One of my favorite desserts to make is cheesecake. The first time I ever attempted to make one was a scarring experience and a blow to my culinary ego. My best friend and I were drooling over the Friends episode where Rachel and Chandler devour cheesecake after cheesecake, even off the floor, and we were confident that we could replicate the mouthwatering treat.
We followed a recipe for a Mocha Marble Cheesecake from my mom’s Canadian Living Desserts cookbook to the letter. After hours of precisely measuring ingredients, carefully combining them and sitting in front of the oven staring at the timer, our work of art was complete, or so we thought. Beautiful on the outside and, unfortunately, disgustingly sour to the palette. Even though I ate every slice, convinced that it was an acquired taste, the only acquisition that I made was a repulsion to eating cheesecake that lasted several years.
I had no interest in ever giving cheesecake a second thought, that is, until three years ago when I learned that cheesecakes were not meant to be coddled like a meringue or watched over like a soufflé. Cheesecake is an easy dessert to make, from the base to the filling, the combination of ingredients can be at your imaginations beck and call and, to me, that was a revelation.
Looking through cookbooks from different authors and cultures, I discovered that cheesecakes could be made from a variation of ingredients. Baked or not, it could involve the traditional Philadelphia cream cheese, velvety Italian mascarpone, rich creamy ricotta, tangy Greek yogurt or, in an emergency, a combination of all. From that moment on I stopped being afraid and started envisioning the flavors and essences I would incorporate into the silky batter and crunchy crust.
This month I am visiting my family in Brazil, and no one likes to spoil my appetite more than my grandma. Still, I wanted to show her that I had learned a thing or two about baking while living abroad, and maybe even wow her with some homemade cheesecake. My inspiration for this occasion was a Brazilian play on the combination of guava paste (goiabada) and cheese, commonly known as Romeo and Juliet.
The recipe bellow is what I used to make this incredibly romantic cake. But remember, don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t find all the ingredients, most of them are interchangeable. So if you can’t find guava paste, quince paste might be easier to find for example.
Romeo and Juliet Cheesecake
Adapted from the Rose Bakery Cookbook
180 g of digestive biscuits or graham crackers, crushed
60 g of unsalted melted butter
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
Unsalted butter, for greasing
800 g of ricotta
200 g cream cheese, room temperature
130 g of caster sugar
1 egg yolk
200 ml of single cream
1 tablespoon of plain flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
2 guavas (pink), peeled and thinly sliced
150 g of guava paste (goiabada)
2 tablespoons of water
Preheat oven to 180 °C.
Butter a (10 inch) cake tin, with a removable base.
Mix the digestive biscuits or crackers with the melted butter and sugar and spread it over the base of the cake tin.
Mix all the ingredients for the filling together in the following order: cheeses, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract, eggs, cream and finally flour.
Pour mixture into the cake tin with the prepared crust and bake for 45 minutes or until just set, but slightly jiggles in the middle.
Remove from the oven and let it cool completely before spreading the topping.
While the cheesecake cools off, prepare the guava paste topping by melting the guava paste in low heat with the water. Spread it over the cool cheesecake.
Decorate it by arranging the guava slices in any design of your choosing.