I have a new baking project. And it’s a big one. This past semester I was given the very fortunate opportunity of being introduced to Susan Sink, the owner of Tarheel Foodie. Tarheel Foodie is a small business in Raleigh, NC that produces exceptional sustainable food items using all local, seasonal ingredients. Seasonally-developed products such as asparagus & sorrel pesto pasta, spicy squash soup, and roasted red pepper hummus are featured at farmers markets and distributed on a weekly basis to the homes and offices of many lucky customers. All of the items are fresh, nutritious, and of supreme quality. And with the growing public interest in gluten-free foods, Tarheel Foodie is now looking to incorporate gluten-free baked goods into this incredible selection! And that is where my role begins. I am working to create seasonally-focused gluten-free desserts to pair up with the amazing line of products from Tarheel Foodie. And now could not be a better time to start my project. Berry season. And so begins Test #1: Blackberries.
Fresh ricotta. Local clover honey. Sweet, seasonal blackberries. Are your taste buds excited yet? These cheesecakes have a fluffy, airy texture with just the slightest hint of bright lemon flavor. The delicate honey sweetness and feather-light ricotta texture set these treats apart from the typical rich, heavy cheesecake with which you are familiar. From top to bottom, these treats are light and refreshing: a delicately-flavored pecan nut crust, a subtly-sweetened citrus filling, and lightly-marbled blackberry top .
These will certainly satisfy your sweet-craving taste buds and your sustainability-advocating heart. And so only one question remains: would you buy these?
Honey Ricotta Cheesecakes with Blackberry
Yield: 16 mini cheesecakes
½ cup pecan halves
½ cup GF Flour Mix*
⅛ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon honey
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 tablespoon sugar (adjust to taste)
1 cup ricotta, drained**
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, room temperature
Preheat oven to 325°F and line a regular-sized muffin tin with cupcake liners.
For the Crust:
In a food processor, combine pecans, flour mix, and salt, processing until nuts are finely ground. Add in butter and pulse until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add honey and continue to process until evenly combined.
Gently press about 1-2 teaspoons of crust mixture into each cupcake liner and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until beginning to brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
For the Topping:
In a blender or food processor, combine the blackberries and sugar (amount of sugar added will depend on the sweetness of the berries and personal preference). Purée until smooth, and then pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds.
For the Filling:
Using a stand or hand mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add in ricotta and mix until smooth. Mix in sugar, honey, lemon zest, and vanilla. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating until mixture is creamy and evenly incorporated.
Fill each cupcake liner, leaving at least ½-inch of room from the top. Top filling with a few dots of blackberry purée, and swirl with a toothpick to create a marbled effect.
Bake 20-25 minutes, until filling is puffed and mostly set (the center should jiggle just slightly; it will continue to set as it cools). Allow cheesecakes to cool completely and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.
*GF Flour Mix
2 cups brown rice flour
2/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca starch
** To drain: place ricotta in a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl and allow to drain for at least 30 minutes to remove any excess water.