Every once in a while, I come across a spectacular dish that really changes the way that I think about food. Most of the time, these dishes are nothing fancy. They have simple flavors that just happen to work well together. Last year, I went out to dinner with my family. This place was supposed to be the best new restaurant in town. While my main dish was good, it was what came next that really sealed the deal – dessert. A generous slice of creamy New York-style cheesecake was topped with roasted pineapple and passion fruit purée. I tasted every single component of this dessert separately, and each part was wonderful on its own. But what happened when I got that perfect bite of cheesecake was truly something special. Needless to say, I was not in the mood to share.
A few weeks later, I returned to this restaurant that had provided me with this magical cheesecake experience, only to find that… It was gone. This was almost a year ago, so my memory of this event may be a little fuzzy, but I think I might have cried. Even though the original dessert is gone, I took everything that I could remember from that cheesecake and created my own version. I made a graham cracker-crusted ricotta cheesecake and topped it with a sweet, thick passion fruit sauce and small chunks of lightly grilled pineapple. In my opinion, passion fruit and pineapple are right up there with the kings of complimentary flavors – peanut butter and jelly, sea salt and caramel, passion fruit and pineapple.
I spent a lot of time tracking down passion fruit purée. I finally found it in the freezer section at Walmart, but you can also find it here online.
- 1¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ stick unsalted butter, melted
- 12 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1½ cups passion fruit purée
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ golden pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into small cubes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Stir together the cracker crumbs, brown sugar, flour, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and toss with a fork until well combined. If the mixture is too dry, add water 1 tablespoon at a time. Press the crumb mixture evenly over the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Place one oven rack on the lowest rack and one in the middle of the oven. Beat the ricotta and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until smooth. Add the sugar, vanilla extract, and salt and beat for another minute, until fully incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition.
- Pour the filling into the cooled crust. Fill a large roasting pan halfway with hot water and place on the lowest oven rack to create steam. Place the cheesecake on the center rack and bake for about 1 hour and 40 minutes, until the cheesecake is set around the edges and jiggles only slightly when gently shaken. Remove from the oven and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
- Combine the passion fruit purée and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the sauce is reduced to 1 cup. Transfer to a small bowl and chill for about 30 minutes, until slightly thickened.
- Meanwhile, place a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Grill the pineapple cubes for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly caramelized.
- To serve, cut the cheesecake into wedges. Drizzle each slice with some passion fruit sauce and top with a few pieces of pineapple.