Sunday, November 18, 2012

Goat cheesecake with pistachio crust

I've been thinking about making a goat cheesecake for a long time, and today I'm finally giving it a try. I've made cheesecake once before, about 8 years ago.  I first became interested in goat cheese cheesecake as a joke, but over time the idea grew on me.  Today I finally baked one.

The original recipe comes from boyandtherabbit's blog, with a few minor changes.  I haven't explored boyandtherabbit's blog in depth, and while the blog's author uses the word "dang" much more than I choose to I found the recipe agreeable.

The ingredients

Premium quality almond extract

The ingredients for the crust are identical to those in the original recipe, except for the last one.

Pistachio crust:

8 oz dry roasted unsalted shelled pistachios

2 tsp almond extract
Adding 1/4 tsp cardamom

1/3 cup sugar

5 tsp butter, cubed

My wife suggested that cardamom goes well with pistachio, so I added:

1/4 tsp cardamom

I sprung for the premium almond extract, which was $12.99 for 4 ounces.  I think the best expression for a situation like this is YOLO.

Some pistachios are still whole

The recipe says to blend all the crust ingredients together at the same time in a food processor on pulse.  In the recipe they say you don't want the pistachios to be the same size, but I tried it this way and found that some were ground very finely and some were still whole.  Because of complications due to the size of the cheese packages I ended up blending some more pistachios in the food processor, but this time I did the pistachios by themselves to start.  It was much easier to blend them to a good size when I waited to add the wet ingredients.  The bits were still varied in size, but without the whole pistachios.
Pressing in the crust

I used the bottom of a small glass (spoils of the free Samuel Adams brewery tour) to press in the crust and make the sides.  I found that using a twisting motion helped keep the crust from sticking to the glass as I was pressing it in.

The crust puffed up a bit

The crust goes in the oven alone at 350° for ten minutes.  I thought it was strange that it puffed up a little, and I used the bottom of the glass to press it down against the pan when I took it out of the oven.  The crust must get to room temperature before you can add the filling, so be prepared for some down time.  I used this time to let the cheeses get to room temperature for ease in blending.

I didn't follow the recipe exactly when it came to the cheeses I used.  I bought two 8 ounce packages of regular cream cheese, one 8 ounce package of Trader Joe's Chèvre goat cheese, and one 8 ounce package of Trader Joe's Honey goat cheese.  The original recipe calls for 12 ounces of goat cheese and 12 ounces of cream cheese, so I thought I would play around and see what works best.  What I had, in all, was 32 ounces of cheese for a recipe that calls for 24 ounces.

I ended up putting all the cheeses together to make one large mix that became a cheesecake and 12 cupcake-sized cakes.  NOT because of the trendiness of cupcakes, cupcake vans, cupcake wagons, Johnny Cupcakes, or any other cupcake related thing that has people lined up at least 20 deep to buy.  Really I have nothing against any of the aforementioned cupcake related things, it's more the cultish phenomenon and hefty price tags that have sprung up around them.

This is how I made the cheese filling, again, mostly because of the package sizes.  I made more pistachio crust, approximating half the above recipe.

Cheese filling:
Ready for the oven

16 ounces cream cheese

8 ounces goat cheese

8 ounces Trader Joe's honey goat cheese

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

Remember, this is enough filling for 1 1/2 cheesecakes.  I filled the cupcake tin as much as I thought was reasonable then used the rest for the large cheesecake.

The big cheesecake cooks at 325° degrees for 50 minutes.  I cooked the cupcake sized cheesecakes for about 25 minutes, also at 325°.

I completely forgot to do a water bath.  It's in the recipe, and a water bath is supposed to help cook the cheesecake evenly and prevent the top from cracking.  I think I got so excited to finally put it in the oven that I didn't double check the recipe before putting it in.  I usually have a rule: if I need to look at the recipe at all, I need to look at it after every step.  I have this rule because, unless I know a recipe so well that I don't even need to look at it, I'll forget something.  In this case I forgot the water bath.

The finished mini cheesecakes
We'll see how it comes out.  The mini cheesecakes were made with the exact same ingredients and they tasted great, but they were hard to get out of the pan without mangling the crust.  Hopefully the big cheesecake does better, but next time I will absolutely try it with the water bath.  I won't get to try the big cheesecake  until Thanksgiving; I'm sure it'll taste good, but will it hold together?

They were difficult to remove from the pan

Almost ready to eat
Now the holiday is over, and I would declare the cheesecake a partial success.  I was up against a few obstacles at the Thanksgiving dinner; for one thing, not everyone tried it.  Some people just don't like goat cheese, and no matter what you do they will never like it.  I used to think I was one of those people, but it turns out I just hadn't tried it properly.  I weep for the years I lost thinking I didn't like goat cheese.  Secondly, we had approximately one pie per person at the Thanksgiving dinner, and favorites like pecan, apple, and pumpkin were the priority.  Thanksgiving dictates that we stuff our faces with the  delicious traditional dishes leaving little room for new things.

Enough excuses.  I thought there was too much almost flavor in the crust, I would cut it down to one teaspoon next time.  I would also make a smaller cake, because unless you're at some kind of meeting of goat cheese enthusiasts most people are probably going to pass this dessert.  If you know of any goat cheese enthusiasts group please let me know how I can join up.

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