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Recipe Round-up – Cheesecakes for Spring: Junior’s Cheesecake, Palm Beach Pastry’s Italian Style Cheesecake and a Pistachio Cheesecake from Rustico Italiano

April 24th, 2011 · 3 Comments

Palm Beach Pastry's Cheesecake

Cheesecakes are as varied as the sweet-tooths who love them. Rich and dense, or creamy and tangy – they run the gamut in flavor and texture.

There’s the New York style, familiar to many – dense and rich made from cream cheese, cream and eggs, with some flour for stability.

Junior’s Cheesecakes from the Big Apple are a staple for Northeasterners, created in 1950 by Harry Rosen and Master Baker Eigel Peterson for Junior’s restaurant in Brooklyn. Their twist on the traditional is the very thin spongecake layer at the bottom – no crumb crust. They’re still made today and served in their restaurants found in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Connecticut. (They also ship – you can buy the cakes online.)

Ricotta lightens the cheesecake favored by many Italians — and those growing up in and around Philadelphia. This cake’s texture is softer, creamier than the New York style; often it’s tangier with more lemons in it.

Then there’s a mix of the two – cream cheese with ricotta – and some sour cream thrown in for extra tanginess. This, for some, is the perfect cake. Our recipe for this comes from Gianna Fiorentino Miles of Palm Beach Pastry. The recipe was shared with my readers in The Coastal Star newspaper. It’s pictured at the top of this post. She made it using a matzo-nut crust, perfect for Passover, though you could use the normal graham cracker crumbs in their place.

Pistachio cheesecake from Rustico Italiano

Finally, a Pistachio version is from Rustico Italiano in Lake Worth. The nuts form a crunchy crust and give it flavor and a pretty appearance, as well. This appeared in my column You Asked for It! in the Sun Sentinel.

Cheesecake Recipes

Junior’s Cheesecake

Prep Time: 1 hr

Total Time: 6-1/2 hours – including chilling time.

For the sponge-cake layer:

* 1/2 cup sifted cake flour

* 1 teaspoon baking powder

* 1 pinch salt

* 3 large eggs, seperated

* 1/3 cup sugar

* 2 tablespoons sugar

* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

* 3 drops lemon extract

* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

* 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

For the cream cheese layer:

* 4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese

* 1 2/3 cups sugar

* 1/4 cup cornstarch

* 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

* 2 large eggs

* 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Make sponge cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9-inch springform pan.

Sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium sized bowl; set aside.

Beat egg yolks in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high for 3 minutes. With the mixer still running, gradually add the 1/3 cup of sugar and continue beating until thick light-yellow ribbons form, about 5 minutes more. Beat in the vanilla and lemon extracts.

Sift the flour mixture over the batter and stir it in by hand until no more white flecks appear; blend in the butter.

In a clean bowl, using clean dry beaters, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together on high until frothy. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form (the whites should stand up in stiff peaks, but not be dry).

Stir about 1/3 cup of the whites into the batter, then gently fold in the remaining whites (don’t worry if a few white specks remain). Gently spoon the batter into pan.

Bake the cake just until the center of the cake springs back when lightly touched, only about 10 minutes (watch carefully!) Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack while you continue making the cheesecake filling. Do not remove the cake from the pan.

For the cream cheese filling: Place one 8-ounce package of the cream cheese, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and cornstarch in a large bowl.

Beat with an electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, then beat in the remaining 3 packages of the cream cheese. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat in the remaining 1 1/3 cups of the sugar, then beat in the vanilla.

Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating the batter well after each one. Blend in heavy cream.

At this point mix the filling only until completely blended. Be careful not to overmix the batter. Gently spoon the cheese filling on top of the baked sponge cake layer.

Place the springform pan in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes about 1 inch up the side of the pan. Bake the cheesecake until the center barely jiggles when you shake the pan, about 1 hour.

Cool the cake on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it’s completely cold, at least 4 hours or overnight.

To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan. Slide the cake onto a serving plate. Or, if you wish, simply leave the cake on the removable bottom of the pan and place it on a serving plate.

Refrigerate any leftover cheesecake. This cake freezes very well.

Makes 12 servings.

(Recipe from Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook, by Alan Rsen and Beth Allen; 2007, The Taunton Press, $22.)

Springtime Lemon-blueberry cheesecake

  • For the crust:
  • ¾ cup finely ground pecans
  • 4 matzo crackers, unsalted – see note
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • For the filling:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 16 ounces (2 cups) sour cream, at room temperature
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract, optional
  • Equipment:
  • 8-inch springform pan
  • Roasting pan to hold springform for water bath
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Spray the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with nonstick spray.  Place pan in the center of a large piece of heavy-duty foil and wrap it up the sides,  creating a seal for the water bath. (Do not wrap foil into interior of pan; fold it down or trim as needed to reach just the top of the rim.) Set aside.

In a food processor, combine pecans and matzo crackers, pulsing until fine crumbs result.

Add sugar, salt, cinnamon, and pulse 2 to 3 times to combine. With processor running, drizzle in melted butter.

Spoon mixture into prepared springform pan and press crumbs into its base. Chill pan in the refrigerator while making the filling.

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese and ricotta together on low or medium-low speed for 1 minute until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Slowly add sugar while mixing, and blend until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add sour cream, lemon zest and optional vanilla. Scrape bowl sides as needed. Do not overbeat the mixture. Pour into prepared springform pan.

Place pan into a roasting pan and add boiling water until it is about halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes. When done, the cake will still “jiggle” in the center. Cool undisturbed on a cooling rack for 30 to 45 minutes.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Unmold cake and transfer to serving plate. Top with blueberry topping.

Makes 10 servings.

Blueberry topping:

  • 1 pint blueberries
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

In a medium sauce pan, mix berries, lemon zest and sugar. Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring. If a thicker sauce is desired, stir in 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water. Cook, stirring until thickened. Cool before spreading on cake with spatula.

This cake freezes well – wrap tightly in plastic wrap and cover in foil. Serve slightly frozen or well chilled to slice cleanly.

(Recipe provided by Gianna Miles, of Palm Beach Pastry. For information on her desserts or dessert parties, contact her at 561-315-6111, or by email at palmbeachpastry@comcast.net. Miles sells her pastries from a booth Saturdays through May at Lake Worth’s Oceanside Farmer’s Market.)

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Rustico Italiano’s Pistachio cheesecake

(Prepare day ahead of serving)

  • For the crust:
  • 1-1/2 cups butter cookie crumbs
  • ¼ cup unsalted melted butter
  • For the filling:
  • 1 pound cream cheese, softened
  • 1 pound (16 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups finely ground pistachios
  • 6 eggs
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • For garnish:
  • Fresh berries of your choice
  • Chopped pistachios, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch springform (cheesecake) pan.

In a medium bowl, combine cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press into bottom of cheesecake pan and put in freezer while preparing filling.

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle, combine cream cheese, ricotta cheese and sour cream. Beat on low speed to combine; add sugar. Beat on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes or until very smooth.

Beat in eggs one at a time on medium speed, mixing to combine. Add flour, vanilla, lemon juice and pistachios; mix on low speed till combined, scraping sides of bowl.

Remove cake pan from freezer and pour filling over crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes until the top is light brown. Note: Center will be slightly soft and will tremble if shaken, but rest of cake should be firm. Cool for one hour. Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight before serving.

To serve, remove outer rim of pan and decorate top with fresh berries and/or chopped pistachios as desired. Slice thin slices neatly with long, wet knife (or draw a tight strand of dental floss down through cake, pulling out from one side). Cake freezes very well; it is best served well chilled.

Makes 12-14 servings.

For lower fat version: Substitute low-fat cream cheese, fat-free sour cream, and part-skim ricotta for the cheeses.

Tags: Baking: Cheap therapy · Holiday cooking

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 jerry // Apr 24, 2011 at 1:10 pm


  • 2 Jan Norris // Apr 24, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Get busy, Jerry! I expect Cheesecake when I talk to your Aberdeen group next time…!

  • 3 jerry // Apr 24, 2011 at 5:13 pm



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