This is a recipe developed in America’s Test Kitchen that will NOT appear in Cook’s Illustrated because our magazine recipe testers do not seem favorably inclined to the notion of ricotta cheesecake — they found it not sweet enough, do not like the ricotta texture, etc. That being said, I personally love this recipe and prefer ricotta cheesecake to the American cream cheese version any day. Enjoy.
WHAT WE WANTED: Different from a normal cheesecake, ricotta pie should be light in texture and sweetness, with the distinct flavor and graininess of ricotta cheese. Many ricotta pies end up overcooking around the edges, which can turn them wet and crumbly. The goal of this recipe was to create a ricotta pie with a golden brown top that is evenly cooked all the way from edge to center.
RICOTTA PIE WITH STRAWBERRIES
Makes one 9 1/2-inch pie, serving 8 to 10
Note: Use only a high quality whole milk ricotta for this recipe. Check the ingredients – it should contain only milk, salt, and a starter or acid. Avoid any brands that contain guar gum, carageenan, or other stabilizers. Our recommended brand of ricotta is Calabro. If you cannot find a high quality ricotta in your area, you can make your own following the recipe below. The pie is best eaten the day it is made. However, leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Allow pie to stand at room temperature for 3 hours before serving. Our favorite springform pan, the Frieling Glass Bottom Springform Pan, measures 9 1/2-inches in diameter. If using a smaller 9-inch springform pan, increase cooking range at each oven temperature by ten to fifteen minutes. Frozen strawberries may be substituted in the topping.
3 pints (about 1 1/2 pounds) strawberries, washed, hulled, and quartered
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 pounds ricotta cheese (see note)
1 large slice white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon zest from 1 lemon
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1. For the Topping: Using potato masher or fork, crush 1/3 of strawberries into coarse pulp in medium bowl. Add remaining quartered berries and sugar; stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
2. For the Pie: Line 12 by 18-inch rimmed baking sheet with triple layer of paper towels (or double layer of kitchen towels). Spread ricotta on towels in rough even layer about 1-inch thick. Cover ricotta with second triple layer of paper towels (or double layer of kitchen towels); place second rimmed baking sheet on top and weight down with two cans. Allow ricotta to dry at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Once dry, peel back top layer of towels and discard. Grasp bottom towels and fold ricotta in half; peel back towels. Repeat and flip ricotta onto baking sheet; discard towel.
3. Meanwhile, process bread in food processor until finely ground, about 10 seconds. Coat bottom and sides of 9 to 9 1/2-inch springform pan evenly with butter; evenly coat bottom and sides with bread crumbs, shaking out excess. Set springform pan on 18-inch-square doubled layer heavy-duty foil and wrap bottom and sides with foil; set wrapped springform pan in roasting pan.
4. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Place dried ricotta, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, salt, flour, eggs, and yolks in bowl of stand mixer and mix on medium speed until combined, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Increase speed to high and mix until slightly aerated and smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape batter into prepared pan.
5. Place 1 quart of ice cubes in roasting pan. Pour enough cold water to come 1-inch from top of springform pan. Bake until top of pie is pale golden brown with a few darker spots, 25 to 35 minutes (water may be simmering at this stage). Lower heat to 325 degrees, rotate roasting pan and continue to bake until center of pie is slightly wobbly when pan is shaken, and center of pie registers 170 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 30 to 45 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool 5 minutes; run paring knife between pie and side of springform pan. Cool to room temperature, 2 1/2 to 3 hours; remove springform ring. Cut into wedges and serve with strawberry topping.
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
Makes 3 pounds
Do not use Ultra-pasteurized (UHT) milk, as it will not curdle properly.
1 1/2 gallons whole milk
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup juice from 6 to 7 lemons
1. Heat milk and salt in 7-quart Dutch oven over medium-high, stirring frequently with rubber spatula to prevent scorching, until milk registers 185 degrees on instant read thermometer, about 15 minutes
2. Remove pot from heat. Using rubber spatula, slowly stir in 1/2 cup lemon juice until fully incorporated, 15 seconds. Allow milk to stand, undisturbed for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes milk should separate into white solid curds and translucent liquid whey. If after 5 minutes whey is still milky and opaque, add 2 more tablespoons lemon juice, gently stir to combine and let rest 5 minutes longer. Check separation again and repeat with another 2 tablespoons juice until whey is no longer opaque (depending on your milk, whey may appear different shades of yellow or blue). Once milk is separated into curds and whey allow pot to rest for 20 minutes.
3. Line colander or large strainer with double layer of cheesecloth and set over sink. Using large spoon, carefully spoon curds into colander. Discard whey. Using rubber spatula, gently fold curds over themselves until liquid no longer runs out of colander and curds have texture of grainy cream cheese. Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.