Ricotta (and grandma) mon amour

[scorrete in basso per la versione in italiano]

I’m actually not a big fan of baked cheesecake, I prefer the fresh, creamy taste of the raw version, especially if topped with some sort of sour fruit  …(you got it, I’m the only pastry chef in the world that prefers sour rather than sweet taste 😉 ) .

But, guess what: in Italy,we have our own kind of baked cheesecake..and that one, I LOVE.

This is a classic grandma’s recipe that will never disappoint you when you crave something sweet, which in my case is basically all the time. And because ricotta is actually a pretty low fat cheese, we can even pretend that it’s healthy! Well, now tell me that this is not a win-win situation! 

Because it is supposed to be light, I like to add some chocolate to it, (I don’t want to go TOO healthy after all), but if chocolate is not your thing, although I doubt we can ever be friends (LOL-kidding), you can just use lemon or orange zest…or even candied fruit can work really well.

I use real chocolate, and not chocolate chips, because it stays gooey even when the cake gets cold, because I like big chunks of it and it tends to be less sweet (again..), but it’s your choice!

Ok, time for the recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 500 gr. ricotta cheese
  • 250 gr. sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • the grains of 2 vanilla beans, or a teaspoon real vanilla powder (the black stuff)
  • the zest of 1 big lemon
  • 170 gr. milk *
  • 150/200 gr. roughly chopped chocolate (I initially weighed 200 gr. but I think I ate about 50 gr. by the time I cut it all…)
  • 1 full teaspoon baking powder
  • 250 gr. plain flour
  • a pinch of salt

Method:

Start by lining a 20 cm. cake tin with baking paper.

Always remember that, for cakes, the ingredients always work best at room temperature.

In this case, I didn’t leave the ricotta out of the fridge for too long, but I did make sure that all the rest of the ingredients were at room temperature.

In a big bowl, mix the ricotta with the sugar, the vanilla, the lemon zest and the salt.

If you are using vanilla beans, scrape the grains and mix them with the cheese, then infuse the beans in the milk, filter and cool down to room temperature.

Add the eggs one at the time, mixing with a whisk. Add the milk and the flour sifted together with the baking powder.

Pour into the tin and bake at 180°C for about 1 hour. If you see that the surface gets too dark, turn the temperature down to 160°C.

Check that a tooth pick comes out clean when inserted in the centre of the cake.

Leave to cool before cutting. If you cut it while still hot (like I did, no need to tell) you will see that the cake will be very dense at the bottom, just like this:

It is still good, but it definitely gets a more uniform consistency when it cools down. I think the best moment to enjoy it, it’s when it is just warm, and the chocolate is still creamy……oh YUM!

What I like about this cake is that it has got a quite weird consistency due to the high quantity of cheese compared to the amount of flour. It is really moist and  extremely easy to eat.

It is also ideal to prepare individual size fondants, with a creamy  chocolate or fruit heart….but that is another story!

Enjoy and happy baking!

*the amount of milk may vary a little, depending on the ricotta cheese that you have used!

Non sono una grande fan della cheesecake cotta, preferisco il sapore fresco e cremoso di quella cruda, soprattutto se accompagnata da un bel frutto acido …(avete capito bene, sono probabilmente l’unica pasticciera al mondo che preferisce i sapori acidi a quelli dolci 😉 ) .

Ma, pensate un po’, anche noi in Italia abbiamo la nostra versione della cheesecake al forno….e quella, mi piace UN SACCO.

Questa è la classica ricetta della nonna, che non delude mai quando si ha voglia di qualcosa di dolce (nel mio caso quindi, quasi sempre). Oltretutto, la ricotta è un formaggio piuttosto magro, quindi possiamo perfino far finta che questo sia un dolce light! Ora ditemi che non è una situazione vincente sotto tutti i punti di vista!

Visto che dovrebbe essere leggera,ho aggiunto un po’ di cioccolato all’impasto (leggera si, dietetica MAI), ma se il cioccolato non fa per voi, anche se dubito che potremo mai essere amici (LOL-scherzo!) potete usare delle scorze di limone o arancia oppure anche dei canditi vanno benissimo.

Io ho usato una vera tavoletta di cioccolato, perchè trovo più gradevole la consistenza anche quando è freddo rispetto alle gocce di cioccolato, perchè mi piacciono i pezzettoni grandi e perchè lo trovo meno dolce (di nuovo….) ma a voi la scelta!

Ok, passiamo alla ricetta!

Ingredienti:

  • 500 gr. ricotta
  • 250 gr. zucchero
  • 4 uova
  • i grani di 2 bacche di vaniglia oppure un cucchiaino di vaniglia in polvere (quella nera, non la vanillina!)
  • le zeste di un limone
  • 170 gr. latte*
  • 150/200 gr. cioccolato tagliato grosso (ne ho inizialmente pesato 200 gr. ma credo di averne mangiato più o meno 50 gr. mentre lo tagliavo)
  • 1 bustina di lievito per dolci
  • 250 gr.farina 00
  • un pizzico di sale

Metodo:

Preparate una tortiera di 20 cm di diametro foderandola con carta da forno.

Ricordate sempre che gli ingredienti, quando parliamo di torte, funzionano sempre meglio a temperatura ambiente.

In questo caso, ho evitato di lasciare la ricotta fuori dal frigo per troppo tempo, ma mi sono assicurata che tutti gli altri ingredienti fossero a temperatura ambiente.

In una ciotola, mescolate la ricotta con lo zucchero, gli aromi ed il sale. Se avete deciso di utilizzare delle bacche di vaniglia, unite i grani alla ricotta, e mettete in infusione le bacche nel latte, poi filtrate e fate raffreddare a temperatura ambiente.

Aggiungete le uova, una alla volta, e poi la farina setacciata insieme al lievito.

Versate nella tortiera e infornate a 180°C per un’ora. Se vedete che la superficie si scurisce troppo durante la cottura, abbassate il forno a 160°C.

Controllate che un stuzzicadenti esca pulito ed asciutto se inserito al centro della torta.

Fate raffreddare prima di tagliare. Se la tagliate quando è ancora calda (come ho fatto io, chiaramente), vedrete che sul fondo sarà molto densa.

Va comunque bene, ma la struttura diventa più uniforme quando si fredda. Il momento migliore per mangiarla, secondo me, è da tiepida, quando il cioccolato all’interno è ancora cremoso.

Quello che mi piace molto di questa torta è la consistenza particolare, data dalla grande quantità di formaggio rispetto alla farina. E’ molto umida e veramente facile da mangiare.

E’ anche ideale per preparare delle mono porzioni con il cuore fondente di cioccolato o frutta…ma questo è un altro capitolo!

Buon appetito e happy baking!

*la quantità di latte puo’ variare leggemente a seconda della ricotta che utilizzerete!

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Happy birthday – happy husband

My husband turned 38  yesterday!

Of course I made super cool plans to celebrate during the weekend, and of course I had to change them last minute.

I had this idea for a cake, but instead than making it in 3 days as planned, I had to improvise and do it in 1 afternoon.

Ok so, the lesson here is “NEVER MAKE A CAKE WHEN YOU ARE IN RUSH”. And when you do anyway, in that funny moment when you hate the world and you feel like throwing the whole thing from the window…just remember that I actually told you so!

And that is exactly what I said to myself while the little evil cake was collapsing here, there and everywhere….I TOLD YOU SO!

Well, let’s start from the end: the result.

It was supposed to be an iced cake, but as you probably know if you like to make decorated cakes, to cut and fill  with ganache a cake that has just being baked is like mission impossible!

I  just like to be honest: some cakes are a big mess..this definitely was for me, and although it was far from being straight after I finished it, I have to admit I’m pretty proud with how I managed an almost guaranteed disaster, and I can also say that it was super delicious: caramel mud cake, with milk chocolate ganache and caramelized pecan nuts with sea salt. Believe me when I say YUM. Most importantly, I made my husband happy, and considering how happy he makes me….it’s the biggest satisfaction!

So here is a little recipe for the next time you decide to caramelize nuts:

Ingredients: 

  • 175 gr. sugar
  • 55 gr. water
  • 500 gr. nuts of your choice
  • a touch of butter (optional)
  • sea salt (optional)

Method:

Cook the water and sugar together. When the syrup reaches a temperature of 116°C  add the nuts (roughly chopped gives a better result). At this stage the sugar will cool down and will look really funny. Don’t panic, keep cooking and don’t forget to stir all the time. Cook until the caramel gets a nice dark colour. At this point add a tiny piece of butter: this will make them shiny and easier to separate. Sprinkle with sea salt if you want.

Pour on a sheet of baking paper and let cool.

Eat like there’s no tomorrow and no such thing called diet 🙂

Mio marito ha compiuto 38 anni ieri!

Naturalmente avevo un piano fantasticoper festeggiare durante il weekend, e naturalmente ho dovuto cambiarlo all’ultimo minuto.

Avevo in testa questa idea per una torta, ma invece di realizzarla in tre giorni come da programma, mi è toccato improvvisare, e fare tutto in un pomeriggio.

Ok, la lezione del giorno è questa: ” MAI PREPARARE UNA TORTA QUANDO ANDATE DI FRETTA”. E quando lo farete comunque, nell’inevitabile momento in cui odierete tutto il mondo e vorrete buttare tutto dalla finestra, ricordatevi che io ve l’avevo detto!

Ed è esattamente quello che mi sono detta ieri, mentre la piccola diabolica torta in questione collassava a destra e a sinistra…. TE L’AVEVO DETTO IO!

Doveva essere una torta decorata in pasta di zucchero, ma come probabilmente saprete, se anche voi preparate torte del genere, tagliare e farcire di ganache una torta che è da poco uscita dal forno è praticamente una missione impossibile!

Bisogna essere onesti: certe torte, sono davvero un gran casino…questa lo è stata per me, e anche se, una volta finita, era tutto fuorchè dritta, devo ammettere che sono molto fiera di essere riuscita a salvare un disastro quasi assicurato, e devo anche dire che il risultato è stato davvero delizioso: mud cake al caramello, con ganache al cioccolato al latte e noci pecan caramellate con fior di sale.

Credetemi quando dico SLURP! La cosa più importante è che mio marito è stato felice, e, considerato quando lui rende felice me, mi sembra la più grande ricompensa.

Ecco una piccola ricetta per la prossima volta che vi verrà in mente di preparare delle noci caramellate.

Ingredienti:

  • 175 gr. zucchero
  • 55 gr. acqua
  • 500 gr. noci a scelta (nocciole, mandorle, noci di macadamia ecc.)
  • un fiocco di burro (facoltativo)
  • fior di sale (facoltativo)

Metodo:

Cuocete lo zucchero e l’acqua insieme. Quando lo sciroppo sarà ad una temperatura di 116 °C aggiungete le noci (preferibilmente tagliate grossolanamente). A questo punto lo zucchero si raffredderà e assumerà un aspetto preoccupante. Niente panico, continuate a cuocere, e non dimenticatevi di mescolare continuamente. Cuocete il tutto finchè il caramello non assumerà un bel colore intenso. Ora aggiungete un fiocco di burro, questo renderà le noci lucide e più facili da separare. Aggiungete un pizzico di fior di sale, se avete deciso di usarlo.

Versate su un foglio di carta da forno e lasciate raffreddare.

Mangiate, come se non ci fosse un domani e non esistesse quella strana cosa chiamata DIETA 🙂

 

 

 

Shades

My first parisian cake has been delivered on saturday…..I’m so happy!

My friend Silvia and I have been having this project in mind for quite a while: we have been discussing the possibility to put together european taste and american/british look, and this was the first time we had the chance to try all the things we had imagined….and it worked!

Here is the result:Image

We made the cake for a guy with very high standards in matter of food (oh right, I’m in Paris!) so he asked for no artificial looking colours and a “french” sort of approach for what concerned the taste.

So we came up with a chocolate mud cake enriched in water for a lighter consistency (and in butter..you know, for the french taste), filled with a chocolate and hazelnut croustillant, a thin layer of dark chocolate ganache and a vanilla chantilly.

For the decorations we used three different variations of chocolate chantilly and finished with a vanilla one….Yes, it was pretty amazing!

I’m so happy with the result and mostly with the fact that the two of us together can learn so much from each other!

I bet our friends and friends of friends are going to put on a lot of weight in the next few months…and yes, it would totally be our fault!

A moveable feast

I spent a few days in Paris for a job trial (yes, there’s going to be BIG news soon)..and when in Paris one MUST find the time to eat desserts. And chocolates. And cake. And croissants. Unfortunately I have been really busy with the job and I was waking up at 1.30 am (and believe me, that definitely didn’t help) but I still found the time for a thing or two.

This time I even went to check an “english style” cake shop.  I had coffee and cake.. (sorry for the poor quality of the picture).

Yes, it was ok (the decorated cakes were actually really really beautiful) but, you know, I just had to run to stuff my face with chocolates from Patrick Roger.

If you don’t know Patrick Roger, here is what you need to know: 

He is amazing. And if you are not convinced yet, well maybe you need to take a look at this:

I’m sure by now you’re in love. If you like surprising stuff, Patrick Roger is not only amazingly talented, but also totally nuts! So he will surprise you every now and then with a new chocolate sculpture in the window. This time it was hippos, in november it was a gorilla..but such a cool one, I wanted to bring it home with me and hug it.

Last thing you need to know about Patrick Roger is that the staff there is so nice, you want to bring them too back home to hug them.

Next stop was a calorie refill at La Pâtisserie des Rêves:

I think I don’t need to add much more to this picture!! We had hot chocolate and hazelnut praline, Paris- Brest ( amazing),Saint-Honoré (ridiculously good), and a selection of marshmallows ( baby  eau de cologne to give you an example).

Passing by, we stopped by the Patisserie Viennoise

but to be honest it only was because our dinner destination was just in front:

I’m so glad our friends recommend this place! We had galettes (buckwheat crêpes) and cider and they were so good…..SO good!!!

Next time I’ll show you some other amazing pastry shops in Paris, stay tuned and eat more cake!!!

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
Ernest HemingwayA Moveable Feast

Up in the sky!

This week I had a request for a chocolate cake for a 6 months old baby girl.

I was sked to make  something with lots of chocolate and lots of pink so this is where I started from: 

White chocolate cake and vanilla bean dark chocolate ganache (lots of it!)..

First I covered the cake in ganache and smooth it really well, as this shape is the one you will see after the cake is covered in fondant (imperfections included). Also, the smoother the ganache the less chance to get air bubbles…the enemy!

At this point the cake looked like this:

I covered it in sugar fondant and finished the second tier, a styrofoam one.

The cake was ordered by the best friend of the parents, who wanted them to keep a memory of this present, so in this case there is nothing better than a styrofoam top tier: the figurines also dry hard and it can last for ages!

Then I let everything set hard overnight….tadaaaaan! this is the final result!

The day after I have applied the balloons, piped the clouds and painted the foot prints.

After a few hours I have painted the clouds in pearl white and brushed the baloons with piping gel to make them shiny (you can’t actually see it on this picture).

Then I finally inserted the baby elephant figurine..

All done!! I had such a great time making this cake, I hope they will enjoy it too!

Do you like it?