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Chef Jonathon Sawyer's Seniors Cheesecake

When I was working for Michael Symon as the chef de cuisine at Parea in NYC, I lived just off Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. There were many nights that I would get off the train and pop into Junior's on my way home for a quick late-night bite. After a while, this became a ritual for me, and I literally got to the point that I couldn't fall asleep at night with out first eating a piece of their famous cheesecake.

Making the cheese for this recipe is super-easy. In my first Iron Chef battle, we were able to adapt and execute this recipe in the 60-minute time constraint, season it, and then use it to fill ravioli. Once you make this, you'll never purchase ricotta again. Take it from me, it's simply cheaper to make your own tasty version. (And this recipe yields about 2 pounds.) After you make the ricotta, save the whey, the liquid left over after the curds have been separated out of the cheese, for baking, marinades, brines, kefir and many other uses.

My love affair with cheesecake continues to this day. Here's my iteration of Junior's dessert! - Jonathon Sawyer

How to Make


House-Made Ricotta


  • 2/3 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 Eggs, plus 6 Egg Yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 Tsp White Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 Tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 Tsp Grated Nutmeg
  • Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon
  • Macerated fresh fruit for serving.

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 1 Cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
  • 1/4 Cup Crumbled Gingersnap Cookies
  • 1 Tsp All-Purpose Flour
  • Pinch of Kosher Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
  • 5 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, Melted


To make the Graham Cracker Crust:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the graham cracker crumbs, gingersnaps, flour, salt and granulated sugar. With the mixer at low speed, drizzle in the melted butter to bind the ingredients. Spread the mixture in a 10" to 12" springform pan, pushing and packing in with your hands.
  3. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

To make the Ricotta:

  1. In a large stainless-steel saucepan over high heat, combine the Smith's Milk and Smith's Heavy Cream and bring to a simmer, 5 to 10 minutes. Use an instant-read thermometer to ensure that the temperature stays at or near 190 F. Then, turn the heat to low, add the vinegar and salt, and let simmer, stirring continuously and gently, until the milk curdles, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the curds and whey sit and separate.
  2. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and set over a bowl.
  3. After at least 30 minutes, and no longer than 60 minutes, pour the mixture into the prepared strainer and let strain, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 24 hours. (Strained ricotta will keep in an airtight, non-reactive container, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks. The whey will keep in an airtight, non-reactive container, refrigerated for up to 3 months.)

To make the Cheesecake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 F.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat together the sugar, flour, eggs and egg yolk on medium-low speed until combined. Add the vinegar, vanilla, salt, nutmeg, lemon zest and lemon juice and continue to beat to incorporate. Then, add the ricotta and beat until evenly combined.
  3. Pour the batter into the cooled crust. Wrap the outside of the springform pan with aluminum foil and place in a large roasting pan. Place the roasting pan (with the springform pan in it) on the oven rack and pour warm water into the roasting pan until it reaches three-fourths of the way up the springform pan. The aluminum foil will keep the water from seeping into the pan. Carefully push the oven rack back into the oven.
  4. Bake until the cheesecake slightly jiggles in the very center when it's gently shaken, about 45 minutes. Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and let cool to room temperature; then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 week. Remove the sides of the pan.
  5. Slice the cheesecake into wedges and serve garnished with macerated fruit.


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