As you know from many earlier posts, I am out numbered here on Glen Road by Brooklyn-born Italians. There’s nothing wrong with that especially given my love of Italian food. Most of the Italian cravings are taken care of by cooking from the Notorious B. I. G. (Brooklyn Italian Grandmother). However, every so often, I am asked to cook something that the troops used to get in Brooklyn. A good example came when I was asked if I could make “franks on club” meaning you take a hot dog and grill it, then you slice it length wise and serve it on a club roll. This was served up in a favorite Brooklyn diner and, just so you know, I have yet to attempt this culinary delight. Another recent request that I did sign up for was to make a cheesecake. Not regular cheesecake made with cream cheese, but Italian style, using fresh ricotta cheese. To be honest, I have made the ricotta cheesecake twice before the most recent request and, although it tasted good, it was not a pretty cheesecake because it had cracks on the top. So this time I signed up to make another one and decided to try to find a way to prevent the severe cracked top that I had experienced with cheesecakes from my past.
There are a lot of ways via the internet to prevent cracking. From one post that said to spackle up the cracks with some softened ricotta to another post that said to take the cheesecake out of the oven every five minutes and vigorously shake it back and forth. Honestly, I’m not buying these two solutions. The one I eventually decided to try (with success!) was one that explained that cheesecake is made with lots of eggs. In the cooking process, these eggs actually expand which is why the cake rises. However, when taken out of the oven to a much cooler temperature, the eggs constrict so rapidly that the cheesecake cracks. The trick to a smooth-topped cheesecake is to cool the cake off in a much slower fashion so that the eggs don’t constrict too quickly and cause cracking. This solution starts by reducing the cooking time written in the recipe by fifteen minutes. When the revised cooking time is complete, you simply turn off the oven and do not open the oven door. Leave the cake in the oven for one more hour so that it continues to cook, but also slowly cools as the oven loses heat. Let me tell you…it worked! So here’s my recipe, modified to use my new non-cracking trick with the oven. Enjoy!
- Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pan
- 1/4 cup sugar, plus more for pan
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese, pureed in a food processor until smooth
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Generously butter and sugar a 9-inch springform pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta, egg yolks, flour, half the sugar (6 tablespoons) and salt until combined; set aside.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on low-speed until foamy. With the mixer on high-speed, gradually add the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar, beating until whites are stiff and glossy, 3 to 4 minutes.
Using a rubber spatula, fold a third of the egg-white mixture into the ricotta mixture until combined. Gently fold in the remaining egg-white mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the center is firm and the top is a deep golden brown. To avoid cracking, bake 45 minutes and then turn oven off with cheesecake still inside the oven (do not open oven door). Leave cheesecake in the oven another 1 hour to continue cooking and to slowly cool down.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Take a paring knife and run it around edge of cake and the cake pan to avoid sticking. Place another wire rack on top of the pan and invert cake onto the rack to remove from pan. Reinvert cake and cool completely, top side up. Cake should be eaten the same day it is baked, however, it can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.