I love you...

like a [phat] kid loves [cheese]cake

Monday, March 2, 2009

Due to the recent death of my laptop, I am now using a super old-school from from ten years ago that has no Photoshop and no USB port to upload pictures. Yes, I know, epic fail. Unfortunately, this means that I'll be a bit behind on updating this since all my photos are currently stuck in the camera, so bear with me, please!

This is an old recipe of mine, but I am absolutely in love with it. For those of you who don't know me, I am obsessed with cheesecake. Obsessed. To the point where it really is not healthy. I can eat an entire cheesecake in one sitting and not feel bad about it, and when I get my cravings, stay the hell away from me or feed me! Cheesecake was the first thing I ever baked by myself, and I never looked back since. I even wrote my college essay on cheesecake! It is such a deceptively difficult dessert to make, and it is perfect beyond belief. Just one slice and I'm in heaven and my day has become ten times better.

The one and ONLY flaw with cheesecake is its mass amounts of calories, which is why I love this version. Crustless, with a streusel topping to bring that buttery, cookie appeal without the fattiness. With the usage of low-fat cream cheese and sour cream, or just omitting the sour cream altogether, it's perfect! Feel free to add oats or any other crushed cookies to the topping. Personally, I want to try it with a gingersnap-oat streusel next time. The original recipe called for lemon juice, but I found that fresh orange zest just brightens up this dessert up so well. Usually, I don't like citrus, but there's something about it here that just adds another level of flavour.

Oh, and remember: Cheesecake + water bath = happiness. With a water bath, the cake will never crack and just look even more gorgeous than before, if that's possible.

Orange-Ricotta Cheesecake with Streusel Topping: Serves 12

The cheesecake:

Unsalted butter for greasing cake pan

1 pound whole-milk ricotta, preferably Polly-O, at room temperature

1 pound Philadelphia cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup sour cream or creme fraiche

2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

4 large eggs, at room temperature

The topping:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, in small pieces

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 325. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9- by 3-inch round cake pan. If the ricotta has any standing liquid, pour it off, but you do not need to drain the ricotta. Fill a tea kettle with water, bring to a boil and keep it hot while you prepare the batter.

In an electric mixer, beat the ricotta, cream cheese and sugar until smooth and light, scraping down the sides of the mixer once or twice. Add the sour cream or creme fraiche, lemon juice, vanilla and salt and blend well. Add the eggs one at a time; incorporate them well but do not over-mix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Tap the bottom of the pan against the counter to release any air bubbles. Set the pan in a larger pan or baking dish and add hot water to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the center is set (you can tell by jiggling the pan gently), about 21/2 hours. Remove from the oven but let the cheesecake cool in the water bath.

For the topping: Preheat oven to 325. Combine the softened butter, flour, brown sugar and salt in a food processor or electric mixer with the paddle attachment and blend until the mixture clumps together like a crumbly dough. Chill for at least 1 hour. Crumble onto a baking sheet and bake the topping until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool completely. The topping will harden as it cools. Put the topping in a plastic bag and pound with a rolling pin to crumble it finely.

To remove the cheesecake from the pan, chill in the freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from the freezer and put the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan, or a cardboard round cut to fit, on top of the cheesecake. Dip the bottom of the pan briefly in hot water, then invert the cheesecake onto the springform or cardboard round. You may need to shake the pan gently to get the cheesecake to release.

Sprinkle the topping over the surface. Cut into thin wedges to serve.

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