I decided to commemorate my 2nd annual 39th birthday with a lemon ricotta cheesecake (and also to share with my boyfriend’s family at dinner last night). And you know what? Thirty-nine the second time around doesn’t sting as much when there’s a supportive and lovable friend like a cheesecake at the table. ;-)
This is a traditional Italian Ricotta Cheesecake, not to be confused with the equally lovable, yet entirely different kind of friend, Italian Ricotta Pie. When ricotta is baked, it can very easily become grainy and gritty, but this outta-the-ballpark recipe manipulates the ingredients so the final result is a purely sensual, rolling-on-the-tongue texture of creamy delight. The humble integrity of ricotta is not only uncompromised, but further complimented by the bright and sunny addition of fresh lemon zest.
Ah, things feel better now. Here comes the sun.
LEMON RICOTTA CHEESECAKE
SERVES 12 , 1 12inch cheese cake
Note: Prep and cook time are an hour or so, but set aside 3-4 hours to allow the cake to cool in the oven! (See step 8)
3 lbs whole milk ricotta cheese, drained
2 cups sugar
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 egg whites
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
1/2-1 tablespoon grated fresh lemon rind
graham cracker crumbs
confectioners' sugar, for lightly sprinkling over top of cooled cake (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Butter bottom and sides of a 12-inch spring form pan. Sprinkle bottom and sides of well buttered pan with Graham cracker crumbs.
2. In a large bowl, beat drained ricotta until very smooth. Gradually add 1 1/2 cups sugar and egg yolks, beating after each addition. Beat in flour, lemon rind, and vanilla.
3. In a small bowl, beat cream until cream holds its shape, but is not too stiff.
4. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites with remaining sugar until fluffy and almost stiff; combine with whipped cream and fold into ricotta mixture.
5. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
6. Bake for 10 minutes.
7. Lower oven temperature to 350°F and bake 1 hour.
8. Turn off heat and allow cake to cool in oven with door closed (about 3-4 hours).
9. Remove cooled cake from oven; carefully remove sides of pan, store cake (well wrapped) in refrigerator.
10. Before serving, lightly sprinkle top of cake with powdered confectioner's sugar.
11. Cake may be served chilled or at room temperature.
NOTE: Center of cheese cake will be lower than the sides when it is cooled. This is not a defect! It is supposed to be this way (makes it easier to hold the topping if you choose to use one).
VARIATIONS: Top cheese cake with fresh berries or cherries before serving; sprinkle powdered sugar over that.
Cover bottom of crumbed pan with drained, sweetened crushed pineapple or sliced apples before adding batter to pan.
Crushed amaretto biscotti may be used instead of Graham crumbs to line pan.