Everybody has a favorite dessert.
If you don’t, well, you haven’t found a proper way to end your meal yet. And that’s a bit sad.
I have a weakness for flan and other jiggling desserts, but Don is a sucker when it comes to cheesecake. I would spend a good 5 to 10 minutes perusing the dessert menu and weighing my options, often teetering between a dessert wine or an actual dessert, but he will ALWAYS have cheesecake. Without question. And if there’s no cheesecake on the menu, he’ll skip dessert altogether.
While I enjoyed a dessert tostada at Las Brisas, he had a thin-mint crust cheesecake. When we go to Cafe Blanc, I’ll have their Panna Cotta and he’ll pretend to choose between a New York Cheesecake and a Peach Gelee, but the cheesecake always wins. And if we ever go to the Cheesecake Factory, well, last time we had to tell our waitress to come back later. Twice.
And it doesn’t make sense to me because he’s lactose intolerant. Nothing severe, but once he has his dessert, we have to be home within an hour.
This year, for Valentines Day, we decided to stay in like most other couples
. Since we didn’t have a time limit to worry about, I decided to make him his favorite dessert. Not just any cheesecake… But a mandarin cheesecake. We both love citrus fruits, and sweet winter mikan (satsuma mandarins) is pretty much on the top of the list.
I’m not much of a fan of cheesecake, except for maybe rare cheesecake
. But I found a recipe for a ricotta cheesecake that seemed easily executable, so I worked off of that. The result was something that Don and friends described as ‘the best cheesecake ever’. The ginger crust layer was sweet and spicy, which was a beautiful contrast to the honey-sweetened cheese layer. It was perfect with a cup of twig tea
Mandarin Cheesecake – makes 15 squares
For the crust:
1 1/4 cup ginger graham cracker crumbs (about 12)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake:
1 12-ounce container whole milk ricotta, drained
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
zest from 3 large mikans (satsuma mandarins)
4 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350 F. Wrap the inside of a sheet cake pan (standard size, about 10 x 15) with foil, walls and all.
Place graham crackers in a large ziplock bag and roll a winebottle (or a rolling pin if you’re sophisticated) over it until everything is pulverized. Combine with sugar and melted butter, then transfer mixture into cake pan. Press down until you have a nice, even crust layer. Baker until golden, about 12-15 minutes.
If you can’t find ginger graham crackers (I found mine at Trader Joe’s), you can mince up a piece of crystallized ginger and mix it into the batter.
To make the cake batter, first cut up cream cheese into cube chunks. Run the ricotta cheese in the blender until smooth. Add a third of the cream cheese cubes, blend until smooth, repeat. Then add sugar, honey, zest, and blend until smooth.
Transfer cheese mixture into a bowl, and beat in eggs, one at a time.
Make sure that the crust has been cooled completely before you add the cheese batter, or your cheese will melt! Pour it all in, and smooth it out into an even layer.
Pour hot water into a roasting pan (or a cookie sheet…) and place the cheesecake in the middle. Bake for an hour, or until golden brown at the edges. Jab in a toothpick in the middle, and if it comes out clean, it’s done. Let it cool before you put it in the fridge, where you will let it rest overnight (otherwise it’ll be too soft to cut).