The first time my mother came to visit me in Taiwan was during my second year on the island. It is always great to see my parents, but that visit really meant a lot to me because I was seriously homesick and also because it was great to show my mom that I could make it on my own in a very foreign country.
I remember the first time I took her grocery shopping at Tesco (now Carrefour) in Zhongli. We spent almost 2 hours just walking up and down the aisles, my mom picking up almost every can and packet and wondering what on Earth it could contain. You see, to a South African, used to shopping at Pick 'n Pay in South Africa, being in a supermarket where they have a whole aisle just for instant noodles, a whole aisle just for different kinds of soy sauce and a fresh produce section that included live frogs, this was kind of special. I know what you're thinking - how do you keep live frogs in an open container, without them jumping around all over the place; or at the very least trying "to make a run (hop) for it"? It's simple...the water they sit in contains a drug that makes them sleepy and lazy. If only they knew....
One thing that my mom found at Tesco, that she fell in love with immediately, was their "cheese cake". I say "cheese cake" because when we think of cheese cake, we think of something creamy, cheesy and somewhat dense and solid too. But not these ones. These ones were baked in an oval shape and were light and melt-in-your-mouth fluffy ones that the two of us had never tasted before. My mother immediately gave me the task of finding her the recipe for this kind of "cheese cake". Undaunted by this task, I checked through some local bilingual cookbooks and found a recipe for her. Unfortunately, as anyone who has read my post "Excuse me, waiter..." can attest, it can sometimes be near impossible to understand these "translations" and I think my mother has put that idea to bed, soon after her return to sunny South Africa.
Well, I am happy to report that six years later, I have finally translated the recipe with the help of The Good Doctor and baked it, successfully I might add. And yes, I have checked the quantities - you only need 25 grams of cake flour, I promise. Know in advance that this cake climbs out of the tin to a height that you won't believe. Don't be scared - it will settle down again, after you've taken it out of the oven!
Baked Cheese Cake, Taiwan Style
200g cream cheese
60 g butter
100 g milk
25 g cake flour
20 g corn starch (corn flour, a.k.a. Maizena)
110 g sugar
5 eggs, separated
juice of a lemon (optional, but I find it cuts through the eggy-ness)
Preheat the oven to 180 ºC.
Warm butter, milk and cream cheese together until it is melted and well blended together. Set aside and let it cool down to room temperature.
Sift the flour and corn starch together in a bowl and mix in the yolks. Set aside.
Whisk the egg whites and sugar together until the soft peak stage.
Fold in the cheese mixture into the egg whites carefully, a little at a time, using a metal spoon. Don't work too roughly, as you don't want to lose too much air!
Carefully fold the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture. I do this slowly and carefully with a balloon whisk. Add the optional lemon juice at this point.
Pour the batter into baking tins, lined with baking paper. I used two 22cm x 9cm fruit loaf tins.
Bake in a bain-marie (water bath) at 180 ºC for 30 minutes. Thereafter reduce the heat to 150 ºC and bake for a further 60 minutes. Loosely cover the top of the baking tins after the 1st hour of baking to prevent the top from browning too much.
Allow the cake to cool in the tin before carefully removing it by holding onto the baking paper. Serve with a sour-ish berry jam on the side or as a very light and fluffy dessert.