It seems every other post these days is of a burnt Basque cheesecake, or Tarta de Queso, inspired by the Gipuzkoan original.
I found a video of Chef Santiago Rivera from La Viña restaurant in San Sebastián and studied several recipe interpretations of the classic. It seems there are inconsistencies in the amount of eggs, temperature and bake time out there, and these versions are all worth testing. I've gone with Chef Rivera's version, the original based on his explanation and what I saw in the video.
This beauty is made with basic ingredients: sugar, flour, cream cheese, eggs & milk. Although, I do think you could probably skip the flour, since the quantity is so insignificant. I incorporated mascarpone, because I’m just not convinced cream cheese in the U.S. stacks up to what La Viña had in mind. I also added Tahitian vanilla bean. Despite its appearance, the cheesecake does not taste or smell bitter or burned; instead, finishing it at 440F gives it the flavor and aroma of dulce de leche & a caramelized, crust-like texture.
This recipe is for an 8" cake pan, and yields 6 slices.
.8 cup sugar
2 packages (16 oz) cream cheese, room temperature
4 oz mascarpone, room temperature
pinch of pure vanilla bean or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 eggs, room temperature
.8 cup cream, at room temperature
1/2 tbsp flour, sifted
1. Butter and line an 8” cake pan or springform with parchment, creasing and folding into the edges while leaving it wild around the sides. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Using a mixer, combine room temperature cream cheese and mascarpone until no longer lumpy, but smooth.
3. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until it is well integrated, approximately 2-3 minutes.
4. Slowly add eggs, one by one, mixing between each egg. Do not overmix. (La Viña notes the important of not introducing unnecessary air, but to simply combine all ingredients).
5. Add flour and salt. Mix until it's not visible.
6. Lastly, pour the cream and mix until homogenous.
7. Pour batter into pan and agitate to remove air bubbles by softly tapping it on the counter.
8. Bake for 40-50 minutes, and check after 30 minutes. If the top is browning too much after 30, cover with aluminum foil then continue baking for another 10 minutes. It will have risen and expanded, and will deflate and become more dense when cooling.
If it is not browning, turn the heat up to 440°F and bake for 10-15 minutes until the top darkens and appears to caramelize. It will still appear jiggly in the center.
9. Turn off oven and open door to let cool for approximately 1 hour. Remove from oven once cool and lift from pan using parchment “handles," or release the springform. Peel parchment away from the sides, slice, and enjoy.
N.B. I served this with an amazing French monbazillac, but Sauternes or sherry would work just as well.