Unlike most other cheesecakes, this doesn’t need to be made ahead of time in order to chill and set. In fact, it tastes best served a little warm. It’s not what people expect from a cheesecake—there’s no crunchy base and it’s served warm from the oven—but in Italy, where they certainly know how to “do” ricotta, nearly all cheesecakes are more of a warm, moist cake like this (although you can serve it from the fridge, if you like). With thanks to Laura Jane Stewart, pastry chef at our Ledbury shop, for this recipe.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Lightly grease the sides of ten individual 3-inch round cake rings and line the sides with parchment paper—you want the paper to rise 3/4 inch above the top of the ring—then place on a large baking sheet that is also lined with parchment paper. (Once the rings have been filled with the cake mixture, they cannot be moved, so arrange them on the baking sheet as you want them to be baked.) If using a muffin pan, line the base of the molds with a circle of parchment paper and grease the sides. If using a 9-inch springform pan, grease and line the base and sides—again, the paper should rise 3/4 inch above the sides of the pan—place the pan on a baking sheet and set aside.
- Spread the hazelnuts out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, until they have taken on just a little bit of color. Remove from the oven and set aside until completely cool (if you process them when they are warm, they will turn to an oily paste). Roughly chop 1/3 cup of the cooled nuts (it’s okay if a few remain whole) and set aside—they will be used to garnish—and place the remainder in the bowl of a food processor, along with the flour. Process until fine, then tip into a medium bowl. Place the chocolate in the food processor, pulse to form large crumbs and add these to the hazelnuts and flour. Add the almond meal, mix together and set aside; the texture is a bit rustic here, which is what you want.
- Increase the oven temperature to 375°F.
- Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, until light and creamy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Turn the speed to low, add the chocolate-nut-flour mixture and continue to mix until just combined. Remove the bowl from the machine and stir in the ricotta, vanilla extract and salt. Transfer the cake mixture to a separate large bowl and set aside.
- Wash and dry the bowl of the electric mixer very well before adding the egg whites to it. Beat the whites on medium-high speed until stiff, then use a large spatula to fold the egg whites, in two or three batches, into the cake mixture. Scrape the mixture into the pans, filling them to the top of each ring. Bake for 30–35 minutes if using the individual cake rings, 20 minutes if using a muffin pan, or about 60 minutes if making it in one large pan, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out more or less clean; it might have a few crumbs attached but should not be wet. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely. Remove the cakes from their pans, peel away the paper and set aside. If you are making one large cake and it is a bit cracked on top, don’t worry; rustic is fine here and the chocolate ganache will cover it completely.
- To make the water ganache, place the chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside. Put the sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Stir to combine and, when the sugar has melted, increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil, stirring gently from time to time. Continue to boil for about 5 minutes, until the color is a pale amber. Remove from the heat and carefully pour in the water; don’t worry if the mixture seizes. Return the pan to the heat, add the scraped vanilla seeds and stir gently and continuously until it returns to a boil. Remove from the heat and wait for a minute before pouring the water-caramel over the chocolate. Allow to stand for 5 minutes, then whisk to combine. Add the butter, a couple of cubes at a time, whisking after each addition. Continue until all the butter has been added, whisking to combine until the mix is smooth and shiny. Remove from the heat.
- Spoon the ganache over the cakes, letting it drip down the sides. Sprinkle with the reserved hazelnuts and serve.
Reprinted with permission from Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh, copyright © 2017. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.