If you can get your hands on a paw paw, this should definitely be on your list of things to make. A pastry chef I worked with was very talented at using them, his cheesecake was the first thing I ate made with paw-paws, and it is a great recipe. The paw paw’s fruity flavor makes it a natural thing to enjoy in cheesecake form as they pair especially well with dairy, and really could be used in anything with a creamy texture, like a pudding, custard or ice cream. It’s also necessary to cut the flavor of the paw paw a bit as I do here with cheese, when eaten raw they can have a slightly bitter note.
The inside of the paw paw and the presence of the very large seeds means what you get is a bunch of stringy, sticky pulp after cleaning. With this funky texture, I like to puree paw paw fruit for use in cooking.The flavor of paw paws is really rich and tropical, almost like a banana-mango. Its hard to believe that it is the largest indigenous fruit in the United States. I always thought that they had to be grown on specialty farms, but it turns out that they grow wild on the east coast. A couple months ago I started running across recipes for wild-crafters that had discovered these forgotten fruits again.
In Eastern America, there are apparently about 8 different varieties of paw-paw that grow, I have cleaned and processed every one, and they are pretty fascinating. Each type has subtle differences, mostly in the flavor and color of the flesh. I remember when processing a bunch last year that some flesh was a dull yellow, some extremely vibrant yellow, and some others varying shades of orange.
The flavor of the different varieties seems to range from slightly bitter to intensely custardy and sweet. For consistency reasons, the paw paws are pureed together en masse, and then used for cooking. Most likely if you order some online, you will probably just receive one species though. Paw paws can be ordered online anytime from Earthy Delights, I would recommend experimenting with the frozen pulp they offer first, since it would involve much less work as far as cleaning the paw paws, which can be messy/sticky.
This is just a simple recipe for cheesecake. When serving in a restaurant, I would garnish it with something crunchy (the black walnut crumble takes the place of the crust here) and maybe an acidic, fruity sauce, to give it some zip and play down it’s richness a bit. Here I garnished it with a black walnut crumble and a slightly acidic syrup made with dried elderberries and wine. It would be just as good with some simple strawberry or raspberry preserves though.
The size of these cheesecakes is a little trick I use, since I don’t have ten people living with me, I can’t make entire cheesecakes, since I would eat all of it myself. A little while ago I modified my cheesecake recipe to be made in individual ramekins, you just slide a knife around the edge to un-mold them and then garnish with whatever you like. Its cheap, and cooking cheesecake in small batches won’t make you fat.
Note: If you don’t feel like ordering paw paws, you could modify this recipe easily by substituting pureed mango for the paw paw.
Paw Paw Cheesecake
Makes 8 small cakes, 4 oz each using 1 cup ramekins
Prep Time: 20 minutes to clean paw paws and assemble cake ingredients
Bake Time: 40 minutes at 300
- Two 8 oz packages of cream cheese, highest fat variety available, left out at room temperature overnight to temper (low fat cream cheese lacks the true, slightly piquant flavor of cream cheese)
- 2 large eggs, plus 3 yolks
- 2 cups pureed paw paw pulp
- Tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice, if you don’t have fresh juice, omit this
- 1/8 tsp salt, this balances the flavor
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- Black Walnut Crumble, see recipe here
- Dried Elderberry Syrup, recipe follows
Dried Elderberry Syrup
- 1/4 cup dried elderberries, you could also substitute dried currants or raisins
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1tbsp sugar or honey
- In a small saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until the wine is reduced by half and the liquid has thickened slightly. Transfer to a container such as a glass mason jar and refrigerate until needed.
- This keeps for a long time and can be used to garnish things like ice cream, or could be used to create a sauce for poultry or pork by combining with 1 cup meat stock and reducing by 50%, then whisking in a tbsp of butter and cooking on medium heat until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- If the syrup over reduces and gets to thick, just reheat it with a little water until it’s the viscosity you’d like.
Cooking and serving the paw paw cheesecakes
- Preheat the oven to 300 F.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or in a metal bowl with an electric egg beater, whip the eggs, yolks, and sugar until the eggs change color, becoming fluffy and light yellow.
- When the sugar and eggs are light and fluffy, add the cream cheese and mix until totally incorporated and lump-less.
- When the cheese is incorporated, add the salt lemon juice, and paw-paw puree, then mix thoroughly.
- Butter 8 ramekins or spray with non stick spray, then fill up each ramekin with the cheesecake mixture, stopping at the 1 cup measuring line inside of the lip of each one, this will prevent overflowing as the eggs expand during cooking.
- Take a deep baking pan with high sides, or even a 9/13 brownie pan, (I have even steamed these in 10 inch high sided saute pans with a metal lid in a pinch) place the ramekins full of cheesecake mixture in the pan, the pour warm water in the pan until water each ramekin is half submerged, cover the pan with aluminum foil tightly and place in the oven.
- After 40 minutes, remove the pan from the oven Allow the cheesecakes to cool in the water, then refrigerate. Lastly, wrap each ramekin full of cheesecake in plastic wrap until ready to un-mold and eat.
- When it is time to serve and eat the cheesecakes, remove them from the refrigerator to temper for an hour before serving, this allows their flavor to bloom. run a knife around the edge of each ramekin to remove the cheesecakes, then garnish with the elderberry syrup and black walnut crumble.