In a week I will celebrate the second anniversary of The Devil’s Food Advocate. It seems like a much shorter time since I pressed the “publish” button and waited to see what might happen. That first post was a story about a landmark department store in my hometown. It was a remembrance of all those shopping trips my sister and I made with our mother and the special treat of dining in the store’s cafeteria. It was about happy times and how food memories reinforce them. Today there is cheesecake and cherries, once again. A different but very good version of a favorite childhood dessert, this one is lighter and the topping is fresh and bright-tasting. And I think you can never have too many cheesecake recipes.
Ricotta and Amaretti Cheesecake with Roasted Cherries
(makes one rectangular cake, to serve 6 to 8 cheesecake-lovers)
4 ounces amaretti biscuits
3 1/2 ounces shortbread cookies (Pepperidge Farm work well)
3 tablespoons melted butter
14 ounces best quality, fresh ricotta cheese
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 pound cherries, rinsed, stemmed, and pitted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste (or extract)
Place the amaretti and shortbread cookies in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the butter and process to combine. Using the back of a spoon, firmly press the mixture into the base and sides of a 13 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loose-bottomed rectangular tart tin*. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 300F. In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the ricotta, cream cheese, sugar, and lemon zest. Beat for 3 to 4 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved. Add the eggs, the yolk, and the almond extract and beat until combined and smooth. Pour the mixture into the shell and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until just firm (there may be a little wobble at the center). Set aside to cool and then refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until cold. Once the cheesecake comes out of the oven, raise the heat to 400F. In a medium bowl, toss the cherries, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla paste. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Tip the cherry mixture on to the baking sheet, and roast the cherries for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to a bowl to cool, then chill in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, remove the sides of the pan and slice the cake crosswise into serving portions. Top each piece with some roasted cherries.
*If you do not own a rectangular tart pan, use an 8-inch springform pan. Adjust the baking time to 50-60 minutes.
(adapted from Donna Hay magazine, Issue 68)