Easter in Autumn: Plum Pistachio Cheesecake
I don’t suppose I will ever fully adjust to living below the equator. The reversal of the seasons is the most strange of phenomena. I still refer to June, July and August as Summer, despite the reality of winter. When Spring rolls around in October and the city begins to bloom, I find myself craving leaf-turnings, sweaters, earlier sunsets and pumpkins. And in the Fall, when April days shorten with the not-so-far off equinox, I dream of baby ducks, budding tulips and pastel dresses.
Easter is my most poignant manifestation of seasonal contraposition. Easter is a holiday of rebirth, of joy, of hope, of resurrection; themes which have defined my conception of Springtime. I spent my last two Easters with Argentines, enjoying the Italian tradition of a family lunch and eating chocolate eggs until my stomach turned. For my third Buenos Aires Easter, I wanted to find a balance of my happy, Spring traditions with my beautiful Autumn reality. That was the inspiration for this recipe: to give fall flavors the etherealness of Springtime’s new life.
For the crust:
- 2 cups of unbleached flour
- 1 cup of corn meal
- 1/2 cup of butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup of pistachios, crushed
- 3/4 cup of organic sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- dash of salt
- 1 1/2 cups of ricotta
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup of orange juice and extracted ginger root juice
- 1/4 cup of honey
- 4 or 5 large plums, sliced
- 3 small plums, peeled
- 3 tablespoons of crushed pistachios
For the crust:
- Shell 1/4 of a cup of pistachios. Using a rolling pin, crush the nuts into a finer texture, or chop them if you prefer.
- Combine the flour and polenta, pistachios and baking soda in one bowl. In a separate bowl, combine butter, eggs, sugar and vanilla and mix thoroughly until the consistency is uniform.
- Slowly add the wet ingredients in with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly until the dough is sticky. Roll dough into a large ball, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour until the dough is firm.
For the filling:
- Pit and peel the three small plums, called ciruellas here in Buenos Aires. Using a fork, mash them into a pulp.
- Using a juice extractor, juice the orange and ginger. This should produce a half cup of powerfully fragrant juice.
- Combine the juice with the mashed fruit and honey and mix to uniform consistency.
- Add the ricotta and egg and mix until the ricotta is smooth and has a thick yogurt texture.
- Preheat the oven to 350º.
- In an non-greased pie plate, press the dough to form a crust. The cornmeal holds shape throughout baking.
- Arrange the sliced plums around the bottom layer.
- Carefully spoon the ricotta mixture over the plums, making sure they are as well hidden as your heart’s desire.
- Bake for 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
- Allow the masterpiece to cool, and then using your remaining plum slices and pistachio crumbs, decorate the top of the cake. Serve and enjoy.