A Little Too Dark, a Little Too Light: Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte

Another day, another office birthday, another cake! I decided to try Dorie Greenspan's Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte, a recipe from Baking: From My Home to Yours that's been on my to-bake list for some time. The torte has a cookie crust covered in a layer of berry jam and topped with a mixture of cottage cheese and cream cheese "that bakes to a thin, velvety layer that inspires triple indulgences."

You make the cookie crust in the food processor from flour, sugar, salt, cold butter, egg yolks, and vanilla. Once the dough comes together, you can either immediately press it into a pan, or briefly chill and then roll it. I went the chill and roll route, and instead of the springform pan specified, I used a 9-inch cheesecake pan with a removable bottom. After you line the pan with the dough, you chill it again briefly and then blind bake it.

As I normally do when I blind bake crusts, I lined the crust with parchment paper before I put in the pie weights. When I took the baked crust out of the oven and tried to pull off the parchment paper and weights, the parchment paper was stuck to the crust in quite a few places, and some significant bits of dough came off when I removed the paper. That has never happened to me before, although I suppose I should have followed the recipe's instructions to cover the crust with buttered foil instead. Fortunately, the crust was still quite soft, and I was able to do a little bit of patching and repair simply by smoothing the crust over with the back of a metal spoon.

You spread a layer of berry jam (I used cherry) over the baked crust, and then pour on a topping made by blending cream cheese, cottage cheese, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and eggs in the food processor. You are supposed to bake the filled crust for 60-70 minutes, or until the filling is puffed and no longer jiggly. I checked the torte at the minimum time and was alarmed to see that the top was brown -- a background shade of golden brown covered with large and irregular very dark brown splotches. It appeared on the verge of being burnt. The torte pictured in the cookbook is a pristine ivory color that shows no browning whatsoever.

Despite its scorched appearance, the interior and crust of the torte were not overcooked. The crust was the best part -- a cripsy, buttery cookie that was a perfect base. The cherry flavor was not very strong and I think the torte would have benefited significantly from a fruit sauce or topping. The cream cheese-cottage cheese layer was mildly flavored, and much lighter in texture than a cheesecake -- combined with the fact that the cream cheese layer was so short, the dessert was fairly light overall. While I usually don't like the heaviness of a cheesecake, I thought this torte was missing a bit of the richness and decadent mouthfeel that I expect in a cream cheese dessert. All in all, the dessert was good, but not a standout.

Recipe: "Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte" from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan.


Louise said…
This looks so much like a cheese pie that my 85-year-old aunt always makes when we visit her. Her's doesn't have the jam, so it's even blander that this one. She's actually a pretty sharp lady, but for some reason she seems to think we all really like this dessert. :-(
@Louise -- it's very kind of you not to disabuse her of this notion! :)