I, like a small minority of Americans, do not like cheesecake. I’m not sure if it’s the texture, although that doesn’t help, or the richness or what. I like cream cheese. I like cheese danish. Why not cheesecake? There is, however, one kind of cheesecake that I love. I love ricotta cheesecake. I had a wonderful slice of ricotta cheesecake from an Italian restaurant around NYU years and years ago. I think I liked it because it wasn’t so sticky as traditional cheesecake, nor was it quite so sweet. I’ve spoken with other people who feel this way. In fact, lucky me, I happened to make this dessert for a friend who had a similar experience with a, shall we say, alternative cheesecake in London. This tart is creamy and rich, but not sticky and heavy. If you’re ever thought of yourself as “not a cheesecake person,” this is the one to try before you write it off completely.
A few notes on the recipe are in order. First of all, the recipe calls for a 9 inch tart pan. Wouldn’t you know it, my only tart pan is a 12 inch. Baking is way too sensitive to mess around with the size of the pan. Someday I’ll have a kitchen big enough to have multiple tart pans… What I do have is a 8 or 9 inch springform pan.
I thought this would be a fine substitute because it is the right size and it has the removable bottom feature that a tart pan has. Plus, you usually make cheesecake in a springform pan, don’t you?
Second, the recipe calls for 72 vanilla wafers. Big sigh. Let me translate that for the layperson: One box of Nilla wafers. Note the serving size and servings per container:
Ignore everything else on that nutrition label, by the way. Here is what the box of Nilla wafers looks like in the food processor before it is ground into wonderful, sweet crumbs:
This is mixed with butter and pressed into the bottom of the tart pan/springform pan and baked:
The crust is delicious and lighter than a graham cracker crust. The filling has a subtle lemon flavor and that wonderful texture. It makes for a light, but very satisfying dessert. We had it with an awesome brunch with a lot of great savory flavors (including a savory bread pudding I really need the recipe for), so this was a great way to balance it out with something sweet.
I did have to cook this tart longer than the recipe said, and I think that did have a little something to do with the size of the pan. I think my pan might have been only 8 inches, and I think that meant that the crust was thicker in places than it would have been in a 9 inch tart pan. Also, my tart never browned. The recipe made a huge deal about how to cover up the brown spots. I never got brown spot one. No idea why.
The tart was a huge hit. My friend thought that it captured the taste and texture of the cheesecake from London she’d been trying to find. Success!