By Barbara Beltrami
Cheesecake has to be one of the most popular desserts around. I mean, who doesn’t like cheesecake? I have two versions that have been in my recipe file for as long as I can remember.
One, a rich and creamy decadent version is called Cousin Edith’s Cheesecake. I have no cousin named Edith, nor do I know whose cousin she is; I just know that ages ago I found it in one of those ancient spiral bound ladies auxiliary fundraiser cookbooks languishing at a yard sale. My eye was drawn to it because of all the recipes there, it was the only one on a stained and dog-eared page, always a sign of a cook’s or baker’s favorite.
Another recipe for Italian Ricotta Cheesecake, much lighter but equally delicious, was found in my mother-in-law’s scrawl tucked into an old address book many years ago and has undergone a slight updating for modern kitchen appliances. They both are real company pleasers and travel well when it’s my turn to bring dessert.
Cousin Edith’s Cheesecake With Cherry Glaze
YIELD: Makes 8 servings
Nonstick cooking spray
11/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup melted unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
Two 8-ounce bricks cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 cup light cream
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup cherry juice
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Preheat oven to 325 F. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan. In medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and quarter-cup of sugar; press into bottom and partially up sides of pan. Bake for 10 minutes; let cool slightly. While it is cooling, in large mixer bowl beat cream cheese until soft and fluffy, about one minute; add sugar and flour. Mix well. Blend in eggs, one at a time; then stir in cream and vanilla. Pour mixture into crumb-lined pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until set in middle. Turn off oven; let sit in oven another 30 minutes. Cool before removing rim.
Meanwhile, in small saucepan combine cherry juice, two tablespoons sugar and cornstarch. Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, place cake on serving plate and pour cherry glaze on top. Serve with coffee, tea or dessert wine.
YIELD: Makes 12 to 16 servings
8 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated orange or lemon zest
1½ cups sugar
½ cup flour
3 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan, place pan on a 12-inch square of aluminum foil and mold it tightly around bottom and sides of pan. In a large bowl beat eggs, vanilla and zest just until blended. Beat in sugar and flour. In a food processor or blender, puree ricotta until very smooth; then add to the egg mixture and stir well. Pour batter into prepared pan and place pan in a roasting pan filled with 1 inch of hot water on middle rack of oven.
Bake for 1½ hours or until a knife inserted 2 inches from center of cake comes out clean. Turn off oven. Prop oven door open with a wooden spoon and let cake cool there for half an hour. Remove from oven; remove foil and cool completely on wire rack. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve chilled or at room temperature with amaretto, hazelnut liqueur or espresso.