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White: Goldren rules of good cheesecake

Published February 14. 2013 4:00AM

A few weeks ago, Joan and Michael Gordon, a few other people and I judged the food of two chefs at Old Tymes in Norwich. Each of the chefs was given a mystery basket and, as in the food show "Chopped," they cooked and we scored their dishes. The more experienced cook won, but both did very well.

When we left, we stopped at another local restaurant and shared salad and pasta. Afterward, I drove the Gordons to their house and, pining for something sweet, Joan served us cheesecake she had made. I can always count on something sweet at the Gordon household.

The recipe for this cheesecake originally came from the McClatchy Tribune Services. The writer had shared this recipe from the Renna Dairy Co. in Rosedale, Pennsylvania. The reader's "grandfather owned the dairy, which closed in 1965. While cheesecakes are not difficult to make, there are a few golden rules one should try to follow when making them. Start by making sure all ingredients are at room temperature, take care not to overbeat them, and, because cheesecake is essentially custard, it is best to bake it in a water bath. Use very hot or almost boiling water and pour enough water to come halfway up the side of the springform pan (wrap in aluminum foil to prevent seepage)."

Joan had made her cheesecake into cupcake silicone molds. If you do this, with or without silicone molds, it will take less than 40 to 50 minutes. Check for doneness after 30 minutes.

Ricotta Cheese Pie

For the filling:

2 cups ricotta cheese or cottage cheese

1 cup cream

1 cup sugar

4 eggs

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the crust:

1 cup melted butter

1 tablespoon sugar (no sugar if using cookie crumbs)

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (or chocolate wafer cookie or vanilla wafer crumbs)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter, or spray with nonstick cooking spray, a 9-inch springform pan. Wrap the outside of the pan with two layers of heavy aluminum foil.

To make the crust, in a bowl combine crumbs, sugar and melted butter (this can be done in the food processor). Press crumbs evenly over bottom of pan. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

To make the cheesecake filling, in your food processor or electric mixer, mix ricotta, cream and sugar until well blended and smooth. Beat in flour and salt; then add eggs, one at a time, processing or beating until incorporated. Finally, add vanilla extract and cinnamon and process until incorporated. Pour into prepared crust and dust top with crumbs. Take care not to over-mix.

Bake about 50 to 60 minutes, or until cheesecake is set, yet moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken (the edges of the cheesecake will have some browning). Remove from water bath and cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.

LEE WHITE HAS BEEN WRITING ABOUT RESTAURANTS AND COOKING SINCE THE LATE 1970S. EMAIL HER AT LEEAWHITE@AOL.COM.

Nibbles

Last fall, I judged pies in Essex and sat next to Jill Peterson, who mentioned that she was a pastry chef and planned on opening a place in Old Saybrook.

On the way to West Hartford with my neighbor Kathy, she mentioned a new pastry shop in Old Saybrook. Since I had to stop at my bank, we stopped at the new bakery. The adorable shop, right next to Homeworks, sells bread, breakfast pastries, cookies, individual pastries (like eclairs, mousse cups, brownies, Napoleons and the like) and fulfills cakes made to order.

We picked up a slice of bread pudding and enjoyed a taste. The next day I put the slice in the toaster oven (I might not do that in a two-or four-slice toaster) and I loved it. I also bought a baguette and a cheddar cheese and bacon boule. Both were terrific.

The Pursuit of Pastry

709 Boston Post Road

Old Saybrook, CT 06475

(860) 391-8687

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