This is the Fred Astaire of cheesecake.*
Ricotta makes this Italian cheesecake lighter than the New York type made with cream cheese. But what it lacks in over-the-top richness, it makes up for with deep, almond amaretti cookie-crust intensity, as well as brightly flavored rum and lemon zest in the filling.
The recipe from Baking Illustrated said to let the ricotta drain in a paper towel overnight, but I've deleted the draining directions since I found it totally unnecessary. After going to four stores in my quest for a decent ricotta, I still ended up with a store-bought one full of stabilizers. And after it drained overnight, I had to put out an APB on it looking for the liquid. With all that guar gum, carageenan and silly putty, it’s a wonder there’s room for the cheese. Yet, even with the store-boughta ricotta, the cake was rich, vibrant and delicious. But next time, I'll search the heavens to find a ricotta worth dancing about.
*Recipe does not call for Ginger
Serves 8 to 10
Amaretti Cookie Crust
2 heaping cups (4 oz by weight) amaretti cookies, processed in a food processor to uniformly fine crumbs
5 TBSP unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 TBSP melted butter for greasing the pan
2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained (I found this unnecessary)
4 large eggs, separated
¾ cup (5 ¼ oz) sugar
¼ cup light rum
1 TBSP unbleached all-purpose flour
Grated zest of 1 medium lemon
2 tsps vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
- For the crust: Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the amaretti crumbs and 5 tablespoons of the melted butter and toss with a fork until evenly moistened. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with most of the remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter, making sure to leave enough to brush the sides of the pan after the crust cools. Empty the crumbs into the springform pan and press them evenly into the pan bottom. Bake until fragrant and beginning to brown around the edges, about 13 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 30 minutes. (Do not turn off the oven.) Brush the sides of the springform pan with the remaining butter.
- For the filling: While the crust cools, place the (drained) ricotta in a food processor and process until very smooth, about 1 minute. Add the egg yolks, sugar, rum, flour, lemon zest, vanilla, and salt and process until blended, about 1 more minute. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites at high speed until they hold stiff peaks. Fold the whites into the ricotta mixture and pour the mixture evenly into the cooled crust.
- Bake the cheesecake until the top is lightly browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center reads about 150 degrees, about 1¼ hours. (The perimeter of the cake should be firm, but the center will jiggle slightly. It will solidify further as the cake cools.) Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Run a paring knife between the cake and the side of the springform pan. Cool until barely warm, 2½ to 3 hours. Wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold and set, at least 5 hours or up to 2 days.
- To unmold the cheesecake, remove the sides of the pan. Let the cheesecake stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then cut it into wedges and serve.