|The world's greatest cheesecake, I swear to god|
No, I mean I really love cheese.
As in, I always forgo dessert when we dine out if there's a cheeseplate on either the dessert or appetizer menu.
So imagine my excitement when the April topic for the Grow It Cook It Can It Cook It! 2012 challenge turned out to be fresh cheese. Yay! (I've really been enjoying that we're tackling some real cooking staples as part of this challenge, as opposed to getting all elaborate and complicated.)
As Caroline did, I decided to stick with fresh ricotta. I have made mozzarella in the past but the idea of making cheese in 10 minutes using only three ingredients was just too tempting.
Seriously. Ten minutes, three ingredients.
This was so easy there barely needs to be a recipe, so I'll just show you the steps (and I apologize in advance for the not-so-great step photos).
Step 1: Assemble the ingredients -- 1/2 gallon whole milk, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt. (Yep, that's all.)
|Sorry, I left the salt out of the picture|
Step 2: Heat the milk and salt to 180 degrees (use any kind of beverage or instant-read thermometer). This step only took a few minutes. You'll know you're close when the milk just starts to simmer.
|Heat the milk to 180 degrees|
Step 3: When the milk hits 180 degrees, add the vinegar and stir for another minute or two. The milk will begin to separate into curds and whey right before your eyes, Miss Muffet!
|Slightly out of focus, but I think you can see the curds forming|
Step 4: Pour the mixture into a colander lined with a few layers of cheesecloth and let drain (I let mine drain about 8 minutes or so, and it was pretty firm -- if you want it to be more spreadable, drain it a few minutes less, I'd say).
|It will still look runny when you first begin to drain it|
|This is fully drained (about 8 minutes and pressed with the back of a spoon)|
Step 5: Scrape the cheese (about 1 1/2 - 2 cups worth) off the cheesecloth.
VOILA! You just made ricotta!
|If you're just going to eat it on toast, I'd add a little salt at this point|
Regular readers will remember that part of the challenge is not only to make the staple ingredient but also to use it in a recipe.
This is where I had a bit of a moral crisis.
(Over freakin' cheese? you may be thinking. Yes, sort of. Read on.)
Last week, I was telling my mother-in-law that the next challenge topic was cheese and that I was going to make ricotta but was still trying to decide what recipe to use to accompany it. She said, "I think there's a ricotta cheesecake you can make, but I don't have a recipe for it."
Um. Well, I do.
Well, actually, my mom does. For perhaps the greatest cheesecake on the planet. The cheesecake by which I compare all other cheesecakes. Trust me, I don't eat any other cheesecake anymore other than this one because none of them can compare.
Seriously. It's that good. (For criminey's sake, you can tell -- just look at it up there!!!)
So good, in fact, that I have never shared the recipe. I'm pretty protective of it. Selfish, even. Probably because it's my go-to ooh aah dessert. You know the one: you bring it to a party and everyone oohs and aahs. It's my secret weapon dish, the one that only I (well, and my mom) know how to make.
I realized that it's silly and more than a little insecure of me to hoard this recipe. I mean, it's really not a secret family recipe. It came from some magazine in the 1970s (you know it's a 70s recipe because it calls for -- and my mom always added -- thick canned cherry pie filling as the topping. Shudder.). But my dad loved it. And if my dad loved it, it was a keeper.
So (and here I take a very deep breath), I'm officially crossing the line over into adulthood (as a 40-something) and sharing this recipe with you.
That's how much I love this blog, people.
Trust me, you will like it. Scratch that: you will love it. It will ruin all other cheesecakes for you. It is thick and creamy and not-too-sweet and doesn't waste your time with any kind of crust. It's just cheese, cheese and cheese, oh yeah, with a side of cheese.
I mean, it's called CHEESE CAKE for a reason, right?
|The top always looks unlovely and sometimes cracks but don't worry about either|
But I'm telling you right now that if you invite me over for dinner and serve this cheesecake in my presence, I may mash it in your face. Because technically it will always be mine.
Well, my mom's.
I've linked up this recipe at Momnivore's Dilemma Creative Juice Thursday and The Sweet Spot's Recipe Party
Super-Secret Ninja Family Recipe New York Cheesecake
(credit me or I will hunt you down, I swear it)
Note: The quantities below are for a 5-inch springform pan, because there's just me and Mr. Ninj. If you want to make the cake for a family or a dinner party, just double all the ingredients and cook it in a 10-inch springform pan.
1 cup ricotta cheese, at room temperature (you, my friend, are all set because you just made your own!)
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sour cream
(Oh man, it is so hard for me to put this out there for the world to see...)
Blend ricotta and cream cheese well, then blend in the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla, lemon juice, cornstarch, flour and melted butter and beat to combine. Fold in the sour cream and blend well.
Pour the mixture into a buttered springform pan. Place the pan IN A COLD OVEN and then turn the oven on to 325 degrees (Isn't this cool? No preheating!). Bake the cake for one hour. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR. (Yes, this is in ALL CAPS and underlined on the recipe card my mom made for me.) After one hour, turn off the oven and leave the cake until cool, at least 2 more hours (leaving it in the oven overnight is fine as well).
Remove the sides of the springform pan and garnish the cake with fresh fruit -- or, frankly, with not a damned thing at all. It's that good.