For my work travel, I often take Amtrak train between Hartford and Newark. It is a good 3+ hours of ride and used to always make me grind. One thing that makes it actually enjoyable is reading cook books. I was reading David Lebovitz's "My Sweet Life in Paris". It was such a fun read and I almost complained that the trip was too short. In the book, it had mentioning of Italian cheesecake which I simply never had before. My curiosity drove me to search for related recipes and learned that it is basically a ricotta based cheesecake. Interestingly enough, the bakery inside the train station actually sells their version of the cake and I loved it! So my task was clear, I had to make my own.
My first try was a simple lemon ricotta, the twist was adding half fresh fig on top. I also put some sugar on it and used a torch to blulee it. It was ok.
My second try was much more successful. My friend Linda had given me a very nice bottle of Blueberry Vodka. I promised that I would make good use by making some dessert out of it. A cheesecake would be a great way to do that! The aromatic vodka added such a nice flavor to the cheesecake. To top it off, I added some meringue powder that also had the vodka in it, then some nice Maine wild blueberry jam, and then some of the cute Thyme leaves that had left over from my other day pie baking. I almost wanted to pat on my own shoulder for this one :)
And here is how I made it -
Servings: 24 mini cakes
For the cheesecake
Ricotta Cheese 2 pounds
Mascopone Cheese 8 oz
Lemon juice 2 tsp
Blueberry vodka 2 tsp
Sugar 3/4 cup (more if you prefer, but I like mine not overly sweet)
For the crust
Any shortbread cookie, grounded to sand like texture, about 2 cups
For the meringue powder
Egg whites 2
Sugar 1 tbsp
Cream of tartar 1tsp
Blueberry vodka 1tsp
Set your oven at 350 degree
First oil each of the cake cavity of the mini cheesecake pan. The one I used is by Chicago Metallic, there are 12 cavities in each pan. I used two pans. Put a spoonful of the crust into the cavities and use either your finger or the end of one rolling pan to push them tight. No baking needed.
To make the cheesecake, mix the two cheese and sugar using a electronic mixer until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time and fully incoporate. Then mix in the lemon juice and vodka. Portion the cheese mixture into the cake pan.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. The cake is very delicate, so you want to keep an eye on it to make sure it is not overbaked. It
should not take on too much color.
After taken them out the oven, let it cool down before put them in the fridge for overnight.
To the make the meringue powder. First whip the egg whites with sugar and cream tartar using the electronic mixer until you have stiff peaks. Use a spoon to measure out the whipped whites and place them on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake them in 170 degree oven for about 90 minutes. After they cool down, they should be super crisp. Put some of them in a zip bag and simply pound on them using your fist to turn them into powder.
To assemble, unmold the cheesecakes and place them on plates. Sprinkle on the meringue powder first, then place on a few drops of the jam. Finally place the thyme leaves on top.