Introduction: How to Make 'Italian' Cheesecake
For years my gf has been perfecting this family recipe shared from a friend in college. The gentle variations have paid off. The most recent Italian Cheesecake was the best one yet! Here's a walk through the recipe.
The Goal. As always it is to remove any hurdles from cooking. Especially baking. Typically recipes provided here are general instructions but this one gets specific as it's a recipe worth sharing in detail.
'Italian' Clarification. A few really wonderful comments on the history of cheesecake and how this is an americanized verison of what it means to be an 'Italian' dessert. Thanks for all the comments. It really adds some fantastic detail. See below from ClaudioP:
The recipe looks delicious but...
...but Cheese Cake is not a traditional Italian recipe. Cheesecake was created in the USA for using a particular brand of cream cheese. Only from the '90s the cheesecake recipe was popularized in Italy, and before 10 years ago it was sold only in American-style restaurants (the first I found in Rome was around 1995 in an American steak-house restaurant). Probably it was prepared before also in restaurants around USA and NATO military bases (like near Pisa). Ricotta (goat or, more commonly, sheep ricotta), is used in Rome for filling the "crostata" (pie), usually with chocolate, or pears or "visciole" (a type of small and less sweet cherries). Mascarpone is used in the north of Italy, and is the main ingredient of "tiramisù", but personally I never heard of mascarpone used in other Italian cakes or pies. Indeed, there is not even an Italian name for "cheesecake", we still are calling it "cheesecake" using the English name :-)
Step 1: Ingredients - Built Around Ricotta
- (3 lg) Egg
- (1 lb) Cream Cheese
- (8 oz) Sour Cream
- (15 oz) Ricotta
- (1/4 lb) Melted Butter (unsalted + salt OR salted)
- (3 tbs) Flour
- (3 tbs) Corn Starch -I do enjoy this 16oz container
- (1 cup) Sugar - the gf has been refilling this 4lb domino container since college
- (1 tsp) Vanilla - watkin's vanilla the gf's go to
- (1 sleeve) Graham Crackers
- 1 Fat Scoop of Shortening (or 1/8 lb of Butter) ---considering the 38lb bucket the way we go through shortening... not there yet. crisco pack is twice the $/lb in the 16oz. ok, for now :)
*recommendation from raphan - in italy the proper approach is to use goat's milk ricotta and mascarpone (rather than cream cheese).
Step 2: Mixing
Mixing is a simple process that starts with the wet ingredients and moves to the dry.
- Wet Ingredients - combine together in mixing bowl. --great if you have a kitchenaid but not necessary.
- Melt butter in the microwave.
- Dry Ingredients - take it from the top of the list and add ingredients moving down the list
For us, the stand mixer removes a barrier to baking by requiring less physical activity to mix. That said, both me and gf baked for years without a mixer. Everything can be incorporated in a bowl with a whisk + spatula.
- Balloon Whisk - the gf uses the balloon whisk for the cheesecake. this is the more standard whisk. I recommend finding the least expensive all stainless steel of most metal kitchen products
- French Whisk - recommended for curds or sauces. here's the amazon link for least expensive and all stainless steel
Step 3: Crust
Simple, Delicious Crust
- Grahams - break up the package into a mixing bowl
- Shortening - add a heaping scoop or 1/2 stick of soft butter
- Mash - use your hands to work the two ingredients together.
Graham Tips. Easiest to break up the graham crackers in the package. More or less grahams only impacts the thickness of the crust. Ideally the mixture of grahams + shortening clumps when you pinch it... but if it doesn't everything comes out perfectly well.
Step 4: Layer + Bake
Steps for baking the cheesecake.
- Layer into a springform pan---shown is a 9" pan (roughly 160 cu. inches)
- PreBake Crust for 15-25min
- Bake at 325F (160C) for 1 hour
- Rest in oven for 1 hour
- Rest on counter for 20 minutes minimum
- Refrigerate overnight
Water Bath. to avoid top cracking you'll need a water bath. That means baking your cheesecake with .5 to 1 inch of water around the baking pan using a larger pan. ---no need to use a water bath provided you don't mind a split surface. I see the chasms as space for filling...
Step 5: Enjoy + Thank You
What makes this cheesecake so perfect? the variety of the cheese! Nothing fancy. Ricotta has a beautiful texture and thickness that makes it a staple for our baking.
Freezing. Cheesecake freezes beautifully. Easy to make this cake well in advance or you can save small slices to mix with yogurt. A great breakfast.
Recipes. This is a family recipe shared from my gf's best college friend. It's classic Mediterranean. These three cookbooks are our standard reference material.
Our Dream. One day we'd like to have a cafe. Here's our new instagram @cafeoneday!
Thank you. Hope you've enjoyed this instructable as much as we did making + eating + sharing!
Here are a few more desserts we put together this month: