Food is at the very heart of San Sebastian, and nowhere is that more evident than in its Old Town. Littered with tiny Basque restaurants, it’s one of the very best places to enjoy the region’s famous pintxos washed down with a glass of extravagantly poured txakoli.
Walk into any bar or restaurant and you’ll almost certainly find the counter filled with row upon row of gilda, boquerones and tortilla de bacalao served in bite-sized portions. But not all are famed only for their savoury pintxos – La Viña has something else up its sleeve entirely.
Though unassuming, La Viña is perhaps the most talked about pintxos restaurant in San Sebastian’s Old Town. And for good reason – its Basque cheesecake, seemingly hundreds of which adorn its modest interior at all times, is absolutely to-die-for.
Often misshapen and always “burnt”, Basque cheesecake isn’t traditionally beautiful. But delve beneath its rugged exterior and you’ll find a creamy core, brilliant white and every bit as alluring as the world’s daintier cheesecakes. None are better than those served at La Viña – perhaps it’s the location – though many have tried to imitate. I’m no exception.
One thing’s for certain through all of this – you’ll struggle to truly mess up a Basque cheesecake. After all, it’s supposed to be cracked and burnt and “ugly”. Perhaps the worst thing you could do is not give it enough colour, or become impatient and serve it before it’s good and ready.
This cheesecake benefits from time – let it sit and settle. Serve only once set and appropriately indulgent.
Makes 1 20cm Cheesecake
- 800g cream cheese (full fat only)
- 200g granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 300ml double cream (heavy)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 35g plain flour
- Take a 20cm (8 inch) springform pan or cake tin and grease it with butter. Pre-heat your oven to 200C (fan).
- Cut two rectangles of baking parchment large enough that when scrunched into the tin at opposing angles they overhang the prepared tin by 2 inches or so.
- Taking care not to be too delicate, layer the first rectangle into the tin, grease with butter, and layer the second rectangle on top at 90 degrees to the first. Do not fold the excess parchment down.
- Using a large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and sugar until the latter has dissolved and the mixture isn’t lumpy.
- Incorporate the eggs one at a time using a whisk, then do the same for the cream, salt and vanilla extract. Finally, sift the flour into the filling and bring together ensuring there are no lumps.
- Pour the cheesecake mixture into the prepared tin and bake for around 1 hour and 30 minutes. The amount of cooking time could vary, but the result should be a browned cheesecake with plenty of wobble that has risen above the top of the tin.
- Once cooked, set the cheesecake aside to cool slightly before removing from its tin. Serve sliced once it has reached room temperature.
Cost: Though rich and luxurious, a basque cheesecake isn’t indulgent in its choice of ingredients. This is about as simple as cheesecake gets – it hasn’t even got a base.
As luck would have it, simplicity often begets frugality and this recipe is doing nothing to challenge the status quo. Fancy a go at making your own slice of Basque life? Well, it’ll only cost you a hair over £5.