Photos: Marconia SchembriPhotos: Marconia Schembri

Sweet and savoury baked cheesecakes are a classic favourite and the choice of how to make them and what ingredients to add is endless. The consistency is dense and cheesecakes may even have a chalky texture in a wonderful way.

Since I have lived here I prefer to use ricotta to make New York, French, Polish or Italian style cheesecakes. Ricotta balances the sweetness of everything else and in the recipes I share today, I use seasonal summer fruits.

Lactose and gluten-free ricotta is now easily available in Malta and for a vegan diet, replace the ricotta with the same amount of tofu. Stevia can be used to replace sugar or other sweeteners but check the conversion instructions on the label of your jar as this varies depending on the brand you are using.

Fig and Ricotta Baked Cheesecake

For the base
120g oatcakes
2 tsp cold pressed coconut oil
3 tbsps cocoa powder
2 tbsps peanut butter

For the filing
500g fresh figsjuice of 1/2 lemon
500g ricotta
200g mascarpone
200g yoghurt
4 eggs
Stevia [the equivalent of 120g, check the conversion table on your packet]
2 tbsps cornflour

I use a 21 cm springform dish. To decorate, an extra 200g of fresh figs and 4 tbsps of warm maple syrup

Heat the oven to 180°C. Melt the coconut oil on low heat and add the chocolate powder. Use a blender to grind the biscuits and add the peanut butter. Mix all the base ingredients in and bring it to a smooth paste by using a hand blender. Line the bottom of a springform dish with baking paper. Place the mixture in the tin and press down using a large spoon dipped in water. Place in the freezer to set.

Make the filling by mixing all the ingredients together and blending until you have a smooth paste. Pour the batter over the base of the cheesecake. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes until the mixture sets. Turn off the heat and leave the cheesecake in the oven until it cools down. Place in the fridge overnight preferably. Decorate with quartered fresh figs and leave the skin on. Brush with warm maple syrup just before serving.

Lea’s tip: leave the cheesecake to cool slowly in the oven after turning off the heat to avoid a cracked surface

Maltese Mulberry Torte

300g Maltese mulberries (Ċawsli)
1kg ricotta6 large eggs
2 tbsps cornflour
200g caster sugar or equivalent in steviathe seeds of a vanilla bean
pinch of salt, zest of a lime

Preheat oven to 160°C and line a springform cake tin with baking parchment.

Beat the ricotta with an electric mixer and add the eggs one by one. Add the other ingredients with electric whisk until it starts to come together.

Use a 21cm-loose bottomed tart dish and prepare it with baking spray. Pour the batter into the tart tin and place the mulberries on top of the batter then bake it in the oven for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave to cool completely in the oven. Chill before slicing and serving.

Lea’s tip: Wash the berries just before you use them. Do not soak in water but place them in a colander and gently splash them with water. Place them on a plate and cover with kitchen towel and leave in the fridge until you make your cheesecake.

Baked Peaches Stuffed with Ricotta and Coconut Cheesecake

4 large peaches
200g fresh ricotta
1 tbsp honey or agave
The seeds of a vanilla pod
1 tsp grated lime zest
25g finely chopped almonds
60g coconut
60g ground almonds
1 tbp rosewater
2 eggs
Some flaked almonds for the surface.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Cut the peaches in half and remove the stone. Leave the skin on. In a large bowl mix the ricotta, honey, vanilla, lime zest, chopped almonds, coconut, ground almonds, rose water and eggs until the texture of the mixture is consistent.

Line a baking tray with baking paper and prepare with baking spray. Place the peach halves on the baking sheet. Put the mixture into a piping bag or use two spoons to fill the cavity in the peaches.

Sprinkle some flaked almonds. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until they start to turn golden. Do not overcook. Garnish with a drizzle of agave or honey and more flaked almonds to serve.

Lea’s tip: Serve warm with ice cream or refrigerate overnight and serve with a mix of yoghurt and fresh cream.

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