For years, I’ve wanted to make a ricotta cheesecake. One time, long ago, I did it in a coffee mug–I was going through a weird phase of my life, then–but that was it. I never actually made a real ricotta cheesecake.
Then, this weekend, I was supposed to bring a dessert to a dinner party. The original plan was to bring a chocolate dessert, but the day before I had a sudden change of heart. “Can I bring a ricotta cheesecake instead?” I asked the host. The host said, “Sure.” I was all set to make the one out of Gina DePalma’s Dolce Italiano (a wonderful book) until I told Gina DePalma my plan and she let me in on a little secret.
Though she still stands by the one in the book (and that looks like a pretty terrific recipe), she likes this one even better (that’s a link to her blog). I hope Gina doesn’t mind me quoting her e-mail: “This one overtook the other one because I don’t do a crust and I find that sooooo much easier. It is really simple and clean tasting and you can put whatever you want on top.”
Simple is an understatement. Watch how easy: brush some butter in a springform pan and coat it with breadcrumbs.
Put two pounds (you heard that right, two pounds) of ricotta in a food processor and pulse for 10 seconds.
Now add cream cheese. (Yes, there’s cream cheese in this ricotta cheesecake but Gina defends it on her blog: “Don’t worry yourself about this or wince from the inauthenticity – the ratio of cream cheese to ricotta is small, and if you lived in Italy as I did, you’d know that Italians are big fans of the ole’ Philly.”)
Once that’s worked in you add the secret ingredient. It may take you by surprise:
Matzoh meal? In a cheesecake? What gives!?
Gina explains that the excess moisture in supermarket ricotta is a problem in cheesecake and after experiments with flour, corn starch and rice flour, matzoh meal showed up and did a bang-up job. It’s pretty much entirely undetectable when you eat this cheesecake; but it helps produce a texture that gives this post its title–creamy and dreamy. Along with the matzoh meal, you add eggs, vanilla, and–taking inspiration from the cookbook recipe–orange zest. I also used Grand Marnier instead of Amoretto to bring out the orange flavor. Worked like a charm.
Pulse all that:
And your work is pretty much done. You just pour that into the prepared pan…
…and bake for 90 minutes at 300 degrees.
It’ll still be a bit jiggly in the center, but things will firm up when–after cooling–you refrigerate for four hours. You’ve gotta admit this is a pretty gorgeous cheesecake.
And so easy! A dessert everyone should have in their repertoire. So thanks, Gina, for being so inspired in the art of ricotta cheesecake making. I’ve come a long way from my coffee mug days and now that I’ve made the real thing, I have a feeling I’ll be making it again and again and again.
Recipe: Gina DePalm’s Creamy, Dreamy Ricotta Cheesecake
Summary: A recipe by the brilliant Gina DePalma.
- 3 tablespoons dry, unseasoned breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar PLUS 3/4 cup granulated sugar for the filling
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
- 2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese (that’s 32 ounces)
- 8 ounces Philadelphia or other brand cream cheese, softened
- 2 tablespoons matzoh meal
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 Tablespoon Amaretto or dark rum or Grand Marnier
- Freshly grated zest of 1 small lemon (or, if you go the Grand Marnier route, a small orange)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center.
- Combine the breadcrumbs and the tablespoon of sugar with your fingers. Use a pastry brush to spread the butter along the bottom and halfway up a 10-inch springform pan. Pour in the crumbs and shake them all around, coating the bottom and the sides. Dump out the excess. Pop the pan in the freezer while you make the filling.
- In a food processor, pulse the ricotta for 20 seconds until smooth. Add the cream cheese and process another 10 seconds or until incorporated.
- Add the 3/4 cups sugar, the matzoh meal, the eggs, the vanilla extract and the liquor and zest. Pulse 10 seconds, lift the lid and scrape down the sides, then pulse another 10 seconds.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
- Place in the oven and immediately lower the heat to 300 degrees. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until the center is set but still quivering slightly (mine quivered a lot, even after an additional 15 minutes, so I used a different test: I pressed my finger in the center and when I felt it was firm, I took the cake out of the oven).
- Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack until it reaches room temperature then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before slicing and serving.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s)
Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12