Friday, January 16, 2009

Heart-Shaped

Birthdays are my calling, I think. I always volunteer to bring the dessert, no matter how busy I am, or how little time I have to actually make something. I get it from my mother, this undeniable need to make the perfect dessert for everyone. So when there was a birthday for someone who doesn't like chocolate, but loves chesecake, I immediately thought of for caramel and macadamia ricotta cheesecake. It just looked so beautiful. Plus, I got to make caramel, which as you all know, I love to do. I made the cake in the shape of a heart, because who doesn't want a heart-shaped cheesecake for their birthday?



If you've never had a ricotta cheesecake before, you might be a little surprised by the texture. It's not as smooth as cheesecake made with just cream cheese. To be honest, I think I prefer the just cream cheese version. But that doesn't meant that this one wasn't delicious, because it was. The macadamia nuts with the caramel perfectly balance against the vanilla cheesecake, and the texture of the nuts with the light, creamy cake is beautiful. If I made it again, I think I would do the full cream cheese version, so if you try it, let me know.



If you use a water bath, make sure the seal is tight! I've ruined more than one cheesecake with a water-logged crust. If the seal has been broken and water has gotten in, you'll see lots of little bubbles in the top of your cheesecake after baking.

Another note: the measurements for the recipe are in grams because it comes from a (wonderful, absolutely beautiful) European website. If you don't have a scale, (which you should, because they're so helpful!) you can find conversions here, at another wonderful, beautiful blog.

Caramel and Macadamia Ricotta Cheesecake
Adapted from Nordljus

For the cheesecake
400 g good quality ricotta cheese, at room temperature
(if it seems too watery, hang it in muslin overnight to drain)
200 g good quality cream cheese, at room temperature
120 g sugar
2/3 vanilla pod
4 eggs, lightly beaten
60 ml sour cream

For the base
160 g graham cracker crumbs
40 g unsalted butter, melted

For the nut topping
150 g macadamia nuts
90 g sugar

For the caramel sauce
65 g unsalted butter
160 g sugar
100 ml whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 275ºF. Lightly grease a 20cm springform cake tin and line the base and sides with parchment paper.

To make the base, whiz the graham crackers to crumbs in a food processor (or put them in a plastic bag and bash with a mallet or rolling pin). Mix with the melted butter to a wet, sandy consistency. Transfer to the lined tin and flatten with the back of a tablespoon to create a level base. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes and set aside. Once the pan has cooled, wrap the bottom and sides tightly in foil. You may want to use several layers, because you definitely don't want water getting in.

To make the cake batter, put the sugar, ricotta cheese and cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Slit the vanilla pod lengthways in half and, using a sharp knife, scrape the seeds out into the bowl. Whisk by hand, or more easily with an electric mixer, until smooth. Gradually add the eggs and sour cream, whisking until smooth. Pour the mixture over the crust and prepare the water bath.

To prepare the water bath, take a large, flat pan, (one that can fit your springform pan in it with room to spare around the sides,) and place your foil-wrapped springform pan in the center. Fill the large pan with hot water so that it is about halfway up the sides of the larger pan. Place in the oven. Bake for about 60 minutes, until set; a skewer inserted in the center should come out with a slightly wet crumb attached. Leave to cool at room temperature, then remove the side of the tin. Transfer the cake to a cake board or plate – but you can serve from the tin base if that proves tricky. Now chill the cake for at least a couple of hours.

To prepare the nut topping, scatter the nuts over a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 275ºF for about 15 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place the sugar in a saucepan with a very thick base (it is important that the layer of sugar is not more than 3mm high in the pan, so choose a large one). Heat the sugar gently until it turns into a golden-brown caramel. Do not stir it at any stage. Don’t worry if some small bits of sugar don’t totally dissolve. Carefully add the toasted nuts and mix gently with a wooden spoon. When most of the nuts are coated in caramel, pour them on to the lined tray and leave to set. Break bits off and chop them very roughly with a large knife. It’s nice to leave some of the nuts just halved or even whole.

To make the sauce, put the butter and sugar in a thick-bottomed saucepan and stir constantly over a medium heat with a wooden spoon until it becomes a smooth, dark caramel. The butter and sugar will look as if they have split. Don’t worry; just keep on stirring. Once the desired color is reached, carefully add the cream while stirring vigorously. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

To finish the cake, spoon the sauce in the center, allowing it to spill over a little. Scatter lots of caramelized nuts on top. The cheesecake will keep in the fridge for 3 days.

3 comments:

The Blonde Duck said...

I'd eat that cheesecake any day!

Terry & Dennis Macri said...

I second The Blonde Duck, I would eat that cheesecake any day.

Stephanie said...

I love cheesecake and this one looks delicious! Thank you for the recipe!