Cheesecake rules go out the window with this delicious Basque method
The tarta de queso is luscious and soft with a deep golden, almost blackened top
The tarta de queso has been eaten in Spain for decades
A burnt Basque cheesecake shouldn’t work but it does. It is deliberately scorched on top, against all cheesecake rules. Over the years I have eaten, written and tested my fair share of cheesecake recipes, both baked and set, sweet and savoury, and each have their place. Lemon, chocolate, caramel, vanilla, the list goes on. Some days only a citrusy soft lemon cheesecake will do.
The Basque cheesecake, however, is in a league of its own. It is burnished on the top and smooth and set in the centre – a beautiful bake that really is a cinch to whip up. In fact, this is probably my go-to cheesecake recipe, and that is a bold statement.
When I first started making cheesecakes, the baked kind, I simply couldn’t get my head around the faff they involved. Does it really need to be cooked in a water bath? What exactly is the perfect wobble? Why is the texture chalky instead of velvety?
These questions irked me, and my bakes underwent an immense amount of trial and error. Until the cheesecakes were cool enough to remove from the tin, having waited hours for them to set properly, only then did I know if my bakes were successful. I’d like to think I have amassed a little cheesecake instinct over the years, but when I made the Basque cheesecake, all my instincts went out the window.
The tarta de queso has been eaten in Spain for decades. It is luscious and soft with a deep golden, almost blackened top, crustless, and ripping around the edges with beautiful cracks. The blistered top tastes caramelised in flavour, an attribute that comes from baking the cheesecake at a slightly higher temperature than you may be used to. Here, I’ve baked it in a square tin and cut it into bars, but it will also work perfectly in a high-sided round tin if you would prefer a wedge of cake.
The cheesecake can be chilled to speed up its setting time, but it is best eaten at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge an hour or two before serving. While it might seem like a blank canvas to which to add other flavours such as orange or lemon, it really is a triumph eaten as is. Enjoy it with a glass of sherry for a beautiful taste of Spain.