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Cannoli Cheesecake

I was undecided – and frankly, feeling a bit resentful over the implication that we undecided folks were either not paying attention or have the intellect of potatoes. I’d paid attention, done my research, weighed the pros and cons, and reflected on my personal tastes. And yet, I was still undecided; twisted by my contrary desires, unable to decipher the antsy feeling in my gut.

I take important decisions such as these quite seriously, you know.

But how in the world is a person supposed to choose between cheesecake and cannoli?? (Oh, did you think I was talking about the presidential election?) I mean, the cheesecake is rich and refined – maybe a little too rich for my tastes – but an intriguing option nonetheless. The familiar cannoli is a bit rougher around the edges and sometimes messy to consume, yet it calls to me. I wanted both; I wanted neither. My stomach churned with restless indecision. What if I wanted something different? Another choice on the menu? A third-party option of sorts?

So I decided not to choose between the cannoli or the cheesecake. I wanted something else. So I voted for the cannoli cheesecake instead.

This cannoli cheesecake isn’t going to be making any speeches come inauguration day, but it’s a definite winner in my book. Creamy, sweetened ricotta is blended with cream cheese and hints of chocolate, candied orange, and cinnamon, then baked in the form of a decadent cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. The end result is lighter than a traditional New York style cheesecake, with the subtle texture of ricotta cannoli filling. It’s presidentially delicious.

Author’s Note – By no means is this post intending to compare our presidential candidates to delicious Italian desserts. That would just be silly. I did, in fact, vote for an actual candidate in today’s election; not a cannoli cheesecake. Though if this cannoli cheesecake were on the ballot, it probably would have had my support.

Today’s Focus on Technique – Cooking with a Bain Marie

Cooking in a bain-marie refers to using a water bath. The purpose of using a water bath is to moderate the oven heat so that delicate ingredients cook more slowly and evenly. The water provides a moist, indirect heat that allows for a more gentle cooking process, which is ideal for many egg-based desserts, such as cheesecake, custard, and creme brulee.

No special equipment is required for a bain-marie set-up. You can make use of a regular roasting pan, baking dish or baking pan. Place the pan or ramekin you’re cooking in within the larger baking dish or baking pan. Place the entire set up in the oven, then fill the outer pan with a layer of warm water. (Placing the set-up in the oven before filling it with water is usually the easiest approach.)

*Always wrap the bottom of springform pans to prevent water from seeping into the bottom.

Cannoli Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup graham crackers, finely crushed
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 pound cream cheese (2 8-ounce bars), softened to room temperature
  • 1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup candied orange peel, finely diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust: Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan*. Place the pan in the oven for 5 minutes to set the crust. Remove the pan from the oven and cool while you prepare the filling. (Leave the oven on.)

For the filling: Beat together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the ricotta cheese, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and orange peel. Beat for another minute until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time and beat just until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Securely wrap the bottom of the cooled springform pan with foil (to prevent water from seeping into the pan).

Pour the filling into the springform pan. Place the pan within a large baking sheet or baking pan. Place the water bath set-up on the middle oven rack, then pour a small layer of warm water into the baking sheet/baking pan, so that it comes about 1/2″ up the side of the springform pan.

Bake for 60-65 minutes. The filling will still be slightly jiggly in the center when done. Cool the cake for 30 minutes at room temperature, then refrigerate until completely chilled.

*You can use a smaller springform pan, but the cooking time will vary.

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Cannoli Ice Cream

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I’ve been working on another post (for a super yummy Spicy Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad), but this recipe gets an instant pass to cut to the front of the line. I made this ice cream yesterday afternoon and I just can’t wait another second longer to share it with you… Cannoli ice cream with mini chocolate chips and fresh candied orange peel.

Need I say more?

Last year, during the peak of strawberry season, I made one of my favorite homemade ice creams. It was an absolutely luscious strawberry cheesecake ice cream, made with fresh-picked berries. That was some seriously crave-worthy ice cream. It was actually the memory of that ice cream which inspired this recipe. I was sitting outside on an exceptionally hot afternoon day-dreaming of that delicious strawberry cheesecake ice cream, which led me to consider…what other desserts can I turn into ice cream? Cannolis were one of the first ideas which popped into my mind. And I figured that if I could make a cheesecake flavored ice cream with sour cream mixed into it, why couldn’t I make a cannoli ice cream with ricotta cheese as a main ingredient?

Turns out that ricotta cheese lends itself amazing well towards creating a rich and decadently creamy ice cream. I have to admit, there was a point in time, a few minutes before the ice cream had finished it’s run through the ice cream maker, when I snuck a spoon into the machine to taste a bit of the not-quite-frozen mixture. It was the consistency of soft-serve ice cream at that point and the texture of the ricotta was still evident. Mouth-watering. It took every ounce of my self-control not to eat the whole batch right out of the still-churning machine.

This recipe is super-simple to put together, though you’ll need to make the candied orange peel a little ahead of time. Trust me, it’s worth the small effort. I’d initially considered listing the candied orange peel as an optional ingredient, but that would’ve been a major mistake. The flavor and the texture of the candied peel contribute so much to this ice cream, it would be a major loss to omit it.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, this may well be the recipe to make it worth buying one. I love this ice cream so much, that I actually looked into the cost of ice cream makers to see if I could offer one as a giveaway, but I just can’t pocket the personal expense at this time. (It’s the thought that counts, right?) Hey Cuisinart…want to offer one of my readers an ice cream maker??

In the mean time, if you love cannolis, buy, beg, or borrow yourself an ice cream maker and give this recipe a whirl!

Cannoli Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Candied orange peel from one orange, chopped (Recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • Prepared cannoli shells, for garnish

Directions

Prepare your ice cream maker according to your maker’s instructions.

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the cream and the sugar, stirring frequently, just until the sugar dissolves. Place the mixture in the refrigerator and chill until completely cooled. Combine the cream/sugar mixture with the ricotta and cinnamon. Mix in the candied orange peel and chocolate chips. Transfer the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Serve with a piece of prepared cannoli shell.

Candied Orange Peel

Ingredients

  • 1 orange
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the orange peel and boil for about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Bring a fresh pot of water to a boil. Add the orange peel again. Cook for another 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Combine the sugar with the water in a small saucepan. Stir to combine. Bring to a gentle simmer. Add the orange peel. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until the peels are tender and slightly translucent. Carefully strain. (The mixture will be extremely hot, so use caution.)

When cool enough to handle, arrange the peel on a drying rack to continue cooling.

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