Jul 23, 2014

Ramos Fizz Cheesecake- Light, Fluffy, Delicious!

Light, delicate, healthy cheesecake from Puritan Therapy
Ramos Fizz Cheesecake. Light, fluffy, and delicious!
There are very few foods that I am obsessive about.  I shrug at the Chicago vs. New York pizza debates, I stay neutral on Kansas City vs North Carolina for barbecue, and I think lots of places have great hot dogs.  One of the few things that I am adamant about is cheesecake.  When I was a kid, my sister and I weren't allowed to have sugar.  Part of the thinking at the time was that prohibiting sugar in a kid's diet would prevent diabetes later in life.  In actuality it tends to just promote secretive binging, but that's another story.  Thus, to have a low sugar option for a birthday cake, we would get cheesecake.  It was light and fluffy and we would usually have it with some fresh fruit and a little homemade whipped cream.

The first time I had a cheesecake that was not the one my mom made was when I was in college.  I don't remember where it was, but I do remember being excited for cheesecake.  What I got was a super dense brick on a crumbly graham cracker crust. This was more like eating a cold, over-sweetened paste than what I was expecting.  Even worse, everyone else seemed to think that it was great!  I later learned about New York style cheesecake, and that what I had was actually a good version of it.  I just can't approve.  In my opinion, cheesecake should be light and fluffy.  It should almost be like eating a cheesy cloud.

So, if you are the type of person who prefers their cheesecake more akin to a brick, I may think you're wrong, but I won't judge.  But if this is the case, this is not the recipe that you would want.  The cocktail will still be good, but it will not be your style of cheesecake.

Ramos Gin Fizz

Puritan Therapy- Ramos Fizz Cheesecake
The handle of the spoon is a straw!
As I've mentioned before, I have great respect for a good bartender, especially for their palate.  Which is why I will use my bartender friends as taste testers and flavor advisers whenever I can.  The first time I ever had a Ramos fizz was around the same time that I started really experimenting with chocolates.  I had brought a variety of things to work for a potluck, and then brought all the extras to the bar with me after work.  When Will asked me what I wanted to drink, I handed him a s'more chocolate (small piece of graham cracker with a toasted marshmallow on it dipped in milk chocolate) and told him to make me something to go with that.  He ate it, thought for a moment, and then spent the next 10 minutes crafting this absolutely beautiful drink.  When he put it down, he said that he was playing off of the ideas of milk and cookies.  When I tried it, I was amazed.  It was light, fizzy, creamy, with citrus and a touch of orange.  And it came in a tall glass with a straw spoon, kind of like what you'd get with a slurpee, but fancy and metal.

I have since learned that this is one of those drinks where:
  1. Never order it on a busy night.  It takes a long time and a lot of effort to make.  This can be fine, as long as you understand this and will tip accordingly.
  2. Once you do order it, and the bartender puts it down, multiple people will all ooh and ah, and then they will all want one because it's pretty.  This is the nail in the coffin for the bartender cursing your name under their breath.
Considering that I was just talking about cheesecake, skipping to a cocktail may seem like a nonsequitor.  but look at the recipe, and think about the ingredients for a moment.

    Ramos Gin Fizz

    2 ounces gin (I recommend a french gin that is more subtle and floral than one that has a strong juniper flavor)
    1 ounce heavy cream
    1 egg white
    1/2 ounce lemon juice
    1/2 ounce lime juice
    2 teaspoons superfine sugar
    2 to 3 drops orange flower water
    Soda water
    optional: Orange peel for garnish
Combine gin, cream, the white of the egg, lemon juice, lime juice, sugar, and ice in a cocktail shaker.  Shake for 1 minute, or until the mixture starts to foam (as a note, this is a long time to shake a cocktail, and the minute timer is a minimum).  Strain into a highball glass, and top off with soda water.  The oil from the orange peel adds an extra little pop of orange.

So where is the connection with cheesecake?  The Ramos fizz has dairy, eggs, sugar, and flavorings.  A cheesecake is made with dairy, eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and flavorings.  When I considered the way to make this cocktail into a form of candy, the parallel seemed obvious.

Cheesecake

There are several things I love about this recipe.  To be honest, it's actually a very healthy cheesecake.  It's high in protein, and low in sugar, and all of the perishable ingredients can be pre-measured for you.  In the US, a standard block of cream cheese is 8 ounces.  A small container of cottage cheese is 2 cups.  I never need to worry about using up that little extra bit of, well, anything.   With the idea of low sugar, and high protein, some people (including me on occasion) want to take it a step further and get the trifecta of low fat as well, by using low or nonfat cream cheese and cottage cheese.  IF you choose to make a basic cheesecake instead of the Ramos Fizz cheesecake, substitute away.  The end result will be a firmer cake, but still definitely tasty.  If you are making the Ramos Fizz cake, I recommend against it, and this is why.

*Science Warning*
It is a matter of acid.  If you remember pH from high school chemistry class, there is a range from acid to base.  Cakes (flour or flourless) need an acidic batter to set up or they will end up just being a pudding.  The more acidic the cake, the faster it will set up (but the drier it will be).  If you use low or non fat cheese in your cheesecake, you are making the batter more acidic.  Thus, if you decide that the cake seems too mushy, this is an easy way to adjust it to your liking.  The Ramos Fizz cheesecake is actively adding more acid and drying agents.  Lemon juice, lime juice, and gin all have a drying effect on the cake.  If you make that even more acidic, by removing more of the fat, the result will be an almost chewy cheesecake, which is not what we want at all.
*Science End*

A quick word about equipment. For a long time, equipment tended to be the barrier for me trying to make this.  My mom always used the blender, the hand mixer, and a springform pan.  These days I will usually still use a springform pan, but instead of using multiple appliances, I will just use two attachments on my stick blender.  It takes up less space, and there's less to wash at the end.  Other than that, the only potential challenge is cleanly separating eggs to create a foam.

Ramos Fizz Cheesecake

    6-8 large eggs
    8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
    2 cups cottage cheese
    1/2 cup sugar
    3 Tbsp cornstarch

Flavoring
    1 tsp gin
    1/2 tsp lime juice
    1/2 tsp lemon juice
    1/4 tsp orange flower water

  1. Preaheat oven to 300 degrees F.  
  2. Separate enough eggs to make 1/2 cup of egg yolks.  
  3. Combine the egg yolks and cottage cheese, blending until smooth.  
  4. Add the cream cheese, corn starch, and sugar.  Continue to blend until smooth.  
  5. Mix in the flavorings.  
  6. Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.
  7. Fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture gently.
  8. Pour the batter into an ungreased springform pan, and bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour.  When one hour has passed, turn off the oven without opening the oven door and allow to cool in the oven for 1 hour.
  9. Allow to cool to room temperature, and then chill in the refrigerator.
Tips and Recommendations
  • Use a 3 bowl method of separating the eggs.  One for the egg whites, one for the yolks, and one for the egg that you are currently separating.  That way, if a yolk breaks, you only lose one egg, instead of the whole batch.
  • For easier separating, use eggs that are as fresh as possible.  As eggs age, the whites get thicker, and the yolk gets more delicate.  The most recent time I made cheesecake I used some of my farm fresh eggs, and was amazed at how easy it was to separate them.
  • All of the leavening in this recipe comes from the foam created by the egg whites.  That is the most important step.  If you overwhip the egg whites, the foam will collapse, and you will have a puddle in the bottom of the bowl.  This will affect the texture of your final cake.  Beat the egg whites just until the point of stiff peaks.  This means that, if you remove the beater from the egg whites and turn it upside down, the egg foam will stay pointy.
  • Ensure that the bowl that you use for the egg whites is completely clean of fat.  Even if there is a tiny residual drop of dish soap, the egg whites will not create a foam.
  • If using 4 smaller pans instead of a 10 inch pan, cooking time is reduced to 15 minutes, and then the cakes can rest in the oven for 30 minutes.  I have not found an ideal cooking time for cupcake sized cheesecakes at this point.
  • For a basic flavor for cheesecake, you can use 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp almond extract instead of the Ramos Fizz flavorings
  • If you do not have a springform pan: It is still possible to have a successful cake with a normal 10 inch round cake pan.  However, as the cake pan needs to be ungreased, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper (the cake needs to be able to cling to the sides of the pan to help rise).  When taking the cake out of the pan, insert a knife at the edge of the cake and run it all around the edge to separate it from the wall of the pan, and then gently turn out onto a plate.  It's trickier, but can still work. Just remember that it is a very delicate cake, and while it would still taste the same when broken, it would still be sad.

Final Analysis

Financial Outlay: The ingredients aren't very expensive.  It is even possible to make this without special equipment, although I personally would not choose to foam egg whites by hand.  It is much easier with a springform pan, but I've made it work in the past without one.  It is just trickier.

Time: For a full sized cheesecake, it will be in the oven for 2 hours.  So it does take longer than a normal "floured" cake.  The prep, however, doesn't take much more time than making a cake out of a box.  It's not a last minute cake, but it's also a cheesecake, so there is no time spent frosting it either.

Quality: The quality is amazing.  Of course, I may be biased.  People will be amazed if you tell them there is only 1/2 cup of sugar in the entire cake.  The quote from a bartender friend of mine after I gave her a mini cheesecake was "Wow, it's like you make pot brownies, but with cocktails!"  As a note, with only a teaspoon of gin in an entire 10 inch cake, there is no way for anyone to get drunk off the cake.

Fun: I find a certain satisfaction in properly dealing with the egg whites.  From getting the eggs separated without breaking yolks, to the brief moment of fear (every single time) that the egg whites won't foam, to getting the whites whipped to just the right consistency.  Then, of course, is the best part.  Eating a cheesecake that doesn't make you feel like you ate a brick, plus is less than half the calories of a Cheesecake Factory cheesecake.

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