Donna Hay’s Ricotta, amaretti and plum cheesecake

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and I’m hoping that with this particular post, I can skimp on my usual blah blah and let the pictures do the talking.

It was a dear friend’s brithday last week and I thought I’d bake a cake for her as a birthday present. My friend absolutely loves cheesecake and I’d been looking for an opportunity to crack out Donna Hay’s issue 68 which has a whole section on cheesecakes. For those who don’t know Donna Hay, she is an amazing Australian food stylist and one can spend hours drooling and making interesting noises (as my husband pointed out) over her magazine. The best part is that her recipes just work – no need to change anything! Check her website out for some awesome recipes at http://donnahay.com.au/

Without further ado, I present to you the incredibly good-looking and delicious  – Ricotta and amaretti cheesecake with a topping of plums baked in a syrup infused with vanilla and cinnamon.

Ricotta, amaretti cheesecake with plums

Ricotta, amaretti cheesecake with plums

Ingredients:

For the base:

120 gms amaretti biscuits or Italian almond biscuits

100 gms shortbread biscuits

50 gms butter

For the cheesecake filling:

400 gms ricotta (I used 250)

250 gms cream cheese (I used 300 gms)

75 gms (1/3 cup) caster sugar (I’d recommend a little less – say 65 gms)

2 eggs + 1 egg yolk

Finely grated rind of 1 large lemon

For the ooz-y topping:

5 ripe blood red plums (I used about 7 little ones as that’s all I could find)

1 vanilla bean (definitely spend the money on this as the taste and smells are worth it)

1 stick cinnamon

1/2 cup brown sugar ( I used coffee sugar which didn’t dissolve as well as brown sugar would have)

Sainbury’s “Taste the Difference” soft amaretti

Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 150ºC. My oven’s a dud and has no fan so I keep it at 170ºC.

2. Crush the biscuits either (a) in a blender (b) in a zip-lock bag using the end of a rolling pin until they resemble breadcrumbs.

3. Melt the butter in a heat proof dish, add the biscuit crumbs to the butter and mix well. Press the buttery biscuit mix into a baking dish that has been lined with non-stick baking paper. Place the biscuit-lined dish in the refrigerator for 30minutes. (I used an oval dish but you can choose a different one. The ingredients are not quite enough for an 9″  round (23cm diameter) but will happily fit an 8″ round (21cm diameter) and you might even have some left over for a couple of ramekins.)

4. In a large, deep, bowl blend the sugar, cream cheese and ricotta until the mixture is smooth and the sugar has dissolved. Then add the eggs, egg yolk and lemon rind and blend once again until the mixture is uniformly thick and bubbly.

5. Pour the mixture in step 4 above into the biscuit base from step 3 above. Lift the bowl about 0.5 cm off your workbench and gently drop it back onto the workbench. This will get rid of any bubbles that might have gotten trapped when you poured the cheesecake mixture into the baking dish.

6. Bake the cheesecake in the over for 45-60 minutes or until the cake stops being wobby. You do not need the top to go brown as you might with some other cheesecakes. Keep this one pale so it can form a contrast to the beautiful colour of the blood plums. Once the cheesecake is cooked, allow it to cool at room temperature while you prepare the plums.

DSC_0313_mod

The basic lemon and ricotta cheesecake

7. Line another baking dish with non-stick baking paper and scatter the sugar, scraped vanilla seeds, the vanilla bean itself and cinnamon stick into it. Halve the plums, remove their seeds and place them cut-side down over the sugar. Cover the bowl with silver foil and bake for 15 minutes at 180ºC. After 15 minutes, remove the foil, flip the plums onto their bottoms and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until they’ve softened and the sugar has turned am amazing ruby red.

Stewed/Baked plums alongside Mr Cinnamon and Ms Vanilla Bean

Stewed/Baked plums alongside Mr Cinnamon and Ms Vanilla Bean

8. Place the plums on the cooled surface of the cheesecake in an attractive pattern, pour the ruby red plum juice over the plums+cake and voilà!

9. If you have a birthday girl/boy in your cake-baking midst, place a candle in the middle of the cake and embarass her/him by singing happy birthday with everyone else present.

Transformed into a birthday cake

Transformed into a birthday cake

Tips:

1. Amaretti can be cruncy or chewy or somewhere in between. I got the soft and chewy ones as that’s all I could find at my local Sainsbury’s. However, the end result was a slightly chewy base and my husband and I absolutely loved it. So I’d recommend buying them if you can find them.

2. If you don’t want to fuss over baking plums, you can serve the lemon cheesecake with fresh raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or mango on top with a drizzle of honey.

And now for those pictures….(click on them for a larger version)

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