Dessert after dinner is a rare event at my family’s dinner table. Growing up, we usually ate fruit in the evening, a couple hours after the dinner table was cleared. In general, I think this is common amongst many Korean households. However, when special occasions arise, frosted cakes and sweet pastry flakes make an appearance after dinner.
For the past couple of weeks, I have been in San Diego where my Grandparents live. When I was younger, the entire family migrated over here for the summer, and the house burst full of aunts, uncles, cousins, extended cousins, and friends. Now that we are all older, living all over the place, and no longer cute enough to attend summer camp, family reunions and large group gatherings happen rarely. However, a couple of days ago, almost by mere chance, a few familiar faces were able to come together. In celebration of this special occasion, I decided a dessert should be called for.
My family loves cheesecake, especially my brother. So it was no surprise my brother requested that I bake a cheesecake. I’ve made this recipe a few times, and it has never failed. The most difficult part for me is knowing when the cake is exactly done. They say to remove it from the oven when there is still a slight jiggle in the middle, but I find it hard to precisely measure. However, don’t worry too much about it. As long as it’s not completely runny, the cake will set once you refrigerate it. The original recipe comes from Giada De Laurentiis on the Food Network but I made a few changes. Instead of biscotti for the crust, I used animal crackers, walnuts, and less butter. I used lemons instead of oranges, and juice instead of zest because my brother doesn’t like strong citrus flavors, but if the cake were just for me, I’d definitely make it with the zest. I also halved the recipe because I used two 4 1/2 inch springform pans instead. Why the small pans? Because everything is so much sweeter in miniature and you don’t feel as guilty having two slices!
Honey Ricotta Cheesecake
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
1 small box animal crackers (60 grams)
1 1/2 tablespoons walnuts
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
6 ounces ricotta cheese, drained
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons lemon juice or 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
2 large eggs, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Wrap the springform pans with two layers of aluminum foil. Make the crust by finely grinding the animal crackers and walnuts in a food processor. Mix in the melted butter. Press the crust mixture onto the bottom of the pans but not up the sides. Bake for 7 minutes or until the crust is golden. Set aside and cool completely.
Reduce oven to 325 degrees F.
In a bowl or food processor smooth out the ricotta, then add the cream cheese and sugar. Mix well. Add the honey and lemon juice/ zest. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until just incorporated. Divide filling equally between the two 4 1/2 inch springform pans and place them in a roasting dish. Pour hot water into the roasting dish until the water is about half way up the sides of the springform pans. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is golden and the middle jiggles slightly when shaken.
Cool completely on a wire rack and chill for at least 5 hours and up to 2 days.