Baked Vanilla Cheesecake

Baked Vanilla Cheesecake © Kevin Ashton 2008

*Another recipe from my newspaper column, now shared with my readers here.

A good baked vanilla cheesecake is an uncommon thing of beauty. A balance between subtle flavour and light texture. I often think back to several New York deli’s that made the very best cheesecakes, ones that even got New Yorker’s talking.

Once I decided to bake a cheesecake I wanted to create a different kind of fruit sauce to go with it. I do think busy chefs tend to go for the tried and tested rather than giving something else a try. Although a good Vanilla Cheesecake is quite light it is still rather rich so you need something to cut through that richness.

I came up with a sauce made from Papaya (Paw paw) and Passion fruit.
Both these fruits are rarely used on their own let alone in combination and yet the resulting sauce worked superbly with the cheesecake.

*Special Note: 
It is always the bane of every chef/recipe writer’s life that writing a recipe it’s important to get the cake tin size right.  Search as much as I like I cannot now find the exact same shallow cake tin (with a loose bottom) that I have at home which is 10inch diameter and 2 1/4″ deep.

I do want to emphasize it is important not to use a pan/tin that is too deep because this authentic baker’s cheesecake has a pastry base. So you need a cake tin/flan tin or springform pan that is no deeper than 6cm (2 3/8″) here is an example or perhaps this sandwich cake tin, though 23 cm is smaller than I would prefer.

Pastry (serves 6-8)
200g (8oz) Plain flour
125g (5oz) Unsalted butter
50g (2oz) Caster sugar
1 large egg
Pinch of salt

625g (1 ½ lb) Cream cheese
3 Eggs separated
1Tbsp vegetable oil
50g (2oz) cornflour
1 vanilla pod
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
225g (9ozs) Caster sugar

Papaya & Passionfruit sauce
6 ripe passion fruit
2 Ripe papaya

  1.  Rub the butter with the flour until you have a fine crumb texture and add the salt.
  2. Whisk the sugar into the egg, then gently stir the egg mix in until the pastry comes together in a ball, refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Rub a little butter onto a 10inch (25cm) flan tin with removable bottom.
  4. Preheat oven to 175C gas mark 4.
  5. Roll out the pastry thinly on a floured surface then line the flan tin.
  6.  Beat the cream cheese, oil, sugar, egg yokes and vanilla extract until smooth.
  7. Slice the vanilla pod lengthwise and stir the vanilla seeds into the cream cheese mix.
  8. In a separate clean bowl whisk the egg whites until very stiff then fold into the mix.
  9. Pour the filling carefully into the pastry case and bake on the middle shelf for 50-60 minutes move to a lower shelf if getting too brown.
  10. Turn off oven and let your cheesecake cool in the oven with the door ajar.
  11. Peel and deseed the papayas then dice into very small even sized pieces.
  12.  Scoop the passion fruit into a small non-stick saucepan and add 3/4 of the papaya.
  13. Cook on a gentle heat until the papaya is soft enough to puree.
  14. Puree then rub the sauce through a very fine strainer to remove the passion-fruit seeds and chill. Save a few of the passion fruit seeds from the pulp and put back into the strained sauce (see photo).

To Serve 
Remove the cheesecake from the flan tin and dust lightly with icing sugar if you wish.
Slice with a sharp knife and serve with the chilled sauce sprinkling the remaining fine dice of reserved papaya around the edge of the plates (see photo).

Chef’s Tips
One of the biggest reasons the top of a baked cheese splits open is it is baked too fast or cooled too fast (hence the letting the cheesecake cool in the oven)
To cut nice clean looking slices dip your knife into hot water and wipe with a towel between slices. Instead of throwing away expensive empty vanilla pods keep them in a sealed jar covered with Caster sugar to infuse the sugar with real vanilla flavour.

As always please feel free to ask questions if there is some part of this recipe you don’t quite understand and want help with.

best wishes Kevin.

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