Torta di ricotta

29 Jan


I have a wonderful memory of once eating the best `torta di ricotta’ ever. It was in Tuscany (Italy) and during a boy-scout camp. We went visiting a zoo or a park, the memory is a bit vague, and there was a little bar on the side of this place and there I took a slice of this amazing ricotta cake (no wonder any other memory of that day was blown off my mind). In any case, from that day ricotta cake has a special place in my heart and this is one of the (likely numerous) attempts I will make to try get to find the same type of torta di ricotta.

I have tried a torta di ricotta already. I found the recipe on the back of a ricotta package from Galbani. That recipe was not so interesting or tasty to deserve a whole post. The one I would like to talk about is actually my interpretation of a recipe that Marleen found. We bumped into this recipe because we had bought 1.5Kg of ricotta and it needed to be used. I was bored of mixing it with salty food (e.g., pasta, lasagne, filled pasta, etc.) even if there are plenty of way in which ricotta can be mixed with anything. This time I wanted to make a cake, therefore we opened the great wide internet and we start browsing for pictures of ricotta. When Marleen’s saw the picture of the blog of Chef Dennis ( she said I had to make that torta di ricotta, and I tried.

The first attempt I did exactly what Chef Dennis suggested and the ricotta cake became nice. However, I was a bit disappointed because the final result did not justify the amount of work necessary to make the cake. In fact, the dough is very difficult to manage, that is, only preparing the dough so that I could put in the filling took me around an hour. I can always blame such a long time to my incompetence or to the fact that it was the first time I tried it, but I was disappointed. Marleen also was not very enthusiastic. In essence, we both liked the cake, but I was pondering whether there was an easier way to make the cake, whereas Marleen was more of the opinion that repeating such recipe was not an effort which I should have endeavored again.

So I tried it again (this is because I like to listen to other people advice ;-)). However, this time I took what I thought were the best elements of Chef Dennis’s recipe and adapted it to make the dough a little bit more easy to work than the original recipe of Chef Dennis.

For the dough I made the `simplified’ version of the Italian pasta frolla. I call it the simplified version because I do in the kitchen machine and I am not literally following all the instruction of the bible, which is ‘La cucina italiana’. For the ingredient I took half of the quantities suggest by the book: 175g of flour, 75g of ground almond, 100 of sugar, one table spoon of baking powder, one sachet of vanilla sugar (in NL it contains 8g), the zest of a lemon and a pinch of salt. I let the machine mix this stuff together and then I added 75g of butter in small cubes and 2 eggs (also with the egg white, which makes the dough drier). I mix everything again for a minute or something and if the dough is not all forming in a block I add 1 to 3 table spoons of water until it starts to become more compact. This procedure, in my opinion, makes the dough a bit more manageable when you need to flatten it or make the borders of the cake. I think I then let it rest in the fridge for almost 1.5 days, mostly because I did not have the time to work it rather than because it needed all that time (Note that, however, according to Artusi living the pasta frolla in the fridge for longer interval is better because it makes it more friable).

For the filling I did exactly what Chef Dennis did, so I am not going to describe it. I even made the ricotta the way he describes it. The only difference is that I could not use his ‘double-boiler technique’ because with the double boiler I could not get the milk temperature above 70 Celsius deg. Therefore I placed the pan directly on the fire, but the ricotta became also in this way and I do not know whether there is a difference between the two ways of cooking it. I do tend to prefer what works for me though. On another note, this procedure yield a superdry type of ricotta which is MAGNIFICENT to use as a filling in filled pasta).

In conclusion this second time it all worked out, and now I’m spending the four-hours-waiting time before we can finally determine whether we will ever make this recipe again. The procedure was helped by the fact that the dough was easier to work with than the dough I got following Chef Dennis’s recipe. However, especially covering the cake is a bit of a delicate process and a yet even less crumbly dough than this one will make the process easier than it is. However, note that a yet more manageable dough than this one might yield a less crunchy cake than this. Anyway, with a spatula which is large enough to lift almost all the cover it was not overcomplicated. I also used a little trick to make all the cracks disappear before baking it. I took a little water mixed with a little sugar (e.g. 1 tablespoon each) and brush it on top of the cake;s cover… all the cracks seemed to be gone.

The time has almost come, will a bite of the cake blow our minds off?


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