Around here, I'm pretty used to being able to unleash my creative energy whenever it comes to baking. Generally, at least from what people tell me directly, the unique ingredients and methods I use to come up with things such as purple pasta, summer fruit pies, ancho-chicken cacciatore, numerous (and boozy) cakes and even a whole competition menu are welcome changes to the typical bakery and restaurant-catered fare. To me, having at least one home made item out on the table shows that you actually care for your guests - anyone can call a restaurant and take out a catered affair, but it's the little quirks and imperfections in a dish - a lopsided cake, cookies that are a bit too overdone or a lasagne that's cut into not-so-even squares - that make the whole "party at home" thing worthwhile.
Oddly enough, even though I'm told to my face that what I make is (and I quote) "great", "delicious", and "wonderful" by guests, my own family is incredibly hesitant to allow me to utilize my forte, baking, for any sort of get-together. Actually, they don't like me making things for even just "the family" (read: the spoiled Italianos). According to my mom, people that come over don't like things that aren't "usual", and would rather have storebought bread/cakes/pies/etc. than something I made. So it's been a struggle! Everything that I've managed to share with the family so far has been the result of a mixture of white lies and outright fights. Le sigh. What can you do?
So anyways, post rant now *deep breaths*... cheesecake. Well, for her birthday party this year, my mom got it into her head that she wanted lemon cheesecake. Now, not only did she want lemon cheesecake, but she wanted to make it herself (points to her for that, but it is her birthday... it's not right!). She also wanted one made with ricotta, that was smooth and creamy but not heavy, not too sweet, nice and lemony but not sour. Now, as she's telling me all this, I'm mentally sifting through all my cheesecake recipes for a ricotta one I can use as a base - I was envisioning honey-lemon, creamy mascarpone blending with ricotta, an extra yolk perhaps for colour and richness. I was actually getting quite excited at the thought of making this recipe for her. Then she dropped the bomb - she wanted it to be a "real" recipe, not "one of those ones you make up". Because apparently, those aren't real. Okay then... wounded pride aside, I turned to my little cache of white lies and stuck Giada's name on it, since the inspiration for it did come from her via Joseph Erdos. It worked, though!
Then came the panicking, or as I like to call it "the night I almost killed her". My mom, you see, hadn't made a cheesecake in about 8 years... and never one with a "bain marie" method of cooking. Nevermind even adding things like ricotta to the mix! So it became a night of constant reassurances and occasionally my sister and I restraining her as she kept opening the oven door to check on it. In the end, both she and the guests got a delicious treat - not a crack, not a leak, and a perfect marriage of flavours. In fact, my mom even saved a piece in the freezer to eat like ice cream when they return from their two weeks in Italy!
Lemon Three - Cheese Cake
Inspired by Giada DiLaurentiis and Joseph Erdos
1 ½ cups vanilla cookie crumbs
1 tbsp sugar
½ tsp lemon extract
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 cups whole milk ricotta
8 oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 egg yolk
Preheat oven to 375 F, line the bottom of a 9? springform pan with parchment and wrap the outside of the pan in foil.
Combine cookie crumbs, sugar, lemon extract and butter in a large bowl until well combined.
Press the mixture firmly into the bottom and 2? up the side of the pan.
Bake 15 minutes, set aside to cool slightly.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 F.
In a food processor, puree ricotta and mascarpone until smooth.
Add cream cheese and sugar, blend well, stopping the machine occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Blend in the honey and lemon zest.
Mix together lemon juice and cornstarch, then add to the food processor with the eggs and egg yolk and pulse until blended.
Pour the mixture into the crust, and transfer the pan to a large roasting pan.
Pour hot water into the roasting pan halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes, covering the pan with foil after 40 minutes.
Cool for 1 hour in the roasting pan, then remove from the water bath and cool completely on a wire rack.
Refrigerate (covered) 24 hours before serving.
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat: 21.5 g
Cholesterol: 112.2 mg
Sodium: 139.4 mg
Total Carbs: 23.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.2 g
Protein: 7.3 g
After the dishes were all washed and cleared away, and the guests were all in various states of satiety, I turned to my mom and said "so I guess I can let you know now that I wrote that cheesecake recipe, right?". I'm not sure if she overly cared at that point, because she didn't reply!