Ricotta Cheesecake with Meyer Lemon Curd
My husband is one of three brothers, and there isn’t a single sweet tooth among them. This is somewhat of a tragic waste, as both of my sisters-in-law are wonderful bakers. At family gatherings there is always at least one gorgeous confection of eggs, flour and sugar. We all gather around it and ooh and ahh. But when the time comes to eat it, those men aren’t around. It’s just us wives sneaking bites around child tantrums and diaper changes, me fending off Kennedy with a fork (“It’s not good for you!” I declare around a mouthful of chocolate). Brent always gives me the same line, the “you get a slice and I’ll share it with you” line. He rarely eats much. But I never call him on his BS – I don’t mind being left holding the cake.
This all leaves me with the personal conquest of finding desserts my husband will enjoy. I think it’s about solidarity … I don’t want to be the only one annihilating a brownie after dinner. I can only assume that anybody not participating is looking on in disapproval. So I keep a sharp eye out for sweets that lure my illusive husband. Crème brulee. Cheesecake. Lemon.
After seeing his eyes gleam over a lemon curd cheesecake on a menu one night, I was inspired. When the first display of Meyer lemons showed up at my local grocery store not long after, that was it. I had to make my own lemony cheesecake. And since I’m Italian, and I love to make my own ricotta cheese, a ricotta cheesecake was an absolute must.
Why make your own ricotta?
If there’s only one thing I can persuade you to do, let it be to make your ricotta. It’s easy, gratifying, and so, sooo delicious. I didn’t even like ricotta until I made my own! I didn’t care for the texture of the store-bought variety, which I found gritty. When you make your own, it’s pillowy, creamy, and smooth. And it tastes amazing.
Fresh ricotta is also probably safer for you. The varieties I found at the store contained additives like carrageenan, a thickening agent. Although there’s no consensus regarding the safety of this common additive, in high doses it’s caused everything from IBS to colon cancer in lab mice. I’m going to give my digestive system the benefit of the doubt on that one.
The last reason is pretty simple – making cheese is fun. I mean seriously. The suspense of watching the candy thermometer. The magic of tipping the pan over your cheese cloth and watching the curds gather there. That first bite (inevitably, with a spoon as you’re pouring, since you just can’t wait any longer). The very act of using cheese cloth, and seeing the separation of curds and whey, feels old-world and real.
The result? A creamy and smooth but somehow light and airy cheesecake smothered in homemade honeyed Meyer lemon curd. My family ate it over the course of several days, and my husband matched me slice for slice. What a sweet victory.
- 1 1/2 cup toasted almonds
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 lbs. full-fat ricotta cheese, preferably fresh*, room temperature
- 8 oz. mascarpone, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
- 1.5 tsp lemon zest
- 1.5 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1 large egg
- 2/3 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest
- 5 tablespoons honey
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Triple-wrap the (outside) bottom and sides of a 9" springform pan with aluminum foil, being careful not to tear the foil. You need this to be water-tight.
- In a food processor, grind the almonds and brown sugar into coarse crumbs.
- Add butter to the processor and pulse until butter is incorporated.
- Press the mixture evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan.
- Bake the crust until beginning to brown, 10-15 minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool
- If using fresh ricotta, allow to drain in a fine colander or cheesecloth for 1 hour.
- Bring a large amount of water to a boil (a full teapot works well).
- Once almond crust has cooled, butter the sides of the pan.
- Combine the ricotta, mascarpone, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Beat using an electric mixer at the lowest setting until well combined and very smooth.
- Continuing on the lowest setting, beat in the eggs until smooth, but take care not to overbeat.
- Beat in the sugar, lemon juice and vanilla until just combined.
- Pour in to prepared pan and smooth the top.
- Place your cheesecake in a roasting pan with sides no taller than the springform pan. Fill roasting pan with boiling water about halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
- Carefully transfer roasting pan to oven and bake until lightly browned and center is still somewhat wobbly, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. A toothpick inserted a couple of inches from the cake's center should come out clean.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in water bath.
- Remove cake from water bath and carefully release the sides of the springform pan. Refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 hours) before serving.
- Serve with a dish of Meyer Lemon Curd for spreading on individual slices, or top the entire cake with the curd.
- In a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk all ingredients except the butter until well combined.
- In a medium saucepan, bring 1-2 inches of water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium.
- Set the bowl with the egg mixture over the top of the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened (6-8 minutes).
- Remove bowl from the saucepan and stir in the butter until melted and combined.
- If desired, pass the curd through a fine-mesh strainer.
*To make my own ricotta cheese, I followed Martha Stewart’s Fresh Ricotta recipe. I increased the whole recipe by 1 1/4 and used the full yield to make this cheesecake.
Cheesecake adapted from this lovely recipe for Lemon-Ricotta Cheesecake from Alexandra’s Kitchen.
Lemon curd lightly adapted from Food and Wine’s Honey-Lemon Curd with Crème Fraiche.
Almond crust adapted from Laura Werlin’s Toasted Almond Crust.