Little Lemony Ricotta Cheesecakes
This recipe practically leaped out of the pages of the latest issue of Bon Appetit at me. I think it was the words “little” and “cheesecakes” in the same phrase that perked up my “miniature dessert” radar. You know I really like little individual serving sweets — see apple cup pies, individual chocolate guinness cakes, molten chocolate babycakes, etc. — but there was another reason I was excited to make these, too.
You see, I recently discovered the pastrychef.com web site (WARNING: do NOT click on that link if you consider baking a remotely serious hobby of yours, if you can always find room for one more cake pan among your overflowing shelves of baking equipment, or if you are easily seduced by a whole page full of variously shaped and sized tartlet pans! If you’re like me, you’ll find something you want need every time you visit.) It was like Christmas in our house a week ago when my order arrived!
Among some of the other goodies, one of the things I ordered was a mini cheesecake pan. I know; you’re probably thinking “why would I need a mini cheesecake pan?” Here’s my rationale: I love cheesecake but I don’t make it as often as I might like to because I don’t want to have a huge dense, rich cheesecake sitting around the house all week. But a 2-inch cheesecake? One of those (okay, maybe two) makes a perfectly sized dessert. Perfectly satisfying. Plus I can make smaller batches and try new flavor combinations a lot more easily…that’s enough justification for me! These “little lemony ricotta cheesecakes” were the first batch to be tested in the pan.
I added the graham cracker crust, as the original recipe had the ricotta cheesecake baked in 3/4 cup ramekins (no crust involved) — but you’ll see in the recipe below, I listed directions for making them both ways. And I spooned a little of our ubiquitous lemon curd on top; if you didn’t have any of that around, you could try a dollop of freshly whipped cream, or raspberry sauce (just puree some raspberries with a little sugar and strain out the seeds.)
A word about ricotta cheesecakes: they are delicious, but don’t expect them to taste like New York-style cheesecake. They’re a different breed. Not dense and creamy, but lighter and fluffier, with more texture from the ricotta. And flavored with the lemon zest, these little lemony cheesecakes are a great spring dessert…don’t you just want to pop one of those little sunny, chubby rounds into your mouth? My stomach is growling as I look at that picture…I sure do. Too bad we already ate them all!
Little Lemony Ricotta Cheesecakes
Adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2008
There’s a typo in the original recipe; it says it makes 6 servings, but the directions say to prepare 8 ramekins. Based on the times I made this, it does seem to make enough for 8 ramekins. I halved the recipe and made twelve 2-inch mini cheesecakes in a mini cheesecake pan; if you’re making them in ramekins, just skip the crust step.
Ingredients (for twelve mini (2-inch) cheesecakes, or four 3/4 cup ramekins.)
For the crust:
12 graham crackers
6 tbsp melted unsalted butter
For the cheesecake:
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1/3 cup lemon curd
Prepare the crust (if you’re using a mini cheesecake pan):
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
In the bowl of a food processor, place the graham crackers. Blitz until they’re finely ground, then add the melted butter and process again until thoroughly moistened.
Divide the graham crumbs among the wells of the mini cheesecake pan, then use your fingers to press the crumbs down firmly to flatten them into the bottom of the wells.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 8 minutes, until the graham crusts are turning golden brown around the edges and are slightly puffed and set in the center. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool slightly.
Prepare the filling:
Using an electric mixer, beat together the sugar, lemon juice, and lemon peel until the sugar dissolves. Add the cream cheese and ricotta and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Add the egg and beat until incorporated.
Bake the cheesecakes:
If you’re skipping the crust and just baking these in ramekins, grease each ramekin with a little butter. Divide the batter among the ramekins and place the ramekins on a baking sheet (for ease of getting in/out of the oven.)
If you’re baking mini cheesecakes, divide the batter among the wells of the pan (pour it directly over the pre-baked graham crusts.)
Place the cheesecakes in the oven and bake at 425 F for about 18 minutes, until puffed and set around the edges (the middles will still be a little jiggly.) Cool on a rack, then chill until cold – about 2 hours. The centers will cave in a little, but that’s okay – you’re going to cover it up with lemon curd!
When ready to serve, spoon a generous dollop of lemon curd into the center of each cheesecake and swirl around a bit with the back of a spoon. Serve garnished with a few more strips of lemon peel, if desired.