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March 14, 2007

Goat Cheesecake for Donna Day


Peabody of the beautiful Culinary Concoctions declared the theme for this round of Hay Hay It's Donna Day to be cheesecake, which got me all excited. The pastry world has certainly moved on from cheesecake as the boring old workhorse of dessert menus, the monolithic white slab covered with gooey cherry filling, or absurdist extremes of the Cheesecake Factory, where every slice is about a foot high and stuffed with so much chocolate, nuts, caramel, and fruit you don't even know if you're tasting any cake at all.

Wikipedia's entry on cheesecake lists about fifteen different styles of cheesecake, so I'm sure everyone has their own idea of the perfect cheesecake, with the perfect texture, the perfect taste, the perfect bite. My cheesecake preferences are pretty middle-of-the-road: I like my cheesecake not too firm and dense, but not too soft and creamy either; the texture should be smooth and velvety on the tongue, not gummy or leaden (this may sound obvious, but I'm surprised at how often I've had cheesecakes that are the equivalent of flavorless rubber blocks).

What I'm liking about the revolution of cheesecake's image is that it's finally being used as a vehicle for sophisticated, intelligent flavor combinations - it's no longer being treated as an expression of overexuberant excess, whether in size or adornments. Looking through my cookbooks, I found so many luscious-sounding recipes to try, from Claudia Fleming's Cherry Cheesecake with Red Wine Glaze to Regan Daley's Guava Cheesecake with a Cashew Ginger Crust to Dorie Greenspan's Brown-Sugar Apple Cheesecake.


I finally settled on a recipe from Kate Zuckerman's The Sweet Life, a book still tagged with dozens of recipes I need to try: Goat Cheesecake Enrobed in Hazelnut Brittle, with Blood Orange Caramel Sauce. No, there's no actual goat here - I guess Goat Cheese Cheesecake just doesn't roll off the tongue as elegantly!

I wanted a challenge in the kitchen, and it turned out to be adventurous taste-wise, but in terms of execution it is astonishingly simple to put together. My boyfriend (the best kitchen assistant ever!) was rather nonplussed when I told him the batter was all finished after about 5 minutes of whisking.

This is a soft, creamy cheesecake - it's made with goat cheese and crème fraîche, no cream cheese - but it has wonderful smoothness and lightness that accentuates the flavor of the goat cheese. Speaking of the goat cheese, obviously your enjoyment of this cheesecake will depend on the cheese you choose - pick one you like (no need to go for the ultra-expensive ones), and I would use a milder, lighter-flavored cheese - aged cheeses might give too strong of a flavor.


The hazelnut brittle that covers the cheesecake really makes the recipe - it gives a pleasant nutty-sweet crunch to contrast with the smoothness of the cake, working perfectly in place of a crust. It was also great fun to make the brittle - basically you get to make hard caramel, grind it up in the food processor, and then add in ground hazelnuts, and remelt in the oven to form a sheet of golden caramel candy thoroughly flecked with nuts. If you don't break it up again to form the coating for the cheesecakes, the shards also make gorgeous decorations for any dessert.

Finally, the blood orange caramel sauce adds another sweet-tart layer to the dessert, working with the brittle to temper the tanginess of the goat cheese. This is a dessert is really a fun workout for your tastebuds!

Goat Cheesecake Enrobed in Hazelnut Brittle with Blood Orange Caramel Sauce

adapted from Kate Zuckerman's The Sweet Life

makes (6) 4-in individual cheesecakes

Goat Cheesecake

1 egg

1 egg yolk

3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar

pinch of salt

10 1/2 ounces fresh goat cheese, room temperature

5 ounces crème fraîche

Hazelnut Brittle

7 ounces granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 cup toasted, skinned, and finely ground hazelnuts

1/4 teaspoon finely ground sea salt

Blood Orange Caramel Sauce

4 1/2 ounces granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 cup blood orange juice (about 2 medium oranges)

For the cheesecake: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease 6 individual ramekins.

Mix the eggs, sugar, and salt togther in a bowl and whisk for a couple of minutes until well combined and there are no lumps.

Add in the goat cheese and whisk until smooth.

Add the crème fraîche and whisk together until combined. Do not overwhisk or the cheesecake will develop a grainy texture.

Pour the batter into the prepared molds. Place the cheesecakes into the oven and bake for about 20 to 24 minutes, rotating halfway. The centers should be just set.

Remove the cheesecakes from the oven and allow to cool. Chill them in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

When you are ready to unmold the cheesecakes, run an offset spatula or small knife around the edge of the cheesecake to loosen it, then place a plate over the top of the ramekin, flip it over, and shake vigorously until the cheesecake comes loose from the mold.

The cheesecakes will keep in the refrigerator for about 4 days.

To make the brittle: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 11x17-in baking pan with parchment or a Silpat (preferred).

Place the sugar, cream of tartar, and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan.

Cover and cook over high heat until the mixture comes to a boil, then uncover and reduce the heat to medium-high and cook until the sugar is a dark golden brown color.

Remove from heat and pour the caramel onto the prepared pan and let cool and harden.

When the caramel is cool and hard, break it into small pieces and place into a food processor. Grind the caramel into the fineness of granulated sugar.

Stir in the ground hazelnuts.

Place a clean piece of parchment or Silpat on the baking pan and spread the caramel and nut mixture onto the pan in a thin even layer.

Bake in the oven until the caramel remelts and bubbles, about 4-6 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle the sea salt over the hot caramel.

When the caramel is cool and hardened again, you can break it into pieces or grind in the food processor into brittle to use in coating the cheesecakes.

The brittle will keep in an airtight container in a cool, dry location for a couple of weeks.

For the blood orange caramel sauce: Combine the sugar and cream of tartar together in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of water.

Cover and cook over high heat until the mixture boils, then uncover and reduce heat to medium-high and cook until the sugar is dark golden brown - don't let it burn!

Remove the saucepan from heat and carefully add in the orange juice (it will bubble madly). Return the saucepan to the heat and whisk the mixture so the caramel dissolves and mixes with orange juice.

When the mixture boils again, remove from the heat. Transfer to a heatproof container and place in the refrigerator to chill and let thicken before using.

This sauce will keep in the refrigerator for about 1 week.

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THat's such an interesting combination of flavours. I've never used goat cheese in a cheesecake before, but I'm pretty sure I'd like it. And that brittle sounds like an excellent addition!

wow, exotic! sounds delish!

You did an amazing job creating these little cheesecakes. It's just yesterday that I ordered "The Sweet Life". This recipe will be surely among the first desserts that I'll try.

Anita, you did such a good job of describing cheesecakes and your preferences. I think it's hard to describe something which has one overwhelming characteristic: creaminess -- but you did it so well. And I love the look of the little cheesecake hidden like the perfect surprise in the hazelnut brittle.


I am glad you tried this recipe. Of all the recipes in the book, I demo this recipe the most. One of the nice things about this cake is that goat cheese is easier to digest than traditional cow's milk cream cheese. The proteins in goat cheese are more fragile and our bodies have an easier time breaking them down. This is one of reasons, in the recipe, I caution the reader about overmixing the batter. The proteins' fragility means that overmixing can lead to early coagulation of the proteins and a grainy texture in the final cake.

Mostly, though, I just love the way this cake tastes, and yours looks beautiful!

-Kate Zuckerman

What to add when both Dorie and Kate have posted their comments! I agree with Dorie 100%, you have described cheesecakes perfectly!
I am bookmarking this recipe. Sounds the perfect bite of sweet and savory.

Wow, goat cheesecake! I've never heard of that. And what a coincidence, i also just made a cheesecake (Dorie's in fact) and apparently it's the HHDD theme for this round. I so love the idea of the hazelnut brittle !

Interesting - I've heard that goat's cheese is strongly flavored, so the combo of this cheese and the sweet hazelnut brittle would be intriguing!

Thank you, thank you, this is great! I finally can serve Cheese cake to my cow's intolerant friends.

I love baked goat cheese rolled in choped hazelnuts and served over mesclun salad and roasted pear slices, and can't wait to test your recipe!

Anita! This is so classy and beautiful!

I saw that recipe in "The Sweet Life." I am glad you tried it. It looks delicious!!

this (as well as the almond cakes)is one of the recipes i have been dying to make since purchasing kate zuckerman's book, and you have done a fabulous job, anita! i've tried the goat cheesecake from claudia fleming's book, with mediocre results, but kate's recipe seems like it would work that much better. like the other comments noted, i loved your thorough descriptions of cheesecakes. as always, gorgeous photos and i so look forward to your posts!

Anita, is it safe to assume that this cheesecake has a certain lactic tang to it? I can't imagine it would be otherwise with both goat cheese and creme fraiche. Nonetheless, it sounds like a wonderful dessert. The addition of hazelnut brittle must add a wonderful contrast of sugary and nutty flavours.


Oh my goodness, Anita! It's so creamy ... I love it! I just wish I could sink my fork into it.

What a fabulous contrast of textures and flavours!
The tart/creamy with the brittle/sweet!

As per usual, Anita.. you've got me craving a dessert that I'd never think of trying before. Goat's cheese and caramel? huh?

After reading your description goat's cheese and caramel (as well as the brittle topping!) sound like a match made in heaven. Truly.

I'm so looking forward to trying this one day soon.

I have never seen a cheese cake so dressed up.I love the combination of goat cheese and hazelnuts together, I even eat them together on a slice of baguette.
I still can't believe it's a cheese cake. Wonderful.

Thanks! If you like goat cheese, you'll find this a wonderful dessert!

It's a different dessert for me, but I'm glad I tried it!

Thank you! It's a wonderful cookbook - there are tons of recipes in there I'm anxious to try!

Thank you! I'm blushing at praise from you:)

Thanks so much for providing this lovely recipe - everyone I've served it to doesn't just like it, they really love it!

I neglected to comment on your own cheesecake but it's truly droolworthy - great to find a fellow cheesecake fanatic!:)

I need to try making some of Dorie's cheesecakes as well! Yours look stunning!

This is definitely one for goat cheese lovers! If you are unsure, you can always try a milder goat cheese!

Thank you! All my goat cheese-loving friends really enjoyed this cheesecake, so I think it's a winning recipe!

Thank you! This was a really fun one to pull off!

This was on my to-make list once I saw it in The Sweet Life. I'm glad it came out so well!

Thank you, you're too kind! Kate does give wonderfully clear directions - it's made working with her recipes a joy and a breeze!

Yes, it does have quite a tanginess to it - if you're a fan of goat cheese, you'll enjoy it. If you're uncertain, I found the hazelnut brittle delicious on its own and perfectly suitable to topping other desserts!

Thank you! It is a fun dessert to put together!

Thank you! It is on the wonderfully soft and creamy side of cheesecake - plush little forkfuls of heaven!

You know I love my color/flavor/texture contrasts:) It was a yummy dessert!

The combination had been raising my eyebrows at first too - but I'm glad I tried it! You could always just make a regular cheesecake and coat it with the brittle - it's a delicious addition on its own!

Eating goat cheese and hazelnuts on a baguette - how fabulous! The flavors did come together very well in this dessert - I'm glad I tried it!

This looks GREAT!

wow -- this sounds phenomenal. Like many others, I wouldn't have considered goat cheese in a sweet cheesecake. Thanks for expanding my horizons!

I'm impressed Dorie and Kate visited and left comments. I'm bookmarking this one. Thanks for entering HHDD.

This is so interesting. Never would have thought to use goat cheese, but I've only actually tried it once...pretty good. I'm impressed. In my top choices for HHDD!

It looked really awesome!! Coincidentally I was thinking of making a goats cheesecake. Yum I'm SO going to make this during EAster weekend...


Thank you! Very glad I tried it!

Thank you! This was a horizon-expander to me as well - now I'm open to all sorts of possibilities!

It was super flattering to hear from them, believe me, but they are both very friendly and approachable on their websites! Hope you try and enjoy it!

Thank you for the kind words! This is really a dessert to convince people to try goat cheese, I think!

Thanks! That's great you're making a goat cheesecake, you have to tell me how it goes...

hey.. just wondering how long will the brittle last outside in room temperature ? I was thinking of making the cheesecake before hand and then just coating it with the brittle on the day of eating because well, the toffee do melt, don't they ?

Hi Swee,
Yes, it's best to put the brittle on the cheesecake as close to serving time as possible because it will melt and turn gooey. Definitely watch out if you're making it on a hot or humid day!

how would the baking settings change if i use a water bath? would this make any difference?

If you use a water bath, it will probably take longer, about 40 minutes. However, you should still check carefully to make sure it does not overcook. Look to see if the tops have set and if the tops start to rise take them out right away.

I was looking to duplicate a Baked Goat Cheesecake w/sauteed Black Mission Figs & toasted almonds w ate @ the Slaneted Door in san Francisco, served w/port - aperfect pairing - they won't give up the recipe - do you think you could do something like it? THanks, Victoria S.

Hi Victoria,
I haven't tried that cheesecake but I love Slanted Door so it must be delicious! I don't know how similar it is to Kate Zuckerman's cheesecake but I encourage you to use her recipe as it's a great one, and play around with it!

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