I haven’t got the slightest intention of rattling on about going back to our daily routine after a good deal of Christmas binge. But I do need to seriously warn you; this recipe is only suitable for both real turron* and cheesecake lovers in equal shares. I could try to set out a whole series of conceivable (and some inconceivable) arguments here in order to persuade you of the fact that eating turron after Christmas is still permissible. And although it is not the case (I mean, I’m not trying to persuade you, because it is indeed permissible), I hope no one freaks out too much before such excess at this stage; this turron de Jijona cheesecake is, by far, one of the best ways to cope with the dreaded (or maybe, longed-for) day after.
It all started innocently some time ago as one of many leftover recipes. The idea was to keep a surplus of turron (which oddly outlives after Christmas) from spoiling. Except that in this case, the outcome was such that instead of using the spare turron after Christmas, now we always buy an extra bar just to this end. What’s more, this way we celebrate ever so appropriately one of the family birthdays which sneaks through the revelry.
The turron de Jijona (or Xixona, in the local language) is one of the most distinguished specialties of this small town in Alicante, which gives the Christmassy treat its name. This unique treat, which still sweetens our Christmas over five-centuries of artisan tradition, is formed basically with a minimum 10% pure bee honey and either 52% (extra quality) or 64% (supreme quality) ground almonds (Valenciana, Mallorca, Marcona, Mollar and Planeta varieties). And since it is my hometown, Alicante, I can’t but use this so very special recipe, to tell you a little about this special treat. It is common to use the terms “turron blando” (soft turron) and “turron de Jijona” indistinctly, as synonyms. However, although all “turron de Jijona” is soft, it doesn’t quite work the other way around. Only the turron that meets the requirements specified by the “Consejo regulador de la denominación específica Jijona y turrón de Alicante” (Regulatory Council for the registered designation of the origin of Jijona and turron de Alicante) can possibly belong to this IGP (Protected Geographical Indication). It also must show this cachet, which is only applicable to the turron elaborated in the aforementioned town. Thus, it is not permitted to use this designation for other turrones coming from any other locations. Moreover, the factories where it is made and packed are likewise located in this very same town, Jijona. Even so, the raw material may come from any of the provinces in the Valencian Community: Alicante, Castellón or Valencia.
Source: Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
It goes without saying that it is not essential that you use the genuine turron de Jijona (also remarkable for its price) for this recipe. But let me tell you that it is totally advisable if you have the chance. The quality of its ingredients and the artisan techniques used in its elaboration, make of this cheesecake an experience only describable after you have tasted it. So, in case that turron bar is still tempting you from the sweet tray you so neatly prepared a few weeks ago, what are you waiting for? Why not make an irresistible cheesecake out of it?
I sincerely hope that this New Year 2015 will bring the best of news for you all!.
* “Turrón” is a type of Spanish sweet, much like French nougat, which is eaten particularly around Christmas. It has Arabic origins and is made of honey and almonds basically. There are two varieties: Alicante, which is hard and contains whole almonds, and Jijona (or Xixona), which is soft and made from crushed almonds.
- 2 cups (200 g) graham cracker crumbs or finely crushed Digestive biscuits
- ¼ cup / ½ stick (55 g) unsalted butter, melted
- ½ teaspoon ground Ceylon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons (25 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 24½ oz (700 g) de queso crema (tipo Philadelphia)
- 10½ oz (300 g) turron de Jijona*
- 4 medium eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup (180 ml) whipping cream
- 1 cup (240 ml) sour cream
- 2 tablespoons (25 g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3½ oz (100 g) almond crocanti (chopped and lightly caramelized almonds)
- 3 tablespoons honey (optional)
- First, butter the interior of a 9-inch (24 cm) springform pan, especially the sides. To prevent cracks from happening on the surface of our cheesecake —and we, under no circumstances, want that—, the filling shouldn’t possibly stick to the pan.
- Then, wrap the outside bottom of the pan very, very thoroughly with a couple layers of foil, so that not a drop of water seeps through it later while baking our cheesecake.
- In a medium size bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs with the granulated sugar and the melted butter together until totally combined.
- Transfer the previous mixture to the buttered and wrapped springform pan, and press them firmly and evenly into the bottom (you can use your finger tips or the back of a spoon). Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until the oven is ready.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven (electric) to 350º F (175ºC) and place oven rack in the middle position.
- Place the springform pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Let cool on a cooling rack while making the filling.
A LOW MIXING PROCESS IS VITAL TO AVOID AIR GETTING INTO THE FILLING, WHICH WOULD ENCOURAGE CRACKS TO APPEAR DURING BAKING.
- Reduce oven temp to 325º F (165ºC) and place a rimmed baking sheet in the middle position.
- Bring 1 - 1½ quarts (±1 - 1½ liters) water to a boil.
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt until totally combined. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, process the turron until smooth in a food processor (or a blender). If you like some texture in your cheesecake, you can leave a few bits. Set aside.
- In the bowl of our stand or hand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment (or in a large bowl), mix cream cheese until smooth and lump-free for 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as well as the paddle, with a rubber spatula and repeat as often as needed after each addition of new ingredients.
- Now, add the turron paste and mix until perfectly combined for a couple of minutes more.
- Gradually, and with the mixer running, add dry ingredients (see point 3) and mix for 4 minutes more.
- Next, add the vanilla extract and mix just until combined.
- Now switch the paddle attachment for the dough hook and, still at low speed, blend the eggs, one at a time, making sure to mix each completely after the next addition.
- Finally, mix in the whipping cream until totally combined, making sure it is completely lump-free and smooth. If necessary, end up mixing gently by hand with a rubber spatula so as not to incorporate any air into the batter.
- Pour the mixture onto the crust making sure the top surface is smooth.
- Try beating the pan gently against the counter to release any air bubbles inside the batter (do not forget to place a kitchen towel underneath to avoid damaging either the pan or the counter). Wait a few seconds to see whether air bubbles may appear on the surface. If so, prick them out with a toothpick and smooth with an offset spatula if needed.
- Place the pan onto a rimmed baking sheet (or a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the pan with some space around it) and pour enough boiling water into it to come about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Be extremely careful not to burn yourself or spill any drop of water into the filling.
- Bake for 1¼ hrs.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla extract until soft and smooth and totally combined.
- Very carefully remove the pan from the oven (there may be some hot water in the foil) and spread the sour cream mixture evenly over the top surface of your cheesecake with an offset spatula.
- Return to oven and bake for 15 more minutes.
- After this time, definitely remove from the oven and, really carefully so as not to burn yourself (again, there may be some hot water in the foil), remove foil.
- Run a blunt knife between the filling and the pan to prevent the cake from sticking while cooling and therefore, very likely, cracking and place the cheesecake, still in the pan, on a cooling rack. Let cool completely at room temperature.
- Cover with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 6 hours before glazing (even better overnight).
- Carefully release the ring of the springform pan (leave the bottom to hold the cake).
- Served covered with almond crocanti all over the top surface and drizzle a few tablespoons of honey (if using). And ready to go!
If you want to get a clean cut, use a long, thin knife that has been run after hot water for a few seconds and lightly wiped with a towel. Keep warming the knife as you cut slices of the cheesecake. It keeps for up to 4-5 days in the refrigerator well wrapped.
? All ingredients are at room temperature, especially cream cheese, eggs and whipping cream (or sour cream).
? You do not over mix the filling, especially after adding sugar.
? You do not over bake your cheesecake. This step may be a little tricky as all we need to do is to keep a close eye on the baking progression: neither do all the ovens behave in the same way nor do all ingredients respond in kind. Our cheesecake will be ready just when most of the filling is set around the edges but there’s still some wobbling in the center.
? You should use a proper pan (a springform pan, for that matter). Furthermore, it must be correctly greased; cracks may very likely appear when cooling if the filling stuck to the sides of the pan.
? Do not unmold your cheesecake until it’s totally refrigerated. Then, remove the ring piece very carefully (if the filling had stuck to the sides of the pan, run a blunt warm knife around it). However, leave the bottom piece to hold your cheesecake.
– If you prefer to skip the whole water bath setup —I personally think that, although it may be somewhat cumbersome, it is actually a very convenient procedure in order to get a fail-safe cheesecake baking—, you should play with oven temperatures. Set the oven temp to 465º F (240ºC) to start with, and after the first 10 minutes reduce to 215º F (100ºC) and bake for 1 – 1 ¼ hours more until your cheesecake is set.
– The turrón de Jijona usually contains little bits of almond. In case we want to get rid of these and enjoy a perfectly smooth cheesecake, we can pass the batter through a sieve the moment we pour it in to the pan.
– Unglazed cheesecakes can be frozen for up to 2-3 months. Wrap it in plastic wrap and foil to prevent them from freezer burn.
– National (USA) cheesecake day: July 30th.