Friday, May 07, 2010

Sake Kasu Cheesecake

Last year, Kazuhiro Sakurai from Asahi Shuzo in Yamaguchi gave us his Dassai Junmai Ginjo sake kasu.  Sake kasu is the sake lees that are left over after the mash has been pressed to extract the sake following fermentation.  The kasu is filled with lots of nutritients including carbohydrates, proteins, vitamin B, fiber, and yeast, and has some valuable potential health benefit.  Traditionally, sake kasu has been used to make amazake, a sweet sake by mixing it with sugar and water.  Another use is to add it to miso soup or in making Japanese pickles.  Lately, we have also seen sake kasu used in cosmetics such as facial masks.  When we received the sake kasu from Mr. Sakurai, we made sake kasu nabe, mixing sake kasu with the soup in nabe (hot pot).  Adding the sake kasu enriches the flavor of the nabe adding another flavor dimension to an ordinary pork or chicken nabe.  We froze the left over sake kasu for  future use. 

Recently, Hiroko had the urge to bake something sweet.  Struck by a bolt of inspiration, she suddenly announced, "I am going to make a sake kasu cheesecake."  

She pulled the frozen sake kasu from the freezer to thaw the day before she was going to bake.  A 300g package contains two sheets of sake kasu.  We had one sheet remaining in the package. The first step was to break it into small pieces and mix it with warm milk to make a soft paste (about 1/2 cup).
While baking the crust, she mixed cream cheese, the sake kasu paste, and sugar together, and beat eggs into the mixture one at a time.  She then tasted the mixture and added lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla to adjust the flavor.  She then poured the  mixture into the baked crust, and baked it for about an hour.  

The kitchen was filled with the savory aroma of cheese and sake.  The next day, she sliced it gently to taste her creation.  It was very soft and moist, and it tasted almost like regular cheesecake, but sake flavor lingered long after each bite.  Paired  with a nigori zake, it made a delicious dessert.  

Sake Kasu Cheesecake

1/3 cup cookie crumbs
2 tablespoons melted butter

2   8 ounce packages of softened cream cheese (Hiroko used 1/3 less fat) 
1/2 or less cup of softened sake kasu (sake kasu mixed with milk, soy milk, water, or sake)
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla

1.  Crust.  Mix crumbs with butter and press onto the bottom of spring form pan.  Bake at 350 degrees about 10 minutes.
2.  Filling.  Mix cream cheese, sake kasu, and sugar together until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time to blend the mixture well.  Add lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla to taste.  Pour over crust and bake at 375 degrees for about 1 hour. 
3.  Allow it  to cool  for about 15 minutes and remove the rim of the pan.  Chill in the refrigerator.