Tuesday, November 27, 2007

taro cheesecake



It's really been way too long since I've posted. Which doesn't mean I have not been cooking. Exactly the opposite, indeed. Prepping for turkey week, cooking two gargantuan meals, and hostessing a dinner party, all while battling a deathly cold, really took the wind out of my sails. So I'm more than pleased to be back in a semi-normal routine again, if at least for the next two weeks or so before I leave the country, again.


These little tubers may not be much to look at, but they are a staple in many indigenous peoples' diets all over the world. What makes them so good for cheesecake? Well, not only their creamy flavor, when cooked, but also their high levels of starch that partners with the tangy cream cheese to form a dense, cohesive, and rich texture. Some varieties of taro even exude a beautiful pale purple hue, that adds a lovely tint to the foods they enrich.

I have always loved eating sweet taro filling in steamed and baked buns, a popular snack in China and Taiwan. Taro chips and fries are other types of snack variants. It tastes like an earthier potato, with the textural sensation of a piece of play putty. The longer you break it down, the starchier and looser it becomes, and when you add enough sugar to the mash, it will become obvious why this plant has been a native food of so many tribal cultures for thousands of years.


Taro Cheesecake
makes one 9" cake

Crust:
1 heaping cup vanilla wafers
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp roasted unsalted cashews
pinch salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
3 8-0z. blocks of cream cheese
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups mashed cooked taro
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. For the Crust: Preheat oven to 325F. In a food processor, pulse until well mixed the wafers, sugar, cashews and salt. Pour out into a mixing bowl, drizzle the melted butter over top and mix together until a wet, sandy texture forms. Press this evenly into the bottom of a 9" springform pan, and bake to set, about 12-15 minutes. Remove and cool. Cover the outside of the pan in 2 layers of aluminum foil.

2. To Prepare the Taro: Wash 4-5 medium size taro root. Steam for 30 minutes and let cool to room temperature. With a paring knife, peel away the skins, and cut the root into 1/2" cubes. In a food processor, puree the taro until smooth, in pulses, each time adding 1 Tbsp of water. You will have a sticky paste at the end.

3. For the Filling: Make sure the cream cheese is at room temperature. With a mixer, beat the cream cheese smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar, beat for another 30 seconds to incorporate. Add the eggs and yolks, one at a time, while continuously mixing. Add in the rest of the ingredients, and blend well so that no visible clumps remain. Pour the batter into your prepared springform pan.

4. Prepare a bain-marie (water bath): Place your springform in the middle of a roasting pan. Pour enough boiling water into the pan so that the level comes to halfway up the side of the springform.

5. Bake at 325F for 1 hour 20 min, or until the top of the cheesecake looks set, slightly wobbly, but not dried and cracked. Turn off the oven, and crack open the oven door. Cool for 30-45 minutes, remove pan from oven and let the cake come to room temperature, out of the water bath. Remove the springform, cover and chill to set for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. To serve, cut into wedges.

5 comments:

roopa said...

I love your Asian twists on classic desserts!

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