Cheesecake Two Ways
March 6th, 2011 by

Chicory Cheesecake with Macerated Figs, Poached Pears, Chocolate Raisin Sauce and Creme Fraiche Ice Cream

My boss has recently started to think about putting a wintery cheesecake on the menu to replace one of the dishes that seems more connected to the fall. I got excited by this and started making trials for Sunday supper. I made two that were almost exactly the same except I changed the peripheral flavors, keeping main concepts – a rich and creamy, cream-cheese based cheesecake, pears, a thick sauce and the plating.

The cheesecake pictured above is heavily infused with chicory and sits on a chocolate-espresso, graham-cracker crust. Chicory used in this manner comes from a tuber in the endive family. It is dried and ground, and is frequently used as a coffee additive. When ground it looks like coffee but has a higher acidity with earthy, chocolate notes. To accent this I made a thick chocolate raisin sauce with rich, deep, dark 72% chocolate and fruity, sweet red raisins. (This is an example of when the concepts in my head don’t come to fruition. I expected this would taste – earthy, acidic, sweet, fruity and it did have all of those components; what I hadn’t anticipated was that it also tasted exactly like a raisinette. However, I like raisinettes, and the sauce did work with the other components so I used it.) I then poached dried figs in armangnac, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar until they were soft and pliant. When I drained the figs, I used the poaching liquid with the addition of a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice to poach the pear cubes. The addition of the lemon juice did two things, it kept the pears from browning too quickly and it changed the poaching liquid enough so that while the two poached items went well together, they didn’t taste the same. I added to this a creme fraiche ice cream because it’s creaminess and light tanginess pulled the whole plate together. I could try to convince you that the addition of the micro greens and pomegranate seeds were for their complex earthiness and subtle tart sweetness or I could just admit that they are there for color.

This turned out to be a delicious dish, but it couldn’t go on the menu. We currently have a chocolate espresso cake on the menu, and this dish, with the chocolate in the crust and the chicory, was deemed too similar. So the next week I tried again.

Chai Cheesecake with Jasmine Poached Pears, Coconut-Ginger Sauce, Lychee and Kaffir Lime Sorbet

For my second shot at cheesecake, I wanted to play with Asian flavors but I continued with the infused drink concept and used a house-made, spicy chai powder to infuse the cheesecake. This was baked on crumbly gingersnap crust. This time I poached the pears in jasmine tea with a little honey. Jasmine can be an overly aggressive flavor and, when pushed, can quickly begin to taste like soap. So I only poached the pears in the tea for a few minutes, just until the jasmine had seeped into the pears enough to be noticeable but not enough to be overwhelming, then I drained them, and finished poaching them in water. The cheesecake sits upon a toasted coconut and ginger spread. To make this I took a can of coconut milk and boiled it in a low oven with a little sugar and a fair amount of fresh ginger until the proteins in the coconut milk began to toast, the sugar cooks like in jam, and enough water has evaporated to make the mixture thick and viscous. We also use this jam at brunch and I have to admit it is delicious. This is topped off with a lychee and kaffir lime sorbet. The first time I made this I just tried to infuse lychee juice with kaffir lime and, while it was good, I found it a little lack luster. For this batch I got whole lychees and roasted them and then pureed them with kaffir lime.

This really wasn’t a bad dish but it just wasn’t as good as the chicory cheesecake and so it too will not be going on the menu.

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