Though less common than sweet versions, savory cheesecakes are no more difficult – and just as satisfying. To morph sweet into savory, simply omit the sugar, use crackers or toasted bread in lieu of graham crackers or cookies for the crumb crust, and add pre-cooked flavorings and salt. And as with any cheesecake, watch both ingredient and oven temperatures, as indicated below, to ensure the creamiest possible texture and to avoid cracking.
Yield: 1 (9-inch) cheesecake
Prep Talk: For easiest slicing, the cheesecake must cool to room temperature and then chill for 3 hours. Plan accordingly.
Garlic Toast Crust:
- 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons garlic-flavored melba toast crumbs (I use Old London® brand, reduced to a very fine crumb in the food processor.)
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 4 to 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Garlic Cheesecake Filling:
- 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
- 3/4 teaspoon table salt
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 5 heads (yes, heads) garlic, roasted and cooled
- 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 | Make the crust. Lightly grease the sides and bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper. Mix the melba toast crumbs and salt together in a small bowl. Gradually add the melted butter until the crumbs just hold together when squeezed in the palm of your hand. Press the mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan, keeping the crust to a uniform 1/8-inch thickness. Pack and level the crust by running the bottom of a measuring cup over it.
2 | Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
3 | Make the filling. Place the softened cream cheese and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the cream cheese on low speed until very smooth and entirely lump-free. Increase the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, stopping regularly to scrape down the sides of the bowl. (Note: The mixture should remain completely lump-free at every step of the process.)
4 | Beat in the roasted garlic (sans skins, of course); then stir in the chives and black pepper by hand.
5 | Turn the filling into the prepared pan and bake about 30 to 35 minutes, or until the edges of the cheesecake have puffed slightly and the center just barely wiggles when the pan is tapped on its side. (Note: Don’t stress over any small cracks around the edges. They will disappear as the cheesecake cools, and they don’t indicate that the cheesecake has been over-baked as larger cracks do.) Turn off the oven, open the door, and let the cheesecake cool in the oven for 15 minutes.
6 | Transfer the cheesecake to a rack and cool completely in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until easily sliced, about 3 hours. Serve in small slices as an accompaniment to salad, or in one large round topped with roasted red peppers or sautéed mushrooms as a self-serve appetizer.