I am quite fussy when comes to cheesecake. I have to admit that cheesecake is possibly the last option I would go for on a dessert menu. I just think that there are way more exciting gateaux and cakes out there than a slice of cheesecake, which usually either too sweet, too cloy or simply too cheesy. But when is done right, my heart does sing out, “They ain’t that bad after all, I guess I just need to be in the mood for it”.

Then people think I went coo-coo when I created a “vegemite cheesecake” in my ‘Have you eaten?’ cookbook (old version recipe can be found here). Never judge the book by the cover I say, just wait till you try it; you can send me an email and thank me later.

Pasticceria Papa‘s baked ricotta cheesecake has been crowned Sydney’s best cheesecake by SMH, and they weren’t wrong. Their version of cheesecake is nothing like the New York cheesecake, it consists of a slightly sweet and light ricotta cheese filling, with a sponge pastry wrapped all around it. Solving the mystery on how to seal the cheesecake inside the pastry is half the fun (It’s not that difficult really). So I made my own.

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Instead of trying to crack the cheesecake’s code, I just played around a bit and changed a few bits here and there. As I love Maggie Beer’s sour cream pastry so much, I used it for this recipe instead of the soft spongy pastry. And I also added more cinnamon flavour to the cheesecake, rather than just a plain white ricotta cheesecake inside. My effort may not be as perfect as Papa’s baked ricotta cheesecake, but is still pretty darn good!

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This cheesecake is not that difficult to make really, but there are a few crucial points you have to watch out for:

1. When draping the pastry over the tin, make sure there are no holes in the pastry, else your cheesecake filling will leak out during baking. If you found holes, just patch it with some excess pastry and let it set in the refrigerator.

2. When making the cheesecake filling, we want it to be light and soft. That’s why we separate the eggs, whisking the egg white with sugar until soft peak then gently fold the cream cheese mixture into it.

3. When filling the tin with cream cheese mixture, make sure you do not fill all the way to the top, else you will end up with a cheesecake volcano inside the oven. If it still happens, place a baking tray at the bottom rack in the oven to catch up any over flowing cheesecake mixture.

4. It is important to cool the cheesecake in the oven and let it finish cooking, so it doesn’t shrink too much. Best to let it set in fridge overnight and taste much better the next day.

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Baked Ricotta Cheesecake

Sour cream pastry (recipe from Maggie’s Harvest)
200g chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
250g all-purpose plain flour
1/2 cup (125ml) sour cream (or plain yoghurt)

cheesecake filling
3 eggs, separated
250g cream cheese, room temperature
500g ricotta cheese
80ml cream
100g sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract paste
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg powder

Icing sugar, for dusting
Cinnamon powder, for dusting

Method
1. To make the pastry, put butter and plain flour in a food processor, blitz in pulse mode until it resembles fine crumbs. Alternatively, rub the butter and flour between fingers until you achieve the same result. Add sour cream and give it a few more pulses until the dough comes together. Tip it out on a floured surface, gather the loose clumps together to form a dough ball. Flatter the dough into a disk, wrap it in cling film and transfer to refrigerator to let it set for at least 30 minutes.

2. Cut 2/3 of the dough out and put the rest back in fridge. Roll the dough into 3mm thickness, make sure it is wide enough to cover the bottom and side of a 22cm springform cake tin. Drape the pastry over the tin, then gently press the pastry to sides to fill all corners, let the excess hang over the edges of the tin. Place the tin in refrigerator to let it set.

3. Beat cream cheese in the bowl of a food mixer on high speed until light and fluffy. Turn the speed down to low, then add yolk and keep beating until combined. Add cream and ricotta, beat until combined and no lumps. Finally, add vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, beat until just combined.

4. In a clean large mixing bowl, add egg white and sugar, whisk until soft peak. Pour the cheesecake mixture into the meringue, fold gently until combined.

5. Preheat oven to 180C. Remove the springform tin lined with pastry from the refrigerator, pour the cheese mixture into the tin but without filling to the top, by leaving an inch from the top.

6. Take out the remaining pastry from the refrigerator, roll it out to 3 mm thickness, big enough to cover the top of the cake tin. Drape the pastry over the top of the cake tin, make sure is nice and tight and not sagging too much in the centre. Then use a rolling pin, roll it along the edges of the tin to seal and cut off the excess. Crimp and seal the pastry by pinching together index finger and thumb.

7. Cut a small slit in the centre of the pastry, bake the cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour. Then let the cheesecake to cool in oven with door ajar. Once cool, remove cheesecake from tin and transfer to refrigerator to let it set overnight.

8. Dust the cheesecake with icing sugar and cinnamon powder.