This cheesecake was inspired by a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis. To her original I've modified the sugar-honey balance, added a ginger snap crust, some lemon and fresh thyme. The hint of lavender in the chocolate sauce plays well with the thyme and lemon in the cake. —Oui, Chef
finely ground ginger snap cookies (I use Trader Joes’)
unsalted butter, melted
fresh ricotta cheese
8 ounce packages of cream cheese at room temperature
minced fresh thyme
micro-planed lemon zest
bittersweet chocolate (60-70%)
In This Recipe
For the crust:
Pre-heat the oven to 350? and place the rack in the center position.
Wrap the bottom and sides of a 9” diameter springform pan with 2 layers of heavy aluminum foil. Each layer should be wide and long enough to cover the bottom of the pan without leaving any gaps. You need to create a water-tight seal so that when you bake the cheesecake in a hot water bath, none of the liquid seeps into the pan.
In a large bowl, stir together the first 4 ingredients (crust ingredients), then with your hands, press the crust mixture firmly into the bottom of the springform pan. Be careful to make an even, well compacted layer on the bottom of the pan. Chill for 1/2 hour to set the melted butter, and then pre-bake the crust for about 15 minutes in the pre-heated oven to ensure a nice crisp crust. Let cool before filling with the ricotta - cream cheese filling.
For the filling:
In a small saucepan, combine the honey and the thyme, heat to a gentle simmer and cook/steep for 10 minutes. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl to remove the thyme leaves, pressing on the solids to extract all their flavor. Reserve.
Blend the ricotta in a food processor until smooth. Add the cream cheese and sugar and blend well, stopping the machine if needed to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Blend in the thyme infused honey and lemon zest. With the processor running, add the eggs through the feed tube one at a time and process until completely incorporated and the mix is very smooth.
Pour the cheese mix over the cooled ginger snap crust in the springform pan. Place the springform pan in a larger roasting pan, and pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the cheesecake is golden and the center of the cake moves only slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour.
Remove the springform pan from the water bath, remove the aluminum foil wrapper and place it on a rack to cool. Once at room temperature, refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least 6 hours, but ideally overnight.
For the sauce:
Heat the cream, sugar and lavender flowers in a medium sized pan until it simmers. Keeping the heat very low, let it cook-steep for 5 minutes, then strain through a fine mesh strainer into a 2 cup measure to remove the lavender.
Pour the infused cream back into the pan, and heat to simmer. Pull from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for a few minutes to melt, then stir to a sauce consistency. Add the butter, and stir to melt and incorporate. Use warm, or let cool completely. If the sauce is too thick when cooled, reheat gently before serving with the cheesecake.
Once fully chilled, the cheesecake should have pulled away from the side of the pan enough for you to release the springform’s side ring and remove it. If necessary, run a thin knife between the pan and the cheesecake to loosen it prior to removing the ring. Serve sliced, with a garnish of fresh fruit and a drizzle of chocolate sauce if desired.