Ninety-nine times out of a hundred my yoghurt turns out well. It is almost a relief, then, when it doesn't, because when it doesn't I don't feel like I am depriving myself of its silky perfection when I turn it into waffles or, in this case, cheese. After twelve hours hanging in cheesecloth from the paper towel dispenser I don't use, my yoghurt turned into a tangy, rich, somewhat rustic cream cheese. My first thought was to herb it and put it on bread. My next thought was to make cheesecake.
Although her recipes can be less than explicit, I always learn something from Paula Peck and her book, The Art of Fine Baking, has become one of my go-tos. When I saw that her crumb crust called for nuts I was sold all over again. She suggests either pecans or walnuts and I went with pecans, thinking they would match well with the ginger oat biscuits I decided to use for the crumbs.
I guess I have been in Vermont for a while now, because I didn't think twice before deciding to use granulated maple sugar instead of cane sugar as the sweetener. I don't know how much the maple flavor came through, but the cake was sweet (though not too) and the sugar came from just down the road, which is always a bonus.
adapted from Paula Peck
- 1 1/2 cups crumbs from snappy cookies or biscuits
- 1 cup pecans, ground or finely grated
- 1/3 cup butter, melted
- 1 cup (maple) sugar
- 20 oz. cream cheese
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 tsp. grated lemon rind
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sifted flour
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly butter a 9-inch spring-form pan.
- For the crumb crust: Combine cookie crumbs, ground nuts, and 2 Tbs. of the sugar. Add melted butter and mix until blended. Spread crumb mixture on the bottom of prepared pan and tamp it down firmly. Chill in refrigerator while you make the filling.
- For the filling: Mix together cream cheese, half the remaining sugar, salt, vanilla, and lemon rind until well combined. Beat in the egg yolks.
- Whip the cream and set aside. Beat egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining sugar, beating well after each addition. Once all the sugar has been added, beat the whites until they are very firm. Pour whipped cream over the stiffly beaten whites followed by the cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle the flour on top and fold all together gently.
- Pour filling into prepared pan and bake for one and a quarter hours, or until cake is a light golden brown. At this point turn the heat off, but leave the cake in the oven for 3-4 hours. Paula says, "Cake may crack slightly, but this is unimportant." Transfer cake to the refrigerator to chill before serving.
The ginger and pecan flavors were not obvious in the finished product, but I thought it would be pretty to decorate the cakes (I made two five-inch cakes from a half recipe, having only ten ounces of yoghurt cheese product) with pecan halves and crystalized ginger anyway. If you can find round, flat medallions of candied ginger, you can make nice ginger shapes with small cookie cutters.