Last weekend I visited a picturesque, well preserved medieval town in Alsace called Colmar. I think it is one of the most beautiful towns in Europe. It is located in the northern part of France, close to Swiss border.
Colmar and its surrounding villages are famous for the Christmas markets but in the summer they also have a different type of charm. The Alsace region is not only famous for its sweet white wine Gewürztraminer, but is also well known for its food.
During my visit I tried many regional specialties, and one of my favorites was a cheesecake, that is made of fromage blanc. This smooth, creamy cheese makes this cake much lighter than other types I have tasted before.
In Switzerland and Germany instead of using fromage blanc, cake is made with cheese called Quark, which has a similar consistency.
Base for this cake is made of pate sable, the French sweet and crisp pastry. If you have never made pate sable before it is a good idea to try it because the taste is amazing.
- 250 g flour (sifted)
- 150 g butter (room temperature, cut into squares)
- 90 g icing sugar (sifted)
- 3-4 drops of vanilla extract
- 1 egg, beaten
Before making your dough make sure that all ingredients are at room temperature. Dough has a high amount of butter and melts easily so you have to work quickly in a warm kitchen. When you feel that the pastry is getting soft and difficult to handle put it into the refrigerator. A cool working environment is important for this type of pastry. Handle the pastry lightly and as little as possible, otherwise overworked dough will have a tough, not a crisp texture. By using a food processor you have the risk of overworking the pastry, it is better to do it by hand.
- Lightly oil 20 cm (8-in) round, and 4-6 cm (1.5-2.5 -in) high cake tin.
- Separately sift the flour and icing sugar.
- In a food processor with a paddle attachment mix the butter, vanilla extract and icing sugar.
- Add the beaten egg and mix until incorporated.
- Add the sifted flour in stages and soon as dough detaches from the bowl (it will make clumps) stop.
- Press clumps together and form the ball. Split the pastry into two portions, one for the base of the cheesecake and other for the cookies.
- Put each portion in-between two sheets of clingfilm or parchment paper and roll in one direction until 4 mm thick ( if pastry is too soft first make a disk and chill, then roll). Put into the refrigerator for one hour, or in the freezer for 30 min.
- For me the method of inserting a pastry into the bottom of a deep tin works best: take the pastry out of the refrigerator and put it on the work surface. After removing cling film press the cake ring on top of the pastry. Cut along the edge of the ring and remove the excess. If the pastry feels too hard after you take it out of the refrigerator, leave it at room temperature for about five minutes.
- With a rolling pin transfer the pastry to the bottom of the tin. With a finger press the dough to evenly line the bottom.
- Prick dough with a fork and put in refrigerator for another 30 minutes to harden.
- After chilling, bake blind; which means baking without the filling. Cut out the circle of baking parchment, then crumple it and line the base and sides of the pastry. Fill it with ceramic baking beans, uncooked rice, or dry beans. This pastry is delicate so don’t put too much weight.
- Bake at 200C for 15-20 min. Take the beans out carefully with a big spoon, lift the paper and return to oven for another 5 minutes until pale golden. This pastry has the tendency to burn quickly.
- Cool slightly and transfer to a wire rack, until you are amaking the filling.
If using full quantity of dough to make only cookies you can exchange 40g of flour for 40g of ground almonds and you will get almond pastry calles pate frollee. Delicious.
- 400 g quark
- 90 g caster sugar
- 3 eggs, separated
- 25 g/ 3T cornstarch ( cornflower)
- 2 tablespoon milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Lower temperature to 150 C.
- Beat egg yolks into quark.
- Mix 2 tablespoon milk with cornstarch then add it to the quark mixture. Add few drops off vanilla extract.
- Beat egg whites until soft peak, and then start adding sugar in a couple of stages. Beat until egg whites are glossy and stiff.
- Gently fold egg whites into quark mixture. Spoon the feeling into the cake tin over the cooled pastry.
- Put the cake tin in the oven on the lowest shelf and bake for approximately 1 hour. and 10 minutes, or until only the center of the cake has slight wobble. Turn the oven off and leave the pastry inside to cool. Ajar the oven door with a wooden spoon.
- When cooled, put into refrigerator, but don’t take out of the tin. Leave in refrigerator overnight.
- Cover with sieved icing sugar. You can keep for up to three days in the refrigerator.
- Pate sable dough
- 2 tablespoons fresh rasberries puree
- 1 tablespoon dry rasberries, crushed (for decoration)
- 250 ml double cream/1 cup
- 1 tablespoon icing sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180 C
- Take dough out the refrigerator.
- Line the baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment.
- Remove the top piece of clingfilm. Use the cutter, and cut the dough into rounds
- Bake for 12 minutes or until pale golden.
- Cool slightly, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Put dry raspberries between sheets of cling film and crush them.
- In a bowl whip the cream and icing sugar.
- Fold in a tablespoon or two of fresh raspberries puree.
- Serve cookies sprinkled with dry raspberries and cream.
- Store extra cookies for up to two days in an airtight container.
Note: You can buy dry raspberries in health food stores.