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Ricotta and sour cream make this cheesecake smooth and creamy.  

Photo by Gianna Miles, Palm Beach Pastry

 

 

By Jan Norris

 

The spring holidays signal a switch to lighter meals. Just as chefs lighten up their menus to incorporate fresh vegetables, salads and such, pastry chefs move from heavy bread puddings and rich dark chocolates to fruity and lighter desserts — soufflés, panna cottas and meringues.

Gianna Miles, owner of Palm Beach Pastry, a dessert and pastry catering company, makes a lighter version of a traditional cheesecake for customers this time of year.

“I use part ricotta cheese along with the cream cheese. The all-cream cheese type is too heavy for my tastes.” 

Her brother, Marcello Fiorentino of Marcello’s La Sirena restaurant in West Palm Beach, makes his cheesecakes using all ricotta cheese.

“It’s a preference of mine to change things up a bit,” she said. “I’ve made them both ways — with part cream cheese and ricotta or all ricotta. But this one is my favorite.’’ 

The ricotta, she said, along with sour cream, gives the cake its creaminess and adds another layer of flavor.

To make it kosher for a Passover dairy meal, Miles substituted matzo crackers for graham crackers in the crust. An all-nut crust could be used, she said. 

The cake bakes slowly in a water bath, a technique that keeps it from cracking and ensures that it bakes evenly. Miles warns cooks to add the boiling water carefully after the pan is in the oven, and to use care when removing it as well.

It’s not difficult to tackle and the cake, once cool, freezes well. She used blueberries and lemon for a topping, but any berries could be substituted.

 

Springtime Lemon-Blueberry Cheesecake

 

For the crust: ¾ cup finely ground pecans 4 matzo crackers, unsalted (see note) ¼ teaspoon salt 3 tablespoons sugar 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted ½ teaspoon cinnamon

 

For the filling: 8 ounces cream cheese, softened 8 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese, at room temperature 3 eggs 1 cup sugar 16 ounces (2 cups) sour cream, at room temperature Zest of 1 lemon

¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract, optional

 

Equipment: 8-inch springform pan Roasting pan to hold springform for water bath Heavy-duty aluminum foil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with nonstick spray.  Place pan in the center of a large piece of heavy-duty foil and wrap it up the sides,  creating a seal for the water bath. (Do not wrap foil into interior of pan; fold it down or trim as needed to reach just the top of the rim.) Set aside.

In a food processor, combine pecans and matzo crackers, pulsing until fine crumbs result. Add sugar, salt, cinnamon, and pulse 2 to 3 times to combine. With processor running, drizzle in melted butter. Spoon mixture into prepared springform pan and press crumbs into its base. Chill pan in the refrigerator while making the filling. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese and ricotta together on low or medium-low speed for 1 minute until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Slowly add sugar while mixing, and blend until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add sour cream, lemon zest and optional vanilla. Scrape bowl sides as needed. Do not overbeat the mixture. Pour into prepared springform pan. Place pan into a roasting pan and add boiling water until it is about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes. When done, the cake will still “jiggle” in the center. Cool undisturbed on a cooling rack for 30 to 45 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Unmold cake and transfer to serving plate. Top with blueberry topping. Makes 10 servings.

 

Blueberry topping: 1 pint blueberries Zest of 1 lemon 2 tablespoons sugar

In a medium sauce pan, mix berries, lemon zest and sugar. Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring. If a thicker sauce is desired, stir in 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water. Cook, stirring until thickened. Cool before spreading on cake with spatula.

Cake freezes well; wrap in plastic wrap and cover in foil. Serve slightly frozen or well chilled.

 

Recipe provided by Gianna Miles, of Palm Beach Pastry. For information on her desserts or dessert parties, contact her at 315-6111 or at palmbeachpastry@comcast.net. Miles sells her pastries from a booth Saturdays through May at Lake Worth’s Oceanside Farmer’s Market.


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