Tuesday, November 24, 2009

t'afia's best cheesecake

This recipe is from Monica Pope, head chef of our favorite restaurant t'afia.  I just asked her for her cheesecake recipe one night at the restaurant, and lo and behold she printed it out and handed it to me.  She even said "sure, no problem" when I asked about blogging it.  She's very cool.  So, here you are.  I had to scale it down to 2/3; she must use a very tall springform pan.

t'afia's best cheesecake

Crust ingredients:
2 cups nuts, usually walnuts, ground
1/2 c butter, melted
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c flour

Cheesecake ingredients:
2 lbs cream cheese
2 cups sugar
3 T cornstarch
4 eggs
2 vanilla beans, scraped

My favorite variation:
substitute up to 1/3 of the cheese with goat cheese (chevre), or any other soft mild cheese

Other variations listed (just ideas, no specific directions):
Lemon-blackberry with pinenut crust; white chocolate with hazelnut crust; mandarin orange with pistachio crust; fig puree with walnut crust.

1.  Press crust ingredients into 8" springform pan.  Wrap pan base in foil.  Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.  It will be lightly colored and puff slightly.

2.  Cream the cheese with sugar and cornstarch, making sure all the cheese gets mixed in by scraping the bottom of the bowl with a spatula periodically.  Add eggs one at a time and vanilla.  Mixture should be very fluffy.  (I've used vanilla extract and it works ok, but the real vanilla is nice and there's no faking the little black flecks.  Quite charming.  If you've never used vanilla bean before:  just cut a slit lengthwise down one side with a paring knife and scrape out all the stuff in the middle.  That's it.)

3.  Bake in a water bath (roasting pan with boiling water to come halfway up the side of the pan) until lightly brown.  A knife will not come out clean, but the mixture on the knife will not be liquidy; it will be gooey.

4.  Cool at room temperature and then refrigerate a few hours before serving.

*This has a very smooth, creamy texture.  If you want it firmer & denser, as some people like my husband prefer, skip the water bath.  Bake it at 500 for 8 minutes, then open the oven door and let the oven cool to 200.  Bake at 200 for an hour, or until the edges are set and the center jiggles like jell-o.  Doesn't need to brown quite as much as the variation above since it's not done cooking yet.  Prop open oven door with a wooden spoon and let it sit there one hour.  Cool at room temperature and then refrigerate.

*Easy strawberry topping:  Puree a few handfuls of strawberries (frozen work fine) in the blender with some lemon juice and sugar to taste.  Or mixed berries.  Or any berry you want.

*Let me know if you tinker with any of the variations!  They all sound delicious.

*The original recipe, before I scaled it down:  Crust unchanged.  3 lbs cheese, 3 c sugar, 5T cornstarch, 6 eggs, 3 vanilla beans.  It felt audacious to modify her recipe, as if I know what I'm doing.  But the original version spills over the top of my pan, so what's a girl to do?

1 comment:

mandi said...

holy mackeroly!!! you hit the jack pot!

on the night that you have me over and make me some risotto, you should totally make this too.

; )