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Recipe Finder: Renna Dairy Ricotta Cheesecake

By Julie Rothman, For The Baltimore Sun

12:33 AM EST, December 28, 2012

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Carol Frey from Baltimore was looking for a recipe she has lost for making a ricotta cheesecake.

Thomas Scavuzzo from Rosedale shared an old family recipe from the Renna Dairy Co. in Rosedale, Pa. His grandparents owned the dairy, which closed in 1965.

The instructions that came with his recipe were very basic. While cheesecakes are not difficult to make, there are a few golden rules one should try and follow when making them. Start by making sure all your 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 sides of the spring form pan (wrap in aluminum foil to prevent seepage).

Although his recipe did not specify, I used whole-milk ricotta because I thought that was likely what they would have made it with on a dairy farm in the 1960s. Try to use a brand of ricotta that does not contain a gum stabilizer, and if the cheese is watery, I recommend draining it through a fine mesh or cheesecloth-lined strainer (see note).

This cheesecake is rich and creamy and much lighter in taste and texture than a New York-style cheesecake; it also pairs beautifully with the graininess of the graham cracker crust. It was very good served plain, but I think it would be even better topped with some fruit or a berry sauce.

Requests

Harold Lauer from Spearfish, S.D., is looking for a recipe for Coney Dog sauce that was served at the A&W drive-ins in the 1960s.

If you are looking for a recipe or can answer a request, write to Julie Rothman, Recipe Finder, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, or email baltsunrecipefinder@gmail.com. If you send in more than one recipe, please put each on a separate piece of paper and be sure to include your name, address and daytime phone number. Important: Name and hometown must accompany recipes in order to be published. Please list the ingredients in order of use, and note the number of servings each recipe makes. Please type or print contributions. Letter and recipes may be edited for clarity.

Ricotta cheese pie

For the filling:

2 pounds ricotta or cottage cheese

1/2 cup cream

1 cup sugar

4 eggs

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For the crust:

1/2 cup melted butter

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup graham cracker 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 the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom of the springform pan. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

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

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

Note: If the ricotta is watery, put it in a fine-meshed or a cheesecloth-lined strainer placed over a bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator to drain for an hour or even overnight.