January 13th, 2010

Holiday Highlight: Honey Ricotta Cheesecake (AKA Best Cheesecake Ever!)

cheesecake

Photo: Giada, Food Network

Do you like how I go from talking about eating more fish, vegetarian meals and going to the gym to talking about cheesecake? Smooth move, right? The thing is, I have yet to fill you in on the highlights of my holiday cooking, which was mostly holiday baking. I know that my timing isn’t great, but my favorites are all year around recipes definitely worth sharing. So, in an act of defiance against new year’s resolutions, I present to you cheesecake today and Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie tomorrow. Now go ahead, use your bookmark tool. You’ll thank me later.

I made this cheesecake as part of my Christmas Eve dinner: an Italian inspired seafood risotto (I adapted this great recipe from Martha—make it one day), white salad (shaved white vegetables with Maytag blue cheese and a champagne vinaigrette), and simple roasted asparagus. Everything was delicious, but everyone went bananas for the cheesecake. Especially my ChowBaby!

I (barely) adapted this recipe from Giada. I was a little nervous since I’ve never made one of her recipes before. It seemed a risky thing to do for my big Christmas Eve dinner, but I took the chance because of the recipe’s high ratings. And, oh boy, am I glad I did. RIDONCULOUS.

Honey Ricotta Cheesecake
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
(can be served to children 12+ mos)

8 oz graham crackers
6 tbsp organic unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp salt
12 oz fresh organic whole milk ricotta, drained
14-oz organic cream cheese, room temp (1 8-oz package + 3/4 of a 2nd 8-oz package)
1/2 c organic sour cream
3/4 c organic sugar
1/4 c organic honey
1 tbsp orange zest, from a washed organic orange
4 lg organic eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap the outside of a 9″ springform pan with 2 layers of heavy-duty foil. Finely grind the graham crackers in a food processor. Add the melted butter and salt, and process until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom (not the sides) of the prepared pan. Bake until the crust is golden, about 15 minutes. Cool the crust completely on a cooling rack.

2. Blend the ricotta in a food processor until smooth. Add cream cheese, sour cream and sugar and blend well, scraping sides periodically. Blend in the honey and orange zest. Add the eggs and pulse just until blended.

3. Pour the cheese mixture over the crust in the pan. Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the cheesecake is golden and the center of the cake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour and 5 minutes (the cake will become firm when it is cold).

4. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool 1 hour. Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least 8 hours and up to 2 days. Eat up!

Post Update (2/5/10):
Just found this great post on graham crackers on A Life Less Sweet related to the conversation in comments below. Really useful, with specific brand recommendations. Take a look!

13 Responses

  1. Rosie says:

    This sounds wonderful. I’ve never made a cheesecake from scratch. This may be a good excuse to start!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I have read your column through my RSS feed for over a year and enjoy your recipes. I am also a mama who tries to find organic and local, sustainable eating solutions for my family. That said, I have often inwardly smiled at your “organic” label on pretty much each and every ingredient in the recipes you post (I mean, we know you want to use organic stuff already). Had to post today however when I saw that you have a recipe here using graham crackers, which I have been unable to find without containing high fructose corn syrup, probably the most “evil” ingredient I can think of. The only solution we’ve found is to buy those Annie’s honey-graham flavored bunnies. I don’t necessarily mean this post as a snark, just found it interesting that you would tout this particular recipe given your stance on feeding your kids healthy choices.

  3. stacie says:

    hi. thanks for your comment. i really appreciate it, and it’s not the first time that this has come up. i’ve responded before, but not with any specificity. so here goes:

    not sure how many of you have noticed, but i’ve been posting alone since the end of summer. michelle is no longer contributing to chowmama, and hasn’t been for a long time. adding “organic” in front of every ingredient was a joint decision made when we started this blog with different intentions and goals than the ones i have now, than the ones that keep me posting. at the time, one of our primary goals for chowmama was to support the mission of our baby food brand, chowbaby, and that mission was built on organic feeding. it’s possible that this recipe wouldn’t have made it onto chowmama back when we felt strongly about listing all ingredients as “organic,” but a lot has changed since then.

    not only has chowmama gone through a natural evolution, but so has my cooking (and now it’s only my cooking that’s represented here, the biggest change of all). i’ve also posted through a pregnancy and the first chowmama holiday season when, i think, many break their normal cooking and dieting rules. since michelle’s departure, i’ve been working on some very exciting updates that will better integrate and reflect all of these changes and I’ve known for a long time now that omitting “organic” in front of every ingredient is one of them. this doesn’t mean that i wont’ promote as much organic eating as possible but, as your comment implies, the message is pretty clear without it being repeated in the recipe this way.

    because of the baby, the updates are slower to come than i’d like (though i think we’re only 2 mos away at this point!). and, in the meantime, i’d made a decision to maintain the format with which michelle and i started. more for continuity’s sake than anything else. so that’s what i con’t to write “organic” over and over, even when it (sometimes) feels silly to do so.

    as for the graham crackers in this recipe, i’m lucky enough to have a local bakery that makes them without HFCS. they are not organic, but they are freshly made with whole ingredients and delicious. truth be told, we don’t eat graham crackers on a regular basis (i only use them for this crust; for snacks, we do annie’s cheddar bunnies, homemade mini muffins that i keep in the freezer, and a few different snack items from trader joe’s). i’ve never had reason to look at the ingredients in supermarket graham crackers, though i’m not surprised that they are hard to find without HFCS. bummer. if you love them, but are dead set against feeding HFCS, try making them homemade? (you know I love Smitten Kitchen, and I’m sure there are other recipes, too: http://smittenkitchen.com/2009/05/graham-crackers/) Or you can make this recipe with another cookie that doesn’t have HFCS. Giada’s original recipe calls for a crust made with biscotti.

    one last thing… more than anything, i’ve tried to promote and live by “everything in moderation.” (it’s one of the reasons why i’ve decided to stop using “organic” in front of every ingredient when changes are launched–the way recipes read now doesn’t say “moderation” or “do your best” the way i want them to.) now, i’m not necessarily saying that just a little HFCS is good. that’s for you to decide. but though i avoided it in this recipe with local bakery made graham crackers, i’m sure i’ve fed and eaten something else with the evil ingredient (it’s very hard to avoid all together). i just do my best and encourage my readers to do the same. (they encourage me, too, by the way, with comments like these that keep me honest and clear!)

    hope this all makes sense!

  4. Cindy says:

    Love your recipes and envy your blog’s beauty.

    Someone should write an article about this trend toward feeding our little ones “perfectly”. It’s wayyyy too stressful and too often a platform from which parents judge one another. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed by my attempts at feeding perfection, I drag myself over to the blog It’s Not About Nutrition for a little pep talk and a dose of reality.

    I’ve made graham crackers from stracth based on a recipe from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. Very yum. The recipe would do very well with this divine ode to dairy and sweetness.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for your reply! I am glad you are going to address the “organic organic organic” thing. I totally support the moderation thing – I think it’s really important, especially as some people tend to view those who eat organically or locally, etc. (SOLE eaters, if you will) as a little bit TOO enthusiastic, and it ends up turning some would-be healthy eaters off from a great lifestyle. You are definitely lucky to get graham crackers from a bakery locally without HFCS and while I live in a rural area and am stuck with Wal-Wart and Kroger and therefore store-bought only, I’ll take a look at the homemade recipe. I am not a great baker but my SIL is and she shares my food views and would be happy to experiment. Keeping up the blog with two small children is a great feat. Kudos to you!

  6. Rosie says:

    Kudos on the moderation comment. I, for one, was always dismayed by the use of the word ‘organic’ in front of every ingredient because try as I might to feed my family as many organic ingredients as possible, it isn’t always feasible (economically or otherwise) to do so. I err on locally sourced food as much as possible as what good is organic if it was sourced thousdands of miles away.

    I welcome the changes and your approach.

  7. stacie says:

    thanks for chiming in. it’s so helpful to hear from readers! it’s great that it turns out i’m in sync with you all on this, but even if not… these conversations and feedback keep chowmama vital and me inspired. thanks!

  8. To be honest, I get rather irritated when people stress specific brands/producers or organic in front of an ingredient. Personally, I think it is better to have a general philosophy and goals, as you outlined, but leave those sorts of specifics out of the recipe. We get it, right? And that way the recipe itself is more accessible.

    Keep going, I’m still amazed at how you’ve been up and running with this since you had your baby!

  9. I use a kosher brand found at my regular supermarket (shop rite) they are free of HFCS and made with whole wheat. they are yummy and not too sweet. my babe loves them. will check the nme and report back.

  10. your post shows the one we have in our house. its in the kosher aisle at the market. its called MI-DEL! yum and nice and crunchy! i second this!

  11. [...] of these events. And I was really excited about this one. Giada is, after all, the genius behind Honey Ricotta Cheesecake, a favorite Christmas dessert that is fast becoming a tradition on my Christmas [...]

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  13. [...] appreciation for Giada started with her Honey Ricotta Cheesecake, so delicious it instantly became a holiday tradition in my house. Then, I was lucky to meet the [...]

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