Toronto's celebrated chocolatier, David Chow, lays it down with his Ontario Ricotta Cheesecake with Walnut & Roasted Grapes.
“You can’t beat the flavour of local wheat that has been freshly milled into flour, an unripened cheese that was just made, or a peach or tomato that was just picked that morning. I am always aware that every food decision I make counts in terms of flavour as well as championing our local community. Recognizing, respecting, celebrating, and most importantly sharing foods made with what our amazing province has to offer is especially important now to ensure the future survival of all aspects of our food system."
Walnut Crust Instructions
Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C), with the rack in the centre of the oven. Grease a 10” springform pan (the one with a removable bottom) with some butter and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Wrap the exterior and bottom of the pan with several layers of aluminum foil that comes up the sides, making sure that it’s watertight as the cheesecake will eventually be baked in a water bath, aka a bain marie.
In a food processor, chop the walnuts until ground. A few larger pieces of walnut are fine. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix to combine. Press the walnut crust onto the bottom of the prepared pan in an even layer. Put the pan in the oven and bake for around 15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and firm to the touch. Set aside to cool while you prepare the filling.
Mix the cornstarch into the sugar to break up any of the cornstarch lumps.
Add all the ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth. If you have a small food processor, you may need to do this in 2 or 3 batches. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl well to make sure the mixture is as smooth as possible. This step can be accomplished with a hand-held electric or a stand mixer.
Pour the prepared filling on top of the baked walnut crust in the foil-wrapped pan. Smooth out the top surface of the batter. Place the filled springform pan into a large baking dish and place the dish in the oven. Carefully fill the baking dish with boiling water until the water comes halfway up the sides of the springform pan. You can skip the water bath/bain marie portion but it helps to protect it from puffing up and collapsing slightly and to keep the final texture as smooth as possible.
Bake the cheesecake in the oven for about 75 minutes or until the filling is set. It may need slightly more time depending on your home oven. When you shake the pan a slight wobble in the middle is fine as it will continue baking from the residual heat. Turn off the oven, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the cheesecake cool gradually for 1 hour.
Once the cheesecake is cool, you can remove the pan from the water bath and remove the foil layer. Run a knife carefully around the edge of the pan to help it release. Chill the cheesecake in the fridge at least 6 hours or overnight.
Roasted Grapes Instructions
Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C), with the rack in the centre of the oven. Pick the grapes off the vine and combine them in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Pour all the ingredients into a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so until the grapes have caramelized and there is a syrup in the bottom of the pan. If the liquid is evaporating too quickly, add a dash more wine or water. Set the roasted grapes aside to cool. They are best the day they are roasted.
Run a knife around the edge of the pan again. Remove the chilled cheesecake carefully from pan, cut into desired potions and serve with the roasted grapes! The cheesecake can be frozen by the slice and pulled and defrosted overnight in the fridge whenever you want a creamy indulgence.