Thursday, April 30, 2015

French Cheesecake - Tourteau Fromager... You gotta make it!

Here in the Bay Area the sun is getting strong – more like summer than spring. We are having a long drought in California, and the green of winter/spring is already turning brown. My small backyard is more like a jungle than usual for late April… and at its unruly peak. Now is the time to enjoy the cool evenings, which make me think about warm French springs, fresh goat cheese, and… cheesecake!

In France you often see this cake in the cheese shop rather than pastry shops. It is made with fresh goat cheese and baked in a very hot oven, which is why the top is dark but the inside is soft and moist. If you are interested to see what the traditional/original Tourteau Fromager looks like,
check these images.

It’s nothing like the typical American cheesecake. I’ve been baking this quite often recently and never get tired of it; I think because it is so light, not too sweet, and perfect to eat with fresh strawberries (another one of my favorite things about spring). I enjoy a small slice of the cake with a good cup of tea, or even a small glass of Cognac or other bandy after dinner.

You may use Fromage Blanc (farmers cheese) if, like some of my friends, you don’t like goat cheese. Whichever cheese you use, this is sure to be une découverte magnifique!  

French Cheesecake (Tourteau Fromager) -- using soft fresh goat cheese

Recipe adapted and modified from My Paris Kitchen, by David Lebovitz  

For one 9-inch springform pan (serves 10-12)

Sweet pastry dough (Pâte Sablée):
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
4 ounces (110g) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
2 tablespoons water

10 ounces mild fresh goat cheese (or Fromage Blanc)
2 tablespoons sour cream or crème fraiche
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Cognac or brandy (optional)
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
Scant ½ cup (60g) all-purpose flour

Fresh berries in season (optional) as garnish


1.      To make crust, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl, by hand), combine the flour, sugar and salt. Add the chilled butter and beat on low until the butter is crumbled and mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the eggs and ice water and beat until the dough comes together.
Gather the dough and shape into a flat disk. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to one day.

2.      Preheat the oven to 425F (210C).

3.      Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a 15-inch circle. Fit the dough into a 9-10 inch springform pan, lifting the sides of the dough and releasing it to ease the dough into the corner of the pan without stretching it, then press it gently to adhere it to the sides. Trim any overhang with a sharp knife.

4.      To make filling, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl, by hand), beat the goat cheese with the sour cream, half of the sugar, the vanilla, and the cognac on medium speed until well combined. Replace the paddle attachment with the whip attachment and add the egg yolks. Beat on medium-high speed (or use a sturdy whisk and whip by hand) until smooth, then mix in the flour.

5.      In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold their shape.  Add the remaining sugar and whip until the whites hold their shape when you lift the whip attachment. Fold one-third of the whites into the goat cheese mixture, and then fold in the remaining whites in two batches, just until you no longer see any streaks of egg white in the batter.

6.      Scrape the batter into the dough-lined pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 20 minutes without opening the oven door. Decrease the oven temperature to 375F (195C), and continue to bake for 15 minutes. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack, and then carefully remove the sides of the springform pan. Slice and serve the cake at room temperature.