Monday, 28 June 2010
Italian Ricotta Cheesecake
A while ago, I was reading one of Not Quite Nigella's posts where she visits a patisserie with a legendary ricotta cake. NQN said there was base which was a cross between pastry and biscuit and a silky smooth ricotta filling. I love ricotta and when I read this I took to the internet to try and find a recipe for myself, but I wasn't successful.
Then an episode of Italian Food Safari came along, where Guy Grossi and Loretta Sartori make an Italian Ricotta Cheesecake. Even though it was nearly one year ago that my interest was piqued, I clearly hadn't gotten over this cake. I gathered my ingredients and was determined to give it a try that very weekend.
I did make a few changes, because I loathe sultanas/raisins. I'm also not a fan of candied peel, so my cheesecake was not going to have any addins. I also added some vanilla to my ricotta mix.
Now, pastry and I do not get along. I have never been able to work properly with pastry. I can make it, but when it comes to rolling it out and working with it, it always tears and sticks to whatever I'm rolling it on (and whatever I'm rolling it with!), I can never work it into a shape, I have never been able to roll out any pastry large enough to drape it over any pie plate, I just make a mess. Luckily, I'm more of a cake than pie girl and I've got a few handy tricks in my arsenal for when the need for pastry arises.
None of those tricks helped me here. The recipe calls for you to make a pasta frolla (well, I think it's a pasta frolla, it's very similar to one I have made previously), which is incredibly light and delicate to work with. It increased my pastry woes twentyfold. It was very tasty, even uncooked, so that was some consolation while I rolled and rerolled and tried to not overwork the pastry.
Actually, the first thing you must do is roll and cut out a pastry disc, which I managed to do with no major issues. The recipe wants you to use a 26cm food ring, but I didn't have one so substituted my 22cm springform tin. I figured I'd make the same amount of filling but not use all of it. The recipe is surprisingly silent about how you get from "kneading the chilled dough" to "put the ring over the baked pastry disc" but some kind people in the comments said that you should bake your disc in a 180 degree C oven for 10 to 15 minutes. I think I took mine out at 10 minutes as it was starting to colour and a pasta frolla can get very hard very quickly.
The next step is to roll out long thin rectangles of dough that are just higher than the rim of your food ring. Looking back now, the helpful commenter recommended that you refrigerate your dough before attaching it to the cake. Maybe I should have tried that? Anyway, this was the most frustrating part of the cake for me. My pastry would tear, stick, not roll, not unroll... Grr!
I started rolling out much thicker rectangles and putting the smallest amount of pressure I could while rolling to try and avoid the sticking. The heavier pastry rectangles didn't like to stand up against the ring to start with, but eventually everything started to come together and look like a base that I could pour a cheesecake mix into.
I can't tell you how proud I was once that base was made. So proud.
After the pastry, making the ricotta filling was a breeze. Just lots of mixing.
Once the filling is all mixed and folded, you pour it into your prepared pastry case and bake it at 180 degrees C for one hour, lowering the temperature if the top starts to crack.
The cake is incredible. So smooth and creamy. The pastry crust was reminiscent of a beautiful buttery shortbread and it matched so gorgeously with the ricotta filling. The cheesecake itself is not very sweet and I think it might be because I didn't add the sultanas and candied rind. In fact, it was perfectly matched served with some sweet blueberries and raspberries.
Italian Ricotta Cheesecake
from Italian Food Safari
1 x 26 cm disc of shortcrust pastry
Extra shortcrust pastry to line the pastry ring
3 eggs (55 g)
60 g sugar
350 g cream cheese, at room temperature
650 g ricotta cheese
80 mL cream (35 % fat)
50 g sugar
80 g blanched almond meal
Sweet Shortcrust Dough, (1.2.3.) Makes 650 g pastry
1 egg (55g) (The pastry can be made without egg)
100g castor sugar
200g unsalted butter
300g plain flour
To make the pastry, cream the butter and sugar until light and pale. Add the egg, and continue creaming until absorbed.
Stop mixer and add the flour, mix only until combined. The dough will be very sticky, wrap in plastic and chill prior to use.
Knead the chilled dough lightly first to soften, roll out with a small amount of dusting flour.
Roll out the dough and cut a disc the size of your food ring and bake on a flat tray in a 180 degree C oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
Place a 5-6 cm high 26 cm round ring over the baked pastry disc. Using extra shortcrust dough, press the dough onto the wall of the ring forming the sides for the cheesecake . Smear the pastry onto the edge of the base to seal the join. Trim off any excess dough.
Whisk the eggs and sugar, (60 g) until thick. Set aside.
Beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth, then add the ricotta and beat until smooth.Add the cream, then gradually add the whisked eggs. Mix until all ingredients are well combined.
Fold in the almond meal. Transfer into the prepared base.
Bake at 180 ° C for one hour. When cool, dust with icing sugar.
Serve at room temperature, though store uneaten cheese cake in the refrigerator.