Honey-Orange Ricotta Cheesecake

Ricotta cheesecake has always been my favorite kind of cheesecake and I'm not even a big fan of cheesecake in general, but this recipe is nearly perfect. I've been on the search to find the best ricotta cheesecake recipe, one that at least comes close to the one I enjoyed at Lunetta last May. Theirs was a lemon ricotta, but here I decided to jazz it up with orange zest. It is based on a recipe from my favorite Italian goddess chef Giada de Laurentiis.

This recipes takes the cake. It is rich and creamy and has the perfume of honey and oranges. It's such a comforting dessert to enjoy at any time. Make it with a graham cracker crust like I did, or use a biscotti crust like Giada recommends, or leave out the crust entirely and you still have a magnificent cake. Change it up with lemon zest, or if you would like a healthier version use part-skim ricotta and reduced fat cream cheese. You will still have a delicious cake.

Ricotta Cheesecake

For the crust:
1-1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 10 crackers)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
1 12-ounce container whole milk ricotta
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon orange zest (about 1 medium orange)
4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Wrap the outside of a 9-inch nonstick springform pan with two layers of heavy-duty foil, crimping the edges tightly.

In a medium bowl, mix cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter until moistened; press firmly into bottom of pan. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool the crust completely.

Blend the ricotta in a food processor until silky smooth. Add the cream cheese, a little at a time, and blend until silky smooth. Add the sugar, honey, and orange zest and blend until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs, one at a time, and pulse just until blended.

Pour the cheese filling into springform pan. Place the springform pan into a large roasting pan; place in the oven. Pour hot water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the springform pan to create a water bath. Bake the cheesecake until golden around the edges and the center is set but still jiggles slightly, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the cake from the water bath and let cool completely for an hour. Transfer to a refrigerator and let cool overnight. Yield: 8 to 10 wedges.

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