Alice Medrich’s Ricotta Cheesecake with Chestnut Crust
For the crust:
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (115 g.) chestnut flour*
¼ cup (40 g.) white rice flour or 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. (40 g.) Thai white rice flour
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. (75 g.) sugar
Scant ½ tsp. salt
9 Tbsp. (130 g.) unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into chunks
3 Tbsp. (45 g.) cream cheese
1 egg yolk mixed with a pinch of salt and ½ tsp. water, for the egg wash
For the filling:
3 cups (665 g.) whole-milk ricotta cheese, at room temperature
¾ cup (150 g.) sugar
1 Tbsp. white rice flour
1½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. chopped candied orange or lemon peel or golden raisins
2 Tbsp. slivered almonds, toasted
¼ cup (30 g.) pine nuts, toasted
Food processor fitted with the steel blade (optional)
9-by-3-inch springform pan or cheesecake pan with removable bottom
• To make the crust by hand, put the chestnut flour, rice flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and whisk until thoroughly blended. Add the butter chunks and cream cheese. Use a fork or the back of a large spoon to mash and mix the ingredients together until all are blended into a smooth, soft dough.
• To make the crust in a food processor, put the chestnut flour, rice flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor. Pulse to blend. Add the butter chunks and cream cheese. Pulse until the mixture forms a smooth, soft dough. Scrape the bowl and blend in any stray flour at the bottom of the bowl with your fingers.
• The dough may seem much softer than other tart doughs. Use the heel of your hand and then your fingers and/or a small offset spatula to spread the dough all over the bottom of the pan. Press it squarely into the corners of the pan with the side of your index finger to prevent extra thickness at the bottom edges, and press it as evenly as possible about halfway up the sides of the pan. Have patience; there is just enough dough (although you may not think so at first). If there is too much dough in one place (or hiding in the corners of the pan), pinch or scrape it off and move it elsewhere. Spread or smear it smooth with the spatula. Here’s a final trick for a perfectly even crust: Press a sheet of plastic wrap against the bottom and up the sides of the pan and lay a paper towel on top. Set a straight-sided flat-bottomed cup on the towel; press and slide the cup all over the bottom and around the sides to smooth and even the surface. Leave the plastic wrap in place. Refrigerate the pan for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight and up to 3 days.
• Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
• Peel off the plastic wrap and place the pan on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, checking after 15 to 20 minutes. If the crust has puffed up on the bottom, press it back down carefully with the back of a fork. Continue baking until the crust is golden brown with darker edges. Remove the pan from the oven but leave the oven on. Brush the bottom and sides of the crust carefully with a thin coating of the egg wash. Return the pan to the oven for 2 minutes to set the egg wash. Set the pan on a rack to cool for at least 20 minutes or until you are ready to finish the cake. The crust can be wrapped and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days.
• Set the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
• To make the filling, beat the ricotta with the sugar, rice flour, and vanilla with the handheld mixer just until well blended. Beat in the eggs one by one, just until blended. Mix in the candied orange peel or raisins, the almonds, and pine nuts. Scrape the batter into the crust. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 (degree symbol) F and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until a knife inserted about 2 inches form the edge of the pan comes out clean. The center should still be jiggly. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack before unmolding. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours (48 hours is even better) before serving. Leftovers keep, covered and refrigerated, for another few days.
*Chestnut flour is available at DiGregorio’s Market.
Reprinted with permission from Artisan Publishing