Ghent Cheesecake

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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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Yogurt and Chèvre Cheesecake

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Before you get too excited, I must warn you that this cheesecake is not for dessert! I have made sweet cheesecakes with chèvre before, and they’re fabulous, but this one is classified as a savory first course – perfect for a holiday meal.

I had a recipe once for something similar, but for the life of me I can’t find it anywhere. I’d made it for a party I catered, and it really confused people. They just weren’t too sure what to do with it, even though I’d sliced it up into thin wedges, which I thought made it obvious. Some people stuck crackers in it, treating it like a dip, and I can’t remember what else occurred. I’ve probably blocked it for psychological reasons. Sometimes it’s an anthropological study watching people eat at parties. Which reminds me, I’m really glad I don’t cater any longer.

But back to this cheesecake. I was inspired by Chobani’s #MadeWithChobani project to create a yogurt-based recipe. And immediately this recipe came to mind, although I ended up creating one out of thin air.

As with all yogurt with which I want to cook or bake, even Greek yogurt, I first placed the 32 ounces of yogurt into a paper towel-lined colander placed in a large bowl.
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I then let it sit in the refrigerator overnight, or about 8 hours. About 1/2 cup of whey came out of the yogurt, which you can keep to use in cooking. Yogurt can certainly be used as is, but I prefer the more yogurt cheese-like texture for cooking and baking.

This cheesecake “batter” can be mixed with basil pesto or sun-dried tomato pesto for completely different flavors. In fact, they can be layered for a really Christmassy look. But I wanted the yogurt texture and the chèvre flavor to really shine in this simple, yet stunning appetizer.

There was no payment or any kind of compensation for my use of the Chobani yogurt. I’ve purchased it many times and it’s a quality product. And you can participate in this project as well!

Yogurt and Chèvre Cheesecake

2 tablespoons butter
Approximately 1/3 cup bread crumbs
12 ounces Chobani plain yogurt cheese (see above), at room temperature, made from Greek yogurt
8 ounces chèvre or other creamy goat cheese, at room temperature
1 egg
2 egg yolks
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

For this cheesecake, I used a shallow, oven-proof baking dish, with an 8″ base. I didn’t want a really thick cheesecake because they’re more challenging to bake properly, and a small slice is all you need for an this appetizer.

Start by melting the butter in the dish using the microwave.
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My bread crumbs were made by processing a piece of French bread, with the crusts mostly removed. I toasted them in a skillet just until golden.


Tilt the dish all around to get the butter all around the sides and bottom. Then add the bread crumbs and do the same. There should just be a light coating of crumbs; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, mix the yogurt cheese, the goat cheese, eggs, and salt until smooth.

Carefully place the yogurt cheese mixture into the dish, smoothing the top.

Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 325 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes. At this point test the cheesecake to make sure it has baked thoroughly. If it needs a few more minutes, just turn off the oven and let it sit for about ten minutes more. It should be slightly firm, and not wiggle in the middle.
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Then remove the cheesecake from the oven and let cool slightly and set.
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When you’re ready to serve the cheesecake, carefully cut into wedges. I served this particular cheesecake with a salad of greens with blackberries and toasted walnuts. The dressing was orange oil and balsamic vinegar. I also added a generous sprinkling of salt.
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You will notice that this cheesecake has a slight mealiness to it. But unlike a poorly, overcooked cheesecake that becomes horribly mealy, this texture instead is from the yogurt cheese. It’s also still important not to overcook this version, just like all cheesecakes.

I hope you all enjoy this savory twist on a cheesecake, and from my family to yours, Merry Christmas!!!

Crème Fraiche Ice Cream

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I just came across this recipe recently, and realized that I’d completely forgotten about it. I made it once before, but for the life of me, can’t remember when. This isn’t like me, because I have a pretty good food memory. I’m assuming I made it when I had company over, because I just don’t typically make ice cream. But it was marked “wonderful” in my handwriting, so I know that I indeed made it, and definitely wanted to have it again. After all, it is summer.

The recipe is from this Wolfgang Puck cookbook, published in 1991.
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The recipe calls for 4 cups of crème fraiche, which is a lot, so I began by making it myself. If you’ve never made your own crème fraiche, you should make it. For one thing, it’s so much less expensive if you make it yourself. For another thing, creme fraiche is quite versatile, from dolloping on a fruit salad, to stirring into soups. Or, in this case, turning it into ice cream. It’s nice to have on hand all of the time.

To make 1 quart of crème fraiche, place 1 quart or 4 cups of heavy cream in a medium-sized bowl. Stir in 3 tablespoons of buttermilk. Let it warm to room temperature, and sit for 12 hours. I cover loosely with plastic wrap. In 12 hours, you will have a firm crème fraiche.

Crème Fraiche Ice Cream, served with Raspberry Sauce

1 quart crème fraiche
10 egg yolks
1/3 cup white sugar

After you’ve made the crème fraiche, chill it completely in the refrigerator. Also have your ice cream maker bowl in the freezer and ready to use.
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Place the egg yolks in a large bowl and whisk them well. Add the sugar and whisk for about 1 minute.
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Add the crème fraiche and whisk until smooth.
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Pour some or all of the ice cream mixture into the ice cream bowl, depending how much yours holds. Turn it on and let it go until it’s ice cream. Mine took about 20 minutes.
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When ice cream is ready in an electric ice cream maker, it’s very soft. If you place the bowl into the freezer to get it firmer, the outside freezes and changes the lovely texture. It also can get too hard to remove – even with a sharp scoop.

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So for the purpose of the photos for this post, I “scooped” up the ice cream right away, and it’s easy to tell that it’s soft.
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That’s okay with me, because I got to eat some. And that’s what this is all about. Crème fraiche ice cream? It’s like frozen (or partially frozen) cheesecake.

If you want to make a raspberry sauce like I did, here is the recipe:

1 – 12 ounce bag frozen raspberries, thawed
1 tablespoon white sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Place all of the ingredients in a blender jar and blend until smooth. If you don’t like seeds in your sauce (I don’t) then sieve the sauce to remove the seeds. Chill the sauce until ready to use.


The next day, I made a banana split of sorts with the crème fraiche ice cream, the raspberry sauce, fresh raspberries, and bananas. To die for…

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Torta di Ricotta

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I wish I could share the source of this recipe, but I can’t. It dates back to the days when I borrowed cookbooks instead of buying them. I would get stacks of cookbooks every week from our local library, zerox favorite recipes, glue them onto large index cards, and then go back for more. This was all for economic reasons, as there was a period of time while raising our daughters that the purchase of cookbooks would have been completely extravagant and irresponsible.

This recipe is definitely Italian in origin, and I’m wondering if it’s from a Lorenza de Medici cookbook. But whose ever it is, it’s one of the few desserts I’ve made on many an occasion when I need to give a small gift of food for one person, or perhaps for just a few of us getting together for a girly lunch.

It’s a small ricotta-based cheesecake, that is moist and full of flavor. I hope you like it, too!

Torta di Ricotta

1 pound ricotta cheese, whole-milk only
1/3 cup raisins
2 tablespoons brandy
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup pine nuts, but today I used pistachios
Softened butter for the pan

Drain the ricotta overnight in a cheesecloth-lined sieve.

Soak the raisins in the rum. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Add the zest of the orange and lemon to a small bowl, and add the vanilla to the same bowl.

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Beat the egg yolks with the sugar and salt until pale yellow.

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Add the drained ricotta, salt, and citrus zests, and blend thoroughly. Add the pine nuts and raisins and rum, blending well.

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Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold them into the cake batter.

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Brush a 6″ springform pan with softened butter. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan, and bake 30 to 35 minutes.

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Use a tester in the middle to make sure the torta is ready to come out of the oven. It will look like this:

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Cool for about half an hour, then turn onto a serving plate. It’s good warm or at room temperature.

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The torta will slice very easily. I served mine with some macerated strawberries, which just means that I sprinkled some white sugar over sliced strawberries, tossed them gently, and let them sit for about 20 minutes or so.

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But this torta di ricotta is such a delight, it doesn’t really need anything at all!

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verdict: The pistachios were just as good as the pine nuts.

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