Ghent Cheesecake

We have a friend named Ghent. His mama chose the name because she wanted her son to grow up and be a gentleman. Which he is, by the way. She thought the name was unique, but she’d never heard of the city in Belgium, although it’s pronounced with a hard “g.”

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I’ve only been to Belgium once, back when I was 18, which is where I memorably ate mussels for the first time. This was in Brussels. From what I have seen, I need return to explore Belgium and more of its foods.

Recently I came across a Ghent Cheesecake recipe that I’ve saved for years, or Plattekaastarte, which I have no idea how to pronounce. The Flemish language is beautiful, a mixture of French and Dutch. Not enough French to help me out, though!

In any case, this recipe is quite unique, with a yeasted dough for a crust, topped with a layer of applesauce, and then a filling of macaroons and cottage cheese! It’s pictured below from the recipe page.

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I contacted my Dutch blogger friend Stefan, from Stefan Gourmet, to help me figure out what kind of macaroons the recipe listed. He recommended Italian amaretti cookies – for both the texture and almond flavor.

Although I should have listened to Stefan, when I was at recently at a Trader Joe’s I found these cookies, which are from Belgium. They’re spiced a little differently, but because I’ll never know what the cheesecake is really supposed to taste like, without the real macaroons, I figured it couldn’t hurt. But I decided to also use some almond extract for a more almond flavor.

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I ground up the cookies using a food processor. They’re quite pretty cookies.

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So here’s the recipe:

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Ghent  Cheesecake

Crust:
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup warm milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup or 2 ounces butter, melted, cooled
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups flour
5 tablespoons applesauce

Filling:
2 eggs, separated
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup crushed macaroons, about 2 1/4 ounces
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup ground almonds, about 1 ounce
1/4 cup vanilla sugar or 1/4 sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make crust, in a large bowl, stir yeast and sugar into water until dissolved. Stir in milk, egg, salt, and butter.

Beat in 1 cup flour until smooth. Cover and let stand 10 minutes.

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Stir in enough remaining flour to make a medium-stiff dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Butter a 9-inch springform pan; set aside.

Roll out dough to a 14-inch circle. Fit into buttered pan. Spread applesauce over bottom. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

To make filling, beat egg whites until stiff; set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat together egg yolks and cottage cheese; beat in macaroons, 2/3 cup sugar, almonds and vanilla sugar. (I used almond extract and vanilla extract.)

Fold in beaten egg whites. Spread mixture over applesauce. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until golden.

Makes 1 (9-inch) cake.

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I served fruit with it.

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The cheesecake filling is fantastic – you can taste the cookies, the cinnamon and almond flavors, plus it has a meringue-like texture.

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The crust isn’t my favorite part, however. It’s really like a pizza crust, even with the butter and milk.

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Perhaps there could have been some sugar and vanilla in the dough.

But it was fun to finally make this cheesecake. I’m now going to share with Ghent! (And his lovely wife!)

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