This makes a decadent cheesecake – you can use whatever berries are in season, just make sure they are the peak of ripeness!
FOR THE CRUST
1 c toasted pecan pieces
1/4 c flour
3 tbsp sugar
Pinch of salt
1 large egg yolk
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
FOR THE FILLING
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 32-ounce whole milk ricotta
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp amaretto (rum or Grand Marnier may be substituted)
1 tbsp cornstarch
FOR THE TOPPING
8 ozs (about 2-1/2 c) fresh berries
Preheat the oven to 325°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.
To make the crust: place the almonds, flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process until the nuts are finely chopped and the mixture looks sandy. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, cooled melted butter and vanilla. Add the liquid mixture to the nut mixture and pulse several times until the ingredients are well combined, moistened and crumbly. Dump the mixture into the prepared pan and, using your fingers or the bottom of a measuring cup, press into an even layer. Place the pan in the freezer for 10 minutes to chill; then bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust is lightly golden. Let cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Combine the cream cheese, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process until soft and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the ricotta and process until the mixture is smooth and light, another 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, processing for 5-10 seconds between each addition. Add the vanilla, amaretto, cornstarch and orange zest and process until mixture is just combined (do not overmix).
Pour the filling into the crust, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake the cheesecake for about 50 – 60 minutes, until the top is lightly golden, the edges are set and the center is quite jiggly but not totally liquid (it will continue to cook as it cools). Carefully remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the cake to make sure it’s not sticking to the sides then cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to cool for at least 2 hours or overnight.
For the topping: After the cake has chilled, place the berries evenly over top. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For serving: Remove the sides of the springform pan and slice.