This pie is very close to being my absolute favourite in the book. I love the classic Middle Eastern pairing of orange blossom and dates. There is a natural sweetness to the dates that means the pie filling doesn’t need to be overly sweet. I also love the pattern we created on top of the pie. We had seen a photo of a cheesecake a while ago, which at first glance looked as though its filling had been piped into the pastry case in a circular fashion and then baked to create a beautiful tan-brown top on it. Then we realised it wasn’t piping that had created the pattern but rather turning the cheesecake upside down straight out of the oven onto a circular wire rack to cool. We couldn’t turn our pie upside-down because of the biscuit crumbs, so we decided to put a wire rack on top of the pie and weigh it down to create its distinct criss-cross pattern. Of course, this is not an essential step in the recipe but I think it creates such a visual talking point you’d be crazy not to.
- 300 g (10½ oz) shortbread biscuits (cookies)
- 80 g (2¾ oz) unsalted butter, melted then cooled
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) firm fresh ricotta
- 250 g (9 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 170 g (6 oz/¾ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp orange blossom water
- 2 tsp natural vanilla extract
- 8 dates, pitted and chopped
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Cooling time 30 minutes
Chilling time 2 hours
Pulse the biscuits in a food processor to fine crumbs. Add the butter and pulse again to combine.
Press the crumb mixture into the base and side of a 17 cm (6¾ in) pie dish. Chill while you make the filling.
Clean the processor then whiz the ricotta, cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, orange blossom water and vanilla and whiz to combine.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Scatter the dates over the chilled biscuit base, then spread the ricotta mixture over the top. Bake for 50 minutes or until a dark golden colour and firm to the touch. Turn off the oven and leave to cool in the oven for 30 minutes with the door ajar.
Remove from the oven, and press a wire rack firmly over the cake while it is still warm to make indentations on the surface. Weigh it down with a tin or your tub of baking beads. Leave to cool to room temperature, then chill for 2 hours or until cold.
Recipe and image from The Pie Project by Phoebe Wood and Kirsten Jenkins (Hardie Grant, $29.95, hbk).
View our Readable feasts review and more recipes from the book here.