Remember my post about making a Japanese cheesecake? It's a simple recipe, but very difficult to retain the fluffiness because of all the egg whites. Although it rises high during baking, but it shrinks down like an old person once you take it out of the oven. It's like taking Viagra before baking: it performs so well while in oven, but as soon as there's no more "heat," it shrinks.
Though I haven't kept up with my numerous battles of perfecting this cheesecake on UM, I have tried about five times. Although it has tasted good each time I've made it, it just kept shrinking so much. One time it looked like a piece of fish cake.
So I've done a lot of research and found the right oven temp, as well as the correct egg white consistency, as they are some of the most important elements of this recipe.
My previous mistakes were:
1.) Oven temp was completely off. I don't mean the oven itself, but my brain. For some weird reason, I always thought 350°F = 160°C. It's actually 180°C (178 to be exact)! No wonder it rose way too quickly and the top part got so dark. Many Japanese recipes for cheesecake says 140°C = 284°F for an hour. So this time, I set the oven at 280°F to take it slow and steady.
2.) Egg whites. There are two opinions. One is to make stiff peaks, and the other is not to do that because egg whites with stiff peaks rises too much and then ends up shrinking too much.
3.) How to mix in the cheese with egg whites. Some say to go gently, which is the general rule of thumb when folding in egg whites. But others say that since egg whites are beaten to stiff peaks, you can abuse them, so use a whisk when mixing. I've tried both, and it doesn't seem to make much difference.
The best recipe I've found so far is this:
1 stick (225g-ish) cream cheese
50 g (just a bit shorter than half a stick of) butter
60g cake flour
20g corn starch
1tbsp green tea powder (you can omit if you want to make a regular one)
6 egg yokes
6 egg whites
Some recipe calls for lemon juice, yogurt, or heavy cream, but I like the one above the best.
Sift flour, corn starch and matcha powder together. Set aside.
Put butter, cream cheese and milk in a small pot and heat them up until it all melts together.
If the heat is too high, you have to wait a long time for it to cool off, so keep stirring and stop when it's a creamy consistency.
This is also an important process. Butter the pan, GENEROUSLY. This will help prevent the batter from sticking to the sides (it also helps the cake rise).
Then coat the butter with powder sugar.
Once the cream cheese mixture cools, add egg yolks, the sifted flour mixture, and mix well.
I found these roasted chestnuts at the nearby grocery store. Great thing about this is, it's only $1.49. Do you know how much a jar of chestnuts cost at Williams-Sonoma? At least $10!
Chop up the nuts and put it on the bottom of the mold.
Now, the egg whites. Unless you have muscles like a professional tennis player, don't even bother to manually do it. Use an electric or a stand mixer, beat it until you get stiff peaks.
Below is the way some people like, not too stiff. By the way, all the sugar goes in while making the meringue.
This is how I made the meringue. As usual, be sure to use a dry bowl. Even a drop of water in it will destroy the meringue.
Once the egg whites are done, fold in a quarter of it into cheese mixture. Mix well. I used a whisk.
Repeat this, and once you have a quarter of meringue left, add the cheese mixture into the meringue, and mix well. Again, some say to be gentle, and others say to mix it like hell. I went somewhere in the middle.
Pour the batter into the mold. This will be baked in a hot water bath. Be sure to wrap the bottom of the mold with aluminum foil to avoid any seepage.
Put it in a 280°F oven for an hour and 10 minutes. Et voila!
To make it holiday-esque, I brushed some plum jam on top. Green and red, simple, yet elegant. No need to add whip cream or any other crap on this one. Simplicity is the key to this gentle, soft cheese cake.
Nice green color inside.
As you can see, this is not a typical holiday cake. But I say, why not?! It's very soft, and almost melts in your mouth-- so the opposite of a NY-style cheesecake. One bite of that makes you feel like you ate a stick of cheese. But this one, thanks to the egg-whites, is so fluffy. You can definitely eat a quarter of it without thinking about calories.
Think about the benefits of this cake. You eat meat, fish, sides, appetizers, cheese balls, nuts, whatever else during your holiday meal, and you dread the thought of a heavy cake or pie at the end. But at the same time, you feel you are obligated because it's your grandmother's secret recipe, or Aunt Linda came all the way from Kentucky with her famous red velvet cake.
Gram, Aunt Linda, make this instead. It's so light and everyone's face will brighten up since it's not smeared with cream.
This is not the easiest recipe because the oven temp and egg whites are pretty sensitive issues. Also every oven has its own character, so you might want to try a couple of times before the big day. If it shrinks too much on the day of the holiday gathering, just serve it as if it's the way it's supposed to be. No matter what, it tastes good.
*Yamahomo is based in NYC and enjoys cooking and baking. He prefers staying in the kitchen all weekend long rather than being outside.