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Obsessive Ricotta Cheesecake
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Makes: One 9-inch cake, approximately 12 servings

I am obsessed with ricotta cheesecake. I sample it from every pastry shop I stumble upon, and I have begged for recipes from every long-lost cousin in my extended family. I must have made dozens of attempts before arriving at my own recipe. The surprise for me was the benefits that came from adding American cream cheese. An Italian purist might insist on using mascarpone or only ricotta, but cream cheese gives this cake a creamy texture and tames the graininess of the ricotta. The almonds in the crust add another layer of flavor and nutty texture. As for the candied fruits, I find that most people are firmly on one side of the fence or the other. If you choose to omit them, you can substitute the grated zest of one orange. Just reading this recipe makes me want a slice.

Instructions

  1. 1Preheat the oven to 325°F and position a rack in the middle. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray, dust it with flour, and tap to knock out the excess.

To make the crust:

  1. 1Place the almonds, flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and process until the nuts are finely chopped. In a small bowl, lightly whisk together the egg yolk, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Add the liquids to the nut mixture and pulse several times to moisten and combine the ingredients thoroughly. The mixture should come together easily between your fingers when pinched.
  2. 2To form the crust, press the mixture onto the bottom and about an inch up the sides of the springform pan. Place the pan in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes to firm up the crust, then bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is light golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the crust to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the filling:

  1. 1In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese with the sugar and salt on medium speed until soft and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the ricotta and beat until the mixture is smooth and light, another 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Beat in the vanilla extract, amaretto, and cornstarch. Fold in the candied fruits, if desired, with the spatula.
  2. 2Pour the filling into the cooled crust, smoothing the top with the spatula. Bake the cheesecake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the center is set; it should be jiggly but not liquid. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow it to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
  3. 3Chill the cooled cheesecake for at least 4 hours before serving; it is best served fully chilled on the following day. To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan and cut the cheesecake into wedges with a long, thin-bladed knife. Any leftover cake should be wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

This recipe, while from a trusted source, may not have been tested by the CHOW food team.
Reprinted from Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina DePalma. Copyright (c) 2008 by Gina DePalma. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

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