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Basque cheesecake recipe | Easy Burnt Cheesecake

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Burnt cheesecake may sound more like a mistake than a craving-worthy treat, but names can be deceiving, and this crustless cheesecake is an effortless dessert that makes for an incredibly delicious cake. With a beautifully “scorched” top and a rich center of pastry cream, this cheesecake from the Basque region of Spain has become a favorite in our house.

Who invented the Basque Cheesecake?

Although its name gives the impression that it has a long history, Basque Cheesecake was created in 1990 by chef Santiago Rivera of La Viña in San Sebastian, Spain. According to interviews, Rivera was looking to add a dessert menu to her Pintxos restaurant after taking it over from her parents and settling on cream cheesecake.

What happens in the Basque cheesecake?

The original La Viña recipe only has 5 ingredients: cream cheese, heavy cream, sugar, eggs and flour. Personally, I like to add vanilla bean paste to the batter, but you can leave it out if you want something closer to the original. I also add a pinch of salt, depending on the type of cream cheese I’m using. Custardy creamy in the center with a caramelized top, this Burnt Basque Cheesecake comes together from a few basic ingredients in the blender.

What type of cream cheese should I use for Basque cheesecake?

It is generally believed that Rivera uses Philadelphia, but in 1990 when this cake was created, it is more likely that he used a Spanish brand of cream cheese such as San Millan. I’ve never tasted San Millan, so I can’t say what the taste differences are, but what I can tell by comparing the nutrition labels is that San Millan has two and a half times more salt than Philly, and it’s about 40% less fat.
That being said, I’ve made this using Philadelphia as well as Kiri (French brand), they’re both delicious (although I think I prefer using Kiri). If you’re going for Philadelphia, I recommend adding a pinch of salt.

Should I use heavy cream?

The cream is added for 2 reasons. The first is that it is a liquid which helps it turn into a paste that you can pour. The second is that it adds fat, which makes the cheesecake richer and creamier. “Heavy cream” is the designation in the United States for cream containing more than 36% butterfat. Personally, I used 47% fat cream, which makes for a very rich cream cake. If you want a lighter cake, you can use a low fat cream. One thing to watch out for are creams that contain thickeners like gummies or gelatin. Although I haven’t tried it, I have received a few reports that this recipe did not work when made with such products.

Can I use all-purpose flour?

All-purpose flour has a higher gluten content than cake flour. Gluten is a protein that forms long chains when hydrated, giving bread and noodles their chewy texture. For cakes, you don’t want them to get chewy, which is why cake flour is used. That being said, Basque cheesecake uses a small enough amount of flour that the type you use probably won’t make a big difference.

Is the cheesecake really burnt?

By subjective cheesecake standards, Basque cheesecake is burnt, but not baked so long that the top turns to carbon. Two non-enzymatic browning reactions occur here. The first is the caramelization of sugar, which creates aromatic compounds such as diacetyl and maltol, which give the top the caramel flavor. The second is Maillard browning, which is a reaction between cream cheese proteins and sugars, which not only creates additional flavor compounds; it also creates the taste of umami. That’s why the seemingly burnt layer on top tastes so good. Burnt basque cheesecake wrapped in parchment paper on a wooden cutting board.

What is the correct mixing technique for Basque Cheesecake?

Every recipe seems to have its own way of mixing the ingredients, but I’ve found the easiest way is to throw all the ingredients into a blender and give it a whirl. The only slight downside to this technique is that it introduces air bubbles into the mixture, which is why I usually let the mixture sit for about 20 minutes before pouring it into the pan. You can also do this with a food processor, stand mixer with paddle attachment, hand or old-fashioned mixer with whisk attachment, and mixing bowl.

At what temperature should the Basque Cheesecake be cooked?

Time and temperature are the most important elements of this recipe, but unfortunately the answer is not clear. The goal here is to achieve a burnt shade that is just short of carbon black before the center of the cake is completely set. This is what creates this magical contrast between the cake-like sides, the caramelized top and the creamy center. If the temperature is too low, the cake cooks completely before the top takes on enough color, and if the temperature is too high, the top will turn to carbon before the center has a chance to thicken to the desired consistency.
In my convection oven, I bake it at 230 degrees C (about 450 F) for 22 minutes. Unless you’ve had yours calibrated recently, most ovens’ thermostat is off by a significant margin. In addition, the airflow passing through the oven has an impact on how quickly the cake cooks. If you have a convection oven, you can use my temperature and time as a starting point, but you may need to make some adjustments in subsequent batches, depending on the outcome. If the cake is too firm in the center, increase the heat and cook for less time. If the cake is too liquid in the center, lower the heat and cook longer.
If you don’t have a convection oven (meaning there’s no fan that moves the air), I’d recommend going for the high-temperature something closer 250 C (480 F).By baking the Basque cheesecake in a hot oven, the top is a little burnt while the center remains smooth and silky.

How long should I bake the Basque Cheesecake?

The baking time for this burnt cheesecake is tied to your oven setup, so the goal should be to achieve a very dark brown top, which is just shy of being carbon black on top. In my convection oven set at 230 C, it took 22 minutes, but the time will vary depending on your setup. Read the section above for more details.

Can I prepare the Basque cheesecake in advance?

Yes! While it’s delicious served warm, if you’ve cooked it for the right amount of time, the center will still be runny when hot, which means you’ll have to eat it straight out of the pan with a spoon. Covering and refrigerating the cake overnight gives the center a chance to firm up enough for you to slice it.

What size cake pan should I use for Basque cheesecake?

I use a 6 inch x 2.5 inch cake pan with a removable bottom, but a similar sized springform pan will also work. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that a smaller, deeper pan makes it easier to burn the top without overcooking the center. The second reason is that for the size of parchment paper I have, anything larger would require two overlapping sheets of parchment paper, which would tend to leak.
The removable bottom is not necessary, but I find it much easier to mold the parchment paper to the shape of the pan as you can use the bottom to press the paper into the pan. Then, after folding the sides of the paper to fit the mold, you can put the bottom back on the mold, and the paper should fit the mold perfectly.
My pan has a volume of about 70 cubic inches. If you use a larger diameter pan, it will hold more volume, so you will get a thinner cheesecake that cooks faster. Since it will always take the same amount of time to brown the top, you will need to increase the oven temperature to brown it before the cheesecake is overcooked. If you’re using an 8-inch pan or larger, I recommend doubling the amount of ingredients or the cheesecake will be too thin. Here are some common pan sizes and their volumes, or you can use this calculator to know the volume of yours:
5″ x 2″ = 40 cubic inches
5″ x 3″ = 60 cubic inches
6″ x 2.5″ = 70 cubic inches (perfect for this recipe)
7″ x 3″ = 115 cubic inches
8″ x 3″ = 150 cubic inches
9″ x 3″ = 190 cubic inches

Can I use a square/rectangular/oval/etc shaped pan?

You will need to adjust your parchment paper strategy depending on the shape of the pan you are using, but as long as the volume of the pan is around 70 cubic inches and you can achieve a thickness of around 2 inches when pouring the paste, it should work. That being said, I’ve never tested this with other pan shapes, so you’ll probably have to experiment with temperature and time to find the right combination for your setup.

Why did my cheesecake fall?

The short answer is that it is supposed to happen and that means you did it right. When you bake a cake, the oven heats the water in the batter and it turns into steam. The steam creates pockets in the batter and as it goes from raw to baked, the proteins solidify and form a web around the steam pockets so that even after the cake has cooled it remains moist. Basque Burnt Cheesecake is purposely undercooked in the center to give it its smooth, creamy texture. As the proteins have not taken, as soon as the heat has gone out, the steam escapes and the cake will sink in the center. The sides remain high because they have been fully cooked.

Why did my cheesecake crack in the center?

Cracking is caused by a difference in humidity between one part of the cake and the other. It is normal for burnt cheesecake to crack at the edges where the dough has formed a crust because it will be fully cooked, while the center is still undercooked. If your cheesecake cracked in the center, it was overcooked. In this case, it is necessary to raise the temperature of your oven so that the top browns more quickly and cooks it for less time (so the center remains rarer).

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