Over Christmas break I received a fabulous book courtesy of the in-laws. It's the kind with ribbon page markers and a matte binding...you know, that kind you just want to feel.
It's the kind of cookbook that is part fascinating read, part actual cookbook. Nigel Slater takes all kinds of fruits and makes the most amazing concoctions out of them. Unlike most fruit based recipes, these recipes don't drown and cover the fruit in sugar but instead highlight them as the star of the show and put the baked goods part in the background. Case in point: this cheesecake.
Now normally when you see fruit in a cheesecake, it's some sort of fruit turned into syrup swirled into cake. This version however has the cherries sitting on top in their natural glory. The cheesecake itself is much, much lighter than it's traditional cousin without that dense sweetness that we usually associated with cheesecake.
Cherries take the show here! Light cheesecake and a shortbread crust (not graham) take the backstage blending together in a lovely, light and fruity baked good.
Adapted from Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard
For the Cheesecake
1 pound ricotta cheese
7 ounces cream cheese or mascarpone
2/3 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 pound cherries, cut in half and pitted
For the shortbread crust
12 ounces shortbread cookies
6 tablespoons of butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly butter an 8 inch square pan (For easy removal, line with parchment paper).
In a food processor, crush the shortbread cookies into crumbs. Combine the crumbs with your melted butter and mix. Pat this deeelicciouss smelling mixture into your pan and refrigerate for half an hour.
In the meantime, combine ricotta, cream cheese or mascarpone, cream, and sugar. Add the zest and juice of all of your lemons, vanilla, eggs, egg yolk, and cornstarch. Pour this mixture on top of your now cooled shortbread crust and bake for 50 - 60 minutes or until firm to touch (or it passes the toothpick test). Cover the pan with tin foil it the top begins to brown. Turn the heat off of your oven and let your cake finish cooling in the oven. Let your cheesecake chill in the fridge overnight.
Prior to serving, scatter your cherries on top! That's it!
Optional: Make a simple syrup of 1/2 cup water to 1/2 cup sugar by heating the two over medium heat until the sugar is disolved. Give your cherries a quick swim in the syrup until slightly warmed and pour over cheesecake.