Very few things on the Philippine table say Christmas with such volume and clarity than queso de bola. For Christmas Eve dessert, I thought it would be the perfect way to inject some local flavor into a very Western favorite – the cheesecake. And so that you can’t give me the queso-de-bola-isn’t-local-it’s-Dutch argument, I served it with a mango puree so there.
I looked up recipes for queso de bola cheesecake online and they all seemed to be no-bake featuring gelatin. I
dislike thoroughly abhor gelatin in cheesecake. It makes for really fake-y cake. So I turned to my go-to cheesecake recipe and decided to change it up a bit. This here is a beautifully rich and dense godsend of a recipe for a basic New York cheesecake. It’s a piece of cake to make (hee hee) and if you mess this up, it’s entirely your fault. Sky’s the limit once this cake is done. I’ve served it with the classic blueberry and strawberry fillings. It’s absolutely divine with some passionfruit sauce. I’ve added lemon zest to the batter and crushed pecans to the crust for a different take. Some melted ultra-dark chocolate drizzled on top with an Oreo crust would be super fun, too.
The most important thing in this cheesecake recipe is making sure all ingredients are at room temperature and not over-beating. I also reduce the sugar in the batter by a quarter cup and add it to the crust instead. And for this queso de bola cheesecake, I subbed one of the cream cheese blocks with a good 1 and a 1/2 cups of grated queso de bola. Peeps in my ‘hood also hoarded all the cream cheese in my grocery store so I ended up using whipped cream cheese and my recipe looked like this:
3 tubs of 8 oz. whipped cream cheese
1 and 1/2 cups grated queso de bola plus more for dusting
1 and 1/4 cups white sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
1 T vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
For the crust:
1 and 1/4 cups crushed graham crackers
1/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
1. Preheat oven to 190 C/370 F. Mix all crust ingredients in a bowl until you get moist graham cracker clusters then transfer to a springform pan and evenly flatten with a spoon. Bake for about 10 minutes. This step is optional but it makes for a sturdier crust which I like.
2. While the crust is baking, we can put the batter together. Keep an eye on the oven though and set the crust aside to cool when done and turn down the oven to 175 C/350 F. Put the cream cheese and sugar into a big bowl and whisk until all the sugar gets incorporated into the cheese.
3. Switch to a wooden spoon or spatula from here on. It will prevent you from over-beating the batter. Add in milk and mix just until it all comes together. Add in sour cream and the eggs one at a time, mixing gently. Add in vanilla extract and flour. Don’t worry if the batter looks bumpy because of the flour, it works itself out in the oven.
4. Grate in the queso de bola. I used a quartered wedge of a small one. A Microplane is very handy here but be very careful – I grated my finger once and it wasn’t pretty. Mix well.
5. Grease the springform pan with prepared crust with some melted butter and pour in the batter. This goes in the oven with a bain-marie (a tray under the rack with water). Bake for an hour.
When the hour is up, leave it in the oven for a good 6 hours. So basically, you have to forget about it once it starts baking. This will cool the cheesecake gradually and prevent cracking. Refrigerate when done.
To make mango puree, I put the flesh of one large mango into the blender and squeezed in some lemon juice as well. My mango was so sweet that it didn’t need any sugar but of course, you can sweeten to taste.
To serve, I put the mango puree under the cake to make room for a sprinkling of queso de bola on top. To achieve long-ish curly strips of queso de bola, use a zester.
Be still my heart.
The whipped cream cheese lent it a much lighter texture which isn’t bad but I prefer the denser variety with block cream cheese. But this was absolutely lovely. Cheesy, fruity, slightly salty and sweet. I told you I made up for burned stuffing.
Fun Food Fact: Cheese is wrapped in wax to prevent mold growth and retain moisture.