Full disclosure... I am not a baker. I used to bake a lot when I was in high school, specially during summer vacations. I would bake anything -- peanut butter cookies, oatmeal cookies, ensaymada, layer cakes, pies of all sorts -- we had a really nice oven, a professional mixer, a cabinet full of all the baking tools. But after some time I realised that the exactness, the preciseness of baking was just too much for my unconstrained and free wheeling self.
One afternoon a few weeks ago, I was cleaning out the kitchen cabinets and came upon a few survivors of those summers, many many years ago -- odds and ends of spatulas, measuring spoons, a pastry cutter, my old rolling pin ... so I decided I would try and bake something again.
A simple cheesecake is one of the easiest things to make and I prefer them baked and not frozen.
I decided to start with that. We had a basket of ripe mangoes so I thought that I would bake a mango cheesecake. Instead of using the traditional graham cracker crust, I decided to experiment by using local kamachile cookies, from Pavino's bakery in Lucban.
The kamachile cookies were easy enough to turn into evenly sized crumbs -- I just used my marble almirez.
Mix the crumbs with sugar and melted butter to form the cheesecake crust.
I scooped out large slices of mangoes -- nothing tastes quite as good as ripe Philippine mangoes.
The mango slices are then pureed -- in a blender or a food processor until smooth. You need 2 cups of mango puree for this cheesecake.
My kamachile crust turned out nice and fragrant after 12 minutes in the oven. Since I couldn't taste it, I wondered if it would work as well as the traditional graham cracker crust. But then again, this is probably why baking is not for me -- I just can't seem to stick to the classic recipe.
After incorporating the mango puree, the filling takes on a nice yellow colour -- I can't wait to put it in the oven and see how my mango cheesecake will turn out!
I refrigerated the cheesecake overnight, to make it set. The next morning, it was a our breakfast treat. I'm extremely happy to report that the kamachile crust tasted great -- with more flavour than a graham cracker crust. While it was perfectly thin, it held up to being sliced and didn't crumble at all!
My crust experiment was a success -- no more graham cracker crusts for me!
The cheesecake itself was nicely creamy without being heavy or dense, the mangoes added a light touch. The creaminess of the cheese was complemented by the inimitable taste of ripe mangoes and had the right zesty note at the very end.
Making a cheesecake was a great way to start baking again, it's simple and easy to make.
And if I may say so myself, the result was definitely reassuring and rewarding -- perhaps there are more baked goods in my future.
Here's my recipe for Mango Cheesecake with Kamachile Crust (adapted from Epicurious.com)
kamachile cookies, enough to make 1 1/2 cups of kamachile crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
6 tbsps. unsalted butter, melted
Ripe mangoes, enough to make 2 cups of mango puree
3 packs of cream cheese
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tsps. vanilla extract
4 large eggs
How to Make
For the crust:
Pre-heat the oven to 325F or 160 Celsius. Lightly butter bottom of springform pan.
Mix together kamachile crumbs and sugar. Add melted butter and mix evenly until moistened.
Press crumb mixture on bottom of buttered pan and bake until set, about 12 minutes.
Cool completely. Don't turn off the oven.
Puree mangoes until smooth, make 2 cups. Beat together cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Since I don't have a mixer, I had to make sure that I really blended the ingredients well.
After all eggs have been added, slowly pour mango puree and mix well until completely blended.
Pour filling over crust in pan.
Bake cake in 325F/160C until cake is set and golden around edges, about 1 hour and 25 minutes.
Cool cake one hour then refrigerate uncovered overnight.
Transfer cake to platter, slice and serve with ripe mango wedges.