June 14, 2004
Heavenly Cheesecake with Peach Compote

Clotilde, of the Chocolate and Zucchini site, wrote recently about the Paris Potluck held a few weeks ago. Well this weekend the Critic and I both went along to Christoph and Suzanne's for the second pot luck. As usual, the food was delicious, with each one of us trying to outdo the rest. As usual, I agonised over what to bring. The Critic was in favour of a gazpacho but I didn't want to repeat myself and bring soup two times running. (This was just as well, as Christoph prepared two interesting gazpacho soups, one with strawberries and one with avacados!) In the end, I asked Christoph what would be welcome and he suggested dessert. I remembered that I had brought some cream cheese back from the UK the weekend before and decided to try my hand at something I haven't made in many years: a cheesecake.

We have our favourite supplier of cheesecake in Paris already: an American caterer and restaurant in the 16th called Percy's. They make the best cheesecake the Critic has ever tasted. So it was with great fear and trepidation that I began my own foray into the cheesecake world.

Many cookbooks and much time spent on the Internet later, I chose my recipe: Mascarpone Cheesecake from the Epicurious site and decided to add a seasonal touch by making some peach compote to compliment it.

Epicurious Mascarpone Cheesecake (as usual, my inevitable departures in parentheses...)
For crust
70 vanilla wafers (8 1/2 oz), finely ground in a food processor (2 1/3 cups) (I used about 3/4 a package of McVities Digestive Biscuits)
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled (I used slightly more butter and still felt it was too little; in the event, the crust stayed together fine and my worries were for nothing!)

For filling
20 oz cream cheese (2 1/2 eight-ounce packages), softened (I used two because that was all I had)
8 oz mascarpone cheese at room temperature (about 1 cup) (I used 8 and 3/4 oz., as that was the size of the package and I wanted to make up for the missing cream cheese)
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt (just realised I forgot the salt - obviously not essential!)

For topping
1 cup sour cream (crème fraîche)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt

Make crust:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter bottom and side of a 9-inch springform pan. (I couldn't find a springform pan on short notice and instead used a wider shallow tart pan with removeable sides.)

Stir together cookie crumbs and butter in a bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup crumb mixture for sprinkling over cheesecake, then pat remainder onto bottom and 1 1/2 inches up side of springform pan (about 1/4 inch/.5 cm thick). Put pan in a shallow baking pan and bake until golden, about 10 minutes. (I wasn't sure what this meant - did they mean a shallow baking pan with water? In any case, that was not an option as I didn't have a springform waterproof pan and the crust would have gotten flooded. Just put the pan in the oven alone.) Cool completely on a rack, about 25 minutes. Leave oven on. (I hadn't read the recipe too carefully before starting and did not realize how many times I would see "let cool completely". Running late, I let it cool less than ten minutes before proceeding to the next step.)

Make filling while crust bakes:
Beat cream cheese, mascarpone, and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium high speed until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. (If you look at this picture, you will see that I did not read the directions clearly and added the eggs with the cheese and sugar. It worked.) Add vanilla, lemon juice, and salt and mix at low speed until combined. Pour into cooled crust and bake until cake is set and puffed around edge but still trembles slightly when pan is shaken gently, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool slightly in springform pan on rack, about 20 minutes. (Cooled ten minutes...see above comments about not appreciating the time factor.) Cheesecake will continue to set as it cools. Leave oven on.

Make topping:
Stir together sour cream, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl and spoon over cheesecake, spreading gently and evenly, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edge.

Bake cheesecake until topping is set, about 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around edge to help prevent cracking. (Unable to do this as the edge of the pie tin was crinkled. Luckily the crust came out just fine!) Sprinkle top with reserved crumbs and cool completely in pan on rack, then chill, loosely covered, at least 8 hours. (Or 45 minutes before leaving for pot luck and then another couple of hours while dinner was served and eaten at Christoph and Suzanne's!)

Cooks' notes:
• Cheesecake can be chilled, loosely covered, up to 3 days.
• Cut cake with a long, thin sharp knife dipped in a tall glass of hot water.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

December 2003

The cheesecake - contrary to all my paranoid expectations - came out nearly perfect: creamy and sweet without being cloying, with a crust that miraculously stayed intact when it was served. Despite the many steps in the production (did you notice it goes in the oven THREE times?) I will definitely be keeping this recipe. The critic ate all his own piece and half of mine and kept saying in a puzzled accusatory way, "You never told me you could make cheesecake...!?!"

And it went very well with...

Peach Compote (my own recipe)

6-7 peaches
1/3 cup sugar (to taste)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 reserved peach water

This brought back my childhood in a big way because I got to use my collapsible wire basket that is just like the one my mother had when I was little. It fascinated me and I only acquired my own a few months ago (in Tunbridge Wells) after several years of searching. (Notice how you can use the handles to make a stand to drain your rinsed fruit? It collapses flat too. I love it.) Rinse your peaches and place them, in the basket, in a large pot of boiling water for about five minutes. Remove them by using a spoon to fish the basket handles out of the water and reserve 1/2 cup of the water. Refill the large pot with cold water and put the peaches back in to cool. Peel and pit the peaches and chop in small pieces. (If you didn't boil the peaches long enough it will be hard to peel - just put them back in some boiling water. It's a good idea to test a peach or two before tossing the remainder of the hot water.) Put the chopped peeled peaches in a medium saucepan with the water, the sugar and the vanilla. Stir and cook over a medium heat until the peaches are just about cooked through. Use an immersion blender to blend part of the peaches, making a thick peach sauce with plenty of chunks of peach. Taste for sugar and refrigerate. If you have any left after the cheesecake is gone, serve it with fromage frais, sweetened mascarpone or plain yogurt!

A note on the photos: I forgot to take any photos of the finished product. However, Pascale (of C'est moi qui l'ai fait fame) took many photos and has promised to cover the event in her blog. So check her site frequently and you'll probably catch a photo of the finished product!

peach compote.jpg

One last comment: if you want a delicious cheesecake without going through all this work, I highly recommend the ones at Percy's. They are not cheap (40 euros last time we bought one) but they are delicious and come with either raspberry or peach compote (or both if you ask Percy nicely).

Percy's Place
15, rue d'Auteuil 75016 PARIS
01 42 88 53 02

Posted by Meg in Sussex at June 14, 2004 5:05 AM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

Are there many Chicago food bloggers? I know about KIP, and F*** Corporate Groceries, but are there others who might want to do a Chicago bloggers' potluck?

Posted by Barrett on June 15, 2004 at 8:32 AM

Aren't there THREE Chefs Too Many in the Chicago area already? You could have a TMC reunion without the Paris contingency. (Sniff, sniff...)

Thanks for the comment - I guess this posting was not very controversial (or people fell asleep while reading it) as you're the first to say anything!

; )

Posted by Meg in Paris on June 15, 2004 at 8:49 AM
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