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Flavours for Japanese Cheesecake other than lemon?

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Hello, 'hounds,
The recipes I come across for Japanese Cheesecake all use lemon as a flavouring, if there's any flavour added at all. Can I use other flavourings in a Japanese Cheesecake? If so, what, how much, and when, or to which mixture of ingredients, would I add it?
Does it have to be a liquid (i.e. juice, liquor)? Can it be a thick liquid, such as pureed berries? Can I add anything solid, like cocoa powder, or smashed overripe banana? Can it be in between, like fruit spread? Or would I be better off turning whatever flavour I want into a glaze for the top of the cake?
Also, what does the cornstarch do? What would happen to the structure/texture/mass if I didn't use cornstarch? Inquiring minds want to know.

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  1. How about yuzu. That's the first citrus flavor that comes my mind when I'm thinking of Japan. Not lemon.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mike0989

      I don't know what yuzu is. I imagine that if I looked about, I could find some for sale in Toronto. What is the flavour like compared to lemon? Equally sour? A bit sweeter?

    2. It isn't "just" Japanese cheesecakes that use lemon. Lemon is the universal flavor for cheesecake. If you want the citrus to be more Japanese, you could substitute something like yuzu, but I doubt you'd taste that much flavor difference in the finished cake.

      There are two ways to add flavor to a cheesecake. The first and obvious is to add something to the batter. The second, and equally obvious, is to add a topping to the finished cake. and cheesecakes do not have to be a sweet dessert, they can also be savory and served as a first course.

      Some thoughts that pop to mind for a dessert type cheesecake:
      Add to the batter:

      1 or 2 tsp matcha powder (powdered green tea used for tea ceremony.

      1 or 2 or 3 Tbsp mirin or sake. Taste first to see if you like the flavor

      If you like the modern hot&sweet trend, then a small touch of excellent quality wasabe powder or sansho powder could be interesting. I wouldn't use both at the same time. Also check for sweetness level, as you may wish to make the basic batter a tad sweeter if you use one of these.

      You can also add ingredients that will add flavor and stay in chewy chunks such as bits of candied ginger, yuzu zest, toasted ginko nuts, toasted sesame seeds, all sorts of possibilities. Most of these would also work well as a topping sprinkled over the cheese cake generously before baking.

      In the topping department, many cheesecakes are finished with a layer of sweetened sour cream on top that is then baked a bit. You could incorporate any of the things mentioned above, or possibly things like chopped Japanese plums, strawberries, or just about any fruit, in which case I would also add a bit of sake as well to underscore the fruit flavors.

      This should get you started. Have fun and DO NOT be afraid! There is NO food a garbage disposal will refuse! Mistakes can be a more lasting lessons than successes. But I don't think there's much chance of you messing up on this one. It's gonna be a treat!

      1. How about ginger? Fresh, dried/ground, or candied.

        2 Replies
        1. re: nothingswrong

          I looooove ginger in things! I wonder if I could combine ginger and lemon.

          1. re: vjb

            I'd definitely try. Lemon zest + candied ginger chopped to bits in a food processor would be nice mixed into the batter, or you could maybe add ginger to the crust or just as a garnish.

        2. You've had a lot of great tips about flavoring so far so I'll start by addressing the cornstarch question. Because the Japanese cheesecakes are more like a souffle than traditional American cheesecakes (which is all I have to compare them too), I suspect the cornstarch/cornflour is used to insure delicate crumb and possibly assist with the souffle-like rising, much like using cake flour for angelfood cakes. I saw several recipes that used cake flour too. If you don't use a very fine flour, you'll probably need to be really diligent about whipping your eggwhites and incorporating them carefully to create lift and fluffiness and that melting texture. Even with that, it may be denser than you expect your Japanese cheesecakes to be.

          I agree with Caroline1 that lemon is a very common and maybe even "classic" flavoring for cheesecakes. I expect that you could add flavoring in any format (liquid, paste, mash, powder...) so long as you can get it to incorporate into the cheesecake evenly. But I'm sure you're aware that the amount of that flavoring may need to be adjusted. And adding too much may change the texture completely.

          A glaze may be the safest approach to see if you like a particular flavor combo. Actually doing a plain cake and several different flavored glazes would let you try out several flavors at once.

          At the bottom of this link are links to various bloggers doing some different flavors of japanese cheesecake, including some made with cheddar and Parmesan instead of cream cheese.
          http://www.bakeforhappykids.com/2013/...

          Best of luck in your Japanese cheesecake quest!

          4 Replies
          1. re: greymalkin

            Thank you, everyone, for your ideas.
            I think the crowd I'm going to bake for won't go for green tea cheesecake, but I'll bet they won't turn their noses up at a sake cheesecake.
            I have some jams we've received as gifts but that I won't eat because they're too sugary, but maybe I can make a glaze for the cheesecake with one of them (pineapple-ginger, or quince, for example).
            I followed for link, greymalkin, to see all the ideas for Japanese cheesecake. I almost yelped at the idea of a durian-flavoured cheesecake! In the 1990s, I spent a couple of years in China, where I was always willing to try foods I'd never encountered before. I ate snake (three different times, and drank the blood), water beetles, donkey meat, dog meat (twice), silk worm thingies (cocoons?), oh, lots of things. So when someone offered me a durian-flavoured candy, I gamely unwrapped it and popped it in my mouth. Several seconds after that, I contravened (knowingly) one of the most basic rules of polite behaviour there and plucked the thing from my mouth.
            I'm intrigued by the idea of savoury cheesecake.
            Thanks, again, everyone.

            1. re: vjb

              vjb, I have eaten a fairly wide variety of things as well (though not as many as you- what an impressive list!) and I had a similar reaction to durian candy. I don't mind some funk in my food but that was just not something I could take.

              The pineapple ginger and quince jams sounds like they would both be delicious on a cheesecake, especially a more cake-y/bread-y cheesecake like this. Hey you could spike the jams with liquor to make the glaze- that might be fun (and make them less sweet)! Something like rum with the pineapple one and sake with the quince one?

              1. re: greymalkin

                I seriously like your ideas for the glaze! If I can fit in some Japanese-Cheesecake-baking into my Xmas baking extravaganza, I'll turn the pineapple-ginger jam into a glaze with rum! Thanks!.

                By the way, the snake's blood was disgusting, but only because it had been mixed with that multi-purpose, omnipresent Chinese liquor called Bai Jiu (literally White Alcohol). It has a vile aftertaste that lingered for hours and hours and hours. Feh!

                1. re: vjb

                  Are you sure it was snake's blood? Usually it is snake's bile juice.

          2. Green tea is my first inclination, and Caroline1 already noted that. Google it and you'll find tons of recipes. This Epicurious one looks nice:

            http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...