Monday, March 28, 2011

Gluten Free Italian Cheesecake

Baked Italian Cheesecake

The other night we were invited to friends for dinner and told it was an Italian theme, and since most of the other courses of food were covered I sat and thought for days about what kind of dessert was "Italian".  I could only come up with Tiramisu for a long time, and then Gelato, but wasn't inspired to make either one, finally I came up with Italian Cheesecake!  It's been a million years since I've eaten an Italian cheesecake, and I have NEVER made one, let alone a NY style cheesecake.  I contemplated for a while about whether or not I wanted to really take on this challenge and how crazy I was willing to make myself.  I also received a request to bring GF Italian Bread, so now my work load was up, but I was feeling like a challenge.  The bread did not turn out well so I won't be posting that debacle anytime soon.  But the Cheesecake was a fabulous success!  I nearly had to abandon the idea midway after realizing one friend seriously dislikes ricotta cheese, the main ingredient in Italian cheesecake, after a quick strategy session with his wife I decided to go ahead with the plan.

I did some research on the internet about Italian cheesecakes and found that the recipes are not at all consistent with one another, some had crusts, most didn't, some used whole eggs, some only yolks, and on and on.  With that in mind I figured I would just go ahead and make my own recipe, and cross all my fingers that it would come out okay.  

I got tons of approval from everyone, even the ricotta hater!  He said it was the best cheesecake he had ever had because it was so light and fluffy, not like those other ones that are so heavy and dense.  Don't worry, no one let on that it was full of ricotta, it was pretty funny though.    I loved it too, soft, tender, light, fluffy, not overly sweet, and just a touch of lemon to balance out the flavor.  Hopefully I'll have another reason to make it again soon because it was fantastic.

Now to add to the vast array of Italian cheesecake recipes on the internet, here is mine.

Gluten Free Italian Cheesecake

1/2  Cup GF Graham Crackers, ground up
2 lbs of Ricotta
1   Cup Sugar (granulated)
2   Tbs  Tapioca Starch
4   Whole Eggs
1    tsp Vanilla Extract
Zest of a whole lemon
Juice of half a lemon

Drain Ricotta by placing layers of cheesecloth into a colander, and pouring ricotta into the cheesecloth.  Let the ricotta sit for a while, be sure to place the colander in a larger bowl to catch the drippings so that you don't end up with a sloppy mess on the counter.  (If you don't have cheesecloth, I used paper towels and a mesh sieve pretty successfully.)

While Ricotta drains, smash up GF Graham crackers and spread in bottom of 9 inch cake pan, or spring form pan.  Set aside.

Once the Ricotta is drained, place it in a stand mixer, and blend in sugar, and Tapioca starch.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing each one into batter.  Finally add extract, lemon zest, and lemon juice, mix until everything is fully incorporated.

Pour the batter into a 9 inch cake pan (I don't own a spring form, if you do, you can use that instead.)  Bake at 350 degrees (F) for 50-60 min, until a knife inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.