Italian Wheat Berry Chocolate Chip Cheesecake
This lattice-topped pie is a left-handed relative to a traditional Italian Cheesecake. It is served in the spring around Easter, but, take it from me, it is great anytime. The wheat berries and Fiori di Sicilia are what gives this special dessert its unique flavor. If you must, you can substitute the Fiori di Sicilia with orange-flower water. You can usually find Fiori di Sicilia in specialty baking stores and catalogues. Orange-flower water can be found in the ethnic food section in most supermarkets.
Makes one 9-inch cake, serves 10
Ingredients for the Filling
1/2 Cup Hulled Soft Wheat Berries (1/4 Pound)
2 Cups Whole Milk
1 Stick (1/2 Cup) Unsalted Butter, Cut Into 1/2-inch Cubes
1 1/2 Tablespoons Fresh Orange Zest
2 Teaspoons Fresh Lemon Zest
2 Cups Ricotta Cheese, Mashed
4 Large Eggs, Lightly Beaten, Room Temperature
2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Tablespoons Fiori di Sicilia
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
½ Cup Candied Orange Peel, Finely Chopped
Ingredients for the Pastry Dough
3 Cups All-purpose Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 Sticks (3/4 Cup) Unsalted Butter, Softened
1 Cup Confectioners’ Sugar
1 Large Egg
2 Large Egg Yolks
1 Teaspoon Fiori di Sicili
1 Tablespoon Fresh Orange Rind
Soak the Wheat Berries for the Filling:
1. Cover the wheat berries with cold water in a bowl; soak, covered and chilled, at least 12 hours or better yet overnight.
2. Drain in a sieve and rinse with cold water.
Chef’s Note: In a pinch I have used a pressure cooker to soak and cook the berries in about an hour.
While the Berries Are Soaking, Make the Dough:
1. Sift together the flour, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Cream the butter and confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Beat in the whole egg, yolks, Fiori di Sicilia, and rind until smooth.
4. Reduce the speed to low, and then add the flour mixture and mix until just barely incorporated.
5. Gather the dough into a ball (it will be soft) and quarter. Form one quarter of the dough into a 3-inch disk, and then form the remaining three quarters (together) into a 6-inch disk. Chill the disks, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.
The dough can be held refrigerated for a day or two. Bring to the dough to room temperature before rolling out.
Finish the Filling:
1. Cover the soaked berries the cold milk in a 2-quart saucepan and simmer, covered, until the wheat berries are tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and discard the milk, then transfer to a bowl and stir in the butter and zests.
2. Cool completely before using, about 15 minutes.
3. Beat the ricotta, eggs, sugar, Fiori di Sicilia and cinnamon until smooth.
4. Fold in the chocolate chips and orange peel in a large bowl, and then stir in the wheat berry mixture.
Assemble & Bake the Cake:
1. Put the oven rack in lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350ºF.
2. Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan.
3. Roll out the larger disk of the dough into a 14-inch round on floured parchment paper with a floured rolling pin.
4. Using your rolling pin to transport the rolled dough, place the dough into the springform pan, pressing the dough all the way up side to the rim of the pan (the dough might crack a bit—don’t worry, it’s easy to patch any cracks). Chill until cold, about 20 minutes.
5. Roll out the remaining dough into a 10-inch round. Cut the dough into 1/2-inch wide strips and place on a sheet of parchment paper and refrigerate.
6. Carefully spoon the filling into the chilled pie crust (filling will not reach the top).
7. Arrange the dough strips parallel to each other on the filling (1 inch apart), pressing the ends of the strips into the crust. If the dough becomes too soft to handle, chill until firm again.
8. Arrange other strips diagonally over the first ones to form a lattice. Fold the edge of the crust over the ends of the lattice strips, pressing to seal.
9. Brush the top crust with egg wash.
10. Bake until the pastry is golden and the filling is puffed and set, about 1 1/4 hours. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.
11. Run the blade of a thin knife around the edges of the cake and remove the collar of the springform pan. Cool the cake completely on the rack for about 2 hours.
The cake can be baked 1 day ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then covered and held in a refrigerator. Bring the cheesecake to room temperature before serving.