In the past I’ve mentioned how Michael is not much of a dessert person but that the introduction of the iSi has changed that–if only slightly–but there is one dessert he loves and yet we never make at home: cheesecake.
(I’d make a bad joke about being a ‘bad wife” and not making it for him, but seriously–if he really wanted it that badly he would have made some himself by now. He did ask my mother for some baking tips to make one over Christmas so perhaps when I see a springform pan appear in an Amazon order I’ll know that he’s serious about giving one a try.) In all fairness, there was a really, really good reason for why we never made it when we lived in either New York or Stamford: one cheesecake is way too much for two otherwise reasonable people to eat, and to be completely frank we’d probably end up like Rachel and Chandler from the Friends episode “The One With All the Cheesecake,” driven to cheesecake-induced madness:
So instead we would sometimes get it when we’d go out, or more importantly take every chance to indulge when either of our moms would make one from scratch. After the iSi came into our lives, though, I started wondering if it would be possible to replicate the taste of cheesecake, albeit in a lighter, aerated fashion. Some poking around on the internet answered that question quickly–of course it was yes–and so I started playing around with one recipe that I found particularly interesting.
The primary challenge with this dish is dealing with the cream cheese itself. You have to allow the cream cheese to first come to room temperature and you also have to let the batter go for quite a while in your stand mixer to make sure that no lumps are overlooked. The water and yogurt help bring everything together, but it seems like no matter how long you let it go, there will inevitably be a couple of pieces of cheese that refuse to fully cooperate and incorporate into the rest of the mixture. The solution I’ve found is when you’re carefully spooning the mixture into the canister, keep any large lumps you find in the mixer bowl and beat them again–they will break down and become much more siphon-friendly with just a little more time.
You will be rewarded for this little bit of added effort and attention, because this stuff can be used in so many ways. I’ve topped little vanilla wafers with some of this foam and then topping them with some fresh berries, and I’ve also topped some larger chocolate biscuits from England that were good, but almost too intense when combined together. Most recently, though, I had the thought to deconstruct the cheesecake with some modernist food techniques and so over the weekend I tested out a combination of cheesecake foam over a bed of chocolate graham cracker crust and served alongside a blackberry raviolo. The ravioli need a bit of work (the technique is there but I want to get the flavors right) and deserve their own post. In the meantime, you can comfort yourself with the fluffiest and creamiest cheesecake filling you’ll ever taste.
adapted from Not Quite Nigella
Fills one pint-sized iSi siphon
1 8 oz package cream cheese, brought to room temperature
100 g filtered water
1 tablespoon vanilla or the innards of a vanilla bean scraped out
50 g sugar
50 g yogurt (I would imagine that full-fat would be slightly tastier, but even the non-fat that was available to me worked really well and yielded a very light foam)
1.5 tablespoons honey (or to taste)
Start beating the cream cheese on medium-low in the bowl of a stand mixer, and as it becomes smooth add the other ingredients and let it get very smooth. (Adjust flavorings to taste.) Carefully spoon the mixture into the canister of an iSi siphon, reserving any large lumps in the bowl and re-mixing them to smooth them out before adding any additional batter into the can. Close the canister, charge with two cream cartridges (shake the canister between charges to help distribute the gas) and let chill for at least an hour before serving.
To dispense, invert the can and carefully pull the trigger into serving vessel of choice.