Back when my waistline was independent from my diet, the New York Cheesecake from Starbucks was a regular snack of mine. I remember having that rich, calorific cheesecake in conjunction with a sweet, sugar-laden frappuccino. Talk about the blessed metabolism of the youth. With time, my waistline and my palate have both developed an aversion for those cheesecakes as they are distastefully sweet and heavy. Instead, the more tempting version today would be the Italian cheesecake with ricotta, which is lighter and more delicate.
This does not mean that it’s a “light” version of the cheesecake. It’s a different creature altogether, so don’t think of it as less of a treat. Those American cheesecakes to me are more of a two-spoonfuls-and-enough sort of treat. This is I-could-eat-a-whole-pie-if-no-one-was-watching-me sort of treat.
There’s room to be creative. My filling was flavored with just some orange zest. Traditionally, orange blossom, candied citrus, chocolate chips are all common additions. Remember to use good ricotta for this. Moreover, I’ve made a pretty little braid to decorate the pie, it is easy but quite a nuisance. Instructions are here but you can leave it out.
Zest of 1 orange
1 egg yolk for egg wash
Begin by putting the ricotta in a colander over a bowl to let the excess water drain out, leave for a few hours in the fridge like this.
Make the crust:
Mix together the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Mix in the egg and yolk. Form into a ball, then flatten to a disc, don’t over work it. Wrap in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to two days.
Heat the oven to 180C
Whisk the ricotta, sugar, yolks and orange zest together with electric beaters until homogeneous.
Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out to be about 3mm thick. Gently place it over the pie tin and using your fingers, gently press the dough into the edges of the tin. Put in the fridge for ten minutes to chill.
Take the pie dough out again and using your rolling pin, roll over the top to remove the excess dough that’s left hanging on the sides to have a neat edge. With the excess dough you can cut out shapes, or lattices or like what I’ve done and braided it.
If you wish to braid it, simply roll it out to a long rectangle, 3mm thick. With the help of a ruler, cut out 5mm wide strips. Your dough should be cold, if at one point it feels too warm to be workable, place it on baking paper and back in the fridge for a bit.
Working with three strips at a time, braid the dough, keeping them as snug as possible. If one isn’t long enough, just make a couple and you can patch them together later one.
Prick the base of the dough all over with a fork. Put the ricotta filling inside, smooth over the top.
Whisk the egg yolk with a dash of water to make the egg wash. Brush this along the edges of the pie dough, this will act as the glue as you gently place the braided dough over the edges. Brush with egg wash.
Place in the oven to bake for about 40-50 minutes.
Leave to cool completely before adding some optional powdered sugar.