When I first became a Chef, I must have spent many months going through various culinary websites for inspiration, ideas and direction. One of the sites I came across belonged to David Lebovitz. I guess he intrigued me because he also made a change in his life moving from the US to France. I liked the way he poked fun at his handicaps in speaking the language, understanding the customs etc. But he always ended up with a great recipe. So much so that he put together a book – My Paris Kitchen, of which I am the proud owner.

This is an adaptation of his French Cheesecake. All I did was write the steps in my own words, this recipe is his creation. What intrigued me when I read this recipe was that there is no cream cheese – go figure, and his description of the cake – its blackened surface, and the high heat at which the cheesecake cooks.

It has one of my favorite ingredients – goat cheese, in it. Simple, rich and decadent. There are 5 eggs in this recipe. Yolks are added to the goat cheese and then whipped whites are gently – and in stages, folded into the yolk mixture.  This yields a soft interior when baked. My family loves cheesecakes but not the heaviness. If you’ve attended my classes at Loblaw’s, Longo’s or LCBO (to mention a few), you know I always tell the story of getting to a lighter textured cake. I discovered using light and regular fat cream cheese yields a delightfully light cake without compromising on taste. My crème brûlée cheesecake calls for 4 packages of regular cream cheese. The first time I made it, it had marvelous flavor but really heavy. I then experimented by substituting low fat for regular fat. Now if a cheesecake recipe calls for 3 packages of cream cheese, I use 2 light and 1 regular, if 4 I use 2 regular and 2 low fat. Experiment with your own favorite recipe.

I do remember seeing these in Paris a few years back, but didn’t really try any – I love to bake, but not necessarily eat, sweet things. I am so looking forward to trying it in the country of origin next time I’m there. The butter I’m using in the crust is Churn 84 which is a European style butter.  I must say I did like this cheesecake, the taste, the texture. The only thing missing is the taste of the farm fresh eggs, crème fraiche and the atmosphere of a little cafe overlooking the street.

Make this cheesecake, it comes together beautifully well. Don’t be scared of the charred surface, it lends the tiniest amount of flavor to the finished product and compliments the delightfully spongy creamy inside. Oh one word of caution, if you don’t get the charring effect or if it is not evenly charred on the surface – that’s what icing sugar is for, maybe even some fresh berries. As always – enjoy!

For the Crust:
1½ cups (210g) all-purpose flour
2 tsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
8 tbsp. (1/2 cup, 115g) unsalted Churn 84, European Style butter, cold and cubed
1 large egg
1-2 tbsp. ice water (start with one, add up to 2 as needed – mine only needed 1 tbsp. of water)

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar and salt – beat on low to mix
Add the cubed butter and beat it into the flour mix – run for about 2 minutes until the mixture resembles cornmeal
Add the egg and beat
When mixed add the ice water – 1 tbsp. at a time and continue to beat – be patient and see if it forms a dough, about 30 seconds – if not, add a little more water up to 1 additional spoon (total of 2), I only needed 1 tablespoon of water
Move the dough to the saran wrap, pat into a disc and refrigerate for 30 minutes

For the Filling:
10 oz (285g) fresh goat cheese at room temperature
2 tbsp. sour cream or crème fraiche – I used sour cream
1 ¼ cups (250g) granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cognac or brandy – I used Calvados
5 large eggs at room temperature – separated
Scant ½ cup all-purpose flour

Pre-heat the oven to 450f
Have a 9” spring form pan ready
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 15” circle
Carefully place it over the tin, and press into the edges to ensure no air pockets exist, trim off any extra hanging dough
Using the stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the goat cheese, sour cream, half the sugar, vanilla and cognac until well combined
Replace the paddle with the whisk attachment
Add the egg yolks – I poured them into a small bowl and added it in two batches – beat until smooth
Add the flour and continue to mix until incorporated
In a separate bowl, using a hand mixer, stand mixer or whisk, beat the egg whites until bubbles start to form from whisking
Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the egg whites hold their shape – I took this instruction to mean until they formed peaks that hold their shape
Fold 1/3 of the stiff whites into the batter, when mixed add the remaining whites in 2 additions – folding gently each time until the color is uniform and no whites or yellow is showing through
Pour the batter into the dough lined pan
Place in the oven and bake at 450f for 20 minutes
At the 20 minute mark, reduce the temperature to 400f and bake for a further 15 minutes
Let cool completely before removing the spring form tin