Japanese cheesecake is not the typical Asian dessert, but Japanese cheesecake is one dessert sensation that every cheesecake lovers will ask for more.
In this post I attempt to document how I make the Japanese cheesecake and love to share my experience with you.
The secret of making cotton-soft, featherlight and melt-in-the-mouth Japanese cheesecake
"The single most important technique to achieve the melt-in-the-mouth texture is to separate the egg yolk from the egg white. Beat the egg white with sugar to form meringue and add into the batter mixture, which lightens the texture significantly as it bakes."
Most people would be eager to take a look at the Japanese cheesecake recipe first, so here is the recipe. BUT please be patient to read the step-by-step guideline to make the Japanese cheesecake that follow.
The Perfect Cheesecake Recipe
Cream cheese 440g
Superfine sugar 50g
Butter 70 g
Egg yolks from 3 medium-sized eggs
Egg white from 1 and a half medium-sized eggs
Heavy cream 215g
Freshly squeezed lemon juice 24g
Egg white from 1 and a half eggs
Superfine sugar 50g
Digestive biscuit 180g
Method to make Japanese cheesecake:
1. Mix (A) with an electric mixer until it becomes fluffy and homogeneous.
2. Beat (B) with an electric mixer until the cornflour is well mixed with the egg. Combine (B) and (A) and mix well.
3. Beat (C) until it reaches a density that is able to form stiff peaks when the mixer blade is lifted up. Add to the mixture of (A) and (B).
4. Beat the egg whites with the superfine sugar over a hot water bath until soft peaks are formed. Fold the egg whites into the batter in (3).
5. Crush the biscuit and mix with the melted butter (as in E), Place the biscuit / butter in a round baking pan. Press firmly to form a solid base.
6. Pour the cheesecake batter to the biscuit base.
7. Place the unbaked cheesecake in a larger pan and add enough boiling-hot water to reach halfway up the side of the smaller pan. Place it in a preheated oven at 150 degrees Celcius for 100 minutes.
8. Remove from the oven. Keep in the chiller until it is cool.
How To Bake The Perfect Japanese Cheesecake
This may sound like bragging, but this is the method that I bake the Japanese cheesecake to achieve the result exactly as I intend. It is important to know the method to monitor the quality and get the appearance, texture, and flavor exactly as you are expecting.
Step 1-Preparing the cheese / sugar / butter mixture
I would prefer to remove the cream cheese from the fridge and leave it at room temperature (Note: I am in Malaysia- a tropical country) for at least half an hour before mixing. The cream cheese is too hard to work on with the handheld electric mixer. I leave the cheese, sugar, and butter in the mixing bowl and have a cup of coffee before returning to the kitchen. By then the cheese has softened and can be mixed easily.
How long does it needs to be mixed for? The end point is when the cheese, sugar, and butter become homogenous, i.e. there are no noticeable lumps of cheese or pieces of butter.
Step 2- Prepare the egg yolk and cornstarch mixture
Add the cornflour to the bowl with egg whites and all the egg yolks, and beat it with the hand-held electric mixer. Mix the cornstarch and eggs until there are no noticeable lumps of corn flour.
Combine the egg / cornstarch mixture with the cheese / sugar mixture. Whether you add things in stages or all at once, the result is identical. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure all the ingredients are well mixed.
Step 3- Beat the cream and lemon juice together
There isn't any special technique at this stage. Just mix the cream and lemon juice together until it forms stiff peaks when you lift up the beaters. The goal is to trap more air in the cream before adding it to the egg / cheese mixture above. The trapped air helps to form a light texture of the cheesecake.
I use heavy cream in this recipe. When you purchase the cream, check the label- it should contain about 36% of fat. I have not tried to use any other cream with lower fat content, so I stick to heavy cream in this recipe.
Step 4- Make the meringue
It is important to use a bowl which is free from oil and the egg whites that contain no specks of yolk. I usually clean the beaters with a kitchen towel and the bowl to ensure they are free from any trace of oil.
You can speed up the process by placing the bowl of egg whites on a hot water bath. I normally use stainless steel bowls as they are easy to keep clean from oil and will be heated up quickly by the hot water bath.
To begin with, beat the bowl of egg whites until it produces foam, like the appearance of the foam on a glass of beer. Then add all the sugar into it and keep beating. It is best to beat the egg whites until the soft peak stage.
It is easier to combine the egg whites with soft peaks into the egg/cream mixture. It is difficult to mix the egg whites with stiff peaks with the batter evenly, as there will be small specks of egg whites in the batter no matter how long you fold it. You may tend to fold it longer and hope that it will become a smooth texture, and this will reduce the volume of the batter, which will result in a denser cheesecake. (Not what we want for a perfect cheesecake).
Step 5- Preparing the base of the cheesecake
I do not make the base from scratch. I simply place the digestive biscuits in a plastic bag, and crush them with a rolling pin, and mix well with melted butter. (Note: Some recipes of Japanese cheesecake has no biscuit base, but myself (and my customers) prefer that).
To form the cheesecake base, pour the biscuit/butter mixture into a cake pan. Spread it out evenly and compress it to a solid flat layer.
It is important to make sure the layer of the biscuit is well-compressed. The crust will fall apart if it is not sufficiently compressed. I use a rubber mallet with a flat surface to compress it, and it works well.
Wrap the bottom of the cake pan with aluminum foil to prevent water from the hot water bath seeping into the base of the cheesecake.
Step 6- Baking
Use a springform pan to make cheesecake or a cake pan with a detachable base. Removing the Japanese cheesecake from any other type of pan is nearly impossible because the biscuit crust of the cheesecake base will fall apart. You can place a piece of baking paper in the cake pan before forming the crumb base. This will help to remove the cheesecake from the base of the cake pan.
Bake the cheesecake in a hot water bath to prevent the cake pan from overheating, which may result in overbaking the sides of the cheesecake
Fill a baking pan with boiling water and place the cake pan with the batter in it. The perfect cheesecake temperature is 150 degree Celsius for 100 minutes.
Please note that the temperature setting of most ovens may not be accurate. The actual temperature of the oven depends very much on the position of the heating elements in the oven. You may need to adjust the temperature and timing settings. However, 150 degree Celsius for 100 minutes should be quite close to the optimal setting for your oven.
Japanese cheesecake should be creamy and melt-in-the-mouth. This texture can be achieved with the above proportion of ingredients, baking temperature, and proportion. I find that the texture of the cheesecake will turn harder if I bake it for more than 100 minutes.
I prefer my Japanese cheesecake to be as plain as possible without glazing the top or decorating it. In this regard, I prefer the color of the surface to be slightly brownish. I achieve this by carefully adjusting the temperature of the top element of the oven after 100 minutes of baking. Normally the color is just right, but I will increase the top temperature to 160 degrees for an additional 5 minutes to brown it a little if necessary.
Step 7- Storing
After baking, remove the cheesecake from the oven and leave it at room temperature to let it cool. Some recipes suggest to leaving it in the oven with the oven door ajar to let it cool down slowly. I have tried it but found no significant effect. However, try this method if your cheesecake cracks as this may happen if it cools too fast.
Run a sharp blade along the sides of the cake pan to prevent the cheesecake from sticking to the sides before removing it from the pan. One thing for sure is that you may want to remove the cheesecake from the cake pan as soon as possible (why wait anyway?). However, the cheese in the cheesecake is not fully solidified yet at this point and you may end up with a cracked cheesecake if you are not careful when you remove it from the cake pan.
I wrap the sides with a transparent plastic strip to prevent them from drying. I cover the top of the cheesecake with another piece of transparent plastic since I do not intend to glaze or decorate it. A perfect Japanese cheesecake should be able to stay fresh for three to four days in the chiller.
Now it’s your turn to show me your Japanese cheesecake…
What I have written above is based on my experience since I bake the Japanese cheesecake at my cafe daily. I’d love to hear from you and encourage you to explore and improvise on my Japanese cheesecake recipe. Please leave your comments and suggestions in the comment box below. I welcome any suggestions and look forward to hearing from you.