Posted in Home Baking, Sweets for the Sweet, The Flavors of Asia

In Which One Attempts a Japanese Cheesecake…

Meringue: also known as the reason why I could never get top marks in HomeEc
Meringue: also known as the reason why I could never get top marks in HomeEc

No se puede hacer tortilla sin romper los huevos.  (You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.) – Spanish/Catalan proverb

I’ve said this time and again whenever anyone tells me I should make a business out of cooking and baking: NO.  I have neither the patience nor the acumen for turning my favorite hobby into a business, though I do confess that I have been sorely tempted to drop everything and do so.  Indeed, my pet threat whenever the chips are way down is that I will run away to Barcelona when I’ve had enough and open a cafe.  Or a chocolateria.  Maybe give the siblings running the famed conservas bar Quimet y Quimet a run for their money.

But, again: NO.  Ask my best friend and he will tell you – provided he remembers – about the time I baked those hideously hard Milo biscuits that could have doubled as either hockey pucks or weapons for use in a riot.  While my cooking and baking have improved considerably over time, there’s a nagging feeling at the backs of both of our minds that we have not seen the last of the like of those dreaded biscuits from our days in uni.  Oh, dear…

Nevertheless, my willingness to try new things in the kitchen has had amazing results over the past decade since I started this blog.  I’ve tried new techniques, made twists on existing recipes, and, yes: I even got over my fear of making meringue as shown above.

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An oh-so-billowy batter…

My family was torn between having our mother’s chiffon cake or one of my baked cheesecakes for dessert yesterday.  Since no clear answer could be found and Mom was busy, I decided to make the most out of the situation and try my hand at making a nama or momengoshi cheesecake which is pretty much a gorgeously fluffy hybrid of the two.

Also known as Japanese cheesecake, the dessert is so called because it is usually served unadorned (nama = naked) and because it has the light, fluffy texture of cotton puffs (momengoshi = cotton-style).  You could get a reasonable version at Uncle Tetsu or, better yet, at JiPan; even SM supermarkets and Family Mart branches offer acceptable variations on the theme.  But, you know this blogger: if I try it from the shop often enough, I will be tempted to make it at home.  And so it went…

...turns into a fluffy cake
…turns into a fluffy cake

As I stated above, this is pretty much a cross between a chiffon cake and a baked cheesecake.  You’ll need a proper mixer (or a very strong mixing arm), patience, and a bowl of egg whites at room temperature to make the meringue that gives this dessert much of its airy heft.  While it does sound fiddly – and, to the uninitiated and the impatient, it is fiddly – don’t ever make the mistake of not doing this properly: you will regret it.

The end result is a light, tangy, fluffy dessert that certainly casts the commercially made ones into the shade and you will feel a sense of pride and sheer delight that borders upon the unholy as you slide a butter knife into its cottony innards to serve it.  (Yes, it is that soft.)

The recipe I am sharing with you is somewhat modified.  Feel free, nevertheless, to swap the lemon juice in the recipe for kalamansi juice (for a more blossomy citrus taste), orange juice (admittedly, you can use half-lemon and half-orange for a Gateau St. Clement [You know the nursery rhyme: “‘Oranges and lemons,’ say the bells of St. Clement’s.”  Just don’t tell my best friend; he’ll raise an eyebrow, no doubt…]), the beans scraped from half a vanilla pod, or even an equal amount of either Bailey’s or Kahlua.

So, who wants a slice?
So, who wants a slice?

Momengoshi Cheesecake

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 block cream cheese, softened (8oz/225 or 250g)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup softened butter or margarine
  • additional butter and powdered sugar

Grease and line an 8-inch springform pan or disposable aluminum baking tin with baking parchment / waxed paper.  If using a springform pan, wrap the bottom of the pan with aluminum foil.  Grease the parchment and dust over with powdered sugar; set aside.

Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees / Gas Mark 3.

Put the cream cheese and milk into a medium-sized mixing bowl.  Setting the mixer to medium speed, blend until smooth and creamy.  Add the butter, flour, lemon juice, and half of the sugar (1/4 cup); blend until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula from time to time.  Add the egg yolks and blend well; set aside.

Put the egg whites in another bowl and beat at lowest speed for about 30 seconds or until frothy.  Add the cream of tartar; whisk another 30 seconds.  Increase speed to medium and gradually add the remaining sugar; whisk until soft peaks form.

Fold the meringue into the egg yolk and cheese mixture in thirds, incorporating gently.  Pour into the prepared baking tin and gently shake down to remove air pockets. Set the filled pan into a larger baking dish; fill the baking dish with boiling water till it reaches about halfway up the sides of the filled pan.  Carefully place in the oven; bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Check for doneness with a toothpick; turn the oven off and leave the oven door ajar for about 15 – 30 minutes.  Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool on a rack for an additional 30 – 45 minutes.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Serves 8.

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Author:

Midge started her career in PR writing at seventeen when she began drafting documentaries for a government-run television station in the Philippines. Since then, she made a career in advertising and public relations which ended earlier this year. These days, she works for a corporate governance advocacy in Makati. Aside from what she does for a living and her poetry, she has turned her home kitchen into a personal culinary lab and is currently working on another novel.

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