Cheesecake is becoming more popular in Oaxaca, Mexico. Though it’s difficult to find springform pans here that are used to bake the traditional New York-style cheesecake. I know one store, Pastigel on Calle Rayon near the Periferico that sells pastry baking supplies where you can buy one. Called moldes, they are very expensive, about thirty-five dollars. There are plenty of low-cost aluminum cake pans, though. Line one with buttered parchment paper and it’s easy to improvise.
Everyone here loves cake. And, cheese. Requeson. Quesillo. Queso fresco. Cream cheese, known as Philadelphia, can easily be bought but it’s also costly. More than two dollars a package at our corner tienda in Teotitlan del Valle. So, we make the best of it and improvise once more.
To prepare for our cheesecake cooking class, I gave Janet and Diana a shopping list in advance. Six eggs, one cup of sugar, real butter, a large container of sour cream, four packages of Philadelphia, and one lemon for each cake. In Spanish, lemons are called limas. That makes me think of Lima, Peru, which I just realize is named for a citrus. Diana arrives with six ripe lemons picked this morning from the tree in her garden. It’s not even February.
Janet needed my pan and forgot eggs. I used a deep dish casserole, also buttered, lined with a parchment paper circle partly cut into pie wedges and overlapped. Improvise, I say. We redistributed the thirteen eggs between us, so they used five each. I used three. Another improvisation. I had two packages of Philadelphia, so I added a cup of Requeson and creamed it along with the cheese and sugar. Then, I added one cup of sour cream and reserved the rest for the topping, which we later adorned with a flor de jamaica (hibiscus flower). I told the girls that cooking is more of an art than a science for me.
It took us four-and-a-half hours to make and bake three cheesecakes. As we prepped, Janet translated the steps into Spanish for her family. Most importantly, we had a lot of fun.
Many, many years ago, when I owned a gourmet cooking school and cookware shop in Indiana, I baked and sold whole New York-style cheesecakes for twenty-five dollars, three dollars a slice. I had commercial equipment. Today’s lesson employed a hand-mixer and a food processor (lucky to have them here), which we used to make a cookie crumb crust with Marias instead of graham crackers.
We are at six thousand feet altitude, so baking is slow. What usually takes forty-five to sixty minutes in North Carolina is closer to an hour-and-a-half here. I had to bump up the Celsius temperature on my oven to get a cooked cheesecake. Translated here: 400 degrees F. instead of 350. Another improvisation.
For the Oaxaca Cheesecake Recipe, click here.