According to archaeologists, some of the very first cakes ever made were simple concoctions of soft goat cheese, honey, and sometimes a little bit of grain. These cheesecake tarts are my homage to those ancient cakes. The flaky pastry crust gets a nutty flavor from buckwheat flour but has also been adapted to be gluten-free. The filling is an aromatic mixture of homemade bay-leaf-infused goat cheese and honey. A gorgeous topping of elderberry honey sauce really dresses these up, and a roasted fig with honey is the perfect complement to the richness of the cheesecake below.
This makes 18 2½-inch tarts.
1 cup white rice flour
1 cup tapioca starch
½ cup buckwheat flour
½ cup sorghum flour
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ cup vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon white vinegar
Homemade Cheese Filling:
2 quarts whole goat milk
1 or 2 fresh bay leaves
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
⅔ cup honey Elderberry Glaze:
1 cup ripe elderberries (or blueberries)
½ cup water
⅓ cup honey
1 teaspoon cornstarch
18 small figs
First, prepare the pastry crust. Whisk together the flours, xanthan gum, and salt.
Cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the egg to a cup measure and beat it with the vinegar. Add ice water until you have a cup of liquid.
Stirring the flour mixture with a fork, add the water mixture a tiny bit at a time until your dough just comes together. (It should be soft, but not sticky.)
You’ll have liquid left over, just discard it. Press the dough into your tart shells and refrigerate or freeze them while you work on the filling.
Line a colander with a large piece of dampened cheesecloth folded over 4 times. Place it over a bowl so it is ready when it is time to strain the cheese.
Add the goat milk, salt, and bay leaf to a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until you reach 185ºF, then remove from heat. A
dd the lemon juice and stir 5 times, then let it sit for 5 minutes, untouched. This will allow the curds to form! Remove the bay leaf, then pour the mixture into the lined colander and allow it to drain.
You’ll want a fairly thick cheese, so let it drain for at least 30 minutes and longer if necessary. It should be relatively the same texture as store-bought ricotta. Mix 2 cups of the homemade cheese with the honey, then spoon into the pastry shells. Bake at 350ºF until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.
Remove and let cool while you make the elderberry honey glaze and roasted figs. To roast the figs, just place them upright on a lined baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. They should be gently soft. To make the glaze, combine the fresh elderberries and water in a medium saucepan.
Bring to a simmer, using the back of a spoon to smoosh the berries as they cook. Once the mixture is bubbling and the berries have broken down, pass it through a fine sieve to remove the skins and seeds.
Add that back to the saucepan with the honey. Make a slurry with the cornstarch and 2 teaspoons of water and add it.
Cook over medium heat until it has thickened into a glaze. Top each cooked tart with some elderberry honey glaze and a whole roasted fig, with some more elderberry honey drizzled over the top.
Serve at room temperature.