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Monday, June 4, 2007

Honey Ricotta Cheesecake

I really like honey. I like cheesecake. This recipe combines the two and it was a very successful first attempt at making a real cheesecake. After spending graduation money on a food processor instead of things for my future classroom I wanted to be really ambitious and make something more complicated. I've always heard that cheesecakes are tricky and have to be done specifically to come out right. When I went shopping for the ingredients and found the biscotti in the cookie aisle I couldn't decide between traditional biscotti which is almond flavored or lemon biscotti. I finally got the lemon and it really turned out well for a crust. I'm sure the plain biscotti would be just as good or any other kind. It didn't seem that bad. The only thing was nearly scalding myself trying to get it out of the oven with the pan of hot water. I already have scars on my arm from other baking mishaps but I wasn't really wanting any more. I cooked it the exact time it specified and it was very golden on top with some darker spots not burnt. And most importantly it didn't crack! If it cracks it is supposedly overdone. So that was exciting for my first cheesecake experience. I spent all afternoon working on the cheesecake and was pretty sad when I read the very last part of the recipe that said you had to keep it refrigerated for 8 hours. The next day for lunch I finally got to try it and I drizzled some honey over it for dramatic effect. So first cheesecake verdict? Maybe one of the best things I've ever made. The lemon biscotti crust held up well against the ricotta/cream cheese combination filling. It was creamy but not mushy. The honey made it just the right amount of sweetness without being too rich. I was not at home on Friday night and when I got back Saturday afternoon there were only 2 pieces left. When my brother got home he even hugged me over it. His friend (who told me was from New York and knew cheesecakes) even complimented me. It went so fast that I'm kinda sad more people didn't get to eat it but I'm sure I'll make another soon. I can't believe I just wrote so much about a cheesecake...

Honey Ricotta Cheesecake
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

8 ounces purchased biscotti
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 (12-ounce) container fresh whole milk ricotta, drained
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup orange blossom or clover honey
1 tablespoon orange zest
4 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Wrap the outside of a 9-inch springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides with 2 layers of heavy-duty foil. Finely grind the biscotti in a food processor. Add the melted butter and process until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumb mixture over the bottom (not the sides) of the prepared pan. Bake until the crust is golden, about 15 minutes. Cool the crust completely on a cooling rack.
Blend the ricotta in a clean food processor until smooth. Add the cream cheese and sugar and blend well, stopping the machine occasionally and scraping down the sides of the work bowl. Blend in the honey and orange zest. Add the eggs and pulse just until blended.

Pour the cheese mixture over the crust in the pan. Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the cheesecake is golden and the center of the cake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour and 5 minutes (the cake will become firm when it is cold).

Transfer the cake to a rack and cool 1 hour. Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least 8 hours and up to 2 days. Cut the cake into wedges and serve.