Tarte Au Fromage Blanc

This is Rachel Khoo's delightful take on a cheesecake from her book, My Little French Kitchen. This cheesecake gets it's height from a meringue base.

Introduction

Preparation time: 30 minutes     Resting time: 1 1/2 hours     Cooking time: 1 1/4 hours

When asked to imagine a cheesecake, almost everyone thinks of the famous New York incarnation. well, Alsace is the home of the French cheesecake, and it is by no sheer coincidence that they also happen to produce the most unctuous and creamy fromage blanc in France. Contrary to popular belief that French food is very rich, Alsacian cheesecake is remarkably light and airy, and even lends itself to using fat-free fromage blanc (although I tend to go for 15 per cent). While the New York version relies on thick cream and cream cheese, the French cousin gets its lift from a billowy meringue base.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

60g butter, softened
30g icing sugar
a pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
90g plain white flour
For the sweet pastry dough:
For the filling:
2 egg yolks
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g icing sugar
40g cornflour
50g milk powder
300g fromage blanc, thick Greek yoghurt or quark
7 egg whites

Essential kit

You will need a 24cm springform cake tin.

Instructions

Equipment: a 24cm springform cake tin, greased and base-lined with baking paper. Wrap a double layer of foil around the outside and the base to make it watertight.

First make your pastry. Using a wooden spoon, beat together the butter, icing sugar and salt until soft and creamy. Mix in the egg yolks to make a smooth paste, then add the flour. Use a pastry scraper or a fork to 'chop up' the mixture until it has a sandy texture, making sure you incorporate all the flour into the butter. Then, using your hands, squash the mix into a ball. Transfer this to the prepared cake tin and use the palm of your hand and a spatula to carefully flatten it out to evenly cover the base of the tin. Prick the pastry base with a fork and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Bake the pastry base for 15 minutes or until golden, then remove from the oven and leave to cool. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Whisk the egg yolks with the lemon zest, vanilla and half the icing sugar until thick and creamy. Beat in the cornflour and milk powder followed by the fromage blanc.

In a separate grease-free glass or metal bowl begin to whisk the egg whites with a couple of tablespoons of the remaining icing sugar. When the whites are foamy, add the lemon juice and the rest of the icing sugar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Beat one-third of the egg whites into the fromage blanc until smooth - make sure there are no lumps. Delicately fold in the rest of the egg whites.

Place the foil-wrapped cake tin in a large, deep roasting tray and pour in the mixture. Spread out with a spatula to create an even surface. Pour water into the tray to a depth of about 2cm. Carefully place in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 120°C. Bake for an hour then leave to cool in the oven for another hour or so with the door open. Run a sharp knife around the inside edges of the tin before un-moulding the cheesecake.

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