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(post, Robert Reynolds)
CHEESECAKE IN THE STYLE OF NIORT This cheesecake was the most discussed pastry in the small town where I take students to train in France. The dessert stood out for a number of reasons; it was light, it was flavorful and unique; and no one could figure out how the pastry chef did it. When I was first introduced to it at table, my host said: "You could eat the whole thing.." That was unusual coming from people who looked smart, ate well, dressed and lived with style. I had never heard that sort of remark about any other food. So the conclusion to be drawn is that this cake is light. Then there was the constant discussion about how it might be made. The original version was baked in an oven because it had a golden top. Its texture seemed between a souffle and a cake. As we ate, we speculated. No one was without an idea, and everyone was ready to dismiss any that weren't reasonable. Once I thought I had figured it out and got scared that if I was correct, the secret would be out and the man's business would be ruined. Such was the extent of our engagement with this cake. I finally settled on the following version. It is not made the way the cake was made by the baker at Niort, but the idea of it is so unique and so good, that it always elicits a similar response on this side of the Atlantic. Crepe batter for the crust 1/2 cup flour 3 tbsp sugar pinch of salt 3 eggs 1 cup cold milk Mousse filling 4 yolks 1/2 cup sugar 2 teaspoons powdered gelatin bloomed in 2 tablespoons cold water 3/4 cup (6 ounces) fromage blanc de chevre 3 egg whites 1 cup heavy cream whipped to chantilly 1/4 cup creme fraiche Unsalted butter for cooking the crepe Red fruit puree 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup water 1/2 cup red wine 2 inch strip of lemon rind 1 pint red fruit (raspberries, cherries, currants, or 1 cup uncooked rhubarb) Put flour in bowl, add 3 whole eggs. With a fork beat just the eggs until they have pulled in all the flour. Add the milk, still whisking with a fork. Let the batter rest for 15 minutes before using. Make one crepe large enough to fit an 8 inch spring form. Heat a 9 inch skillet on a medium flame, butter evenly. Pour in batter to cover the bottom of the skillet. Cook on one side, then the other. Line the springform pan with the crepe, then set the cake pan aside. (Use the remaining batter for another use.) Soften gelatin in cold water. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar homogenous. Warm the egg/sugar mix over a double boiler till warmed. Remove from heat and add the bloomed gelatin to egg base while eggs are warm, stirring until it melts and is completely incorporated. Have the fromage blan in a second bowl. Gently incorporate the egg mix into the fromage blanc till homogenous. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks, fold into the base. Mix the creams and beat to chantilly and fold into base. Pour the batter into spring form lined with crepe. Cover with plastic and place in refrigerator until it sets, about 2 hours. Put all ingredients for the red fruit puree in a saucepan and cook at a simmer till reduced by one third. Liquefy in the blender, allow to cool and serve with the cake.