Text by Paul Vitale + Photography by Goor Studio
Paul Vitale is the “Other Paul” of Sweet Paul Magazine. He runs the behind-the-scenes part of the business, and now he has his own Sweet Paul column to share his favorite recipes.
When Sweet Paul asked me to share my favorite recipes with you, I immediately knew I wanted to start with Basque cheesecake. I spend a lot of time in the north of Spain with my husband and my in-laws. One of my favorite desserts—and there are many—is tarta de queso al horno, which loosely translates into oven-baked cheesecake. In the U.S., this deep, dark, and mysterious dessert is usually called Basque Burnt Cheesecake. I don't like to add the “burnt” part to the title, because this cheesecake is anything but—it’s divine.
Unlike American cheesecakes, there’s no crust to this cake. It’s actually just a few simple ingredients that caramelize in the hot oven to create a crust-like exterior, housing a luxurious and not-too-sweet, creamy interior. When cool and settled, this cheesecake is almost impossibly gorgeous. In our house, we’re purists. We only serve this cheesecake chilled with no accompaniments, except perhaps a shot of espresso on the side.
My recipe is based on the classic recipe from the bar La Viña in Donostia (San Sebastian) that appears in one of my favorite cookbooks ever: “Basque Country: A Culinary Journey Through a Food Lover's Paradise” by Marti Buckley.
2 1⁄4 pounds (1 kg) cream cheese, room temperature
1 3/4 cups (350 g) sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 cups (480 mL) heavy cream
1⁄4 cup (30 g) all-purpose flour
- Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C.
- Prepare a 10-inch springform pan by covering the bottom with a piece of parchment and then attaching and tightening the ring of the pan to hold the parchment in place. Cut a strip of parchment taller than the pan and line the sides with it. Grease the parchment lightly with butter or cooking spray.
- In a stand mixer, cream the cream cheese and sugar on medium for about 5 minutes.
- Add salt and eggs one at a time with the mixer on low.
- Slowly add the heavy cream and finally the flour, and mix until fully incorporated. It's crucial to scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula to incorporate any cream cheese that may have gotten stuck.
- Pour batter into the prepared springform pan.
- Bake for 50 minutes until medium-brown and nearly burned looking. The cake will still have a bit of a wobble.
- Remove from oven and cool completely on a rack. The center will drop, and a lip will develop on the edges. Remove the springform and serve.
- Serve at room temperature or chilled. Condiments aren’t necessary, but lightly sweetened whipped cream and/or a dollop of your favorite jam would be lovely.
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