Three Cheese Cake

Cheesecake intimidates me. The last time I made a cheesecake it turned out fine. Good, even… but the really tasty part was the freshly peeled mandarin orange haphazardly strewn about the top and the golden graham cookie crust. The cake itself was somewhat unmemorable and certainly not something I’ve been jonesing to try again. Particularly given the finicky nature of baking in a water bath and fiddling around with foil to try to make sure that the springform cake pan wouldn’t leak (which it did anyway). And frankly, cheesecake isn’t something that I would normally even order if someone else were going through all that pain… not if there were pies, cakes or bread puddings on the menu.

But, post holiday I had a drawer full of fresh cheeses that needed to be eaten and cheesecake just seemed to make sense. Then, I stumbled onto the blueberry cheesecake recipe in Alastair Hendy’s Cooking for Friends, and my whole notion of cheesecake changed. This cake requires no water bath. It’s insanely light, not to mention can be made very low in calories, almost more of a sweet cheese souffle. Oh yeah, and it’s one of the freshest tasting cheesecakes I’ve ever eaten. Despite making the cake just last week, and being quite tired of desserts after a bit too much holiday indulgence, this is a cake I am craving.

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Excuse me while I gush for a moment about the author, Alastair Hendy. Hendy a cook, photographer, food stylist and travel writer. All self-taught. He’s what I want to be when I’m all grown up. The first time I saw his work in Australian Vogue Entertaining and Travel (vol 31 number 3), I was taken aback. This is a magazine full of luscious photos, but the Wild Blue Yonder picnic scene both styled and shot by Hendy took my breath away. The first shot, a young girl looks up form a field of purple to a light speckled forest canopy. I just couldn’t stop staring at this photo. Rich, deep blues and greens, brilliant without over saturation make up each page of recipes like spit-roast spatchocks with lemon and herbs or just about the freshest looking apple and blueberry tart you can imagine. The food manages to be rustic and elegant all at the same time. The recipes so simple, yet so skillfully executed. I immediately started looking for more work by Hendy… and happily found quite a bit. The books can be a bit hard to track down, but both Cooking for Friends and Mushrooms can be found with just a little bit of looking. Hendy’s Fresh seasonal series can be a bit harder to find. But I think you’ll be pleased if you find them.

OK… now back to the recipe. I mentioned that I had a cheese drawer to clean out… so I ended up using three different cheeses in the filling rather than just one. Hendy doesn’t specify what cheese to use in the recipe, by the way, which I find fantastic because it encourages experimentation. The most basic would be to just go with a nice neufchatel or cream cheese. To that, I added the left over quark I had, as well as some fresh goat cheese (Laura Chanel), all in (almost) equal parts.

One of the other different things about this recipe is the crust… rather than the traditional graham crust, this cake has a micro thin layer of pastry which helps hold the whole thing together but doesn’t overwhelm the flavor of the filling.

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Not being blueberry season, I experimented with a few different toppings… pomegranate seeds on some, roasted quince slices on another. But honestly, I wasn’t really happy with any of my attempts, and brushed off the fruit to just indulge in the cake. The pomegranate I had was too watery and flavorless (although I do think a really good pomegranate would be a great topping), and the quince slices were far too thick for the delicate cake. Finally, I peeled a satsuma, which fit the flavors of the filling much better. My next attempt — sometime when I can once again comfortably zip up my pants– will be with a razor thin layer of caramelized blood oranges. I think it will be perfect. Or, maybe it will be blueberry season by then…

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Three Cheese Cake
Apapted from Alastair Hendy’s Cooking For Friends (p 166)

Serves 6-8

This cheesecake can be made as 1 large cake, or as lots of mini cakes. I tried both, but slightly preferred the single large cake which preserves more of the moist cheesecakey texture.

Pastry Base
5 T sugar
1/2 c unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
1 t orange or lemon zest
1 1/4 cup flour, sifted

Cheesecake Filling
2/3 cup neufchatel
2/3 cup quark, drained
1/3 cup fresh goat cheese
4 eggs, separated
1 t orange or lemon zest
2/3 cup sugar
1 T flour

Butter a spring form pan and line it with a circle of parchment or waxed paper cut to fit just the bottom. It’s a bit easier to cut it a bit larger and then set it in place and use a knife to trim off any excess.

Prepare the crust by mixing together the sugar, butter, egg yolk and zest in a bowl until it is a bit creamy. You can do this is a stand mixer, or by hand. Next add the flour and work until you get a smooth dough, dusting with a bit more flour if it seems too sticky. Roll it into a ball, flatten slightly and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 300F.

Roll out the dough (you have to pre-bake it) to 1/8 inch. Get it close to the size of the bottom of your tin, and then trim it in place. You just want it on the bottom… it shouldn’t come up the sides. Bake for 20 minutes until it is about 1/2 cooked. Remove the crust from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack. Reduce the oven temp to 275F.

Mix the cheese, egg yolk and lemon zest in a bowl until smooth and creamy. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they are stiff, then slowly add the sugar and the flour to the egg whites. Fold half of the egg whites into the cheese mixture to lighten it some. Then, fold the cheese mixture into the egg white mixture. Spoon over the crust until the pan is about 3/4 full. You need a little bit of room, because the cake will puff up during baking. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 1 hour, or until it is firm. Allow to cool. It will sink during this time… that’s what the fruit topping is for.

Serve topped with fresh berries, orange slices, etc… anything that is not too heavy as you don’t want the cake to compress even more.

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  • http://cakeandicing.blogspot.com/ Shea

    Hi L., Thanks for this post. I’ll be checking out Hendy’s work soon, as well: self taught is very inspiring. And thanks again for all of your very helpful posts and resources. It’s making the self-teaching process all that more fun. Happy Tuesday. Shea

  • http://www.diannesdishes.com Dianne

    I had never thought about putting goat cheese into cheesecake before, but now that I see it here it makes perfect sense! The goat cheese would meld so well. These look delicious! :)

  • http://forthebodyandsoul.blogspot.com/ Karolina

    It looks gorgeous with the pomegranate seeds!!! I would never think about using goat cheese in a cheesecake either, I’m very curious how it tastes.

  • http://sweet-sins.blogspot.com Eva

    I’ve never tried goat’s cheese in a cheesecake either but I’m all in for the light texture. That’s my kind of a cheesecake..;-)
    The different shades of yellow and orange in the satsuma photo look wonderful!

  • http://www.nylondiner.blogspot.com Joanna

    Mmm looks fantastic. If you’re looking for another successful cheesecake recipe, I’ve really enjoyed making and eating the cheesecake from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. It calls for either cream cheese or ricotta – I used the ricotta which gives it lightness.

  • Joshua

    Wow, this looks amazing. I have made a similar cheesecake with goat cheese and made a blood orange sauce and they worked wonderfully so I would guess that it would be equally good with this.

    Also, I am guessing this recipe is for a 10-inch pan?

  • http://cupcakemuffin.blogspot.com sara

    Yum, these cheesecakes look amazing! The goat cheese sounds like a delicious addition!

  • http://www.mattikaarts.com/blog Matt Wright

    Great looking cheesecake. I am far from a cheesecake fan, I find them heavy, and for the amount of fat in them I would rather eat something else.

    Delia Smith (an English cook/author/tv bird) has a great recipe for a light cheesecake also, that uses cottage cheese I believe (been years since I have made it). That is about the only cheesecake (and your one here) that I would eat.

    Great looking photos as usual.

  • http://themodernapron.blogspot.com TD

    Oh! Oh! Hendy looks like a winner–very Donna Hay-esque. My husband will not thank you for this…now I’m going to have a new cookbook author about whom to obsess. I thank you, at least!

    P.S. Looks like all of his books are readily available at Booktopia–booktopia.com.au. They’ll ship internationally, and they carry titles that are only published for an Australian audience, providing for more opportunities for obsession.

  • http://sugarlaw.blogspot.com katy

    i love the idea of a souffle-like filling rather than the traditional heavy, heavy cheese-and-sugar recipes. i have some leftover blue cheese and parmesan in my fridge, but i think that would be a little *too* experimental!

  • http://dressingfordinner.blogspot.com Gemma

    This looks great. I live with a cheesecakeaholic and so far his favourite dessert is the New York cheesecake from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, it is about a million calories a slice but fine for a very occasional treat! I should try these for a lighter option.

  • http://foodonthebrain.wordpress.com Jessamyn

    Goat cheese is wonderful in cheesecake, and it’s especially good with either a nut crust or walnut cookies. I once had a slice of taleggio cheesecake – that was a bit much.

    I’ll have to go out and look for Hendy’s books now, they look great!

  • http://www.londonfoodieny.wordpress.com Anna Helm

    I think you’re already well on your way to being like Alastair Hendy! As a food stylist I think your photos and styling are top notch- seriously beautiful.

  • http://tastypalettes.blogspot.com Suganya

    Just to know, where will you cut calories to make this low cal, Lara?

  • http://findingladolcevita.blogspot.com Maryann

    This cheesecake looks sooo creamy and tempting. I need some now with my espresso :)

  • http://www.cookandeat.com/ L

    Hi Suganya,

    Most of the calories will come from the cheese you choose to use. You could go with a low fat cream cheese (or any low fat soft cheese) to replace the 3 cheeses that I used. The flavor would still be creamy and light, just not quite as complex.

    -L

  • http://chewonthatblog.com Hillary

    Wow! I have just recently discovered my love for cheesecake which means this looks fabulous!

  • http://icecreamireland.com Kieran

    Yum. I’ve always liked a good cheesecake, as long as it’s the baked variety. Never saw a multiple cheese cake before. Very tempting!

  • Lore

    I love cheese in any combination. Thanks for giving me a motive to keep using cheese every occasion I’ve got.

  • http://sassandveracity.typepad.com kellypea

    I absolutely love cheesecake and have made many different kinds. I agree with you that sometimes, the fuss doesn’t pay off, and that the “extras” are what I remember. As much as the creamy variety is pleasant, I’m still completely nuts over good old fashioned baked NY style. I tried one with a dough crust over the holidays and it was amazing. I loved your post. Excellent writing, and a great look to your blog.

  • http://www.thekneadforbread.com CHUCK

    Delicious! that slightly crispy crust of the baked cheese on the out side of the third picture is to die for.

    Yummy, Yummy, Yummy

  • http://www.recipebuddys.com Gabby A.

    i love love love cheese cake!!! and this recipe looks to die for!!!

    recipebuddys.com

  • http://dobre-przepisy-kulinarne.blogspot.com/2008/11/karczek-wdzony.html Karczek

    OMG! Tell me is it really so sweet like sweet are photos? So much passion inside those! I feel im hungry :D