Recipe quick takes: Emily Luchetti’s Ricotta Cheesecake with golden raisins and tart cherries

This was one of two cheesecake recipes I was originally considering making for my grandmother’s birthday back in August. I put this one off indefinitely, but when my travel (or lack thereof) plans became a bit clearer, I added it to the schedule for the first weekend in October. Then I ended up scheduling a chocolate tasting on the Monday when I would normally have brought in my high-calorie weekend baking project, so I put it off until Wednesday. (Cheesecakes in general are really easy to make, although this one’s a bit more complicated than most, so I didn’t really need the whole weekend to do it.) It’s from Emily Luchetti’s A Passion for Desserts (Chronicle Books, 2003; p. 127) — and being in the “Autumn Desserts” section of the book it’s really more appropriate for October than August anyway.
Maybe I've been eating too much chocolate?

There are a couple of steps in this recipe that I don’t have photos of. The first is making a graham-cracker crumb crust in a nine-inch springform pan (or other pan suitable for cheesecake). Luchetti calls for 5 ounces (140 g) of graham crackers, pulverized in the food processor. Luckily, I tasted the first package of crackers I opened before going ahead to make the crust, and realizing that they had gone bad, tossed them and got another (newer) box. The crumbs are mixed with 2½ ounces (70 g) of melted butter, and then pressed into the bottom (only) of the cake pan. I use the smooth side of a meat pounder for this; it creates a much more even layer than just pressing the crumbs in with my fingertips. The crust is baked in a 350°F (175°C) oven for about eight minutes, then set aside to cool. (If you’re in Europe and can’t get graham crackers, see this blog post from Diane Duane.)

The second step involves rehydrating the dried fruit in a mixture of ¼ cup (60 ml) dark rum and ¾ cup (180 ml) water. The fruit consists of ¾ cup each — apologies, I forgot to weigh them out — of golden raisins and dried tart cherries. These are boiled together in a small saucepan until there is no liquid remaining in the pan. The plumped-up fruit is then scattered over the graham-cracker crust.

Now for the rest of the mise en place:
Mise en place
The remaining ingredients are four eggs (separated), ½ cup (100 g) of granulated sugar, two additional tablespoons of granulated sugar (I bet you can see where this is heading…), four cups (2 lb, 910 g) fresh ricotta, drained of any excess liquid, ½ cup of heavy cream, five tablespoons of all-purpose flour (sorry, didn’t weigh it), half a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and the zest of one lemon and one orange. (Yes, I was a bit surprised to see the nutrition label on the ricotta claiming a specific gravity of unity, at least to within FDA tolerances!)

Egg yolks and sugar, ribbon stage
The recipe starts by beating the egg yolks and sugar together to the ribbon stage. Then the cheese and the cream are blended in, followed by the flour, citrus peel, and vanilla.

Egg white foam
And of course it’s an egg-white foam, sweetened with the extra two tablespoons of sugar, which is used to lighten the texture of the cheesecake batter.

Cheesecake batter
The egg whites are folded into the other mixture in the usual way, and then poured on top of the crust and baked (with the oven still at 350°F) for about 50 minutes.

Baked cheesecake in springform pan
I think I overbaked the cheesecake a little — I was following the doneness criterion in the recipe, which is that a skewer inserted in the center should come out clean — but the darker spots are probably also places where the egg-white foam was not fully combined with the rest of the batter. The cheesecake cools in the pan for quite a while, but it helps to run a knife around the inside of the pan after several minutes, so that the cake doesn’t stick to the pan and thus will settle evenly as it cools rather than leaving a raised rim.

Baked cheesecake, after unmolding
After the cake was sufficiently cool, I put it in the refrigerator to cool completely overnight. The next morning, I removed the ring from the pan and used my cake lifter to transfer it from the springform base to a glass cake stand for service.

Cheesecake minus one slice
The stated yield of this recipe is 10 slices, but even as light as it is (compared to a traditional cream-cheese cheesecake) that results in a pretty horrifying calorie toll. I cut the cake in quarters, then quartered the quarters to get sixteenths. You can see that the texture of this cheesecake is not as smooth as a cream-cheese cheesecake; I’m not sure how much of that is inherent in ricotta cheesecakes generally, as opposed to my own flaws in execution.

One slice of cheesecake
Here’s one slice on a plate. (I took this picture at home, before bringing the cake into work, so of course I had to put the slice back after photographing it!)

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/16 of 9″ cheesecake
Servings per recipe: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 308 Calories from fat 144
% Daily Value
Total Fat 16g 25%
 Saturated Fat 9g 47%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 98mg 33%
Sodium 122mg 5%
Potassium 182mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 29g 10%
 Dietary fiber 1g 5%
 Sugars 18g
Proteins 10g 19%
Vitamin A 15%
Vitamin C 1%
Calcium 15%
Iron 7%
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