Corsicans make a glorious version of cheesecake using their favorite fresh cheese, brocciu, a goat or ewe’s milk cheese: white, light, and soft when fresh. If you drain ricotta and push it through a sieve, you will obtain an excellent substitute.
I first tasted this Corsican cheesecake (fiadone) in Ajaccio in early June, when the local brocciu cheese season was nearly over. The cake was a revelation: simple, wobbly, delicate, and creamy throughout, with a thin black topping. The man who sold it told me he made his fiadone just the way his mother had, searing it in a hot wood-burning oven until it was almost set, then moving it to a cooler part of the oven to finish baking slowly on its own.
As it happens, this is basically the same method used to make the famous New York Lindy’s cheesecake. Food writer James Villas told me his father so admired Lindy’s version that back in 1954, he asked his waiter for the recipe, slipping him a twenty-dollar bill while telling him that his wife simply “had to have it.” The waiter dutifully returned with the details handwritten on a paper napkin. According to these notes, at Lindy’s the cake is first blasted with high heat to set the outside, then baked slowly at a very low temperature to avoid curdling the eggy cheese mixture, and finally finished in the receding heat of a turned-off oven.
Many baking books warn you not to overbake, but slow-baking is not only forgiving, it will actually produce a better cake with a fragile texture and a subtle flavor. And the burnt topping resulting from the final broiling makes it especially delicious. For best flavor, drain the cheese two days before using.
The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert. Copyright © 2003 by Paula Wolfert. Photographs copyright © by Christopher Hirsheimer. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.