Basque-Style Cheesecake Bars

Tarta de queso, known as gazta tarta in the Basque Region, is a cheesecake that is crustless, creamy, tender, and really amazing — it’s known as Burnt Basque Cheesecake here in the states. It’s also less sweet than the New York-style cheesecake. These Basque Cheesecake Bars have the flavor profile of the Basque dessert but are made into a more handy, on-the-go format by adding a crust made of Maria cookies (which are also Spanish!) and then cutting them into squares.

Basque-Style Cheesecake Bars

How is Basque cheesecake different than American cheesecake?

According to the author of the cookbook Basque Country, ” The deeply caramelized cross between a dense New York-style cheesecake and Spanish flan.”

When I tried tarta de queso when I was in Donostia last August 2019, I noticed that the flavor leaned towards a little savory. I loved the creamy texture that was a little more complex and nuanced than NY-style cheesecake. I tried to get the famous burnt Basque cheesecake at La Viña in the old town portion of Donostia, but alas they were out of it.

However, I did get to have it a few other bars/cafes in town though – so don’t fret if you travel to San Sebastian and have trouble either getting it or just getting the waiter’s attention, at La Viña. Instead, try Sakona Coffee Roasters or any bar that has the cheesecake set out on the bar. They are all great!

How do you make burnt Basque cheesecake, a.k.a. tarta de queso?

Make the cookie crust. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing for an overhang of at least 2 inches on all sides and spray lightly with nonstick baking spray. Smash the cookies with a rolling pin until fine. In a bowl combine the Maria cookie crumbs, sugar, and butter, until it looks like wet sand. Press the mixture into the bottom very firmly into the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and set aside on a cooling rack until needed.

Increase the oven temperature to 400F. (Overcompensate to 410 or 415 if you know your oven runs cold! Mine does.)

Prepare the cheesecake. In a large bowl using a handheld mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Add the salt and mix. Incorporate the eggs one by one and mix completely, then add in the cream. Add the flour to the mixture and mix for a few more turns. Scrape down the sides and mix again to ensure it’s smooth and homogeneous.

Bake the cheesecake bars. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until very browned and almost burned-looking on top. The center will still be quite jiggly, but it’s ready. The top will fall considerably too, which is correct.

How burnt should the cheesecake be when you take it out of the oven?

very burnt! the top should be nicely browned, but the center will still be quite soft when you take it out of the oven. it will also collapse a lot. don’t worry; it will set as it cools.

How many cookies should I use to make a cookie crust?

any crunchy cookie – graham crackers, vanilla wafers, oreos, maria cookies, etc — can be crunched down, mixed with butter + sugar to become a crust for a base for a pie, tart, or cheesecake.

king arthur flour notes that “About 11 whole graham crackers will yield 1 3/4 cups. Forty chocolate wafer cookies (9 ounces) will yield 2 cups; 71 vanilla wafer crackers (8 3/4 ounces) will crunch down to 2 cups of crumbs; and 43 gingersnaps (10 3/4 ounces) will crush down to 2 cups of crumbs. “

Basque-Style Cheesecake Bars

Mimi Newman
These Burnt Basque Cheesecake Bars are tender, not too sweet, and a really delicious take on cheesecake!
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course Bars
Cuisine Spanish
Servings 12 servings

Ingredients
  

For the Maria Cookie Crust:

  • 2 cups 8.75 ounces or 248 g Maria cookie crumbs
  • ~35 Maria cookies 8 ounces/1 sleeve will crush down to 2 cups of crumbs
  • 1/4 cup 52 g granulated sugar
  • 1 stick 4 ounces or 113 g unsalted butter, melted

For the Burnt Basque Cheesecake:

  • 1 1/2 cups 350 g sugar
  • 2 pounds 1 kg cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups 480 mL whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup 30 g all-purpose flour

Instructions
 

  • Make the cookie crust. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing for an overhang of at least 2 inches on all sides and spray lightly with nonstick baking spray. In a bowl combine the Maria cookie crumbs, sugar, and butter, until it looks like wet sand. Press the mixture into the bottom very firmly into the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and set aside on a cooling rack until needed.
  • Increase the oven temperature to 400F. (Overcompensate to 410 or 415 if you know your oven runs cold! Mine does.)
  • Prepare the cheesecake. In a large bowl using a handheld mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Add the salt and mix. Incorporate the eggs one by one and stir until fully incorporated. Whisk in the cream. With a sifter, add the flour to the mixture and fold it in gently.
  • Bake the cheesecake bars. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until browned and almost burned-looking on top. This can really vary oven to oven, so it helps to have your eye on the cheesecake from 50 minutes forward. The center will still be quite jiggly, but the cake is ready. Remove from the oven and cool.
Keyword Burnt basque cheesecake, la vina cheesecake, tarta de queso
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