For the love of cheesecake

Cheesecake enchantress Ruchyeta Bhatia talks about the many charms and challenges of hitting the sweet spot

Ruchyeta Bhatia

It has been a while since the Indian mithai box made space for the tarts, mousses and brownies of the world. It is only recently though that the popular New York sugar fix, the cheesecake, has made inroads into our dessert platter á la red velvet. The decadent and delicious cheesecake now occupies a place of pride on most confectionary shelves. A major part of the culinary movement is Ruchyeta Bhatia, co-founder of dessert haven Love & Cheesecake in Mumbai along with her business partner, Chef Amit Sharma. She also runs a dessert cafe called Poetry by Love & Cheesecake.

Says Ruchyeta, “It is our passion and love for food that got us starting both Love & Cheesecake and Poetry. Food is a holistic experience — right from farm to fork. We wanted to create a better dessert alternative. For example, we don’t use any whipped cream which is a vegetable oil derivative and hence harmful. We use pure dairy cheese — Italian mascarpone and Philadelphia cream cheese. Our patrons keep coming back because they like how fresh, delicious and romantic the food is.”

It was her trip to NYC that stirred Ruchyeta’s love for cheesecake. “It was during my trip in 2011. I really enjoyed the deep flavour of American cheesecakes. Of course, we had to modify the recipes and create our own for the Indian palate — for example, a lot of our offerings had to be eggless. Also, a lot of our customers wanted something lighter, so we brought in the concept of layered cheesecakes made with Italian mascarpone cheese,” she informs.

While the blueberry cheesecake is most familiar to the Indian palate, the flavours out there today can truly spoil one for choice — burnt orange and honey, pecan nut and praline, cocoa cinnamon and chilli. These are a few off Ruchyeta’s shelves. But there’s no science to it, Ruchyeta assures us. “We get fascinated by some ingredients; we see something in a restaurant and our minds go, ‘hmmmm…’ We try and concoct something from them. Sometimes, it works and sometimes, it doesn’t.”

Having said that, Ruchyeta has her favourites, too. “Without a doubt, fresh strawberry and fresh mango cheesecake are my favourites. They make the fruit the centre of the dessert and that’s what I like about them. Red velvet, of course, is an oldie but a goodie. I think goat’s cheese & rosemary cheesecake is our most creative cheesecake yet. Savoury cheesecakes have their own charm and you don’t find them easily in India yet. Goat’s cheese works remarkably well in sweet settings. The fresh, zesty notes of goat’s cheese and the steadfast flavour of rosemary bring together a magical flavour and true connoisseurs would truly enjoy it.”

Above all, a good cheesecake is about a unique texture and flavour. Traditionally, creamy cheese and crunchy base are what define a signature cheesecake but the dessert platter welcomes all kinds of combinations now. While savouring it is a piece of… well, cake, making it is a mean task, admits Ruchyeta. “I have to tell you — it’s not easy. Desserts are the most exhausting category in food service. A small variation in temperature, say, of chocolate while mixing with the mascarpone cheese, can wreak havoc on the taste. The techniques are so precise and tolerances so low that you need really experienced chefs to ensure consistent product quality,” says Ruchyeta who is no longer involved on the baking side of things.

The process of making a cheesecake — right from concocting a heady recipe to savouring it for the first time — is a delight in itself, what really lures Ruchyeta is the accountability and freedom of running a food enterprise. “If something’s not working, it’s really up to me to change things and find solutions. That’s the part that gets me excited,” she beams.

RECIPE

Brownie Peanut Butter Cheesecake Recipe

Peanut butter cheesecake
Peanut butter cheesecake

Crust

3 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, grated (reserve 1/2 ounce)

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup all−purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

2 large eggs

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons chocolate extract

Filling

12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup packed light brown sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

1 1/3 cups creamy peanut butter

Topping

3/4 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Small apricot roses for garnish

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 9− or 10−inch springform pan.

Crust: In the top of a double boiler, over simmering water, melt 3 ounces of the chocolate and the butter, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Combine the flour and baking powder. In a medium bowl, with electric mixer on medium, beat the eggs until thick and light−colored. Beat in the brown sugar until well blended. Beat in the melted chocolate, chocolate extract, and remaining 1/2 ounce of grated chocolate. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, mixing just until blended. Spread 1 cup evenly onto bottom of the prepared pan. Chill the remaining crust mixture. Bake for 15−17 minutes, or until firm. Cool in the pan in the refrigerator for 15−30 minutes.

Filling: In a large bowl, with electric mixer at medium, beat the cream cheese and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs and sour cream. Beat in the peanut butter. To prepare the pan, use a spatula to spread the remaining chilled crust evenly around the insides of the pan. To make this easier, set the pan on its side and roll it, spreading at the same time. Pour in the filling mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the filling is firm, spreading the topping on the cheesecake about 3 minutes before removing from the oven.

Topping: In a small bowl, with electric mixer on medium, mix the sour cream, sugar, and peanut butter until smooth. Spread evenly over the top of the cake in the oven 2−3 minutes before it is removed. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Place in a plastic or paper bag and chill overnight.

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For the love of cheesecake

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