Honey Ricotta Cheesecake

For the almond crust:
2 cups whole unblanched almonds
5 tablespoons of sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

For the filling:
15-ounce container whole milk ricotta, drained
8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange blossom or clover honey
1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
4 large eggs


Make the crust:

Wrap the outside of a springform pan with 2 heavy duty layers of aluminum foil that are 15 to 18 inches wide. Each layer should be wide and long enough to cover the bottom of the pan without leaving any gaps. You need to create a water-tight seal so that when you bake the cheesecake in hot water none of the liquid seeps into the pan. Test the seal before you proceed with making the crust. You can test it by putting the pan in a large roasting pan filled with water.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a food processor, blend the almonds, sugar and almond extract until the almonds are coarsely chopped. Add unsalted butter and process until almonds are finely chopped. With your hands, press the almond mixture firmly onto the bottom and 2 inches up the side of a 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Fill a small glass (no handle) with coins and use it to gently press the crust onto the bottom and sides, allowing the weight from the coins to do the work for you.

Bake crust until light brown, about 15-20 minutes. Allow the crust to cool in the pan on a rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Make the filling:

In a clean food processor, blend the ricotta until smooth. Add the cream cheese and sugar and blend well, stopping the machine occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Blend in the honey and orange zest. Add the eggs and pulse until just blended.

Pour the mixture into the crust, leaving a bit of room between the top of the filling and the top of the crust. Transfer the springform pan to a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the aluminum foil covered pan. Bake until the cheesecake is golden and the center of the cake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour and 5 minutes (the cake will become firm when it is cold).

Transfer the cheesecake to a rack to cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least 8 hours and up to 2 days. Cut the cake into wedges and serve, with whipped cream if desired.
Note: Wrapped first in plastic film then foil, cheesecakes freeze well for up to a month.