Tag Archives: Cheesecake

Valentine’s Honey Ricotta Cheesecake Pie (Dark Days)

Remember how I said that I love cheesecake? Well, the stars aligned this week, and I finally had a good reason to make a cheesecake. For the Dark Days challenge, we were asked to make a local, seasonal Valentine’s day dessert. I’ve also been experimenting with cheesemaking, and had just made a fresh batch of ricotta from local Strauss cream and milk. So I went looking for a cheesecake recipe that I could make with local ingredients. As I searched, I found a great recipe from Giada De Laurentiis for a honey ricotta cheesecake.

However, the crust was made with biscotti, which I definitely could not source within 150 miles. So I decided to make the crust with local almonds and butter. The only challenge I had was that the recipe called for sugar. I decided that I would continue to use the small amount of sugar called for in the recipe, as I didn’t think that honey would work from a textural standpoint completely.

I don’t currently have a springform pan, so I decided to modify the recipe to be made in a 9″ pie pan instead. So it’s technically not a cheesecake, though I used a cheesecake recipe. I’m calling it a cheesecake pie, but the key is that it’s simple–no water bath, and it’s easy to put together. (FYI, you can still do a water bath if you want–I did have some cracking on part of the outside edge, which the water bath likely would have prevented. I’m not that picky, however!)

Another great part of the recipe is that it’s entirely made in the food processor. And for those of you out there without a food processor, unfortunately, this is probably not a recipe that will work for you (you really need it to grind the crust and puree the ricotta). For the crust, I used whole raw almonds, local Strauss butter, and a few tablespoons of sugar. The process is ultra simple–just blend the nuts, salt and sugar till finely chopped, then add the melted butter and pulse until it is incorporated. The mixture will look like breadcrumbs–definitely not like a pie dough–you can see it above.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Dump the mixture into the pie pan, and spread it around evenly with your hands and the bottom of a glass or measuring cup that is flat. Press it into corners and about 1/2 of the way up the sides of the pan, trying to keep it at equal thickness all over. Make sure you compress the crust, as it needs to be firmly in place to keep from crumbling when you pre-bake it. The crust needs to be baked empty for 15-20 minutes, until it is light brown. Take it out to let it cool for at least 30 minutes.

Honey Ricotta Cheesecake with Almond Crust

Serves 8

For the Crust

  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • 5 tbsp sugar
  • 5 tbsp butter (unsalted)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)

For the Filling

  • 1 (12-ounce) container fresh whole milk ricotta, drained (or 10-oz well drained homemade ricotta)
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature, or 16-oz creme fraiche, if that is what is available to be sourced locally
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange blossom or clover honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (or blood orange, lime, etc.)
  • 4 large eggs
Optional–for Topping
  • 1 blood orange
  • lemon or lime curd

While the pie crust is cooling, turn the oven down to 350°, and place the ricotta into the food processor (I didn’t bother to clean it after making the crust–it only had a few bits left in it). Blend until it is completely smooth. This is important, as the texture of the cheesecake is much better without the pronounced graininess of the ricotta. Then add the cream cheese or creme fraiche (I used local Bellwether Farms creme fraiche, which is very thick and similar in texture to cream cheese, because I couldn’t find local cream cheese) and the sugar, and blend until well mixed, stopping once or twice to scrape down the walls of the processor.

Then add the honey and lemon zest, pulsing until incorporated. Finally, add all 4 eggs and blend just until they are mixed in. Pour this filling over the cooled crust. Make sure not to jostle it around very much, as the drips will tend to burn. For the most attractive cheesecake, fill only up to the level of the crust. If you have any extra filling, you can always fill a ramekin or two and bake them separately for a cook’s snack (take out much sooner).

Place the pie pan in the oven, and cook for about 40 minutes. This is much faster than a typical cheesecake, as the filling is thinner in the pie pan. Be sure to take the pie out before the center is firm–it will continue to firm up as it cools, so the ideal creamy cheesecake is jiggling a bit in the middle when you take it out. Let it sit out for about an hour, then cover and chill for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator before serving.

As you can see above, I added a simple little valentine’s flourish with some blood orange segments. Just cut out a blood orange into segments, and pick two of similar size. Lay them out on the cutting board paired together, and trim to develop the heart shape. Transfer to the top of each slice, and you have a lovely Valentine’s heart. This cheesecake is also delicious served with lemon or lime curd. You can drizzle some on the bottom of the plate before you put down a slice, then add the blood orange heart on top, or place a dollop of lemon curd on the top, as you see below. This makes for a fun and relatively easy Valentine’s dessert, or really a great base for any seasonal toppings you want throughout the year.

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Sour Cherry Cheesecake Ice Cream

I’m kind-of in love with cheesecake. Creamy, decadent, and rich, it’s definitely a special treat. However, it’s not something I can justify making just for a Sunday afternoon.  The challenge with making something like cheesecake is that it’s a little bit too easy to keep eating if you aren’t serving it to a crowd.

So I decided the safest route would be to make ice cream, and get my cheesecake in a more easily rationed frozen format. So I got out the  ice cream maker, and started brainstorming. I thought of the sour cherries I canned in a light syrup last spring, and ended up trying to recreate New York cherry cheesecake in an ice cream. This ice cream turned out to be exactly what I wanted–rich and decadent enough have a small scoop satisfy, and with the creamy and tangy combination that I was going for.

The base was pretty simple. Sour cream, cream and eggs get cooked together with the sugar, then cooled overnight (while the ice cream maker gets chilled in the freezer). The next day, throw in a bit if maraschino liqueur of you have it (or vanilla if you don’t), and some cold milk. Since the milk never gets cooked, I ended up using raw milk. I like drinking raw milk, but use pasteurized milk for cooking. I always like to use raw milk in recipes when I can, as it is much easier to digest (and better for you) than pasteurized.

While the ice cream was churning in the ice cream maker, I drained the canned cherries, reserving the liquid. I chopped the preserved sour cherries in half, then added them after the ice cream was frozen. The ice cream comes out looking like soft serve, and needs at least a couple of hours in the freezer to harden. The liqueur in the ice cream helps to keep it from freezing too hard. If you want to create a syrup for your ice cream, you can cook down the syrup from the cherries to make a sauce.

Sour Cherry Cheesecake Ice Cream

1 pint heavy cream

2 cups whole milk (I used raw milk, as this part is never heated)

16 oz cream cheese, softened

2 cups raw / organic sugar

3 beaten eggs

2 tsp maraschino or kirsch liqueur (or vanilla, if you prefer)

1 cup preserved sour cherries, drained and cut in half (reserve syrup to reduce for topping)

In a large saucepan, whisk together the cream, sugar, and eggs. Cook and stir over medium heat until it begins to thicken. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth, then gradually beat in hot mixture. Cover and chill completely.

Stir in the milk and vanilla. Freeze in a 4-quart ice-cream maker according to directions (or two rounds in a small , then scoop into a freezer-safe container to store. Stir in the cherries. Freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.

If you are interested in making a syrup to drizzle on top, here is how I made mine. In a small saucepan, heat the syrup from the sour cherries with 1/2 cup sugar (if your cherries were canned in a light syrup, like mine) until the mixture comes to a boil. Let it cook until it reduces by 25% and begins to thicken. Chill completely, then drizzle on top of your ice cream when serving.

You could definitely adapt this to a variety of berries–I think it would be fantastic with blueberries or strawberries. You could even swirl in a ribbon of jam in place of  the cherries. In fact, I may try that next time!

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