Ricotta Cheesecake with Homemade Graham Cracker Crust

27 Jul

Filling courtesy of Ready For Dessert by David Lebovitz, crust courtesy of Miette by Meg Ray


Ingredients 
For the graham cracker crust: 
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/3 cup whole wheat flour 
1/2 tsp kosher salt 
Heaping 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar 
2 tblsp honey
1 tblsp melted butter 


For the ricotta filling:
1/2 cup golden raisins
3 tblsp Marsala wine or port 
2 lb good-quality ricotta cheese 
2/3 cup granulated sugar 
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream 
5 large eggs, at room temperature 
3/4 tsp aniseed or fennel seed 
1 tblsp all-purpose flour 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
Grated zest of 1 orange 


1. To make the graham crackers: sift together both flours, salt, and cinnamon into a medium-sized bowl and set aside. 
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the 2/3 cup butter, brown sugar, and honey and beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the butter mixture in three additions, beating until just combined after each addition. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling, or for up to two days. 
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Once the dough has cooled, roll it out to 1/4-inch thickness on a lightly floured work surface. Cut out the graham crackers using a 3 1/4-inch round cookie cutter and arrange them on the prepared baking sheet, placing each about 1/2 inch apart. Bake the cookies until they are golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. 
4. To make the crust, place 12 of the baked and cooled graham crackers in a food processor and pulse at 5-second intervals until fine crumbs form. Transfer the crumbs to a separate bowl and combine them with the melted butter. Press the crumbs into an even layer in the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake the crust until dark golden brown and firm, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the crust to cool completely. 
5. To make the filling: in a small saucepan, bring the raisins and Marsala or port to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and set aside for about one hour. In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, sugar, and cream until well combined. Stir in the eggs one at a time. 
6. Crush the aniseed or fennel seed in a mortar and pestle or seal them inside a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Add the crushed seeds to the ricotta mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the raisins and any unabsorbed liquid, along with the flour, vanilla, and orange zest. Scrape the mixture into the prepared springform pan and bake the cake until it feels barely firm and the top is golden brown, about one hour. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool completely. 
7. Run a knife around the sides of the cake to help loosen it from the pan and release the sides of the springform.


          As David Lebovitz describes it in his book, “American cheescake is to Italian cheesecake what slouching around the house in a sweatshirt and jeans is to stepping out on the town in a tailored Armani suit.” Unlike classic New York cheesecake, this Italian rendition uses airy ricotta versus dense cream cheese and sour cream. The filling contains notes of refined flavors such as orange zest, golden raisins, aniseed and a splash of vanilla extract that ties them all together. 
          When I first viewed the recipe, I loved the idea of a leaner, more sophisticated cheesecake but still wanted to maintain one aspect of the traditional American version we know and love: the graham cracker crust. With that in mind, I set off to make some spectacular homemade graham crackers to match the quality of the filling. You can skip this step and substitute store-bought cookies, but I highly encourage you to take the long route as the crust is really what elevates this cake to the next level. And on a related side note, the graham crackers are fabulous on their own: buttery, crisp, and sprinkled with cinnamon. 
          As expected, the final product was a hit with all of my dinner party guests. After a filling summer barbecue, everyone appreciated the lightness and subtle sweetness of the dessert. The only adaptation I might make next time around is to puree the golden raisins after they have been infused with the Marsala wine to achieve a smoother consistency.

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4 Responses to “Ricotta Cheesecake with Homemade Graham Cracker Crust”

  1. Mary July 27, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    Maral, what a beautiful photograph. Until I read the recipe I would never have guessed all the deliciousness hidden inside. This looks like a true winner!

  2. Maral July 28, 2012 at 12:06 am #

    Yes, Mary. This recipe has much more depth of flavor than a standard American cheesecake which can sometimes taste one-note. The homemade graham cracker crust also complements the filling wonderfully.

  3. Winnie July 31, 2012 at 8:49 am #

    This is not only a beautiful cake, but a very unique one.I love the fact that you used homemade graham cracker.I'm pinning this

  4. Maral July 31, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    Hi Winnie! This cake is stunning AND delicious. If you try out the recipe, I would love to know how it turns out!

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