Ricotta Cheesecake with Toasted Almond Praline

I’ve been researching various techniques and making a lot of ricotta. Consequently, I have copious amounts of this delightful cheese. Big brother knows too, for what you are searching which is why this recipe from  epicurious.com showed up in my In-Box.

Their ingredient list was scaled by volume as well as using the metric system. It didn’t translate quite the same when I converted it to ounces, at least not according to my scale, nor volume for that matter. What you have below is my version of the amounts used.

Also, since the top cracked while I was getting out of the pan (I was in a hurry and didn’t wait until it was completely cool), I had two options; add whipped cream or make a Swiss meringue to cover the top.  I chose the meringue path.

Don’t let the length of the recipe deter you.  The praline can be made up to a week ahead of time (or omitted) and the cake should be baked a day prior to serving anyway.

Base:
1 cup + 3 tablespoons (5 1/4 oz / 150 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (2 oz / 55 g) superfine, granulated sugar
Pinch of kosher or sea salt
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 oz / 100 g) unsalted butter, chopped

Filling:
2 cups (16 oz / 450 g) cream cheese, chopped and softened
Scant 2 cups (15 oz / 425 g) fresh ricotta, preferably homemade
1  1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz / 295 g) superfine granulated sugar
1/4 cup (2 oz / 60 ml) lemon juice, usually 1 large lemon
Zest of 1 large lemon, preferabley organic
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
5 large eggs

Almond Praline:
3/4 cup (5  1/4 oz / 165 g) (superfine) sugar
1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz / 40 g) flaked (blanched, sliced) almonds, toasted

Swiss Meringue:
3 whites from large eggs
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz / 100 g) granulated sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar
Pinch of kosher salt

To Make the cake:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 2 1/2 x 9-inch springform or non-stick cake pan and line the base with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of a large food processor using the metal “S” blade add the flour, sugar, and butter and process for about 1 minute or until mixture forms rough clumps of dough.

Scatter the clumps and any crumbs of dough evenly around the bottom of the prepared pan and press the mixture with your fingertips. Evenly prick the dough a dozen or so times with a fork. Bake for 30–35 minutes or until golden and just cooked. Set aside.

Using the same food processor bowl and metal “S” blade (I didn’t find a need to wash either) add the cream cheese, ricotta, sugar, lemon juice, zest and vanilla and process until smooth. Place the cornstarch and water (if there is lemon juice left use that plus water to equal 1 tablespoon) in a small bowl and mix until smooth. Add the eggs and the cornstarch mixture to the filling and process to combine.

Pour the filling over the base, tapping gently to remove any air bubbles.

If using a springform pan wrap the bottom and sides with aluminum foil to prevent any water from leaking into it when hot water is added to the jellyroll pan. If using a cake pan just set it on the jellyroll pan and add about ¾-inch of hot water to the pan. Bake between 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until just set.

Start checking doneness after about an hour by slightly jiggling the pan.  When the middle just stops wiggling, it’s done. Turn off the oven and allow to cool with the oven closed oven for about an hour.

Refrigerate uncovered until chilled; then cover until well chilled or even overnight. If using a springform pan, slide a thin bladed knife or spatula against the inside of the pan and remove the ring.

If using a cake pan, heat the bottom of the pan to ever so slightly to melt the butter that has chilled on the bottom of the crust. Slide a thin bladed knife against the inside of the pan. Take the bottom of an 8-inch tart pan and place it on  top of the cake.  Holding it in place, tap the cake out. Then flip it back over onto a cake plate. Decorate with whipped cream or Swiss Meringue and almond praline.

To make the almond praline:

Place the toasted almonds in about a 6-inch or so square on a Silpat lined sheet pan. Aim for the almonds being in a single layer but touching each other. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan add the sugar and just enough water so that the sugar looks like wet sand. Set the pan over medium heat. Swirl the pan as needed so that the sugar caramelizes evenly. If any sugar crystals happen to jump up on the sides of the pan use a wet pastry brush to brush them back into the pan. What you don’t want to do is stir the sugar; only swirl.

When the sugar has carmelized to an amber color remove the pan from the heat and immediately pour the carmelized sugar over the almonds coating as many as possible. Once completely cool, break into shards to be used as the garnish.

To make the Swiss Meringue:

Add about 2-inches of water to a saucepan and bring to a boil; turn down to a simmer. (Note: the bowl containing the egg whites will be set on top of this saucepan and the bowl cannot touch the water so plan accordingly.)

While the water is coming to a simmer, in the impeccably clean bowl of a stand mixer whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Add the cream of tartar and salt.

Set the bowl over the pan of simmering water and using a rubber spatula stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the whites reach a temperature between 150-160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the bowl from the water-bath, place on the stand mixer and using the whisk attachment whip the whites until they are light, fluffy, glossy and have reached stiff peaks.

Dollop the meringue on top of the cheesecake and use a spatula to make swirls or spikes.  Use a blow-torch to toast the meringue or place under a pre-heated broiler moving the cake around to even brown the meringue.  Top with shards of praline and serve.

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