Picture this: You’re at an exquisite restaurant and you try the most delicious, decadent dessert that you’re dying to recreate in the comfort of your own PJs—but you’re no professional chef. Enter the brand new cookbook Desserts ($35, amazon.com), a collection of over 140 all-time favorite sweet recipes from some of the best pastry chefs, restaurateurs, and food authors in the biz. Curated by the editors of Food & Wine, this book presents us with the most delicious, failproof tried-and-true keepers that have been tasted, tested, and perfected in the Food & Wine Test Kitchen.
One of our favorite sweet treats featured in Desserts is the farmer’s cheesecake with strawberries. It’s elegant, delicious, and most importantly, requires absolutely no baking. Though chef Nicolaus Balla of Bar Tartine in San Francisco makes his own farmer’s cheese, a type of cottage cheese, this recipe offers a substitute that’s just as creamy and decadent. A mix of ricotta and cream cheese creates the delicate filling and pairs it with a crunchy graham cracker crust, making the perfect combination of light, airy, and crumbly.
Here's how to make a smile-inducing dessert to wow your guests, without even touching your oven.
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cups packed graham cracker crumbs (10 to 12 whole crackers)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground ginger
Pinch of cinnamon
How to Make It
MAKE THE CRUST
In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the sugar over moderately low heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes. In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs with the salt, ginger and cinnamon. Stir in the melted butter until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the side of a 9-inch fluted tart pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour.
MAKE THE FILLING
1 lb. fresh ricotta cheese, at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3 Tbsp. agave nectar
½ tsp. finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp. salt
Pinch of ground ginger
In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the ricotta with the cream cheese, agave nectar, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and ginger just until smooth. Using an offset spatula, spread the filling in the chilled crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 2 hours.
MEANWHILE, PREPARE THE TOPPINGS
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced ¼ inch thick
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. caraway seeds
½ cup honey
In a medium bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar and lemon juice. Let stand at room temperature, stirring once or twice, until the berries are juicy and slightly softened, about 30 minutes.
In a small saucepan, toast the caraway seeds over moderate heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to a mortar and lightly crush the seeds. Return the caraway seeds to the saucepan and add the honey. Warm the honey over moderately low heat for 10 minutes. Strain the honey into a bowl, discarding the seeds; let cool. Cut the cheesecake into wedges, top with the strawberries and caraway honey and serve.
The cheesecake can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. The honey can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 month.