I haven’t baked a cheesecake in years because I couldn’t commit to our family of two eating up an entire one. Traditional cheesecakes tend to be heavy, prepared with a lot of cream cheese, and are not easy for me to digest (I’m not great with big doses of dairy). Tofu cheesecakes are a relative novelty in Asia too, which is why I didn't include a recipe in the Asian Tofu cookbook.
But while working on the Paula Wolfert biography-cookbook, I learned about Italian ricotta cheesecake from one of her recipes that we included in the book. It was super simple to make in the processor and baked up light tasting. I thought of making it with tofu since ricotta and I are not good friends, and I’ve successfully made lasagna with tofu as a ricotta substitute. The textures are similar if you use a medium-firm tofu. Based on past experiences, I figured a “ricotta” tofu cheesecake would work. I put the idea on the back burner until my schedule freed up a bit.
In the new issue of Milk Street magazine that arrived last week, Chris Kimball spotlights the beauty of ricotta cheesecake and has a recipe that he promises to be somewhat fluffy. That reminded me to experiment with making a “ricotta” tofu cheesecake. I wanted a little crust on the bottom of mine. Both Paula’s and Chris’s ricotta cheesecake recipes were crustless, typical of that many Italian cheesecakes. But I love how the graham cracker crust contrasts with the creamy filling in color, texture, and flavor.
I looked in a favorite cookbook, Sweet Times by Dorie Greenspan, published in 1991. She had a honey ricotta almond cheesecake with a graham cracker crust! Dorie’ s use of ground almonds in the filling lent body and perhaps prevented the cheesecake filling from cracking. A cracked cheesecake is a cosmetic issue more than a flavor issue, in my opinion. I was intrigued by aspects of all three of those recipes by Paula, Chris, and Dorie. They informed me in different ways and in the end, I borrowed a bit from each to come up with my own recipe for a tofu cheesecake.