Cotton-Soft Japanese Cheesecake... When I posted my 400 post, I mentioned that I had wanted to share a cake recipe... but ended up sharing a cookie recipe instead. This time around I'm finally posting the "cake" recipe I had meant to share then. Since I posted a savory Japanese dish recently, the Okonomyiaki, I felt I should also share a sweet Japanese recipe as well. It would only be fair:) Even though this dessert is called a cheesecake, I'd lean more on calling it a cake. Ok, maybe more like a cake with cheese:).
I've seen plenty of recipes for the cotton-soft Japanese cheesecake all over the internet... was aware of it, but just never attempted it myself. Recently though, I ran across it again and decided to try my hand at baking the "not so easy to accomplish" Japanese cheesecake. Actually, after seeing so many people having failures, I decided to bake it more as a challenge for myself. Granted I was curious to see how "cotton-soft" the cheesecake would be... and wanted to taste it for myself:). This of course all depended on me getting the recipe right. Would I be able to accomplish it?
After reading some comments and tips from other bloggers, I quickly realized the recipe depended on 2 major factors... getting the egg whites folded in just right, and baking/cooling the cheesecake correctly... so the final product wouldn't deflate. It's funny, but if you read the original recipe, you may not think it too difficult... recipe has just a few "simple" steps. But as with most recipes, there's a chance that something might go wrong with the dish. And the way the original cheesecake recipe is written out, well, it really assumes you have a bit of baking knowledge.... or at least have mastered a basic sponge cake. The idea is to beat the egg whites just right, and then to fold them into the batter gently. If these two things aren't done right, you just might get a dense/flat cake.
So after making a few sponges in my life, I went ahead and tried out the recipe. The result gave me a wonderfully soft and fluffy cheesecake. Sure it could have been better, but for the most part, I felt the cheesecake came out decent enough:). Will be making it again and trying to "perfect" it, that's for sure. And because I ran across a few issues while making it, I decided to write out a few tips in the hopes that it would be of help to those trying out the recipe for the first time. The post may seem long, and the recipe look complicated, but I wanted to share as much information and photos to make the cake go smoother.
Oh, and if you've never had a Japanese cheesecake, it's sure worth trying out the recipe. I'm hoping it will come out for you as well:). The result is definitely not the cheesecake we are used to here in the states. Not the dense and extra cream cheesy type, as this cheesecake uses only 1 (8oz) cream cheese pack. And it's definitely NOT dense. I'd say it's more like a cross between a sponge cake and a pound cake... with a cream cheese flavor. The lemon flavor sort of reminds me of those soft ricotta cookies, or the filling for the Romanian "poale in brau"... but with the cake having a soft velvety texture. And I think it has just the right amount of sweetness. It's not overly sweet, so it can be served plain... or if you prefer, adorned with a thin layer of preserves, ganache, whipped cream, etc. It really is a soft, velvety cake....
I chose to bake my cheesecake in 2 (9x5 in) loaf pans, the original recipe uses a round 8 inch pan. You'll probably get more height with the 8 inch pan, but I liked the convenience of the 2 loaf pans... I suppose I wanted to "stretch" the cheesecake and freeze some for later:) But beware... this cheesecake disappears fast... real fast. It's just so easy to eat more than a slice:). Hope you enjoy...
For the eggs: It is easier to separate eggs while still cold than at room temp. So you may want to separate the eggs and then bring them to room temp. I kept my eggs out for about 4 hours.
How I whipped my egg white mixture: I whipped the egg whites till foamy (speed 6 on Kitchenaid)... for approximately 1 1/2-2 minutes. Added cream of tartar, whisked for an additional 15 seconds (speed 6). I then slowly added the sugar while beating the egg whites for another 1 minute or so (speed 6 with a few bursts of speed 10)... until I had soft peaks (peak folds over itself).
For the cream cheese mix: I ended up using only 225 grams of cream cheese (original used 250grams)... this way I only use 1 package instead of 1 package and a tiny bit of another. Also if your cream cheese mixture with the flour and eggs are super lumpy, you may want to sieve the mixture to make it smooth.
For the dry mix( flour, cornstarch and salt): I ended up using all purpose flour for mine, original recipe uses cake flour... I adjusted quantity of the flour and cornstarch a tiny bit and measured in cups as well( fluffing the flour, scooping(w/out packing), and leveling). You may be able to substitute some of the flour with matcha(green tea powder)... for a more traditional Japanese cheesecake flavor.
For the flavorings: Lemon juice, zest, orange oil, can be substituted with orange juice, vanilla or other flavoring of choice.
Folding the egg whites into the cheese batter: You will need to thoroughly mix the beaten egg whites into the cheese batter, otherwise you will get a dense eggy bottom and the egg whites will be too airy on top if not fully incorporated... but caution needs to be taken when folding as you don't want to deflate the egg whites. A gentle and light hand needs to be applied.
For the water bath:I used a roasting pan that I filled with 1/2 inch of water, placed it in the lower 1/3 rack of oven( I don't have a bottom heating element on my oven and this ensures you are not close to the top heating element... if it's placed to close to the heating element it will make the cheesecake crack) in the last 5 minutes of preheating.... then added the filled cheesecake pans and baked as directed. If you are using removable bottom pans, then you will need to wrap the pan really well in aluminum foil, so water won't seep in.
Baking the cheesecake: I ended up covering the cheesecake lightly with aluminum foil(making sure the aluminum foil didn't touch the cake at all), after 20 minutes baking time... to prevent overbrowning. Also, you may want to cook the cheesecake a bit longer( 5-10 minutes) just to be on the safe side... so that your cake won't collapse.
Cooling the cheesecake: I left my cheesecake in the turned off oven... with the oven door ajar... to cool down for 10 minutes, but you may want to leave yours for a bit longer, like 20 minutes( I was in a hurry:)) . This just takes another step of caution so your cake won't collapse on you.
You will need: adapted from Diana's Desserts... quantity adjustments and cup measurements(fluffing the flour, scooping(w/out packing), and leveling) are listed below. Please look over original recipe as I adjusted my cream cheese, flour and cornstarch amounts slightly.
140 grams(1/2 cup + 3 TBS)super-fine granulated sugar( process regular sugar in food processor until fine)
6 egg whites, room temp
6 egg yolks, room temp
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
50 grams(4TBS) unsalted butter
225 grams(8 oz) full fat cream cheese, room temp
100 ml whole milk
1 TBS lemon juice, optional
1 tsp. lemon zest, optional
a few drops of orange oil, optional
55 grams(1/3 cup+1 TBS) all purpose flour
25 grams( 2 TBS+1 tsp) cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
- The day you are planning on making the cheesecake... Take out eggs and bring to room temperature... and the cream cheese.
- Lightly grease and line the bottom and sides of the pan you are using with greased parchment paper. I like to leave an overhang on all sides. Make sure you grease the parchment paper well, so you won't have the cheesecake crack.
- Gather your ingredients (mise en place)... and process the sugar, if yours isn't superfine. Measure your ingredients beforehand.... and sift together the flour, cornstarch and salt.
1. Melt cream cheese, butter and milk over a double boiler. Cool the mixture.
~Preheat oven to 325 deg F~
2. To the cooled cheese mixture, fold(whisk) in the sifted flour, the cornstarch, salt.... then add the egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest or flavoring of choice and mix well.... try to get out all the lumps that may form as much as possible.
3. Whisk egg whites until foamy, add cream of tartar, whisk for 15 seconds or so until combined. Add in the sugar and whisk until soft peaks form.
4. Scoop out a cupful of beaten egg whites and mix it into the cheese mixture. Mix and thoroughly combine. Fold the rest of the beaten egg whites in batches.... trying to be very gentle so that you do not deflate the air bubbles, but folding thoroughly. The batter should double in quantity at the end of the folding.
5. Pour the batter into 2 well greased parchment lined 9x5 loaf pans(you could use an 8-inch round cake pan, as per original recipe, if you want. It should rise higher than in the loaf pans, but you want the parchment to be 2 inches or so above the rim of the pan.
6. Bake cheesecake in a water bath( roasting pan filled with 1/2 inch hot water)... for 1 hour 10 minutes or until set and golden brown at 325 degrees F.... remember bottom 1/3 of oven. Place 2 aluminum foil sheets lightly over the pans if the cheesecake starts to brown too quickly... I placed mine after 20 minutes into the baking time.... if you find the top is too light towards the end of the cooking time, remove the foil to further brown the last couple of minutes or so.
~ You may want to cook the cheesecake a bit longer( 5-10 minutes depending on your oven) just to be on the safe side that your cake won't collapse. Allow the cheesecake to cool in the turned off oven for 10-30 minutes for a drier cake... this takes another step of caution so your cake won't collapse on you.
7. When cheesecake is cooled, trim edges and cut in 11/2-2 inches rectangular pieces.... or squares. Top powdered sugar, cocoa, matcha powder( if you like), or a thin layer of strawberry jam and whipped cream topping. Why, you could add any icing, ganache, cherry topping, or syrup of choice... be creative and use what you like. You could eat it plain, too:)