Monday, November 5, 2012

Durian Cheesecake for the Intrepid Only!


If you were brought up with the smell of durians (a highly aromatic fruit), continue on ...

Peter Achutha, PhD

Otherwise,you will want to make a substitution. (Really!)

Durian is known as the "king of fruits" in Southeast Asia, but to most Americans, it's known for it's maliferous odor.

The smell is so strong that even in Malaysia, where the taste is revered, this fruit has been banned from some hotels and public transportation

So, when Peter Achutha told us he had posted this recipe on his website, The Bread Diaries, we were skeptical.  (Peter has led us down "the garden path" with his cheese making exploits before (A Malaysian Scientist Experiments with Making Cheese).

However, Peter always goes to great lengths to create his recipes himself and, so, the results are original.  You might want to use his recipe for cream cheese with this cheesecake (How to Make Cream Cheese from Yogurt).

He told us that if you don't have or like durian, you can substitute bananas or mangoes (if they don't have too much liquid in them).

How to make a strawberry and durian cheesecake
By Peter Achutha at The Bread Diaries

(Cheesecake with strawberry and durian is simply gorgeous.)

Strawberry and durian cheesecake

How to make durian cheesecake – an introduction

I am really, really upset and disappointed. In my last article, 6th September 2012, on durian cheesecake I had explained why the Raja Musang (Musang King) variety was simply delicious. Within a week of that article being published all Raja Musang durians have disappeared from the shelves. I believe that the Raja Musang durian variety is now exported to China, Australia and Singapore and there is none left in Malaysia for us to eat or just that the durian season is over – so much for an exciting conspiracy theory.

The next best durian variety for us poor folks in Malaysia is the XO variety (I believe named after the drink). Do take care when eating durians as the folklore is that it is dangerous when consumed with alcohol or when under treatment with antibiotics as many people have died when mixing durians with alcohol or antibiotics. Of course, if you know me well enough, you will know I have tried all the above combinations and today I can safely tell you that I am not a ghost writer … or am I?

Low fat cheesecake pastry

I was experimenting with cheesecake pastry when I decided to try to make a cheesecake with durians. Today I will show you how I made the cheesecake filling with durians and strawberries. The mixture was delicious. And better yet I have finally fine tuned my cheesecake pastry recipe and have called it a low fat cheesecake pastry. Really, it is very difficult to make the pastry if you follow traditional recipes while trying to reduce the butter content. Most traditional recipes call for all purpose flour mixed with about 50% cold butter, that is-the amount of butter is 50% of the weight of the flour. I will show you how to make a cheesecake pastry with as low as 15% butter, but the gorgeous buttery flavour will not be reduced.

How I began to make unusual pastry

I had been experimenting with making bread for about one and a half years and I had noticed that some flours had high water absorbancy and formed a ball whereas others became batter very quickly.

In the above picture both samples have the same amount of flour and the same amount of water by weight. The sample on the left turned out to be a firm round ball where as the sample of the right turned out to be like batter, a thick viscous liquid. Once I noticed this, I would adjust the water or liquid content (water, milk, yogurt, oils, eggs, …) in the recipe to cater to the water absorbancy of the flour I am using. Bread flour has very high water absorbancy whereas plain flour has very limited water absorbancy. I noticed that the self-rising flour water absorbancy is to some extent dependent on the brand. That means if your recipes work with a certain brand then stick with that brand. I really do wish the flour manufacturers would label their products with a percentage of water that will turn their flour into batter.

The other point I noticed was that when baking, melted butter and oils could leak out of the pastry.


Can you see that the biscuits are frying in their own butter? As the biscuits began to bake the butter in the biscuits oozed out and behaved as if it was frying the biscuits. As the biscuits cooked, the butter was absorbed back into the biscuits. Amazing wasn’t it?

I did not want to allow the butter to ooze out like that and for this reason mixed bread flour into my pastry recipes to prevent the butter and oils from leaking out.

These are the reasons I began to use a blend of 50% bread flour and 50% self-rising flour for my cheesecake pastries.

I love to make cheesecake

The simple cheesecake filling is one of the easiest to make and that is the reason I love to make cheesecakes. Many of my pastry experiments are based on a cheesecake recipe. In most cases, all you need to do is to place all the cheesecake filling ingredients into a blender and switch it on. There, that simple, no special creaming techniques, just need to know how to switch on the blender.

Here is my strawberry and durian cheesecake filling recipe:

The amount of durian you add can vary from about 30% of the weight of the cream cheese to about 100%. If you are using durians like Raja Musang variety, which have a very strong aroma and flavour you can lower the amount of durian. If you are using a milder durian like XO, you can increase the amount as shown in the recipe above. As for the strawberries, adjust the amount according to the sweetness or sourness and the water content. The strawberries I used were slightly sour and brought about a delicious tartness to the cream cheesecake filling.

The recipes for the strawberry and durian cheesecake pastry

My early version of this type of pastry did not have any baking powder and it worked fine. You had to be careful not to under cook or over cook the pastry. I had tried baking at 180C (356F) and the pastry would turn almost rock hard. My guess was that the lower bake temperature resulted in a longer bake time, thereby giving more time for more moisture to evaporate from the pastry.

I tried baking at 230C (446F) and found that the pastry was soft but the inside was slightly raw. This would suggest that the baking temperature was high which resulted in a shorter bake time. The result was that the outside of the pastry was well cooked but due to the shorter bake time the inside of the pastry did not have sufficient time to come up to temperature to be well cooked.

Photos of cheesecake pastry making process

Durian cream cheesecake pastry

Add the flour mix, sugar and salt into the food processor and mix for 10 seconds. That will be more than sufficient to ensure the dry ingredients are uniformly mixed within the flour.

Add the egg and water and mix for about 30 to 45 seconds. A large egg (in Malaysia) is about 57g to 58g without the shell. With the shell it is about 60g (2 ounces).

It should look crumbly and, due to the egg, it will look yellowish.

I forgot to add the baking powder into the flour at the beginning, so I am adding it now.

Ensure that the butter is very cold and dice it. Please don’t add large chunks of butter as it would take a longer time to mix in and a lot of the butter will melt on impact with the plastic blades which would result in a very soggy and sticky dough.

I did just slightly over mix it here. I mixed it for about 30 to 45 seconds. If the dough is over mixed it will become sticky and the resulting cheesecake pastry will become hard as there would not be tiny lumps of butter in the pastry. The tiny lumps of cold butter in the cheesecake pastry creates air gaps within the pastry when baking. This is due to the butter melting and getting absorbed into the flour. If the butter melts before baking the air gaps would not exist and the pastry would be compact and hard. This was the reason I used self rising flour. Here, I have used additional baking powder to compensate for over mixing and to compensate for lower amounts of butter. With the addition of baking powder the dough will rise a little to make the pastry light.

I am really, really bad at using a rolling pin. I can never get the pastry to be uniformly thick so I have devised a simple gadget to help me get a uniform thickness to my rolled out pastry. I bought a very shallow tin and wrapped it in plastic wrap. The plastic wrap or cling film is to prevent the tin from sticking to the pastry and discoloring the dough. The tin is not as wide as my rolling pin so the rolling pin lies on the sidewall edges of the tin. This guarantees my pastries have a uniform thickness. This is important for me as I have been carrying out many experiments on cheesecake pastry dough and needed many properties of the dough to remain constant.

Knead the cheesecake dough a little to so that it can be rolled out into a sheet.

There it is a perfect sheet of cheesecake pastry. Pretty uniform thickness, right? Place the cheesecake dough in the refrigerator for at least half an hour for the butter to harden again. This cheesecake pastry dough melts when you touch it with your fingers. I guess that is because Malaysia is a hot country with room temperature being around 30C (86F) and with your warm hands everything melts easily.

This time around, I had used a slightly bigger baking tin. My cheesecake dough was just a tad too small. Actually, I went out shopping looking for a circular tray that was shallow but could not find one. All of them were too deep and would result in a thick cheesecake dough, so I settled for the rectangular one. Place the baking tin upside down onto the dough and flip it over.

There was some slight excess dough which I used to repair the edges. Those fork marks in the dough are there to allow the hot gasses to escape while the pastry is baking. Don’t depend on them as many time I have found that they melt and close up before the gasses escape resulting in the bottom of the pastry rising up very high. I keep a watch on the initial baking and quickly jab the center of the pastry with a fork when it begins to rise. The will deflate the dough immediately.

Bake it for 20 minutes at 220C (428F). If you baked it at a higher temperature for a shorter time the cheesecake pastry would be softer or more tender.

This is the baked pastry. Did you notice the dark brown whole near the center? That is where I jabbed the pastry when it was trying to rise during the first few minutes of baking. It does look like a nice cheesecake pastry, doesn’t it? It was crisp. Some of my readers, like my mom, would find it a little hard but I prefer the crisp crunchy texture. If you had add a little bit more baking powder the cheesecake pastry would probably bake quickly and would be tender.

The picture shows oil in the cheesecake pastry ‘frying.’ This was an earlier experiment when I replaced all the butter with oil. Not as tasty but much cheaper cheesecake pastry considering that cooking oil is about RM2.20 (US$0.70) per kg and butter is about RM40 (US$13.00) per kg in Malaysia. If you do substitute butter with cooking oil you will need to drastically reduce the amount used.

I have tried this recipe with only 15% butter (about 45g or 1.58 oz) and the cheesecake pastry baked very quickly, I forget now but I think it would have been less then 20 minutes, as the rims started to burn after 20 minutes.

My God, the wonder of wonders, is there anything like the durian cheesecake?

I tried a few more experiments and found that if you mix the butter in first then mix in water and the egg the dough comes out very well and is easy to handle. I think this is because when you mix water in first the flour joins with the water and prevents the butter mixing into the flour. This means that the butter lies in between layers of dough and causes it to slip, giving a greasy soggy feel. If you mix the butter in first, as in the traditional way of making pastry, the butter 'binds' with the flour and gives the pastry a soft smooth texture and feel. My suggestion is that if you try this recipe, mix the butter in first before mixing in the water and the egg.

I tried dropping the butter content down to 15% and mixed the butter first then the water and egg and it turned out quite well. It was easy to handle and baked nicely. Only thing about the low butter content was the pastry smelled a little like bread instead of pastry.

Now that you can make low fat cheesecake pastry, I would suggest you urgently top up your fat level by learning how to make exotic and delicious cheeses from Ricki Carroll for your next cheesecake.

 This article “How to make a strawberry and durian cheesecake” was researched and written by Peter Achutha.


Nicole said...

I haven't made durian cheesecake yet, but I do make durian ice cream on occasion. Personally I have found there is no middle ground on liking durian. You're either like me and love the stuff, or you gag trying to eat it. I will fully admit that the smell is absolutely overpowering, much in the same way some people can't eat runny cheeses due to the smell.

Jeri said...

Did you grow up with it? I'm just curious why you don't seem to mind the smell ...

Nicole said...

No, I didn't grow up with it, just an adventurous eater. With the reputation it has some friends and I were really curious as to how it tasted. Whole Foods here in Los Angeles usually has it if you call and ask. They won't keep it out in the front of the store even tripled sealed in plastic because they get too many people reporting gas leaks in the store. My friends couldn't get past the smell, which does smell absolutely rotten. I found if you could get past the stink it has a lovely custard-like texture and nutty flavor. It's not something I would eat all the time (I don't think my neighbors would appreciate it!), but it is something I genuinely enjoy. I have a video of my friends eating the ice cream on youtube if you'd like to see my friend's reactions to the ice cream I made.

Jeri said...

HA! That's funny. Happy eating!