The easy part of class this weekend was making the graham cracker crust, a standard base for cheesecakes. To help tie the flavours together, we added some ground almonds into the mix as well. I brought a flat-bottomed ramekin to class which was a useful tool for pressing the crumbs into the pan. Since I forgot my springform bottom, I used a parchment-lined 6-inch cake pan from the school.
For the filling, Chef deviated from the printed recipe, leaving us all scrambling to take notes. The notes said to use baker's cheese or quark, but we used regular cream cheese instead. Our instructor raved about the Lactantia brand, which she favoured for its creamy consistency, unlike the slightly rubbery texture of Philadelphia. We creamed the cheese together with the dry ingredients, which included milk powder and thickeners in the form of flour and cornstarch. Once these were combined, we added almond and vanilla extracts, oil, hot water, buttermilk and egg yolks, scraping the bowl constantly. The idea was to start with the thickest, densest ingredients and gradually work in the more liquid ones. Scraping helped minimize the chance that lumps might remain in the mixture. Finally, we whipped egg whites with sugar and folded them in.
After pouring the filling into the prepared pans, we baked them in a shallow water bath. A brief spell in the freezer wasn't enough to cool them to room temperature so we had to finish decorating them at home. While they were cooling though, we made the raspberry topping, a very simple mix of frozen berries, water, sugar and cornstarch that we boiled until it thickened. I learned a new property of some modified starches: freeze-thaw stable. Regular cornstarch (which we used) won't hold up when it's frozen and then thawed, so Chef didn't recommend freezing our cheesecakes if we topped them.
This cake was unlike any other cheesecake I've had. It doesn't resemble a dense, New York style dessert, nor a grainy ricotta-based one, nor a dry crumbly one I've had from a Polish bakery. The texture is like an egg custard or a stiff mousse when you first put it in your mouth, but the richness quickly reminds you it's made out of cream cheese. It doesn't have much tanginess to it, which I like, but it's a cake I'd make again.