lemon ricotta cheesecake

Growing up I only ate New York Style Cheesecake with the thawed strawberry topping, I thought that was the only cheesecake ever made.  So, when Cheesecake Factory restaurants started opening up years ago, I was skeptical on how many cheesecakes can they actually have.  Well, there are so many and they are all so good and they are nothing like the New York Style I had growing up, they were designer cheesecakes and I wanted to learn to make all of them!

I like the lighter cheesecakes, the ones made with different cheeses such as ricotta and mascarpone, so, I made this lemon ricotta cheesecake and it was everything I expected and more!  It is full of flavor, light, creamy and just delicious.  I’m planning on making it again for Easter Sunday.

Crust:

2 C of vanilla wafers, crushed in food processer or blender

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F.  Combine wafer crumbs and melted butter and line mixture on bottom and 2/3rds up the sides of a 9in spring form pan.  I put my hand in a plastic baggie to press down the crust into the pan.  Bake it for 8-10 minutes, just until you can smell those wonderful wafers and the crust becomes a bit darker.  Set to cool.  Reduce the oven temp. to 300F.

Filling:

In my experience, the key to a good cheesecake is to make sure the all of the filling ingredients are at room temperature so, plan ahead.

3 8oz. packages of cream cheese, softened

1 C of fresh ricotta, I use a terrific organic brand from Vermont, Maplebrook Farms, it’s wonderful! 

4 large eggs at room temperature

2 TBL flour

1 pinch sea salt

1 C sugar

2 TBL lemon zest

1 TBL vanilla extract

Beat cream cheese, ricotta, flour and salt until creamy, 4-5 minutes.  The cheese mixture should be very smooth.  Add the sugar and blend again until smooth.  Add the vanilla and lemon zest until blended.  Lastly, add one egg at a time until blended, do not over blend, just make sure each egg is blended in.

Carefully pour the filling into the cooled spring form pan.  Bake 50-60 minutes until the center jiggles just a bit, the edges will be firm; the center will look a little moist.  My cheesecake was complete at 50 minutes on convection bake, which bakes a little faster.  Don’t worry if it cracks, the topping will hide any imperfections.  Let cool.

Topping:

Refrigerate overnight.  Gently run a sharp paring knife around the outer edges of the cheesecake, just to loosen any of the crust that may be sticking to the pan. 

For my topping, I used a jar of Stonewall lemon curd.  It was smooth with just the right amount of tartness.  You can use a butter knife to spread the curd or pipe it onto the top, then spread it out.

Let the cheesecake stand at room temperature for 1 ½ hours before serving, keep in mind I made mine in the winter.  I would suggest 15- 30 minutes at room temperature if the weather is warm.

This cheesecake will freeze well too, just don’t add the curd until you decide to use it and still refrigerate overnight, then wrap well to freeze.

Food for Many, Enjoy!

apple squares

Apple season is winding down, so I snuck in one last apple recipe.  I like pies, but I find apple squares are super convenient to pick up and eat and they travel well as a snack plus, my Aunt always made them for me and I like to remember my Aunt as often as I can.

I used a shortening crust for this recipe, but an all butter recipe would be good too.  This recipe is made on a ½ sheet pan (18x13x1), with a bottom and upper crust.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Crust:

4 C all purpose flour

½ C sugar

1 egg with water added to make 1 cup – chilled

1 C shortening – chilled

Filling:

10 medium sized Macintosh apples, peeled and sliced, should get 6-8 slices per apple

¼ C sugar

2-3 TBL cinnamon or as desired

Prepare Crust:

Using a food processor, combine, flour, sugar and shortening, pulse until coarse.  Gradually add chilled water and egg mixture, continue to pulse until almost combined, you’ll be able to compress it together easily after you take it out.  Divide the dough in have and wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour. 

Assemble:

Take out one half of the dough, you will need to add flour when rolling it out, it will be sticky.  Roll out to be oversized and gradually lift half of the rolled out dough and slide pan underneath, you want to have the crust come up the sides of the pan to create a nice seal later.  If you have a few holes, no worries, just roll out some small pieces to patch it up.

Combine all filling ingredients in a bowl, mix together and lay out evenly over bottom crust.  Next, you need to roll out the upper crust as you did the bottom crust, it does not need to be as big.  Gently lay the upper crust over the apples and seal the bottom crust by folding or pinching the seams to the upper crust, this will prevent the apple juices from leaking and sticking to your pan.  Make sure you create several slits in the upper crust, maybe 6-8, to vent while cooking.

Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes or until golden brown.

I like to create good sized apple squares.  I cut the short side about every 3 inches and cut the long side to about 3.5 inches to result in about 20 squares.

Don’t overwrap the squares to store them, the moisture from the apples will soften the crust over a few days.  Simply, plate and leave uncovered or cover loosely with tin foil or store unwrapped in an off oven.

Food for Many, Enjoy!

little pecan pie

For years now I have enjoyed pecan pie and always thought that this pie tastes so good, it must be difficult to make.  I would drive to a local farm that boasts the best pies just to pick up a pecan pie, especially in the fall; it’s buttery, warm and full of flavor.

As I began to bake more and didn’t have the time to drive to Concord’s Verrill Farm, I decided to explore recipes for pecan pie.  I’ve been making this version, a combination of several recipes, for many years now and it is surprisingly easy to make and is always delicious.

I made six mini 3in pies, but this recipe will also make one 9in pie.

Crust:

8oz. cold unsalted butter sliced

2 ¼ C of flour

¼ C of sugar

½ tsp salt

¼ C cold water

For this recipe, I use an all butter crust, it just creates a richer pie. Combine, flour, sugar, salt and butter and pulse in a food processor until crumbly, no more than one minute. Next add cold water and pulse until the dough begins to form. Take out, it will be loose, but you will be able to form it into a log easily. Use 1/3  of the dough to make the pie crust and wrap the remaining dough in plastic wrap. This will keep in the freezer for 3-4 months. 

Simply roll out the dough to form a circle.  I use a pastry scraper or even a thin spatula will do to gently lift half the dough up off of the surface, slide the pie plate underneath and gradually shift the dough onto the center of the pie plate.  I’m not a great crimper of edges, so I use a fork and press down my edges, I like the look and my crust doesn’t slide into the center of the pie plate while baking.

Filling:

2 C whole roasted pecans

1 C Light corn syrup

1 C brown sugar

1/3 C melted unsalted butter

pinch of salt

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together corn syrup, sugar, salt, melted butter and vanilla until totally blended.  Slightly mix eggs together.  Combine eggs with mixture until well blended.  Carefully pour mixture into pie shell or if you are making mini pies, fill about two thirds each.  Next, sprinkle your roasted pecans on top of the pie.  I try to keep them somewhat uniform, but you can do as you prefer. 

The pie will take about an hour and a half to fully cook. Check the pie after 30-40 minutes, if the edges are browning quickly, cover with tin foil strips or if you have a pie crust shield, use it.  Be careful, the pie filling will be very loose and may spill.  At the one hour mark, check your pie, test the center with a knife, if it comes out clean and just a bit of the filling is on the knife, it’s done.  If not, give it ten more minutes.  You’ll know when the pie is ready, it will have a darker brown appearance and the center will not wiggle and the smell is heavenly.

Food for Many, Enjoy!