Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Citrus Ricotta Cheesecake

It’s a new year, and with it comes lots of good intentions and new resolutions. I usually make one or two, half-heartedly, but never seem to keep them. So this year, I’m going to be a realist. My 2012 resolutions are: 1) gain 15 pounds and 2) take up smoking. Okay, so 

I’m not serious, but I’m also not planning on making any unrealistic resolutions that I don’t have a shot at keeping. I love good food, especially desserts, and I plan on eating them (in moderation, of course) throughout the year. Which brings me to cheesecake, one 

of my favorite desserts. I love it in all forms and flavors, and this is one of my top picks, made with ricotta cheese. It’s a no-bake cheesecake that comes together in under an hour, and just needs to chill for at least 4 hours before serving. And because you blend the 

ricotta in a food processor, the cake has a silky-smooth texture that contrasts nicely with the crunchy graham cracker crust. The citrus flavor of the cake is intensified by blending the sugar with orange and lemon zest, which releases the essential oils of the fruit. And just a touch of gelatin gives this cake its soft structure. Oh, one last resolution for me—I resolve not to eat this whole cake (I promise to give my husband a piece). Happy New Year to you all!!

Citrus Ricotta Cheesecake

Makes 10 to 12 servings

1 ½ cups gingersnap or graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Ricotta Cheesecake Filling:
1 cup milk, divided
2 ¼ teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
1 cup granulated sugar
Grated zest of 1 navel orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 ½ cups whole or part-skim ricotta (preferably fresh)
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the crust:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the cookie or graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the crust is set. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool completely.

Make the filling:
3. Place 1/3 cup of the milk in a small cup and sprinkle over the gelatin. Set aside to soften.
4. Combine the sugar and citrus zest in a food processor and process until the zest is finely ground and has released some its essential oils into the sugar. Set the sugar aside.
5. Place the ricotta cheese in the bowl of the food processor (no need to clean it first) and process until smooth, about 8 seconds. Set aside.
6. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 2/3 cup milk and the cream cheese and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the milk begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and whisk until smooth. Scrape the softened gelatin into the pan and whisk until it dissolves. Whisk in the lemon sugar and orange and lemon juice. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.
7. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream, ricotta cheese and vanilla at medium-high speed to medium peaks. Fold one-third of it into the cooled cream cheese mixture, then fold in the remaining whipped cream mixture in two additions. If the mixture still has a few lumps in it, gently whisk it until smooth. Scrape the filling into the cooled crust. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.
8. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.