This is possibly the easiest cheesecake you will ever bake. Its as light as air, creamy and refreshing. Not too sweet. Not too sour. Curiously, the limoncello liqueur used to flavour the cake imparts all the zestiness and tang of lemon but none of its sourness. Using a combination of ricotta and cream cheese, the filling is whipped until its impossibly light and fluffy. Then baked in a hot water bath to prevent cracking. This is a no nonsense, straight shooting Italian recipe. And it works like a dream.
I found this hand written recipe a few months ago tucked away in the sleeve of my bright orange Gretta Anna Cookbook. Remember Gretta Anna and her North Shore cookery classes in the early 1980’s. Now there’s a blast from the past. Unfortunately, I have no idea when or where or by whom I was handed this recipe. No inkling at all. I don’t even recognise the handwriting. Its the relic of a long forgotten dinner party. Attached to the recipe is a post it note with a menu plan. If you are curious to know what I considered to be de rigueur in the mid 1980’s here’s what was written on that post it note.
Entrée: Fruit of the Sea Soup p 22.
Main: Lendenschnitten p 85.
Dessert: Baked Limoncello and Ricotta Cheesecake. See attached.
Sounds pretentious. Not what I would serve up to my guests these days. What was I thinking? Of course I had to read the recipes. How could I resist. A rare opportunity for my older wiser self to look back at my earliest attempts to entertain. Those days there were no digital cameras and certainly no social media to commit our every move to eternal cyberspace.
At a quick glance Fruit of the Sea Soup sounds alright. It uses beautiful, market fresh seafood- prawns, crab and oyster. And then right at the end of the recipe there it is. The clincher. “Colour the soup pale pink with a little red, food colouring”. Ugh. Cochineal. We used to call it cockroach blood at school.
It turns out Lendenschnitten is not as exotic as it sounds. Its a fancy rather ugly name for individual Beef Wellington. I wonder who I was out to impress? I do know Beef Wellington was considered the height of culinary mastery in the eighties. Perhaps I was covering my bases in case it didn’t work. It might look like Beef Wellington, smell like Beef Wellington and even taste like Beef Wellington. But no it isn’t Beef Wellington. Its Lendenschnitten.
The anonymous Limoncello Cheesecake recipe made me laugh out loud. I could just imagine an Italian Nona instructing her daughters and grand-daughters in the nuances of a perfect cheesecake. Here is that recipe and it really is delightful.
Baked Limoncello and Ricotta Cheesecake
Makes 24 small or 12 large squares.
For the base
250 g sweet biscuits, crushed into fine crumbs with a rolling pin
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon lemon zest, finely grated
For the filling
350 g ricotta
450 g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
1/2 cup limoncello
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons lemon zest, finely grated
4 large eggs
fresh berries to serve
PREHEAT oven to 180 C. Line a large baking tin with baking paper. I use either a 25cm square or 20cm by 30cm rectangular tin.
COMBINE crushed biscuits, lemon zest and melted butter in a bowl.
PRESS crumb evenly into the prepared baking tin.
BAKE for 15 minutes in 180 C oven until golden. Allow to cool.
PLACE ricotta in a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth.
ADD cream cheese and sugar and mix until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula every so often.
ADD limoncello, lemon zest and vanilla. Beat well.
ADD eggs one at a time without excessive beating to avoid removing the air. Beat until just incorporated, no longer.
POUR cheesecake filling over cooled base.
PLACE the baking tin in a large roasting pan and pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the smaller pan.
BAKE in a 180 C non fan-forced oven for about 45 minutes or until set with a slight wobble in the centre. Turn off the oven. Leave the cake in the oven for a further 15 minutes to prevent any unnecessary cracking from the change in air temperature as it is taken out of the oven.
COOL on a wire rack for about 1 hour and refrigerate for at least 1/2 day before serving.
SERVE cut into fingers or squares with fresh berries.