Breathe again: a plated dish

So this dish was obviously inspired by the song “Breathe again” from season 2 of Carole and Tuesday. The song itself talks about reaching new heights, and being able to take a sigh of relief now that you have succeeded in making something of yourself. For me, a component that perfectly embodies all of that is a Japanese cotton cheesecake. Cotton cheesecake is an extremely technical and temperamental batter, so whenever you get a fluffy, light, not wrinkly or cracked cheesecake, it is the most satisfying feeling. Even more so than when you get a tray of perfect macaron shells. Granted, for the way I am presenting this dish, flaws in the cheesecake are actually okay, so this concept is a perfect one for practicing cotton cheesecake with. Another thing about the cotton cheesecake that I love is that it is a hybrid between a souffle and a cheesecake, with souffle being French for “breath”. When I was discussing the concept with my dear friend, Shari, she actually suggested I do a cheese souffle of some kind for this, and that’s when I had this idea of going with the cotton cheesecake.

The dish itself is actually more of a cheese course than it is a dessert. I’m serving the cheesecake with a parmesan-mint sable, to add in the salt factor, and a fig ice cream. The usage of mint and an ice cream was to tie in with that feeling you get when you get a breath of fresh air on a cold day. That way, you can really get a variety of textures, temperatures, and flavors with this dish. That and I feel like cheese courses are more regal, as you don’t see them except in more upscale settings anyways, and that ties into Angela, the character who sang this song, coming from a more cosmopolitan and privileged background.

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Mascarpone cotton cheesecake:
4 oz mascarpone cheese
3 egg whites
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon Meyer lemon juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt down mascarpone, milk, and butter on a double boiler. Whip cream of tartar with egg whites, vanilla extract, and half of the sugar to soft peaks. Whip egg yolks with the remaining sugar and lemon juice to stiff ribbon stage. Allow the mascarpone mixture to cool down to room temperature and start by folding in the egg yolk mixture first, then the egg white mixture. Transfer to a piping bag. Pipe into silicone bar molds. Place gently into a warm water bath and bake at 300 degrees F for 25 minutes. Allow to sit in the oven for another 10 minutes, oven turned off and door just slightly opened, before taking out and allowing to cool to room temperature before unmolding.

Parmesan-mint sable:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mint powder
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Blitz ingredients together into a dough. On a parchment-lined sheet tray, roll out to a flat sheet of dough. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool completely. Crush into smaller pieces before using.

For the mint powder:
2 cups fresh mint leaves

Microwave the mint leaves in 10 second intervals for 50 seconds. Once the mint leaves are curled and crunchy, transfer to a food processor or spice grinder and crush into a fine powder. Reserve some for garnish and use the rest in your sable.

For the fig-honey ice cream:
3 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup fig compote
1/4 cup honey
a pinch of salt

Melt fig compote into the heavy cream. Temper the eggs with the honey, salt, and heavy cream and whisk on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to an ice cream machine and churn. Freeze until firm, about 1-2 hours, before quenelling.

For the port-fig reduction:
3 tablespoons fig jam
1/4 cup port wine
a pinch of salt

Reduce the three ingredients down until the alcohol is completely cooked out. Transfer to  a blender and puree until smooth and creamy, passing through a sieve to guarantee a homogenous texture. Transfer to a piping bag.

For the fig compote:
1 cup fresh figs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
a pinch of salt

On low heat, cook down all of the ingredients, stirring occasionally, until the figs have fully broken down and reduced into a jam consistency. Cool down completely before using in the ice cream.

To plate:
Slice the cheesecake into smaller pieces, and dust with the mint powder. Start with a crumble of the mint-parmesan sable, and then garnish with the cheesecake, dots of your reduction, and finally, a quenelle of the ice cream.

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