I can’t tell you how distraught I was when I saw that La Viña was closed while I was in San Sebastian. I literally saw my dreams of their creamy cheesecake with characteristic crisp-like-crème-brulee crust dissolving into the ether.
So I’m beside myself with joy when my friend and popular pastry chef, Miko Aspiras, sends me his version of what he describes as “my favorite cheesecake from San Sebastian.” The latest conception to emerge from his workshop at Le Petit Soufflé in Megamall, Miko calls it his Basque Burnt Cheesecake.
It’s a departure from the norm, there aren’t many desserts that are called “burnt” and are also, deliberately burnt. But burnt it is with a scorched surface and crinkled curves. Its remarkable appearance is attributed to a unique technique as Chef Miko affirms, “For me, the most interesting thing about this cheesecake is its baking process – high temperature, short baking time. It’s the total opposite of how I would normally bake cheesecake!”
The secret to this technique, I believe, is that the cake must be baked in a very hot oven just until it’s “burnt,” while keeping the inside moist and creamy. Its tooth-sinking texture is heavier than a Japanese-style cheesecake but much lighter than its New York-style counterpart. A dessert that encapsulates a confluence of contrasts, there’s the brittle, brown top crust protecting a pillow-soft interior bound only by eggs, cream and cream cheese, and enough sugar to suffuse it with sweetness. It’s the seemingly odd combination of burnt and creaminess that makes this dessert a marvel.
A caveat: if you prefer light and fluffy cheesecakes, you will enjoy this Basque-style version. But you may be taken aback by this if your preference is for the heartier and heavier New York cheesecakes. Chef Miko serves toasted pecans lacquered in dulce de leche as an accompaniment but I think the cheesecake is complete in and of itself, no nuts required.
Basque Burnt Cheesecake by Chef Miko Aspiras
Order in advance at 02 944 6541.