I adore sushi and all the food that Japan has to offer. Besides dining out in Japanese restaurants, I’m always eager to cook up something at home. Part of the fun is shopping at a Japanese market: in my case, Sunrise Mart in the East Village. Though not a big store, it’s packed with everything you need to concoct a delicious Japanese meal.
Every time the elevator opens to the store on the second floor, I’m never satisfied with just acquiring the items on my grocery list. I want more. I check at unfamiliar items, pick up a snack or two, and usually come away with a few this-is-interesting-but-I’m-not-quite-sure-what-it-is items that my friend, Mariko, can usually identify from photos I send her.
Besides the savory Japanese cooking that I do on a regular basis, I’m always intrigued by the pastries and confections. There are traditional as well as French-influenced pastries and desserts using classic ingredients such as mochi, adzuki beans, matcha, sesame, etc.—all of which are beautifully presented. Japanese treat desserts as precious gems. Visit a Japanese pastry shop, and you will instantly be captivated by the exquisite creations. Think of it as a gallery where you consume the art.
So, when Abby decided that February’s #baketogether was all about cheesecake, I thought of using Japanese ingredients. After all, you always find some kind of cheesecake in a Japanese pastry shop. Matcha and sesame seemed like a good idea, so my contribution would be a green and black cheesecake. (Not exactly something you’d find at Junior’s)
Black sesame studded salted cookie crust is the foundation of these individual surprisingly light cheesecakes. I divided the cream cheese filling in two, one infused with matcha and the other with black sesame powder. The green and black layers provide a dramatic visual contrast, while the two distinct flavors play off each other.
This cheesecake will also be a reminder to M and I that our next Asia trip must include Japan–M has never been. We will enjoy this cheesecake and dream about the ramen, yakitori and lots and lots of pastries until we leave for that trip.
Matcha Sesame Cheesecakes
yield: Four 4-1/2-inch cakes
1 cup animal crackers crumbs
4 tablespoons butter, melted; plus more, room temperature, for the pans
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoon black sesame seeds, toasted
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sour cream, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons matcha powder, plus 1/4 cup for dusting
1/2 cup black sesame powder
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the sides of 4 4-inch springform pans. Wrap exterior of pans (including base) in a layer of foil.
2. Process animal crackers in food processor until fine. Add butter, sugar, and salt; pulse until combined, add sesame seeds and stir to combine. Divide mixture evenly among pans and pat into an even layer using the bottom of a measuring cup. Place pans on a baking sheet. Bake until the crust is firm to the touch and deeply golden brown, about 15-18 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool completely.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
4. In a small bowl, whisk sugar and flour to combine. Reduce mixer speed to low, gradually add sugar mixture to cream cheese; mix until smooth. Add sour cream, vanilla and almond extract; mix until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined.
5. Divide cream cheese filling into 2 bowls. Add matcha powder to one and black sesame powder to the other. Stir gently to combine, do not to over mix. Divide sesame-cream cheese mixture evenly among the pans with crust, follow by matcha -cream cheese filling. Set pans inside a roasting pans. Carefully ladle boiling water into roasting pan, halfway up sides of springform pans.
6. Bake until cakes are set but still slightly wobbly in the center, 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off oven; leave cakes in oven with the door slightly ajar, 45 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack; let cakes cool completely. Refrigerate, uncovered, at least 4 hours or overnight.
7. Release cakes from spring form, dust top with matcha powder before serving.
1. Black Sesame Powder can also be purchased at Asian markets.