Osteria Morini Chef Alex Levin teaches NBC4's Eun Yang his recipe for making foolproof cheesecake.
Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake
I love making cheesecakes without a crust and in a standard convection oven. If you prefer using a crust on the bottom of the cake, a graham cracker crust is both simple and also delicious. Just gather 1 ½ cups of graham crackers (pulsed in a food processor), 6 tbs. of melted butter and 1/3 cup of granulated sugar and mix together. Press the mixture into the side of your cake mold. Prebake the shell for 10 minutes in a 350F oven and cool completely before using.
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Cream cheese -- 1 pound
Ricotta cheese -- 1 pound
Lemon-Infused Cream -- ½ cup
Lemon Juice -- 3 tbs.
Large Eggs -- 5 each
Egg Yolk -- 1 each
Sugar -- 1 ¼ cups
Use 1 round silicone baking mold that is 3 inches high and 9-10" in diameter. Silicone molds are amazing for cheesecakes because they allow for easy unmolding of the cake after it is baked.
1. Set a professional convection oven to high fan 200F or a standard oven to 325F.
2. To infuse the cream, gather the lemon zest from 3 lemons, mix with cream in a very small pot, bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover for 15 minutes, strain out the zest and reconstitute the total back to ½ cup with more cream if needed.
3. In a kitchen aid, whip the ricotta until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Then, paddle the cream cheese with the sugar until smooth. The textures of the ricotta and cream cheese and sugar should be similar. Add the whipped ricotta to the cream cheese and sugar, and mix for 20 seconds.
4. Slowly add the eggs and yolk, scrape the bowl, add the rest of the eggs, followed by the lemon juice and lemon-infused cream.
5. For a pro-convection oven, pour the cheesecake batter right into the silicone mold. Bake at 200F with no water bath until set. For standard ovens, place the silicone mold into a 2-inch water bath. Bake at 325F until set. Baking time varies anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes depending on the type of oven. The cake is done when shaking the cake gently indicates it is set and the cake no longer jiggles.
6. To unmold, cool completely, freeze completely, unmold frozen and place right onto the serving tray.
7. Garnish with candied nuts, fresh fruit -- whatever you want!
Poached Rhubarb & Macerated Strawberries
Whenever I start poaching rhubarb, I get excited because I know that spring is here! This recipe is the most straightforward way to make poached rhubarb, and it is delicious -- particularly with fresh strawberries and cheesecake.
If finding rhubarb is tough, just go with sweet, market strawberries solo. To bring out the flavor in strawberries, cut off the tops and cut in quarters for large berries, halves for medium size and no cutting at all for the small ones. For 1 quart of berries, add about ¼ cup of granulated sugar and let the strawberries macerate in the sugar. After 20 minutes, macerated strawberries can be held in the refrigerator for one day.
Rhubarb -- 10 stalks or more
Water -- 12 cups
Sugar -- 3 ¼ cups
Vanilla bean, scraped -- 1 piece
1. Clean all the rhubarb stalks in running water. Then, using a knife, peel off the just the red skin of the rhubarb, and cut off the top and bottom of the stalks, reserving those pieces and skins in a bowl. Then, cut up the rhubarb into pieces, taking care that all are the same size and thickness. Any scraps can be added to the bowl with rhubarb skins.
2. Meanwhile, in a large pot, make the poaching liquid. Combine the water, rhubarb skins and scraps, sugar and scraped vanilla bean. Bring the pot to a boil and cook for 15 minutes on low heat. Optional -- add 2 drops of red food coloring. Strain the liquid from the pot and let cool for 20 minutes in a clean pot. Meanwhile, gather a colander that fits into another large pot.
3. Add the cut rhubarb pieces to the poaching liquid, and bring the pot over to the stove. On very low heat, gently mix the rhubarb pieces until they are no longer tough. This can take very little time -- from 5-15 minutes depending on the size of the pieces and be careful not to overcook the rhubarb.
4. Once the rhubarb has softened but still has a small bit of bite, remove quickly from the poaching liquid with a slotted spoon and into the colander to cool. Let the poached rhubarb cool down to room temperature. Cool the poaching liquid to room temperature. Then store the rhubarb in a sealed container, making sure that the rhubarb is submerged in the poaching liquid. Any extra poaching liquid can be used a second time to poach a second round of rhubarb. Just reheat the liquid to 170F before poaching the next round!