I devoured a version of this dessert, a take on the popular combination of soft Mexican Manchego cheese with slices of guava or another fruit paste, at the charming and sunny coffee shop in the Sweets Museum in the city of Morelia, in Michoacán, in western Mexico. I was so mesmerized by it I came back home determined to re-create it with my students. The cheesecake boasts four very different layers that come together seamlessly: a crisp, sturdy cookie crust; a layer of bright guava paste; a thick layer of cream cheese filling; and lastly a slick of tangy sour cream. Excerpted from PATI’S MEXICAN TABLE, © 2013 by Pati Jinich. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
- 1 1/2 cups finely ground Maria cookies (see note below), vanilla wafers or graham crackers
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan
- Guava Spread
- 12 ounces guava or quince paste (see note below)
- 5 tablespoons water
- Cream Cheese Filling
- 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Sour Cream Topping
- 1 1/2 cups sour cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9- to 10-inch springform pan and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the ground cookies, sugar and melted butter until thoroughly mixed. Turn the cookie mixture into the springform pan. With your fingers, pat it evenly over the bottom of the pan, gently pushing it up the sides to make a crust ½ to 1 inch high. Refrigerate while you make the filling.
- Place the guava paste and water in a blender or food processor and process until smooth; set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth and light, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating until well mixed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until thoroughly combined after each addition, again scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the cream and continue beating until the mixture is well blended and smooth; set aside.
- With a rubber spatula, gently spread the guava mixture evenly in the prepared crust. Gently turn the cream cheese filling onto the guava layer and spread evenly. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the filling is set and the top is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes before you add the topping. Leave the oven on.
- Meanwhile, make the topping. Mix the sour cream and sugar together in a medium bowl until well blended. Spoon the topping over the cheese filling, return to the oven. Bake for 10 more minutes, until the topping looks set. Remove from the oven and let the cheesecake cool for about 10 minutes. Then cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or, preferably, overnight.
- To serve, run the tip of a wet knife around the sides of the pan to release the cheesecake. Remove the sides of the pan, then slice and serve the cake. It can be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days
- Mexican Cook’s Trick and Notes
- There are many ways to crumble the cookies or graham crackers for the crust. The easiest is to place them in a blender or food processor, breaking them in pieces as you do so, and then pulse until fine. A more old-fashioned way is to place the cookies in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin or the bottom of a heavy skillet. You can decide how even and fine you want the crumbs. I like them finely ground.
- What is guava paste? Imagine your favorite fruit jam thick enough to be shaped into a brick and sliced. That is a fruit ate or “paste.” In Mexico the most famous ates are made with guava, quince, mango, pear and tejocote, a crabapple-like fruit. The tradition comes to Mexico from Spain, which in turn, got it from the Arabs.
- Fruit pastes are made by simmering fruit pulp with sugar over low heat until it is very thick and then spreading it out in a layer to dry. Typically ates are served in slices, either on their own or accompanied by slices of cheese, to be nibbled on for dessert.
- Candies are made with fruit pastes, some rolled out so thin they look like fruit roll-ups and finished with a sprinkle of sugar. You can also use ates in pies or empanadas and to top cookies. Look for ates in Latin stores and in the Latin section of supermarkets.
- How did an English tea biscuit conquer Mexico? Marie biscuits (called Maria cookies in Spain) were created in an English bakery in the later part of the nineteenth century to celebrate the wedding of Marie, Duchess of Russia, to Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh. The cookies became popular all over Europe but put down their deepest roots in Spain, which eventually exported them to Mexico, where it has been the best-selling cookie for more than a century.
- Now made by many competing companies, galletas María, with a signature ornate border, are eaten right out of the package with coffee or Mexico’s famous hot chocolate, and they are used to make sandwich-like treats with cajeta for kids. They are also perfect for pie or tart crusts, as in Guava Cheesecake. If you can’t find Maria cookies, substitute graham crackers.