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Strawberry and limoncello take this cheesecake to another level

Plus, the crust is made from crushed-up biscotti.

The key to a perfectly creamy cheesecake is getting the proportion of ingredients just right and not overmixing or overbaking. Easier said than done. But here are some tips that may help.

Cheesecakes are custards that happen to be made with cream cheese instead of milk. Adding flour or cornstarch to cheesecakes, or to any custard, affects both the cooking method and the texture, making it firmer and less likely to curdle or weep.

Cheesecakes need gentle heat to prevent curdling. A lower heat cooks the proteins just enough, allowing them to bake together and form a thick but smooth texture. If you bake at a heat that is too high, the proteins tighten up and form unwelcome curdling.

There are many classic methods to shield a cheesecake against too much heat. You can bake it in a 275-degree oven for one hour, then turn the oven off for another hour with the cheesecake still in the oven. Or, you can bake the cheesecake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (just enough time to get the batter hot) and then turn off the heat and leave the cheesecake in the closed oven for about an hour. Another method is to bake the cheesecake in a water bath at 350 degrees. The temperature in the water bath will remain around 200 degrees, which allows the custard to set without curdling.

My method is simple: Bake at a low and slow 325 degrees, then cool at room temperature. No water bath needed. The middle of the cheesecake should jiggle when you nudge the cake. That means it’s done baking. It will firm up to a perfectly creamy cheesecake consistency as it chills.

Why do cheesecakes crack? Because the cheesecake has been overcooked. Overcooking causes the proteins in the batter to shrink and the cake to dry out, leading to those classic cheesecake cracks. If your cake cracks, simply cover the cracks with a layer of strawberry jam and sliced strawberries. No one will ever know the difference, and you will still have a smooth and sensuously creamy cheesecake to enjoy.

In this recipe I used Nonni’s original biscotti, Philadelphia original cream cheese, Galbani whole milk ricotta cheese and Bon Maman strawberry preserves.

Lorraine Fina Stevenski is a self-taught baker and award-winning recipe contest addict. This column features recipes that have been entered in contests across America and updated for readers who love to bake. Check out what she’s cooking right now on her Facebook page, LORRAINE FINA STEVENSKI. Contact her at

Limoncello Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake With a Biscotti Crust

Enjoy la dolce vita with Limoncello Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake With a Biscotti Crust.

For the crust:

1 (5.52-ounce) box vanilla- or almond-flavored biscotti (8 biscotti), broken into pieces

3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

2 tablespoons limoncello liqueur

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the batter:

2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese, at room temperature

16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

1 tablespoon limoncello liqueur

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 drops Fiori di Sicilia Italian citrus flavoring, optional

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

2 large egg whites

Zest of 1 lemon

For the strawberry swirl:

1/2 cup strawberry jam

12 fresh whole strawberries dipped in white chocolate, for serving

Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the biscotti pieces in the bowl of a food processor. Add the melted butter, limoncello liqueur and vanilla extract and pulse into fine crumbs that are evenly moistened and hold together when pinched.

Lightly coat a 9- to 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Wrap with foil up to the top of the pan. Press the biscotti crumbs evenly on the bottom of the pan and about 1 inch up the sides, using your fingers or a flat-bottomed measuring cup. Set on a half-sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the crust is fragrant and lightly browned. Cool while you make the batter.

Make the batter: Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Have all your dairy ingredients at room temperature so they blend smoothly. With an electric stand mixer, on medium-high speed using the whisk attachment, beat the ricotta cheese and cream cheese until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add the sugar, salt, limoncello, vanilla, Fiori di Sicilia (if using) and flour and beat just until blended, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl.

In a separate medium mixing bowl, beat the eggs and egg whites together with a fork. With the whisk on medium speed, slowly pour the egg mixture into the batter and beat just until smooth and evenly blended, about 1 minute. Don’t overbeat once the eggs have been added or the cheesecake will puff up too much and crack as it cools. Take the bowl off the stand and stir in the lemon zest, scraping the bowl as you stir.

Pour the batter into the cooled crust and smooth the top. Dot teaspoons of the jam over the top of the batter. Swirl the jam into the batter using a toothpick or sharp pointy knife.

Bake on the half-sheet pan for about 55 to 60 minutes or until the cheesecake is golden brown around the edges and the center of the cake jiggles slightly when the pan is nudged. The cheesecake will be slightly puffed around the edges and the center will still look moist. Cool completely and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until well chilled and firm, at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

Remove the cheesecake from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Unclasp and remove the side of the springform pan. Run a thin metal spatula or knife under the bottom crust and slide onto a flat serving platter. To cut, run a knife under hot water, wipe dry and cut the cake into individual slices, heating and wiping the knife as you slice. Serve each slice with a chocolate-dipped strawberry on the side.

Serves 12.

Source: Lorraine Fina Stevenski