September 6, 2010

When Push Comes to Chevre...

Goat cheese is a quintessential summer ingredient. It's soft, spreadable, crumbly, tangy, and creamy all at once. A great biography on goat cheese can be found here, but generally, it's known to be lower in fat and higher in vitamin A and potassium than cow's milk. Also, people who have a lactose intolerance for cow's milk find goat milk products easier to digest.

Our household is unfortunately undergoing a bit of a tolerance regime change in our older age, but we're also nuts for cheesecake and pizza around here. So this summer, we tried our hand at pizza with goat cheese (superb!) and this weekend--a goat cheese cheesecake! It still had plenty of other cow's milk products in it (mascarpone and cream cheese), but because those ingredients were cut down to make way for the flavor boom that is goat cheese, our bellies and our palates were quite satisfied. I served it buffet-style with three sauces: seedless raspberry port wine sauce (8 ounces of seedless raspberry jam simmered in about a cup of sweet port wine), my hot fudge sauce, and a beautiful, silky butterscotch sauce. (I'll include that another day, otherwise this blog entry will be too long to bother with!)

The key is to make sure all your cheeses are room temperature, otherwise you'll suffer with lumps. I did not add sugar to the crust either. I felt with the amount going into the filling plus the sauces, it was not necessary. If you like a sweeter crust, start with 1/4 cup granulated sugar and try it once that way. If you think it needs more, go up to a half cup next time. Also, the original recipe called for a vanilla bean split and scraped, but I save my vanilla beans for things that need steeping in cream or milk, like ice cream and chocolate truffles. I prefer using vanilla bean paste when it's part of the presentation that we actually see the vanilla flecks. It's cheaper than whole vanilla beans and more concentrated than extract, so it provides the overall effect I'm looking for without too much expense. Last but not least, I used a water bath with this one, which I generally don't because most of my cheesecakes have some sort of topping that masks the cracked top that occurs when baking cheesecakes. Doing a water bath is not hard and is well worth it for a party-worthy presentation!

As we hang onto these last days of summer, I'd highly recommend putting your springform to work on a new kid in town. Your tastebuds will thank you!

Goat Cheese Cheesecake (adapted from The Last Course, by Claudia Fleming)

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar (optional)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (1 1/2 bricks)
8 ounces fresh goat cheese (1 large log or two small ones), room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) mascarpone cheese, room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350℉. In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar (if using), and mix well. Add melted butter and stir until combined. Press evenly into bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan. You will use all your mixture. Bake for 8 minutes until set. Remove from oven to allow to cool and reduce oven temperature to 325℉.

In a separate large bowl, combine cream cheese, goat chese, sugar, and vanilla paste and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the mascarpone and beat until smooth (another 1-2 minutes). Add the eggs individually, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl after each addition. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl one last time and mix well for 30 seconds.

Tightly wrap outside of prepared pan with aluminum foil, making sure there are no gaps. Pour mixture into pan and place in center of a larger baking pan with at least 2-inch sides. Pour enough hot water into the larger pan (not your cheesecake!) to reach two-thirds up the side of the springform pan. Cover the entire baking pan with foil and pierce in several places to allow for steam release. Bake 1 hour, then lift off a corner or two of the foil for additional steam release, and bake 50 minutes longer, or until cheesecake looks set around the edges but is ever-so-slightly jiggly in the center.

Transfer cheesecake to a wire rack to cool completely, then chill in refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving. Cheesecake can be made up to two days ahead and will keep, refrigerated, for about a week. Serves 12-16 pretty darn generously! Serve with sauces or seasonal fruit.

No comments: