Thursday, October 04, 2007

Tahitian Vanilla Cheesecake Tart

That just sounds astonishingly good doesn't it? Sweet milk chocolate dancing jesus, you simply have no idea! I have had people call this elegant, powerful, subtle, sublime, decadent, just about every adjective imaginable, and many clearly unprintable. I tried to put something together today about the article in the New York Times about the breathtaking and certainly criminal behavior of the Bush administration but it was beginning to sound like "Fucking. Motherfucking. Bastard. Cocksuckingmotherfuckingfuckstickbastardgoddamnbitchmotherfuckers!" So, I gave up and went into the kitchen.

You'll need a very specific item. If you buy yourself a 10 by 2" fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and the only thing you ever do with it is to make this recipe just once you will call it money well spent. You can substitute a 10" springform pan, but it won't have the visual impact that goes with the fluted tart pan. Do it. Trust me. Do. IT.

There are some things you need to do ahead also.

So, first things first, you need a good glob of crème fráiche, also, you must have a layer of light sponge cake. Two days before, you might as well start on the crème fráiche.


2 cups (1 quart) heavy cream (try to find cream that is not ultrapastuerized)
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 Tahitian* (fresh, not dried) vanilla bean, split lengthwise

*if you don't have access to an ultra snooty gourmet store you can use two regular dried madagascar beans from any store.

Combine the ingredients in a sterilized canning jar with an airtight lid. Set them in a warm place, on top of the refrigerator, or the cupboard over the oven for at least twelve hours, but as long as 36. You want the resulting crème to be thick but still barely pourable. Then refrigerate, it will continue to thicken as it chills.

Make the sponge cake the day before so it will be cool and resiliant. If you haven't made some already, make a batch of lemon curd.


1/3 cup sifted cake flour (sifted and leveled off with a knife)
2 1/2 tablespoons unsifted cornstarch
4 large eggs (room temperature)
1 large egg yolk (room temperature)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon superfine confectioner's sugar
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Grease two 9" cake pans generously and flour. Tap soundly and shake to remove any excess flour. (you can also spray with Baker's Joy® which is canola oil and flour in a spray can. I loves me summa this stuff)

Preheat your oven to 450° with the rack on the lower level.

In a small bowl whisk the cake flour and the cornstarch to combine them evenly.

Separate 2 of the eggs into a large mixing bowl with the whites in another. Put the next two eggs in the yolk bowl along with the extra yolk, add 1/2 cup of the sugar. Whisk this until it is light, lemon colored and fluffy, and at least tripled in volume. Then whisk in the vanilla. Sift half of the flour/starch mixture over this and gently fold it in with a rubber spatula, until it has disappeared into the mix. Then repeat that with the rest of the flour.

Beat the egg whites until foamy. Add in the cream of tartar and whisk mercilessly until soft peaks form. Beat in the remaining 1 tablespoon of confectioner's sugar and whisk until stiff peaks form.

Fold the egg whites gently into the yolk batter and pour into the prepared cake pans. Tap them sharply on the countertop (I lay a towel down to muffle the noise, otherwise the dogs get all agitated thinking there are bad guys outside the door) to raise up any bubbles. I also run a thin blade knife all through the batter to nail any nasty little buggers that might be trying to hide from me.

Bake at 450° for seven to ten minutes, until the cake is golden brown and springs back when lightly tapped with your fingertip. Place on a cooling rack and immediately run around the inside of the edge of the pan, invert over the cooling rack and remove the cake from the pan. If you don't do this while the cake is still hot it will weld to the sides of your pan and you'll never, ever, get it out. If you can find removeable bottom cake pans, so much the better. Allow to cool completely.

You'll only need half of one cake for the tart. In a 9" pan these will be about 1/2" thick. I have a little 1/4" knife jig that I made which guides my knife and keeps my cuts level as I slice each cake horizontally. The rounds that I don't need are wrapped individually in Press 'n' Seal® and frozen for later use.

Now you're ready to make Sweet Cookie Tart Crust. Hose the tart pan you bought and washed throroughly down with Baker's Joy®. The Baker's Joy is the only real option here, unless you want to try and invert a pan with a removable bottom to shake out the excess, but then you'll have a total mess on your hands and feel like an idiot to boot. Better to just get the stuff. House brand baker's sprays from a bake shop or Smart & Final are just fine.


8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into 1" cubes
1/4 superfine confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose (bleached) flour (it's alright if this is a little scant)
1/8 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream

In a food processor with the metal blade pulse the butter and sugar until totally combined. Add the flour and the salt until it is the size of small peas.

In a small bowl, use a fork to combine the yolk and the cream. Dump this into the food processor and pulse it until just incorporated, about 8 or 10 times. It will still be somewhat crumbly. Empty this into a plastic bag and press with your fingers until it starts to hold together. Remove this from the bag, and place it on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to knead the dough until it is one smooth piece. Flatten that into a 6" disc, wrap it well with the plastic and stick it in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

On a marble or other absolutely smooth and level rolling surface (marble is the best because it remains a bit below room temperature all the time) place a sheet of plastic wrap and flour it lightly. Bring your 6" disc of pie dough and cover that with another lightly floured sheet of plastic. Roll it out as evenly as you can until it is a fairly circular disk that overlaps the bottom disc of the tart pan by about 3". The best way that I've found to transfer the crust is to take the whole plastic dough thing up by the plastic and drape it over a regular inverted cake pan, then remove a layer of the plastic, pick up the dough by the cake pan and put it into the prepared tart pan, then lift off the last of the plastic.

Now, after all that work you're only ready to start on the big stuff. Usually I have discs of dough, and rounds of sponge cake stashed in the freezer with my jars of lemon curd waiting for me in the pantry. Aren't you jealous? The thing is having things like stocks, mother sauces, and other essentials already laid up is what brings dishes like this one a bit closer to the realm of impulse. Stuff like that comes in real handy.

Have the tart shell with the crust in the main working area. Preheat the oven to 350° with the rack in the middle position.

Brush the lemon curd evenly onto the bottom layer of the crust, making sure to go at least 1/4" up the sides. Place the sponge cake round, crust side down onto this. Now we will make the cheesecake filling.


1 cup + 2 1/2 tablespoons softened cream cheese
2/3 cup baker's sugar (I use the vanilla sugar from the pantry)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 large room temperature eggs
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed, strained lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 recipe Crème Fráiche

Just before the final mixing, remove the split vannila bean from the creme and use a small spoon or a knife to scrape out the caviar specks. Dry the bean husk and put it into the container that you use for your vanilla sugar.

Use the big stand mixer for this. This is a very thick batter and unless you have Popeye arms, hand mixing simply will not do. The attachment should be the balloon whisk. Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and cornstarch until very smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth with each egg and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber or silicone spatula. Add the lemon juice, vanilla, and salt and beat until incorporated. Beat in the crème fráiche just until blended. Do. Not. Over. Beat.

Pour this over the top of the cake layer in the tart shell. It will reach almost to the top, but the center will settle down nicely as the sponge cake works its magic and absorbs liquidity and flavor. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and let stand, without opening the door, for another hour. Open the door just enough to where it will hold without snapping shut and cool for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack until it is room temperature. Then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

To unmold, simply pop the bottom disc of the tart pan, then use a very thin metal spatula to separate the tart from the bottom disc onto a cutting board. To cut, use a thin bladed, very sharp knife that has been heated in hot water and wiped dry. Wipe it clean, heat it again, wipe it dry between each cut.

If this is your dessert you can serve shitburgers for dinner and people will talk about your wonderful dinner party for the entire holiday season.



Anonymous Lisa said...

This has brought me to the point of tears. A bravura performance. If someone prepared this for me, I would be putty in his hands.

A noble diversion from the dirty madness emanating from D.C.

6:27 PM  
Blogger seventh sister said...

This is a lesson in being careful what I ask for!! Yikes! This will take some doing. I'll have to add it to my list of someday soons.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Sherry said...

i'm curling my toes with delight just reading this.

oh, i will be dreaming of this as i drift off.

i will never get round to making this, but i can taste it in dreams.

8:41 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

the trick to recipes like this one 7th sister, is to attack them in a process. take a day and make sponge cake rounds and the crème fráiche. it takes about and hour for the cakes. to make a knife jig for slicing them all you need to do is to cut a 12" hole into a disc of plywood and then sand it smooth. put the rounds of sponge cake into the freezer and they will be there next time you want them. same with the sweet cookie crust. make it up, freeze any excess and forget about it. that way when you want to do do the cooking all you need to do is gather the ingredients and then assemble it. a recipe like this spread out over the course of a few days isn't all that much more demanding than making the crytallized ginger. hmmmmmm. i'm thinking a dose of crystallized ginger nuggets sprinkled over the top of this. . .hmmmmmmmmmm

8:58 PM  
Anonymous tata said...

I'm curious about the purpose of the sponge inside a cheesecake. Is this structural?

Also: no water bath?

7:32 AM  
Blogger Brave Sir Robin said...

I will not rest until I have made this.

Once again, you inspire me!

8:01 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

exactly. structural. the property of the sponge cake is to absorb any excess liquids that might leak or ooze during the long, slow baking process. it also distributes the flavor evenly and delicately. by absorbing the liquids it ensures that the crust stays crisp and crunchy. the crust and the lemon curd both act as enough insulation to protect the cheesecake during the baking. by using that we can dispense with the water bath.

8:18 AM  
Anonymous Constant Comment said...

Sounds delicious, but I have one question: do you have any recipes that take less than three days to make? :)

10:21 AM  

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