Burnt Basque Cheesecake

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"Burnt" Basque Cheesecake

For me, food and travel are hard to separate. Even when I come across food from someplace I’ve never been. So I was thrilled when I opened the LA Times yesterday and came across a Chef Dave Beran recipe for a “Burnt” Basque Cheesecake.

Burnt is in quotations because the char on top is from a hot, hot oven and it’s intentional. I’m always excited by the challenge of cooking with high heat. But cheesecake, really? I thought a low oven and a Bain Marie were the keys to success.

But this cheesecake is a Basque Cheesecake invented in San Sebastián, Spain. It’s becoming rather notorious on global tables here in Los Angeles. Naturally, I was intrigued because it’s impossible to talk about this city’s food without focusing on multiculturalism.

With more than 60 types of national cuisines available somewhere around town, Angelenos can feast on everything from Honduran cuisine to Venezuelan, Hungarian, Russian, and Burmese. We even have Thai and Indian food so regionally specific that for many immigrants it’s like they never left their parents’ kitchen.

Basque Cheesecake

Now I’m not Basque (and I’ve never even been there) but as soon as I saw this recipe I got out the bowls and I cranked up the oven. After all, this Burnt Basque Cheesecake only has five simple ingredients and one of them is the globally-ubiquitous Philadelphia brand cream cheese. According to Chef Beran, it must be Philadelphia; “other brands don’t work as well.”

The other trick to this recipe is the oven. It must be HOT. Make sure it’s fully heated and completely stable at 450 degrees Fahrenheit before the cake goes in. Don’t use a convection oven either. This is important because the key to success with the Burnt Basque Cheesecake is the texture. Caramelized and charred on the outside while barely cooked and smooth on the inside. So smooth that it would actually ooze across the plate if served at room temperature.

Which is exactly how it’s served in San Sebastián. But Chef Beran prefers to chill the cake overnight and cut it cold. He considers it “more deceiving and more surprising by giving it structure while keeping it oozy.” GREG

"Burnt" Basque Cheesecake
Burnt Basque Cheesecake

Dave Beran: Burnt Basque Cheesecake

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 10-12Source Dave Beran/Dialogue Santa MonicaPublished
Dave Beran: Burnt Basque Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • cooking spray (as needed)
  • 4 (8 oz) packages Philadelphia Cream Cheese (cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 1 ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 9 large egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ¼ cup crème fraîche

Directions

Heat the oven to 450 degrees with rack in bottom third.

Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Line with a 15-inch square of parchment paper, pressing it into the bottom and up the sides so that it extends above the rim of the pan. Crease and fold the paper as needed to keep it flat. Spray the parchment.

Put the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolks and salt in a food processor. Pulse until very smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the crème fraîche and pulse until fully incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, then tap the pan against a work surface a few times to smooth the top and eliminate air bubbles. Put on a half-sheet pan, then put in the oven.

Bake until the top is dark brown, the edges set and starting to pull away from the sides of the pan, but the center is still quite jiggly, 20 to 25 minutes. If you shake the pan back and forth, the top should roll like a gentle wave.

Cool in the pan on a rack until room temperature, then refrigerate uncovered overnight.

To serve, release and remove the sides of the pan. Use the parchment to slide the cheesecake off the base onto a cutting board, then pull down the sides of the parchment. Use a sharp knife to cut slices, wiping the blade clean after each cut.