Yummy Italian Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake. And Homemade Ricotta.
You know how some people bake a cake when they’re stressed? Or make a loaf of bread? I make cheese. When I feel overwhelmed, or bummed, or nervous, cheese makes me feel better. There’s something about all that milk, the cheesecloth, the thermometers, and the TIME (it ain’t no 30 minute meal)…it just relaxes me. So last night I was feeling the need to make some cheese, and didn’t have the energy to try something too wacky or new. So ricotta it was, the recipe that introduced me to cheesemaking.
Ricotta is super easy. I know I say that a lot, but this time I really mean it. Anyone could make ricotta. Well, anyone with a stainless steel pot, a thermometer & some cheesecloth.
I started with a ratio of 1:4 of buttermilk and whole milk. I heated them up to 180 on the stove, gently stirring occasionally. Then I let them sit for half an hour or so, until I could see nice strong curds separated from the whey. Then I scooped the curds onto a strainer lined with cheesecloth. I let that sit for a while and drain until it reached what I thought was the right amount of dryness (that is personal preference that totally depends on what your plans are for the ricotta). Then I salted it to my liking and was all done!
This time I went for a pretty dry ricotta. But not too dry.
But now I have about 3 lbs of ricotta…I guess I’ll just have to bake a cake out of it. An Italian Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake to be precise. It’s my first time making an Italian cheesecake. The first time I had one was while living in New York. My friend (and maker of magic in the kitchen) Kate baked one that was so fluffy and gorgeous that I still think of it when I see them. Hopefully mine will come close!
First things first, I needed a crust.
After I baked my crust I started on the filling. I put my ricotta in the food processor to fluff it up a bit, and break down any huge curds. Then I mixed some egg yolks, sugar & and a vanilla bean until they too were nice and fluffy. I mixed into this my fluffy ricotta and some lemon zest.
Then I whipped a meringue to just medium peaks.
I folded that into my ricotta base and poured it onto my baked crust.
It spent an hour baking in the oven and came out a beautiful souffle.
And then it slowly falls. I love fallen desserts. There’s something really honest about a dessert that souffles up as high as it can go and then sinks back down as it cools.
I served it with some strawberries that had been soaking in sugar and lemon juice.
It was so light and fluffy that people kept asking if it was really cheesecake. I think Kate would have been proud.
RECIPE (Adapted from Gourmet Magazine):
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 lb whole-milk ricotta, drained in a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a bowl until dry, chilled
6 large eggs, separated
1 vanilla bean
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
1/8 teaspoon salt
– Preheat oven to 350°F.
– Pulse flour, sugar, salt, and butter in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal.
– Add yolk, vanilla, and lemon juice and pulse just until mixture begins to form a dough.
– Spread dough with a flat bottomed cup over buttered bottom of a 24-centimeter springform pan and prick all over with a fork.
– Chill 30 minutes.
– Bake crust in the middle of the oven until golden brown, about 25 minutes, and cool on a rack.
Make filling and bake cake:
– Increase oven temperature to 375°F.
– Pulse ricotta in food processor until fluffy and smooth. Beat yolks, vanilla bean seeds and sugar with an electric mixer until thick and pale.
– Beat in ricotta, flour, and zests. Beat whites with salt in another bowl until they hold soft peaks, and fold into ricotta mixture.
– Butter side of springform pan and pour filling over crust. Bake in baking pan in middle of oven until cake is puffed and golden, about 1 hour.
– Run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen and cool completely in springform pan on rack.
– Chill, loosely covered, at least 4 hours. Remove side of pan and transfer cake to a plate. Bring to room temperature and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.