Garlic toast crust:
1¼ cups plus 2 Tbsp. garlic-flavored melba toast crumbs*
¼ tsp. table salt
4 to 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Garlic cheesecake filling:
3 8-oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 tsp. table salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
5 heads garlic, roasted and cooled
¼ cup snipped fresh chives
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 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.
• Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
• Place the softened cream cheese and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on low speed until very smooth and entirely lump-free. Increase the speed to medium and add the eggs, 1 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.)
• Beat in the roasted garlic, then stir in the chives and black pepper by hand.
• Turn the filling into the prepared pan and bake about 30 to 35 minutes or until the edges have puffed slightly and the center just barely wiggles when the pan is tapped on its side. Turn off the oven, open the door and let the cheesecake cool in the oven for 15 minutes.
• Transfer the cake to a rack and cool it 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.
* I use Old London brand, reduced to a very fine crumb in the food processor.