Cook this: Basque cheesecake from How Wild Things Are

Gazta tarta — affectionately known as burnt Basque cheesecake — is legendary for good reason

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Our cookbook of the week is How Wild Things Are: Cooking, Fishing and Hunting at the Bottom of the World by Analiese Gregory. Tomorrow, we’ll feature an interview with the author.


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To try another recipe from the book, check out: Fresh ricotta with bottarga, peas, broad beans and asparagus; and potato gnocchi with lap cheong and kombu butter.

La Viña in San Sebastián, Spain is renowned for its gazta tarta — also affectionately known as burnt Basque cheesecake. Crustless and deeply caramelized, it’s legendary for good reason. Chef Analiese Gregory fell for it while she was doing research and development at Mugaritz, the celebrated restaurant set in the mountains above the coastal city.

She would often drive into San Sebastián and became hooked on a few local specialties: torrija (Spanish-style French toast), tortilla (Spanish omelette) and Basque cheesecake. “I’d go to La Viña and just eat cheesecake, essentially,” says Gregory. “They have other stuff, like jamón and things, but the cheesecake is what’s amazing.”


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Plying La Viña’s employees for highly sensitive cheesecake-baking information — “What oven do you bake them in and for how long?” — was mostly unfruitful. “I didn’t manage to get much,” she recalls. “I feel like it’s probably a Spanish cream cheese thing as well. (But) you can get a pretty good approximation making it a home, which is also great.”

For this version, which Gregory created at home in her rural Tasmanian farmhouse, she incorporates a Meyer lemon purée base layer. The recipe can be used to bake either one large cheesecake (as they serve at La Viña) or several smaller ones (as pictured).


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Apricots or other acidic fruits (e.g., peaches, blueberries) would also work well, Gregory suggests, as would other types of citrus. In fall, she has had great success making Basque cheesecake with poached quinces and wild fennel seeds.

“I did a lot of cheesecake testing at one stage to try and get something close-ish to what I remembered in my mind as the original,” says Gregory, “but it’s hard to cook to a memory because you’re never going to achieve something that’s as good as the memory is.”

How Wild Things Are by Analiese Gregory
In her debut cookbook, How Wild Things Are, chef Analiese Gregory shares a slice of the slow-food life in Tasmania. Photo by Hardie Grant


500 g (1 lb 2 oz) cream cheese, room temperature
160 g (5 1/2 oz) superfine sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
260 mL (9 fl oz) cream
10 g (1/4 oz) all-purpose flour
Very thinly sliced Meyer lemon, for garnish (optional)


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Lemon Purée:
2 Meyer lemons
60 g (2 oz) honey
1 tbsp water

Step 1

Heat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease and line a 25 cm (10 in) pan or cake tin with baking paper, making sure it extends right up the sides, or line individual small cake tins or pans instead.

Step 2

To make the lemon purée, pierce the lemons all over with a skewer, then immerse in a small saucepan of water. Bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes. Discard the water and repeat this process two more times; by this stage, the lemons should be soft to the touch.

Step 3

Drain and blend the lemons with the honey and water until smooth. Pass through a fine chinois (conical sieve/strainer) to get rid of any seed remnants.

Step 4

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment (or by hand if you feel up to it), beat the cream cheese, sugar and salt until smooth. Add the eggs and beat until smooth. Add the cream and mix thoroughly, but gently so as not to overwork or whip it. Sift the flour over the batter and fold through.


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Step 5

Smooth 100 g (3 1/2 oz) of purée over the base of the pan(s), covering it completely (store whatever’s left over in the fridge; it will keep for weeks). Pour in the batter, then put the cake in the oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes (see note), or until golden brown on top but still jiggly in the centre. Let cool at room temperature. Garnish with slices of lemon, if desired.

Serves: 6–8

Note: If you are going for individual cakes, reduce the baking time to 15 minutes.

Recipe and image excerpted from How Wild Things Are: Cooking, Fishing and Hunting at the Bottom of the World by Analiese Gregory © 2021. Reproduced by permission of Hardie Grant. All rights reserved.



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Theresa D. Begay

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