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Archive for August 17th, 2019

Spain’s Burnt Cheesecake Breaks All the Rules. And Lord, It’s Good.

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Daniela Galarza has a wonderful article in Taste, but first watch this brief video:

The article begins:

Ask a chef, almost any chef, about the cheesecake at La Viña in San Sebastián, Spain, and they’ll inevitably sigh and nod, with a knowing, faraway look in their eyes. Over the past three decades, restaurateurs, cooks, and the food-obsessed from London, Tokyo, Istanbul, Melbourne, Mumbai, New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and hundreds of other cities have gone on pilgrimages to Spain, a land rich with pork and bright with citrus. And over the past three decades, a cheesecake—a closer cousin to Junior’s in New York and Eli’s in Chicago than knafehin the Middle East or torta de ricota in Italy—has enchanted chefs and diners alike.

La Viña, a restaurant that opened in San Sebastián—the Basque region’s capital city—60 years ago, serves an improbable tarta de queso. Its blackened top, surrounded by a flutter of burnt parchment paper, hides a center the texture of soft custard. “It breaks all the rules of the porcelain-white, even-textured cheesecake [Americans] know,” says pastry chef Bea Vo, who’s based in London and has had La Viña’s cheesecake at least a dozen times. “It’s proudly tanned and even burnt in spots, with a rough, pillowy edge and oozy center.”

There’s something ugly-but-beautiful about its appearance, but everyone who has tasted it agrees that it’s spectacular. A slice of it looks like a wedge of triple-crème Camembert, with a rough exterior and a middle that puddles on the plate. That darkened top adds a mysterious, but highly enjoyable, flavor akin to salted caramel or browned butter, with an added complexity and alluring tang from the milk solids in the cheese, which caramelize at high temperatures.

San Sebastián claims to be the birthplace of pintxos, or tapas-like dishes stabbed with a pintxo, or small skewer. Like all great things, tapas were born of necessity: Probably two centuries ago, bar patrons in Spain started using slices of bread to cover their glasses of sherry so that flies didn’t drown in their drinks. Eventually, those slices of bread became more elaborate when bar owners decided to garnish them with anchovies, olives, salty cheeses, grilled seafood, and ribbons of bright red serrano ham. Tapas and pintxos are never sweet because, well, that would defeat the purpose.

So it’s particularly surprising that in a land full of perfect pintxos, cheesecake has inspired rapturous praise and sent both home cooks and professionals into the kitchen to try to reproduce this magic in their homeland. First, it went viral throughout Spain, of course, with copycat versions popping up in bars around San Sebastián and Bilbao.

In 2008, chef Alex Raij of New York’s Txikito put it on her menu, but “no one really noticed,” she recalls. “I don’t think New Yorkers really got it,” she says.  “We put our own spin on La Viña’s version using goat’s milk cheese.” Meanwhile, bloggers and vloggers from around the world reported on their taste memories and shared recipes they made inspired by the real thing.

In 2009, Australian-Spanish chef Frank Camorra put a version of the cheesecake (his recipe included sheep’s-milk curd) on his menu at MoVida in Melbourne, and in his cookbook, Rustica, published in 2011 in the U.S. Around 2012, the cheesecake sprang up in cafés in Istanbul. B.Blok bakery has 30,000 Instagram followers who are obsessed with its “San Sebastian cheesecake,” which it put on its menu in 2014. It’s so popular today in Istanbul that a bakery owner is suing a competitor for using the same name for the cheesecake in question. Last year, chef Tomos Parry put it on his menu at his Basque-inspired restaurant, Brat, in London. Parry says he uses goat’s-milk curd to get the moist but soufflé-like texture and funky taste. . .

Read it all. Recipe link included at the end.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 August 2019 at 4:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

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