Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce for Fathers
Father’s Day snuck up on me, and I’ve got to plan a meal for Steve right away. Of course, he’s not my father, but I’m the cook in the family, and his son Ethan usually joins us for supper on Sunday evenings. The two guys will go to a film, and then return home for something good to eat. Inspired by the summer berries in the markets now, I quickly decided on the dessert: this marvelously creamy, but not-cloyingly-rich Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce.
I created the recipe for my recent book, Gluten-Free Baking. The filling is made with half cream cheese, half whole milk ricotta cheese—one of my pet ingredients these days. For those of you who want to boost your calcium intake, ricotta cheese offers a whopping 509 mgs of calcium per cup, and it tastes great too. I often keep a container on hand so I can smear some on crackers for quick, calcium packed snacks.
In the book, I used frozen blueberries for the sauce to make it easy to prepare this splendid dessert year around. But the fresh blueberries I brought home yesterday are the best I’ve tasted in ages, and I’ll be using them in place of the frozen. I’ve included the recipes for both fresh and frozen here.
I’ll bake the cake on Saturday, and then refrigerate it overnight. That will make cooking on Sunday easy, which it has to be because I have a packed day. Pilates for Buff Bones in the morning, followed by an interview about my previous book, Weeknight Gluten-Free for the Flavors with Greg and Marleen radio show.
Now that I’ve planned dessert and shared the recipe with you, I’ll figure out the rest of the menu. Like many of you, we’ll be grilling.
Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce
During my years in Vermont, I picked wild blueberries in the forest near my cabin, and cooked them with local maple syrup. I’ve recreated that marvelous sauce here as a topping for a cheesecake that is lightened with ricotta cheese and flavored with hints of vanilla and lemon. The crust is a simple but wonderfully crunchy mixture of ground hazelnuts, sugar, and butter. The hazelnuts can be replaced with lightly toasted pecans or almonds. Don’t forget the sauce the next time you make pancakes, or spoon it over ice cream.
Tips: The purer the ricotta, the better the taste and texture of this cake. All natural ricotta such as Bel Gioioso and fresh ricotta are my favorites. If using fresh ricotta, spoon the cheese into a sieve lined with coffee filters, set it over a bowl, and let drain in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Makes 12 servings
For the Crust
2 cups hazelnuts, toasted
¼ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
¼ cup butter, melted
For Ricotta Filling
2 8-ozpackages cream cheese, at room temperature, cut into cubes
15-16 oz (2 cups) whole milk ricotta cheese
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
⅓ cup heavy cream
5 large eggs, at room temperature
For the Blueberry Sauce
4½ cups fresh blueberries (about 5 half-pint containers) (or 1 pound bag frozen wild, unthawed)
⅔ cup pure maple syrup (preferably grade B)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon water
¾ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with a parchment round.
To make the crust: In a food processor, combine the hazelnuts, sugar and salt. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the butter and pulse until moist clumps form. Press the crust on the bottom and about 1¼-inches up the sides of the prepared pan. Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes.
To make the filling: In a food processor, blend the cream cheese until smooth. Add the ricotta and process until well blended. Add the sugar, lemon zest, cornstarch, vanilla, and salt and process until smooth. Mix in the cream. Add the eggs one at a time, processing until smooth after each.
Wrap the outside of the crust lined pan tightly with 3 layers of heavy-duty foil, covering the sides completely. Pour the filling into the pan. Place the springform pan in a large baking pan. Add enough hot water to the baking pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
Place the cake in the baking pan in the oven. Bake until the edges of the cake are set and the center jiggles when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Remove the cake pan from the baking pan and place on a wire. Cool 1 hour. Remove the foil and refrigerate the cake uncovered overnight.
To make the sauce: In a heavy medium saucepan, combine 3 cups of the fresh berries (or 2½ cups of the frozen berries) and the maple syrup. Simmer until the berries begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Dissolve the cornstarch in the water and add to the saucepan. Simmer until the liquid thickens slightly, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and immediately add the remaining 1½ cups fresh berries (or 1¼ cups wild berries), lemon zest, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Cool 20 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.
Using a small, sharp knife, cut around the sides of the cheesecake to loosen. Remove the pan sides. Transfer the cake to a platter. Cut the cake into wedges and place on plates. Spoon some blueberry sauce over and serve.
Photo by Annabelle Breakey