I’m not going to call this chiizukeiki or Japanese cheesecake, I’ve decided. I’m going to call it “cheesecake surprise.” Because let me tell you, I put a bite of this into my mouth convinced that I already knew what it was going to taste like…but I was completely surprised. For Japanese cheesecake has the feel of a dense soufflé or angelfood cake, but it has none of the dryness those sorts of egg foam-heavy foods can have. Instead it’s entirely moist, lightly sweet and smooth, and it vanishes off the tongue almost instantly, leaving nothing but a hint of New York behind. Remarkable.
For the record, this is not the Japanese cheesecake I’d hoped to make. I made a fairly significant — but not fatal — mistake that we’ll get into as we go along. For now, start by preheating your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Then prepare an 8″ springform pan according to the directions in the Techniques menu, and secure a pan large enough to hold the springform (this will be your water bath).
So then, start by placing your cream cheese, butter and milk in a microwave-safe bowl.
I know what you’re thinking: something looks different here, there are some colors in this picture than I’m not accustomed to on Joe Pastry. Well, the good folks at Trudeau kitchenware sent me a box of new toys recently, and these are some of them. No, Trudeau isn’t paying me to use and/or speak nicely about their products. But they gave me these things for free, and in exchange I’m only too glad to blog about them a bit (I hope you’re paying attention, high-end auto manufacturers!). This bowl with the spout and the broad lip is really pretty neat. It also has little rubber pads on the bottom that keep it from slipping around.
But where was I? Oh yes, zap the ingredients in the microwave for 10-15 seconds, stir and do it again until the mixture looks about like this.
Now then for the egg yolks. Put them in a bowl and add the lemon juice (if you happen to have one of these nifty little squeezable bowls — also from Trudeau — that’s great).
Whisk the two together and pour into the cheese mixture.
Whisk all that together.
Next, whisk together the flour and cornstarch (corn flour) in a small bowl. No, Trudeau didn’t give me this little mini-whisk, in case you were curious. Cool though, isn’t it?
Sprinkle the flour mixture over the cheese mixture…
…and whisk it in.
Now for the egg white foam. Combine the sugar, salt and cream of tartar in a bowl and whisk them together.
Place the whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip…
…and whip them until they’re foamy. Add the sugar mixture all at once…
…and whip the mixture to the soft peak stage. Add the cheese mixture and, with the machine on low, stir it in.
This is the point where I made the mistake. I over-whipped the foam. See how those mounds are sitting there on the top? They shouldn’t be rigid like that — a sign of stiff peaks — they should just melt right back into the main mass soon after they drip off the whisk. What are the consequences of over-whipping? You’ll see.
Now then, pour the batter into the prepared pan (it’ll fill it up).
Put the cake pan into the larger pan and add hot water until the cake pan starts to want to float.
Bake it for 45 minutes, then check to see if it’s done. The top should be firm, browned and non-jiggly. If not, bake another 5-10 minutes.
Now then, see how high this cake is over the lip of the pan? That’s nothing. It was a full inch and a half higher when I took it out of the oven. It rose WAY too much. That was a result of the over-whipping of the whites.
What’s the upshot of that (no pun intended)? A sort-of mushroom shape like this:
Why does an over-risen cake end up like that? Because in the heat of the oven the very bottom, being immersed in the water bath, sets up quickly and firms. So does the top, being exposed to hot air. The middle, well, that’s another story. The middle is the last part of the cake to firm because it’s furthest from the heat. Consequently, the middle is where most of the expansion happens.
As the bubbles in the batter expand, the top goes up. That’s a good thing. However if there are too many bubbles the top goes up, up, up, but the sides and middle get weaker as the bubble walls stretch. The top stays up as long as the cake is hot and the bubbles are fully inflated with steam. However as the cake cools the steam pressure drops. The bubble walls aren’t thick enough to support the weight of the top, which starts to come down. At the same the side walls get sucked in as the crumb contracts.
End result: this rather odd shape. Nobody at the picnic knew I’d messed up. I told them it was supposed to look that way. It also tasted great. But next time I’ll know to stop whipping those whites. Have a great weekend, everyone!