Saturday, January 05, 2008

Rich Ricotta Torta, just one more sweet treat

Well, I shall attempt yet again to post this recipe one more time!
They say that the third time is the charm, we shall see. It's looking like the 4th time is the charm today. Thank goodness, "La Befana" arrives tonight, so I still have time to squeeze in another holiday treat.
I wanted to add this recipe as it has been such a hit lately, disappearing before I was able to get a picture of it in it's entirety. A good sign that I'm not the only one that likes it, indeed.
It has been one of my favorite Italian cakes even though I am not a huge cake fan having made so many over the years, that I am a bit weary of cakes and this time of year I'm about overdosed on sugar also, but it is a festive cake and not so sweet that it can be versatile enough for breakfast or dinner. That is one quality of Italians, and there are many others, that warms a pastry chef's heart, and that quality is that Italians will eat almost anything sweet in the morning. Be it last nights thick and gooey chocolate cake, brioche, cookies or cheese cake, all are fair game for breakfast, at least according to my husband and mother in law. It's nice to know that anything that was good enough for last night's dessert is good enough for this mornings breakfast. She said that even Fabrizio's father ate all of it the other morning. This is a very traditional man that is very clear about his taste in cuisine, traditional Piemontese or niente(nothing)! Well, maybe not that cut and dried, but purt near!
Try to use the best quality of ricotta as you find. The fresh ricotta still weeping water from the forms they use here when they display them in in the market attests to their freshness. Fresh ricotta is an incredible treat of silky smoothness and subtle flavor.
I make my own candied orange peel, as it is simple to do and usually I don't have any when I want to make this cake. I usually just peel the skin off in 4 quarter pieces after I cut a line around the skin and boil the peels, 20-30 minutes(longer if you really want them more candied) in a simple syrup of 2 parts sugar to one water, just to cover. I let them set in their own syrup and store in the refrigerator. They will last longer, the longer you candy them, by cooking the syrup down. I use them up fairly quickly as a garnish some times and the syrup as a light cake or fruit glaze and a splash in fresh fruit salad to perk things up.
Torta Ricci di Ricotta

50 g butter, softened
200 g sugar
2 eggs
250-300 g ricotta, highest quality you can find

50 g candied orange peel, chopped into small cubes
50-100 g dark chocolate, chopped into smallish pieces
I actually use about 100 g as I love a bit more chocolate
50 g sultana or raisins, soaked for at least 20-30 minutes in
shot of Brandy, or enough to cover the dried fruit,
if you're in a hurry, heat the brandy to warm not boil,
add the fruit, it will absorb faster or let them set overnight
2 tsp vanilla, optional, I usually make it without as I think it masks the brandy

200 g pastry flour
1 TB baking powder or one bustina of baking powder that we find here in Italy

pinch salt

I mix the whole recipe by hand as I don't think the cake benefits from using a mixer.
Cream your butter with the sugar with a flat whisk till fluffy.
Add the ricotta and mix well.
Continue mixing, add the eggs.
Then add the chocolate, orange peel and raisins with the brandy and mix thoroughly.
Add the flour and baking soda.
Blend gingerly till just incorporated and no flour clumps are lurking.
Pour into a well greased pan and bake in a 325* oven, till it just springs back, 30 -45 minutes depending on your oven type.
I often use a 10' removable bottom pan and recently used a bundt pan with excellent results, especially for presentation.
Garnish with fresh orange or clementine slices shined up with a dab of simple syrup, maybe even a shake or two of powdered sugar.
Serve warm and see how fast it disappears or room temperature. Best served that day, but will keep over night as well.

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