“You’ll shoot your eye out kid.” Yep, that’s essentially the feeling I got from one of the, what I consider to be, baking science goddesses out there who has literally written the bible(s) on baking, Rose Levy Beranbaum. I need to give a little background information before I describe in detail my own Thanksgiving (rather than Christmas) story. If you’ve read my blog in the past you know that cream cheese cheesecakes and my tummy just don’t get along. Apparently cream cheese is comprised of a sink-like-a-rock 33% milkfat. While I never balked at fat percentages before (see my post on crème fraiche for the fatty details), for some reason cream cheese does not play nice with my stomach, at least at the levels of consumption required in finishing a slice of cheesecake. Hence, no more cream cheese cheesecakes for me. Thankfully a challenge from the Daring Bakers inspired me to break away from the bar of Philly and I discovered ricotta cheesecake. Ricotta cheese contains only a svelte 13% fat, which results in light, creamy, cheesy, custardy goodness. This was the cheesecake of my dreams! Mmmmmmm…. Me likey. Ahem, pardon me.
So, as Turkey-day was hovering ever closer I contemplated what kind of sweet repast I’d like to prepare this year. Pumpkin pie seems to be the dessert equivalent to Thanksgiving. In my mind Thanksgiving = Pumpkin pie; it’s a tradition. But for some reason I wasn’t in the mood for the standard, but I did want something pumpkin. All these pumpkin cheesecake recipes surfaced in my searches for a pie alternative. “Great idea,” I thought except for the fact that they were all in the form of cream cheese cheesecakes. My stomach moaned in protest. I searched for a comparable ricotta recipe without much luck. While I did come across a few, they didn’t seem to have a good ratio of ingredients that were similar to the ricotta cheesecake I fell in love with over a year ago. That’s when I humbly asked for some advice from Rose on how to alter cheesecake recipes from the brick-in-stomach inducing cream cheese cheesecakes into light but custardy ricotta cheesecakes.
Here is an excerpt of my posted question:
I’m sure you’re waaaay busy with the holidays and everything, but I was wondering if you might have a short moment to aid me in my endeavors. First off I want to say that I’m a huge fan. I love your books not only for the fantastic recipes but for their ability to impart knowledge, not just a set of instructions.
Speaking of knowledge, I was wondering if you have any advice in converting cheesecake recipes from cream cheese cheesecakes to ricotta cheese cheesecakes. I know, I know, to some using anything but cream cheese is a sin against god (especially since I’m from New York, horrors!), but ricotta is easier on my stomach, and I actually prefer the taste *gasp*. …
I’ve seen lots of different flavors of cheesecake out there using cream cheese, but not many variations using ricotta. How do I make the change? Or how can I introduce pumpkin (or chocolate for that matter) flavor into a ricotta cheesecake recipe?
Thanks so much for your help!
PS: If anyone else has any advice in this realm, would love to hear it! Thanks in advance!
Someone chimed in after me expressing her preference for “European style” cheesecakes as well, “…looking forward to the reply,” so I’m not the only one! A day later Rose left this:
i’m sorry ladies but i prefer the cream cheese version so will not be able to help you with this. hopefully someone else will chime in.
Which made me feel like she just did this:
Please don’t misconstrue my account as a complaint. I understand that everyone has their preferences, myself included. I still ♥ Rose. That said, I was disappointed but there’s no sense in crying over spilt milk, or cheese predilections in this case. Despite non-remittance from my proverbial Santa Claus, I decided to press on. I’m grateful for having the sense to also post my question on Chowhound. Everyone gave me some great suggestions which I took bits and pieces from, along with a couple of other ricotta cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake, and pumpkin pie recipes thrown in for good measure. What I came up with was the best pumpkin-anything I’ve ever eaten. While it doesn’t strictly taste like cheesecake, it’s absolutely awesome if I may say so myself. Paired with a pecan *brown butter baby!* crust it was fab!
The only thing I would probably change is the pan size. I have three spring form pans, graduated in size. I picked the 9 1/2 inch one, but next time I’ll use the 10 1/2 inch (3 inches deep for both). The reason is that I felt like the crust to filling ratio would be a bit (a bit mind you) better if the filling were more spread out, giving you a little more crust with each bite. If you decide to go that route you will need to up your crust recipe. I’m thinking of using 3 cups of pecans, maybe a pinch of extra cinnamon, 1/2 cup sugar, 5 tablespoons of butter, an extra tablespoon of flour, and an extra large pinch of salt. I will let you know after Christmas because this is what I’m planning on making. Yep, that soon because it’s that good.
Pumpkin Ricotta Cheesecake
2 1/2 cups ground pecans
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup white granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, browned
1/4 cup flour
Pinch of salt
*Please see bolded paragraph above more variation
Make the crust: Generously butter and sugar a 9-inch springform pan (3 inches deep). Brown butter in a small saucepan. Stir together ground nuts, cinnamon, flour, salt, and sugar.
Pour in brown butter and mix until entire mixture is moistened.
Press the mixture firmly into bottom of pan.
Chill the unbaked crust in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes but preferably an hour.
For The Filling
30 oz container of ricotta cheese
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
5 large eggs, separated
1/4 c flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 15-oz can pureed pumpkin or 2 cups cooked pumpkin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
*To prevent the top from cracking, try not to overmix the filling, and do not open the oven door while the cake is baking.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and salt together in a medium bowl.
Blend ricotta cheese and pumpkin in either a blender or food processor until smooth.
Whisk ricotta cheese/pumpkin mixture with the dry ingredients with egg yolks and vanilla in a very large bowl.
With either a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium speed until slightly frothy.
Add cream of tartar and beat on medium-high speed until you get a soft foam. Raise speed to medium-high, and gradually add granulated sugar. Beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. (revised November 25, 2011) Raise speed to medium-high and beat until you get a soft foam. Gradually add granulated sugar and continue to beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.
Gently fold a third of the whites into ricotta mixture using a rubber spatula until just combined.
Gently fold in remaining whites until just combined.
Pour batter into pan, and bake until center is firm and top is deep golden brown, about 1 hour. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake; release sides to remove from pan, and let cool completely.