Italian Hazelnut Ricotta Cheesecake
Ricotta cheesecake is tops in our family and I have shared several versions with you over the years. This version is especially suited for a holiday or for when you have guests. It makes a beautiful presentation. It can also be adjusted for special diets.
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts
2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
32 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
4 oz cream cheese
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar or equivalent sugar substitute for baking
3 tablespoons all-purpose or low carb or gluten-free flour
1 tablespoon hazelnut flavored syrup
Strawberry Sauce, recipe below
For the crust:
Heat the oven to 350°F. Line the outside of an 8-inch springform pan with a double layer of aluminum foil. Coat the inside of the springform pan with cooking spray.
Process the hazelnuts until finely ground in a food processor. Combine the hazelnut flour, butter, and cinnamon in the processor until the mixture is crumbly.
Pat the mixture onto the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake the crust until golden, 10-12 minutes; cool on a wire rack.
For the cheesecake:
In the food processor fitted with a metal blade, process ricotta until very smooth. Add cream cheese; process until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, processing until incorporated. Add sugar or sugar substitute, flour, and hazelnut syrup. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour filling into cooled crust; smooth top.
Place the pan in a larger pan and add water to reach halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake in the water bath for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and let the cheesecake finish baking in the turned off oven with the door closed for 30 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven, remove the foil and cool to room temperature on a wire rack, then refrigerate. When well chilled, remove the cheesecake from the springform pan, cut into wedges and serve with the Strawberry Sauce.
Quick Strawberry Sauce
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon hazelnut flavored syrup
Combine the ingredients in a microwave-safe dish. Heat in the microwave for one minute. Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir well. Cover and refrigerate. Serve a little of the sauce over slices of the ricotta cheesecake.
Polish Easter Nut Bread
My mother-in-law made this bread every year for the holidays. I remember what it tasted like and that it took her several days to make this traditional bread. She also made about 8 loaves to share with the family. The recipe was in her head and never written down. I looked at a number of Polish recipes for Easter Nut Bread but none of them seemed to be like hers. Her version was round, not long like most photos I saw on the internet. So I created a version of this bread that tastes like hers but with a lot less work.
This dough is very tender and delicious, not at all heavy or dense.
3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1 large egg
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix for a few turns to evenly distribute the ingredients. Add the butter cut into cubes and the egg, water, and cream. Mix until combined and the dough begins to stick together. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for about 7 minutes. It should be smooth and soft.
Put the dough in a large buttered bowl and cover it with a towel. Let it rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours, until doubled.
While the dough is rising, prepare the walnut filling:
10 ounces walnuts
4 ounces (1 stick unsalted butter)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
To make the walnut filling:
Put the walnuts in a food processor until finely ground.
By hand or in a mixer, cream the butter and the brown sugar until smooth. Stir in one egg, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. Add the ground walnuts and mix until incorporated. Set aside.
To make the pastry:
Place the risen dough on a lightly floured board and roll it into a 20- by 15-inch rectangle.
Spread the walnut filling evenly over the dough. From the long end, roll up the dough, pinching the ends to the sides to seal it. Pull the dough to a length of 25 inches and twist the roll into a circle. Place it on a large parchment-lined baking sheet.
Let the dough rise for about 1 1/2 hours until doubled.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly beat the remaining egg and brush it on the dough. Bake the walnut roll for 40 to 45 minutes, until it is a dark golden brown color and registers 200 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.
Let the walnut roll cool for 15 minutes and then slice it yo serve it warm. The pastry can also be reheated in a 350 degree F oven.
Chocolate Covered Peanuts
Coconut oil works well with chocolate because it will prevent the candy from softening, as butter or oil would do.
Makes about 18 clusters
2 cups unsalted peanuts
1 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon coconut oil or shortening
3 tablespoons powdered sugar or powdered sugar-free sweetener
Combine the chocolate, coconut oil and sugar in a microwaveable glass bowl or in a double boiler.
Melt the chocolate mixture in a microwave at half power, for 1 minute, stir and then heat for another minute or until melted, stirring several times.
You can also melt the chocolate in a double boiler over hot water.
Stir in the peanuts, completely covering them in chocolate. Using a 1 inch scoop or tablespoon drop the mixture into wax paper. Cool completely before serving
One-Layer Heart-Shaped Carrot Cake
For the Cake:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large room-temperature eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts
For the Frosting:
4 ounces room-temperature cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 cup heavy cream
To Make the Cake
Heat oven to 325 F. Cut parchment to fit heart pan (or 8 inch round cake pan) and coat with cooking spray. Set aside.
Measure flour and add to an electric mixer bowl along with the sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, oil, eggs and vanilla.
Blend for 1 minute on low-speed.
Stir carrots and nuts into the batter. Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack. Remove from the pan to a serving plate.
For the frosting:
Place all the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. With a hand mixer beat the ingredients until the cream forms stiff peaks.
Frost the top of the cake and refrigerate the cake until serving time.
Easy Frozen Chocolate Mousse
1 pint (2 cups) heavy whipping cream, well chilled
8 oz good quality chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate sprinkles, garnish
In a double boiler or in a bowl set over a saucepan, melt chocolate over simmering water. Remove from the heat to cool slightly.
Pour the cream and vanilla into a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream on medium speed until slightly thickened, about 30 seconds.
Add sweetener to taste if you want. I did not because I think the chocolate makes it sweet enough
Continue beating on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.
To test, turn off the mixer and lift the beaters. If the cream makes soft little peaks that flop over slightly, it is ready.
Add the warm chocolate to the cream and mix in slowly until incorporated.
Spoon into 4 dessert dishes. Chill in the refrigerator to serve as mousse or place in the freezer overnight to serve as frozen mousse.
Garnish with chocolate sprinkles before serving.
8 large strawberries with tops
6 oz good quality chocolate, chopped
Gently rinse strawberries and dry on paper towels (berries must be completely dry). Line cookie sheet with waxed paper or set out muffin paper cups.
In 1-quart saucepan, melt chocolate chips and shortening over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. You may also microwave the mixture.
Dip the lower half of each strawberry into the chocolate mixture; allow excess to drip back into the saucepan.
Place on the prepared cookie sheet or muffin paper cups.
Refrigerate uncovered about 30 minutes or until the chocolate is firm, or until ready to serve.
Store covered in refrigerator.
Here are a few more popular recipes from the past. The Flounder recipe is one we like a lot.
1 1/4 pounds lean ground beef
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Montreal Steak Seasoning
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley
2 teaspoons oil
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, sliced thin
2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 sprig fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the ground beef in a medium bowl, breaking it up as you do.
Sprinkle the Worcestershire sauce, steak seasoning and parsley over the beef. Add the breadcrumbs and cream. Mix gently.
Divide the seasoned ground beef into 4 even portions and form into patties.
Season the outside with salt and a good amount of coarse black pepper. (Lots of pepper gives the hamburger steak great flavor.)
Place a large skillet or saute pan over medium high heat. When hot, add the 2 teaspoons of oil and swirl to coat the pan.
Add the burger steaks and cook for approximately 3 minutes per side. Remove the burger steaks from the pan to a plate and cover loosely with foil.
Turn the heat down to medium.
Season mushrooms with salt and pepper, to taste. Saute the mushrooms in the same pan as the meat, until brown, about 5 minutes.
Add butter, the onion, thyme and garlic. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour.
Add broth, slide meat back into sauce, cover and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.
5 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 flounder or sole fillets (about 1 pound)
All purpose flour
2 eggs beaten to blend
1/4 cup slivered almonds toasted
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Melt 4 tablespoons butter with the olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Dip fillets in flour then in beaten eggs.
Add the fillets to the skillet and cook until browned and just cooked through 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to serving platter, keep warm.
Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the same skillet. Add the almonds and cook until heated through about 1 minute.
Add wine and lemon juice and simmer until thickened, stirring constantly. Pour the sauce over the fish. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.
Jelly Roll Cake
1 cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
About 2/3 cup of lemon curd or your favorite jelly
Heat the oven to 375°F. Line 15 x 10 x 1 inch pan with parchment paper. Coat the paper and pan sides lightly with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer on high-speed about 5 minutes or until very thick and lemon colored. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar.
Beat in water and vanilla on low-speed. Gradually add flour, baking powder and salt, beating just until the batter is smooth.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan, spreading to the corners.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Immediately loosen cake from the sides of pan and turn upside down onto a kitchen towel generously sprinkled with powdered sugar. Carefully remove the paper.
Trim off stiff edges of the cake if necessary. While the cake ¡s hot, carefully roll the cake and towel from the narrow end into a cylinder.
Cool on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes.
Unroll the cake and remove the towel. Beat jelly slightly with a fork to soften and spread over the cake. Roll up the cake.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into ½ inch slices to serve.
Easy Lemon Curd
If you do not have access to Meyer Lemons, you can use regular lemons. Because Meyer Lemons are larger, you will need more regular lemons to get 1 cup and more sugar because regular lemons are less sweet than Meyer.
1 cup Meyer Lemon juice (2 large)
6 large organic eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) salted butter softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extra
Put all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and continuously whisk the mixture until it begins to thicken – it only takes a few minutes.
Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue whisking. The lemon curd will thicken – all at once.
Remove the pot from the heat and continue to stir with the whisk for one minute more. Pour into a clean container and let cool to room temperature.
Store in the fridge in an airtight container.
Make dinner with December’s seasonal foods. Here are a few ideas.
Pork Cutlets with Apple-Fennel Sauce
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Four boneless pork cutlets, pounded to 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 apple, peeled and thinly sliced
Lemon wedges, for serving
In a shallow dish, mix the flour with salt and pepper. In another shallow dish, beat the egg.
In a third shallow dish, spread the panko and season with additional salt and pepper. Dredge the pork in the flour, shaking off the excess.
Dip the pork in the egg, then dredge in the panko to coat. Place the cutlets on a large plate.
In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil.
Add the pork cutlets and cook over moderately high heat until golden, 2 minutes.
Turn the cutlets over, and cook until just golden on the outside and white throughout, about 2 minutes more.
Transfer the cutlets to a paper towel-lined plate.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and butter to the skillet.
Add the fennel and onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until light golden and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.
Stir in the lemon juice and apple slices and season with salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 2 minutes.
Place the cutlets back in the pan and let them heat in the fennel mixture for a few minutes.
Place the cutlets on a serving platter and top with the fennel mixture. Serve with lemon wedges.
4 medium carrots, peeled
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
Cut the carrots diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices.
Place the carrots, 3 tablespoons water, the salt and pepper in a medium skillet and bring to a boil.
Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes.
Add the butter and marjoram and saute for another minute, until the water evaporates and the carrots are coated with butter.
Cranberry Orange Cake
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2-1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the dusting the pan
1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh or defrosted frozen cranberries
1-1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup softened unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan.
Combine the walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter in a mixing bowl. Using your hands to form the mixture into crumbs. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the cranberries and orange zest and mix.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the ½ cup butter on low-speed with the stand mixer’s paddle attachment until smooth.
Add the sugar gradually and continue mixing on low until slightly fluffy. Scrape the bowl and beater.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until smooth after each addition.
Stop the mixer, scrape the bowl and beater, and add half the flour mixture.
On low-speed, mix until the flour drifts disappear and then add half the buttermilk; mix until just blended.
Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until smooth.
Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the crumb mixture.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
Italian Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash
2 large acorn squash, halved crosswise, seeds and fibers removed
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, sliced thin
8 ounces Italian sausage, casing removed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cups lightly toasted sourdough bread, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/3 – 1/2 cup chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds.
Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each squash half so that they stand flat, being careful not to cut into the flesh.
Place the squash halves in a baking dish large enough to hold the squash halves and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the sausage and break up the meat with the back of a spoon. Cook until no traces of pink remain, about 8 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the thyme, salt, pepper, bread cubes with enough broth to moisten the stuffing and mix until well combined.
Divide the stuffing mixture among the squash halves. Add enough water to the roasting pan to make a depth of about 1/2 inch.
Cover the squash loosely with aluminum foil.
Roast for 45 minutes.Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes more or until the squash is tender and browned on the top.
Place 1 squash half on each of 4 plates, garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
2-10 oz pkgs frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained or 2 lbs. fresh spinach
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons cream cheese
2 tablespoons milk
Salt and pepper
Heat the oil in small saucepan and add the garlic; cook 1 minute. Add spinach and heat.
Make a well in the center of the spinach and add the milk and cheese.
Heat and stir until the cheese is dissolved throughout spinach. Season with salt & pepper.
Oven Roasted Parmesan Cauliflower
1 whole cauliflower head
¼ cup milk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Oil a rimmed baking sheet.
Cut the cauliflower into large florets.
Beat the eggs with the milk in a shallow dish.
Place the grated cheese in a shallow dish.
Place the flour in a plastic bag and add the salt and pepper.
Add the florets to the flour filled bag and give them a shake, rotating the bag until the florets are dusted with flour.
Dip each floret in egg and then in cheese and place on the prepared pan.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 23-30 minutes.
Sicilian Ricotta Birthday Cake
We recently celebrated a dear friend’s birthday with a special dinner to honor him. I offered to make his birthday cake, as I know, he is found of Italian cakes, especially if they are made with ricotta cheese. There are numerous versions of the Sicilian Cassata Cake, but this is my version. One, where, I have worked out the flavors that we like in a cake of this type. If you want to make a special occasion cake, this is a great cake to make.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
2½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for the pans
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
2 oz finely chopped good quality chocolate
Zest from one orange
Juice of one orange
½ teaspoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon white rum
2 cups heavy cream whipped
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
½ teaspoon orange extract
Candied orange peel
Cake writing decoration
To make the cake layers:
Heat the oven to 350°F.
Butter two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper cut into circles to fit, butter again and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until combined (do not over-mix).
Transfer the batter to the prepared pans. The best way to get an even amount of batter in each pan is to weigh the pans on a scale. This is a tip I learned from Alton Brown and it works perfectly.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes for 8-inch pans and 22 to 25 minutes for 9-inch pans. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool completely.
To make the filling:
Combine the ricotta with the remaining filling ingredients in a storage bowl with a cover. Place in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the cake.
Once the layers are completely cool, cut each layer in half with a serrated knife to form four layers.
To make the syrup:
Combine the orange juice with the rum and agave in a small dish.Brush the syrup over the cut sides of the layers until it is all used. Let the layers rest for 30 minutes.
Place one layer, cut side up on a cake plate and spread some of the ricotta filling over the layer leaving a ¼ inch edge all around the cake without the filling. (This way the filling will not ooze out of the layer when you place another layer on top.)
Place the next layer, cut side up, on top of the filling and repeat with another layer of ricotta filling.
Repeat with the third layer, cut side up. Place the fourth layer, cut side down, on top of the ricotta filling.
Place the cake in the refrigerator while you make the whipped topping.
Make the Whipped Topping:
In a mixing bowl combine the heavy cream, orange extract and powdered sugar.
Beat the mixture until the cream forms soft peaks.
Remove the cake from the refrigerator and spread the whipped cream on the sides of the cake and then on the top.
Decorate the edge of the top of the cake with candied orange peel.
Write Happy Birthday in the center, if desired.