No, it is not a mistake, I did not misspell cheesecake, I am actually talking about a cheese pie. You see, cheesecakes have not been popular in my country until about ten years ago. Now they can be found in every cake shop and store, but we have been waiting for a very long time to know what was all the fuss with NY Style Cheesecakes. We did, however, have cheese based desserts – crepes filled with cream cheese and raisins (would you like to see the recipe?), cheese filled rolls and strudels and cheese pies.
This is such a delicious cake, I love it so much. We used to bake it often because just like apple pie, it can be served warm or cold so it is both refreshing in the summer and comforting in winter. It is just what it sounds like – cream cheese filling sandwiched between two layers of basic pie crust. Does it get any simpler… and better?
I know that there are at least so many variations of cream cheese as there are different recipes for the cheesecake, so here is what I am using. Here we are used to fresh soft cheese which resembles riccotta or cottage cheese in texture. I don’t really know how to describe the taste… It is not so salty, but the flavour is a bit stronger and not as neutral as packed cream cheese is. I guess fresh ricotta is most similar to this kind, but feel free to use whichever kind you prefer. I am sure it will taste delicious because it has all the good ingredients.
If you like, add some lemon zest to the filling, the cheese pie will be even more refreshing that way. This time I left it plain, to enjoy the full flavour of cream cheese and flaky pie crust.
preparation time: about 1 hour, includes minimum time for cooling the dough
baking time: 45 minutes, 170°C (340 F)
baking pan size: 22×30 cm (8,6×12 in)
Ingredients for the pie crust:
300 g flour
pinch of salt
60 g granulated white sugar
180 g butter
1 Tbsp sour cream
Ingredients for the filling:
1 whole egg, separated
400 g fresh (cream) cheese
80 granulated white sugar
100 ml plain yoghurt or sour cream
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp flour
*optional: lemon zest or raisins
1. First, make the pie crust. Combine flour, salt and sugar in a bigger bowl.
2. Add butter, cold from the fridge and cut into small pieces and then work it into the flour using your fingertips or a food processor. You are looking for the butter to be in small chunks well distributed throughout the flour mixture.
3. Add egg yolk and mix it into the mixture to form dough. If it is too crumbly to put together, add a tablespoon of cold water or milk until you get a texture of a pie crust. You will know it is perfect when it is still dry and crumbly, but if you take a small bit and squeeze it in your palm or pinch it together, it will stay together.
4. Divide it in two parts – 2/3 and 1/3. Wrap each part separately in plastic wrap and put it into fridge to cool for at least an hour.
5. Then make the filling. Start by separating an egg. Remember you still have an egg white left from making a pie crust. Beat two eggwhites using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk extension into soft peaks. In a separate bowl (using a whisk or a paddle attachment, depending on the kind of mixer you have) beat the cream cheese and sugar until it is really soft and creamy and sugar is well distributed throughout the cheese.
6. Mix in egg yolk, yoghurt or sour cream, a tablespoon of flour and additional flavourings if you are using any. Mix everything shortly on low speed.
7. Finally, using a rubber spatula, gently fold egg whites into the cheese mixture and combine everything until smooth.
8. Roll the bigger part of the dough and cover the bottom of the baking pan. I used parchment paper, but I would recommend using aluminum foil or simply butter+flour to coat the bottom instead. I did that with my poppy-seed pie to compare and prefered the result.
9. Pour the cheese filling into the pie crust and cover with a smaller part of dough.
You can do this in any way you like, but I find that with soft fillings such as cream cheese this method works best: make sure the dough is really chilled (if you have only half an hour for the dough to cool, you can put the smaller part in the freezer) and then use a box grater to grate the dough on top of the pie. Use bigger holes on the grater, not the finest ones. This is very easy to do, looks great, makes the top crust nice and crunchy and allows the filling to “breath” – therefore, you don’t need to prick it before baking, as you should always do when making classic top pie crust.
Alternatively, you can simply roll the dough and gently put it on top, prick it using a fork so the steam can escape from the filling while baking (this ensures even baking). Or make a net using thin stripes of dough… be creative and have fun.
10. Bake in a preheated oven at 170°C for about 45 to 50 minutes. The top should be lightly golden brown, but the center might still be slightly wobbly.
11. Let the pie rest for at least half an hour because it may fall apart if you cut into it right away. I know it will be hard to resist and I personally like it best warm, but bare in mind that the more it cools (over night if possible), the easier it will be to cut beacuse the cheese filling needs to set. Enjoy with a cup of milk or tea.