If baked goods filled with cinnamon are an indicator of fall, mini burnt Basque cheesecakes with a delicate lemon flavor are exactly what you should be baking to summon spring. Crustless and purposefully burnt, mini burnt Basque cheesecake(s) are simple to throw together, almost impossible to mess up, and impressive to serve for any occasion. In this Basque-inspired version, these mini cheesecakes are baked to a deep golden brown creating a self-containing crust of caramelized sugar and cream. Which means no pressing crumbs and no water bath baking.
What is Burnt Basque Cheesecake?
Basque cheesecake has been around for a long time. About thirty years or so. It was first created by La Vina in San Sebastien, Basque Country, Spain, (hence the name) and popularized in America by chef and writer Marti Buckley. I have adapted this recipe from her take on Basque cheesecake.
Basque cheesecakes are more or less egg-based custard made with eggs, cream cheese, cream, sugar, and a smidgen of flour. Whereas American-style cheesecakes are typically made with egg, cream cheese, and sugar. Both cheesecakes want to be melt in the mouth creamy. The American-style tends to have a pressed in cookie crust and is baked low and slow. But Basque cheesecakes are baked hot and fast. Because high heat burns the sugar and cream a caramelly crust forms on the outer edges. They are also meant to be pulled out of the oven before the center is fully set to give it the signature creamy-melty texture.
Tips & tricks (and a word about ramekins)
This cheesecake is pretty hard to mess up. But it is also pretty tricky to perfect. Essentially, you are trying to achieve a texture that is custard with its own crust. To get the best results for mini burnt Basque cheesecake, try these tips.
- Make sure your oven temperature is at the full 400f degrees before putting the cheesecakes in. Like croissants, that hit of high heat helps form the texture and crust.
- All of the ingredients should be at room temperature before you mix them. Otherwise, your batter will be lumpy instead of creamy.
- The center shouldn’t be runny or dry, but everybody has their own preferences. You’ll be able to tell the doneness of the center by its jiggle. To test the jiggle, carefully give your pan a little shake. A runny center will have a full-on ripple. Like a waterbed. A custard set center will have a jiggle like firm jello. A drier center will move as the outer edges. If the center has already sunken down and is firm, you’ve baked it too long. Even for a cheesecake that’s supposed to be burnt.
- The “burntness” of the outer edge will be directly affected by your pan. Sometimes I use my favorite ramekins which are thickly walled. Because of this, the tops burn faster and my cheesecakes have light-colored sides. To get really burnt sides and a deep caramel crust, you can use a muffin tin or other pan with thin sides.
- Unless of course, you want to dig right in with a spoon, let them cool completely so the center sets.
- Leave them in the pan until ready to serve. If the center is gooey at all, they will start to flatten and lose their shape once removed from their tins.
A simple lemon flavor
I’ve added a hint of lemon to these minis. Not enough to be overpowering like lemonade in the summer. Just enough to evoke what’s coming. If you eat them hot or warm you might miss the lemon entirely. But the lemon becomes more pronounced once they are cool. Serve the cheesecakes with a spoonful of mixed berry jam (recipe follows) for an extra spring tease.
Simple Lemon Mini Burnt Basque Cheesecake
Makes 8 to 10 mini cheesecakes.
6 oz sugar (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
16 oz cream cheese (2 8oz packages)
2 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
8.5 oz heavy whipping cream (1 very full cup)
.50 oz all-purpose flour (1/8 fluffy cup)
1 lemon, the zest from the whole lemon, and the juice from 1/2, about 1.5 tablespoons
- Bring all ingredients to room temperature and preheat your oven to 400f.
- Line the ramekins or muffin cups with parchment paper.
- Cream the sugar and cream cheese until you have a smooth mixture.
- Next, you’ll add the salt, lemon juice, and zest. Give it a quick stir.
- Now add the eggs one at a time until they are just mixed in.
- Add the cream and carefully mix until your batter is smooth.
- Sift the flour over the batter and mix until just incorporated.
- Pour the batter evenly into your ramekins or muffin cups.
- Place the cheesecakes on the center rack in the oven. Place individual ramekins on a baking sheet so they are easier to move in and out of the oven.
- Bake 20- 40 minutes until the outer edges are burnt and set but the center is still wobbly.
- Cool completely and serve with mixed berry jam.
Mixed Berry Jam
6 oz frozen mixed berries
5 oz sugar
- Add the frozen berries and sugar to a medium-sized saucepan.
- Cook over low heat until the berries are melted and the sugar is dissolved.
- Then turn the heat up to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Mixing constantly, boil the mixture for 4-5 minutes until it is thick and coats the back of your spoon.
- Remove the mixture from the heat and cool completely.
You can store this jam in an airtight container in the fridge for about a month. Or you could skip serving it with just jam and serve it with a creamy French soda instead!