matcha cheesecake

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the other day, my sister asked me for a matcha cheesecake recipe. after a busy june, I jumped at the chance to tie on my apron and pull out the kitchenaid for some recipe testing. I had also encountered some recent inspiration while dining at susanna foo’s newest venture, suga, when I had the chance to meet susanna foo herself and gain some insight into her mentality as a chef.

two decades ago, susanna foo’s eponymous restaurant in philly redefined chinese food in america, educating americans who were lucky enough to dine at her restaurant about the true pinnacles of chinese cuisine (with some french flair) during a time when most americans thought chinese cuisine consisted of moo shu pork and general tso’s chicken. to this day, one of my favorite dishes remains her take on squirrel fish (松鼠桂鱼), and my father owns and heavily uses her cookbooks.

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while sitting at the table next to ours, susanna foo tasted the potstickers, which she ate with no sauces or garnishes. she then critiqued the humble dish in the way only a serious, trained chef can – she noted they lacked salt, and that they were not juicy enough. until she mentioned it, I had thought the dumplings were honestly quite good, but when she pointed it out, I too began to note the nuances. after leaving the restaurant that night, I continued to reflect on the restless nature of good chefs as they constantly search for that perfect flavor and texture profile. even at the age that most people begin to think about retirement, susanna was still tasting, taking notes, and thinking of ways to improve.

while I will never pretend to have the training or the palate of a professional – as demonstrated by the ever-present cracks on my cheesecakes – I am constantly in awe of their commitment to improvement and can only hope that I’ve learned something from them.

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makes one 9-inch cheesecake

cookie crust
1 1/4 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (I used ~20-24 oreos, cream scraped off)
1 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
cheesecake
680 g cream cheese, room temperature
113.5 g crème fraîche, divided
2 tbsp culinary-grade matcha powder
350 g granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
swirl
28 g crème fraîche
1 tsp matcha powder
1 tbsp powdered sugar

adrianna adarme. matcha swirl cheesecake. a cozy kitchen. 10 june 2015. accessed 7 july 2017.
cookie crust|1 preheat oven to 350ºF. in a small bowl, mix together the cookie crumbs, sugar, salt, and melted butter.
2 add the crust mixture into a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly onto the bottom of the pan until packed tightly.
3 bake for 8-10 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool completely. wrap the bottom of the spring form pan in foil to waterproof it.
cheesecake|1 in a small bowl, whisk together the matcha with 28g of crème fraîche until all the matcha lumps are gone.
2 in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add cream cheese and beat until smooth and fluffy (~2 minutes). add the matcha mixture, the remaining crème fraîche (~85 g), and the sugar, and beat until combined.
3 with the mixer on medium, add the eggs one at a time, waiting until each egg is incorporated before adding the next one. add the vanilla extract and salt.
swirl|1 in a small bowl, whisk together the crème fraîche until smooth.
matcha, and powdered sugar
assembly|1 pour the matcha cream cheese filling into the springform pan and smooth out the top with a spatula. make sure it reaches the edges of the pan (I like to give the pan a few hard raps on the countertop).
2 make little dollops of the swirl mixture on the surface of the cheesecake. take a skewer or knife and marble the dollops.
3 place in a roasting pan on the middle rack of the oven, then fill the roasting pan with 2 inches of hot water. bake for 45-50 minutes, rotating once halfway through the baking time, until the cheesecake is set at the edges but still jiggly in the center. (if your cheesecake is browning too fast, tent it with foil.)
4 place on a cooling rack to cool for 30 minutes, then in the fridge to set for at least 3 hours. slice and serve.

pumpkin cheesecake brownies

pumpkin cheesecake brownie 2

before I moved out of the dorms my junior year, I fancied myself to be a fairly good baker. time has since taught me that I gratuitously overestimated my abilities. case in point: twice I experimented with pumpkin desserts, and twice I failed.

senior year of high school, I was gifted a terrible compilation of “essential baking recipes”. with characteristic stubbornness, I kept trying failed recipe after failed recipe until, after the worst banana bread ever created (seriously, how did the book author mess up banana bread?!), I threw the book away. but alas, before I did so, I tried a cinnamon sweet potato muffin recipe, and gifted the muffins to teachers who I hoped would write my college recommendations.

sometimes people ask me if I wish I’d done anything differently in high school. pretty high on my list: don’t give tasteless, mildly mushy baked goods to people who could decide your future.

my second attempt was a brownie swirled with pumpkin purée – basically a sadder, blander version of these amazing pumpkin cheesecake brownies from baked occasions. my friend had invited me to hang out with his beautiful actor-dancer friends. these kids were a few weeks out from winter showcases and what did I bring them? some calorie-loaded gifts. suffice to say they were not a hit. as one girl muttered under her breath, “I’m not wasting my calories on this.” (rude, but accurate.)

since then, I’ve learned quite a bit: first, pumpkin purée can be quite bland, and as the starbucks pumpkin spice latte has taught me, much of the so-called “pumpkin” flavor comes instead from the spices. second, when pumpkin is involved, you can never have too much cinnamon. third, not everything has to be a success – learning to cook and bake has at times been incredibly humbling.

after all the wonderfully awkward social situations I’ve caused with fire alarms and hours-late birthday cakes and bad baked goods, I have learned much from my failures and have come to appreciate the successes that much more. fudgey and moist with creamy swirls of spiced pumpkin cheesecake throughout, these pumpkin cheesecake brownies are a real deal.

pumpkin cheesecake brownie 1
makes one 9•13in pan

pumpkin cheesecake
1 package (8oz/226g) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp (75g) sugar
3/4 cup (178g) pumpkin purée
1 large egg yolk
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ginger
brownie
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp (105g) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
8 oz (225g) dark chocolate (60-72% cacao), chopped
1 1/2 sticks (170g) unsalted butter, cubed
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp (85g) light brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

matt lewis, renato poliafito. baked occasions.new york: stewart, tabori, and chang, 2014.

cheesecake|1 using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy. add pumpkin, egg yolk, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger, and mix again until well-blended. cover and refrigerate while you make the brownie layer.
brownie|1 butter sides and bottom of 9x13in pan. if pan is light-colored/glass, preheat oven to 350ºF (I used a dark-colored pan at 330ºF.) line the pan with parchment paper, and butter the parchment.
2 in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, and salt.
3 place chocolate (I used dark chocolate chips) and butter in a large, heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water (double-boiler method), stirring occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted smooth, and combined. turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add both sugars. whisk until completely combined, then remove bowl from pan. add two eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. add the remaining egg and vanilla extract and whisk until just combined.
4 sprinkle flour mixture over chocolate mixture. using a spatula, fold them gently together until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
5 pour 2/3 brownie batter into the prepared pan and smooth on top. pour the pumpkin cheesecake mixture over the brownies and smooth into an even layer. drop the remaining 1/3 brownie batter in heaping tablespoons on top of pumpkin layer. use a knife to gently pull through batters to create a swirl.
6 bake, rotating the pan halfway through baking time, for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs. let cool completely in the pan.
7 brownies can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.