbled cheese, and honey was also very popular in the Roman Empire and was often served during religious ceremonies.

Over the centuries, the recipe for cheesecake evolved, with the modern version of the dessert appearing in the 19th century. Today, there are many known varieties of this cake, such as the New York style (using cream cheese as the base, with a crust made from graham crackers), Viennese (without a crust), Japanese (very fluffy, baked in a water bath), and the Polish cheesecake (made with curd cheese).

However, the biggest hit in recent years is the Basque cheesecake, with a heavily browned top and a creamy interior. While it is often listed among the traditional dishes of the Basque Country, the dessert's history is actually quite short, dating back to the 1990s.

A talented chef named Santiago Rivera took over his family restaurant, La Viña, in San Sebastian and dreamed of inventing a specialty that would become the restaurant's signature dish. After many trials and experiments, he offered patrons a cheesecake baked in parchment-lined molds. The Basque cheesecake quickly became popular among local dessert lovers and tourists visiting San Sebastian.

Thanks to the internet, the cake became known worldwide. Nigella Lawson raved about it, and the "New York Times" declared it the "Treat of the Year 2021". The dessert is trendy in the UK. Last year, well-known culinary critic Jay Rayner complained about the excessive Basque cheesecake in London.

Rivera does not keep his recipe a secret. "La Vina cheesecake created a style and later variants have been made all over the world (...) Our customers have made the dessert famous over time," he asserts.

Basque cheesecake – ingredients

The secret to a tremendous Basque cheesecake is high-quality ingredients. Its base is cream cheese. Santiago Rivera traditionally uses products from the Philadelphia brand, but you can successfully substitute them with similar products from other brands, and some even use mascarpone.

The freshness of the eggs is also significant. How do I check it? A simple method involves submerging the egg in a glass of water. It can be used without concern if it immediately sinks horizontally to the bottom. If it stands on the bottom, slightly rising toward the surface, it is no longer fresh but is probably still good to eat, though not necessarily for making a cheesecake. An egg that floats to the surface or protrudes above the water level has a vast air chamber, indicating it is not fresh.

Basque cheesecake
Basque cheesecake© Adobe Stock | brent Hofacker

The ingredients list is completed with: wheat flour, sugar, and heavy cream.

Basque cheesecake – recipe

Transfer the cream cheese (2 pounds), eggs (7 large), refined sugar (1.5 cups), heavy cream (7 fl oz), and wheat flour (1 tablespoon) into a large bowl. Mix using an electric mixer, whisk, or metal bowl (Santiago Rivera's preferred method) until a smooth, creamy mass is achieved.

Grease a 10-inch springform pan with butter and line it with parchment paper, ensuring the paper extends beyond the edges. This will make removing the cheesecake from the form easier and prevent it from sticking. Bake at 410°F. For a nearly liquid center, bake for 35 minutes. For a creamy consistency, bake for 40 minutes. For a fully baked cake, bake for 50 minutes.

Leave the cheesecake on the counter to cool gradually. After about an hour, transfer the cake to the refrigerator to cool completely. After a few hours in the fridge (or even better, overnight), the cheesecake should be chilled enough to cut.

You can serve this specialty with blueberries or other fresh fruits. Santiago Rivera advises serving the cake with a glass of sherry or txakoli (a dry, slightly sparkling white wine).

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