In San Sebastián with James, late winter 2016. After a standing lunch of grilled prawns and chilled Fino, we followed the curve of La Concha Promenade, then wandered through the cobbled streets of Donostia. There was no plan, no tourist map in our hands. Just the assurance that should we get lost, it would be brief and perhaps it wouldn't be such a bad thing anyway. Late in the afternoon – at my insistence – we stopped at a pasteleria for coffee and something sweet. A morsel to keep us going until our inevitably late dinner. I chose a slice of cheesecake, its centre as soft as syllabub, its crust scorched. A cheesecake with no pastry or crumb crust to support its curds, no berries rippled through the deep, vanilla-scented custard. A cake that wobbled mousse-like on the fork. I was surprised not to miss the crunch of pounded crumbs. Not only was it not missed, the biscuit crumbs suddenly felt like an interference. Grit in the oyster. The smoky bitterness of the blackened crust was all the contrast I needed. Back at home, I set about making a similar Basque-style cheesecake. I am used to keeping an eagle eye on progress, to ensure not a freckle of brown appears on my cheesecake's surface. It took six attempts to perfect the wobble and char, but I think we are here now.
|650g||full-fat cream cheese|
|½ tsp||vanilla extract|
|4||eggs, plus an extra yolk|
|Generous pinch||sea salt|
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- Set the oven at 220°C. Line the inside of a high-sided 20cm springform cake tin entirely with baking parchment, making sure you bring it up the sides. It will pucker around the edges, but no matter. Place a pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven to heat up.
- Put the cream cheese and caster sugar into the bowl of a food mixer and beat for a few seconds until mixed. Grate the lemon zest into the cheese, then add the vanilla extract.
- Break the eggs into a small bowl, add the extra yolk and beat lightly with a fork to combine the yolks and whites. Introduce the eggs to the cream cheese, beating at slow speed, then pour in the double and soured creams. Push the mixture down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and briefly continue mixing. At this point it may look too liquid but worry not.
- Stir in the cornflour and salt, making sure it is thoroughly combined, then pour the mixture into the lined cake tin. Slide carefully into the oven, place on top of the hot stone or baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, until the cake has risen a little and its surface is dark brown. The centre may quiver when shaken. A thoroughly good thing.
- Now turn off the heat and leave the cake to settle for a further 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool, then place, still in its tin, in the fridge.
- When completely cold, remove the cheesecake from its tin and serve in thick slices, perhaps with a small dish of extra sour cream.
Edited extract from A Cook's Book by Nigel Slater, published by HarperCollins, RRP$60. Books will be available in November 2021.