Ricotta cheesecake with chardonnay poached pears

I spent most of this weekend rehearsing Romeo and Juliet with my housemates. It looks and sounds a lot better than when we first started practicing, but it is far, far from perfect. I still haven’t fully learned all of my lines, which is a problem because the play is this Friday and in front of about 60 people! Well, a week is kind of a long time, right? Up until now, my memorization of Capulet’s part has consisted solely of going over lines on the elliptical at the local YMCA. (Yeah, I’m one of those people at the gym, who multitasks doing weird things.) So hopefully, once I start committing my full attention to memorizing lines, it will become easier.

This ricotta cheesecake is an adaptation of Mark Bittman’s No Bake Cheesecake, which appeared in the NY Times Dining section circa 2008. The addition of ricotta and omission of eggs, sour cream, butter, etc. to the recipe makes the filling much lighter than a traditional New York style or Cheesecake Factory cheesecake. I love the sweet cream flavor of the ricotta, subtle tones of honey, and whipped texture of the pie filling. I also love that the recipe is no-bake for obvious reasons.

Chardonnay poached pears are made by lightly boiling ripe pears in a sugary syrup until they become soft and infused with a robust wine flavor. They are tart, earthy, and just alcoholic enough to round out the sweetness of the pears. While spooning poached pears on top of the cheesecake isn’t essential, it provides an extra layer of depth and sophistication to the dessert. If you lack time or motivation, sliced berries are a good way to complete a naked cheesecake.

Crust Ingredients

  • 8 graham whole crackers
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar

Cheesecake Filling Ingredients

  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey

Chardonnay Poached Pear Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cups chardonnay
  • 2 tbsp dark rum
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 diced ripe bosc pears

Directions

  1. The Crust – Finely crush the graham crackers in a ziploc bag or a food processor. In a bowl, mix the sugar and melted butter, followed by the crushed graham crackers. Press this mixture into a 9 inch cake or pie pan and bake for 7 minutes at 375 F.
  2. The Cheesecake Filling – Mix the ricotta, cream cheese, sugar, and honey with an electric mixer or whisk. Spread evenly over the cooled graham cracker crust and chill in refrigerator until just before serving.
  3. The Chardonnay Poached Pears – In a small sauce pan, simmer the chardonnay, rum, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla on low heat for 20-30 minutes. Allow the mixture to reduce in volume and thicken in consistency. Add the diced pears and simmer for an additional 10-20 minutes, or until the pears have become soft and sweet.
  4. Serving Recommendations – Serve the ricotta cheesecake chilled. After plating individual slices of cheesecake, spoon warm chardonnay poached pears over top and enjoy.

As I write, our neighbor’s dog Shasta is keeping me company. She’s thirteen and doesn’t move around much anymore, but will happily keep me company on the couch.

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