I'm not one for desserts. (There she goes again, on and on about how she doesn't like dessert. How annoying.) It's not as if I'm virtuous, I would just much rather eat a big plate of salty, crisp french fries or garlicky bread oozing with parmesan cheese. When it comes to the decision making around calorie allocation, I usually choose savory over sweet. There are a few exceptions, of course. I have a hard time turning down a bite of cheese cake. I also really like cannolis. There's nothing like a cannoli from Mike's Pastry in Boston's North End. I've lived in DC for 13 years and I haven't found a worthy replacement, leaving me with a bad case of cannoli nostalgia. (Careful, you can order these via the US Postal Service).
This dessert, a cannoli cheesecake, combines both of my favorites, producing what could only be described as the ultimate sweet. I couldn't say no.
How does a cheesecake become a cannoli cheesecake? Substitute fresh ricotta for a bit of cream cheese.
8 oz. graham crackers, finely crushed (2 cups of crumbs)
3 Tbs. granulated sugar
7 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
3 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup ricotta
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
2 Tbs. finely grated orange zest
1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
Confectioners' sugar, for garnish
DirectionsPosition a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.
In a medium bowl, stir together the vanilla wafer crumbs and 3 Tbs. granulated sugar. Mix in the melted butter until the crumbs are evenly moist and clump together slightly. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly onto the bottom and about 2 inches up the sides of the pan (to press, use plastic wrap or a flat-bottom measuring cup). Bake until the crust is fragrant and slightly darkened, 9 to 12 minutes. Let the pan cool on a rack. Lower the oven temperature to 300°F.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, ricotta, flour, and a pinch of table salt on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle frequently, until very smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Make sure the cheese has no lumps. Add the 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar and continue beating until well blended and smooth.
Add the chocolate chips, orange zest, and vanilla, and beat until blended, about 30 seconds. Add the eggs one at a time, beating just until blended. (Don’t overbeat once the eggs have been added or the cheesecake will puff too much and crack as it cools.) Pour the filling into the cooled crust and smooth the top.
Bake at 300°F until the center jiggles like Jell-O when nudged, 55 to 65 minutes. The cake will be slightly puffed around the edges, and the center will still look moist. Set on a rack and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. The cake can also be frozen at this point for up to 1 month (see make-ahead tip, below).
Unclasp and remove the side of the springform pan and run a long, thin metal spatula under the bottom crust. Carefully slide the cake onto a flat serving plate.
Garnish with confectioners' sugar sifted over the cake and serve immediately. To cut, run a thin knife under hot water, wipe it dry, and cut the cake into slices, heating and wiping the knife after every slice.