Cuajada Cheesecake

Cheesecake number 2:  Spanish version, using cuajada.

Cuajada is a creamy dessert typical from the North of Spain, made of milk coagulated using “cuajo”.  Cuajo contains peptidases, that is, proteins that break other proteins :). These peptidases break a protein in the milk, the “casein”, and this causes the milk to go from liquid to a gel-like consistency.  This is because the casein swims in the milk forming “micelles”:  the casein molecules arrange themselves nice and cosy, hiding away from the water the parts of the protein that hate water, and that makes them soluble.  By chopping the casein molecules, the peptidases alter this micelle structure making it go solid (micelles cluster and “precipitate”).  This is also the procedure to make cheese out of milk:  acidification or proteases disrupt the casein micelle structure causing milk to “curdle”.

Cuajada can be bought as a powder that contains cuajo, starch, fructose, sugar, and some E additives.  This gives the cheesecake a very nice and characteristic milky taste.

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Cuajada Cheesecake

Ingredients for a 23-cm diameter springform:

  • 210 g digestive biscuites
  • 150 g butter
  • 500 g whipping cream
  • 100 g sugar
  • 400 g cream cheese
  • 250 ml milk
  • 24 g cuajada powder
  • a pinch of NaCl
  • 150 g raspberry jam

Crumble the cookies by placing them in a plastic bag and crushing them with a rolling pin (or use a food processor).  Mix with the melted butter and use to cover the bottom of the springform, use the bottom of a glass to press down. Place in the fridge.

Dissolve the cuajada in the milk (start by adding a very little amount of milk, and slowly add more, or it won’t dissolve).

Heat up, stirring, the cream, sugar, cheese, and salt in a pot until it starts boiling.  Add the cuajada-milk mixture and return to the heat until it starts boiling again, then remove from heat.  Let cool down a bit, but keep stirring. 

Place the warm mixture on the springform (break the flow by placing a spoon in the middle to avoid disrupting the base).  Bring back to the fridge for 4 hours or best overnight.

Add the jam on top before releasing the cake from the springform. 

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Cherry Streusel Cheesecake

Wine and cheese afternoons during working hours are fine and classy, but not worth attending if they are not crowned with a nice cheesecake. That will be my contribution to the party, it’s all about cheese after all.

Cheesecake is a Science in its own right. There are so many ways of making it as cultures involved: New York style, British style, cuajada-based, baked, twice-baked, refrigerated only… even the Japanese have a trendy variety.

I’m starting with a German cheesecake, which typically uses quark and a fresh dough base instead of buttery crushed cookies. Quark is cheese curds, i.e., the proteins that coagulate when enough acid is added to milk.

This new recipe series (look for cheesecake on the right!) is not intended to be a rigorous comparison, we would need a controlled, blinded study for that, and cheesecake is good, yes, but in moderation. Let’s instead record the results as case studies, and maybe in a little while we fancy a nice retrospective analysis based on literature data.

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Cherry Streusel Cheesecake

For the Shortcrust Pastry

  • 1 egg
  • 300 g flour
  • 150 g butter
  • 80 g sugar

Combine the ingredients until the dough is homogeneous.

Wrap in cling film and let it cool in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan.

Roll the dough and place on a 30×20 cm baking tray lined with backing paper.

Bake for 15 minutes, and increase the oven temperature to 180°C fan once the tray is out..

For the Streusel

  • 50 g butter
  • 50 g sugar
  • 100 g flour

Put the ingredients in a bowl and rub them using your index finger and thumb until the consistence resembles breadcrumbs.

Let cool in the fridge, covered.
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For the filling

  • zest of one lemon
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 180 g sugar
  • 750 g quark, 0.1% fat
  • 4 eggs
  • 80 g butter
  • 75 g wheat semolina
  • 1 tsp backing powder 
  • 1 pack of vanilla pudding powder (37g)
  • 350 g sour cherries (pitted)

Mix the quark, sugar, egg yolks and lemon (zest and juice).

Add the melted butter.

Combine the vanilla pudding powder, backing powder and semolina and mix with the quark.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed and fold into the quark filling.

Finally fold in the cherries (drained and lightly dried by tapping with paper tissue).

Pour the filling on the shortcrust pasty and extend carefully.

Finally sprinkle the streusel on top and bake at 180°C fan for 30 to 35 minutes.

Let cool and cut in squares.

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