If La Vina restaurant in San Sebastian serves something other than cheesecake, I wouldn’t know about it. The moment I walked in I zeroed in on a wall of caramel colored, parchment-enveloped rounds lining the back wall and I was blind to all else. Chris and I saddled up to the bar, ordered a slice, took one bite and fell into silence. What kind of sorcery was this? Who sold their soul to have the rules of gravity lifted thereby allowing something so rich to be so feathery? Of course, I asked the barman for the recipe.
And of course he declined. “We don’t give recipe,” he said.
“Then can you tell me what kind of cheese is in it?” I asked.
“Ilidelheea,” he said.
Ah, so that explains it. Some local, small-batch, Basque dairy farmer must supply the restaurant with his nuanced, ethereal and impossible-to-find-anywhere-else-but-here product. I asked the barman to write it down for me so I could at least find the cheese and taste it on its own.
The grabbed a napkin and scrawled in all capitols: F.I.L.I.D.E.L.F.I.A.
He looked at me like I was an idiot and walked away. I took a sip of my sherry, and turn my attention back to my second slice of cake.
Lucky for you, my sweet tooth is nearly as strong as my ability to search the back alleys of the internet for recipes that never wanted to be found. I baked several variations claiming to be the one and only from La Vina and, after making a few adjustments, I think this version is pretty close. The souffle-like texture is there, the caramelized crust is there, the rich flavor is there and – the best part – it makes ample use of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, that globally-ubiquitous product we all know and love.
Basque Burnt Cheesecake
1kg Philadelphia cream cheese
1 3/4c castor sugar
7 whole eggs
2c double cream or heavy whipping cream
Preheat oven to 425 F. Grease a 23cm spring-form pan and line with parchment paper, making sure the paper comes at least three inches above the top of the pan.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times. Pour in the double cream and mix until incorporated. Fold in the flour with a rubber spatula.
Pour batter into the prepared pan and place into the center of the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the top is deeply golden and the center barely jiggles. Let cool completely before removing the sides of the pan.