This is one of my favorite crostata cakes with ricotta cheese and chocolate. Plenty of chocolate, definitely. A lot of chocolate chips, yes, this my is masterpiece! I do adore it, I want to share it with you as my most precious piece of jewelry.
Do you want to give someone a special present? This is the right recipe.
The story of this cake dates back in time. I used to work as a freshly graduated pharmacist in a very big pharmacy where I try to do my best and satisfy all my clients’ needs. It was always very crowded: over three hundred clients a day and five pharmacists to manage. You know, it was a very varied work: from simple disorders to serious health problems to solve and give advice- from selling a baby bottle to a desperate father, to teaching an old gramps how to use vaselina bandages: they cannot be sucked but they are treatments for ulcers of the legs. Well, let’s say it was a challenging, wonderful, useful job.
I have a different job now, I run my own business, I am ambitious so I didn’t want to spend all my professional life without improving my skills, I needed new challenges, so I took up studying again and I achieved my target, a second degree (now I am a nutritionist). In my free time, I deal with something which may become a second job: I take advantages of the chemistry I studied at university and I write about typical Italian recipes for those who want to grapple with Italian food.
Anyway, that’s not the crux. The story of the this recipe comes from a very funny tale.
Among the countless customers who frequented the pharmacy, a weird lady from Naples was quite usual. She was lively, full of energy and had the same sharp voice of a soprano. I could hear her when she was two block far away; her voice was so high she could break the sound barrier.
She went on speaking for hours; you know, in Northern Italy people are shy, reserved, placid, polite. Everyone is used to talking quietly, laughing composedly, getting red but they never say anything but necessary. That lady was the extreme contrary and everyone noticed her. One afternoon I had to deal with her: she entered and, in the middle of the crowded pharmacy, she shouted out: “Please Doctor, can you help me? In this prescription I have been told I have to take one suppository a day. I have been taking it with a glass of water, I can swallow it pretty well, but I can’t digest it, what should I do?”.
Imagine…my embarrassment…I was freshly graduated: I had to explain her how to use suppositories properly.
Well, my explanation was so successful that the lady could get rid of her stomachache in a few hours. She was happy and thanked me with a super scrumptious cake, but she didn’t let me know the recipe. It was too toothsome to give up, so I tried over and over again until I got the right combination of the ingredients.
Ricotta cheese and dark chocolate chips are the main actors of the recipes. Nothing special, but very special at the same time: it resembles Sicilian cannolo.
It is a “cooked” cake, it looks like a cheesecake, but it isn’t! A crunchy crust which enshrines a tender core. It looks like a Neapolitan Pastiera cake, but it isn’t.
Well, you have to taste it, to make sure about its delicious taste.
The ingredients for this delicacy:
- Sheep ricotta cheese: soft, embracing, sweetish, it makes this cake perfect. Opt for extra fresh ricotta: it must be as white as snow; no yellowish spots. Drain it, otherwise your cake will get too watery. If you can’t find sheep ricotta cheese, opt for delicate cow’s milk one added with milk cream, or a mix of 400g of ricotta and 100g of cream;
- Chocolate drops: I usually buy very small ones because they combine better with the crostata stuffing;
- Vanilla flavor: I opt for vanilla powder, but vanilla beans make this cake ever more irresistible. Open the pods and scrap them with a sharp knife carefully. Don’t waste anything, it is very precious.
- Orange blossom extract: it is a small vial of especially scented water. It is a secondary product which comes from the distillation of the essential orange blossom oil. At the end of the distillation process the liquid comes into two phases: the watery one which lays on the bottom as it is heavier, and an oily one which lays on the top as it is lighter. Before using it, shake properly in order to combine the two phases evenly. Be careful with the quantity: a 2ml vial flavor 1 kg of batter. Only a few drops are needed for your cake.
- Shortcrust pastry: it takes hard work to prepare it, because it looks easy (actually it is), but sometimes it gets tricky. In case, you are in a hurry and you want a perfect cake, buy it. Anyway, homemade pastry from simple and healthy ingredients is definitely better.
What if you can’t find orange blossom extract?
Replace with grated orange zest: use the peel of a half of organic orange. It will give the cake a pleasantly fresh scent, and balance the tae of the cheese if you don’t like it very much.
I have only a chocolate bar, what should I do?
Cut it into coarse pieces they will fit perfectly!
I don’t like chocolate, how should I replace it ?
So, opt for candied fruit such as candied citrus, orange, or cedar peel. Coarsely chopped candied cherries fit this cake too: it will resemble the genuine Sicilian cassata, one of the most traditional delicacies of Southern Italy.
I find it difficult to make shortcrust pastry, what should I do?
It looks simple, …but it is not as easy as a pice of cake”! A few hints:
- If the dough falls apart, add very little cold water or the remaining cold egg white; the dough will immediately get more compact and elastic;
- The shortbread results too dry: when you prepare it next time, add a pinch of baking powder:
- You can’t roll out the dough easily: use a rolling pin to roll it between two sheets of parchment paper; you won’t break it;
- Take your time because shortbread must refrigerate for at least 40 minutes; the dough will get compact, hard, and easy to roll;
- If the dough has refrigerated too much, quickly knead it again (without warming it too much) and then roll;
- When you roll the dough, do not use too much flour because it will make the surface of the cake gray and opaque;
- The latice pattern is not only a nice decoration, but it prevents the jam from burning when the cake is in the oven; a regular pattern will guarantee an even baking;
- If you can’t make strips because the dough falls apart, you may also cut the dough into nice shapes with a cookie cutter; the decoration and the baking will be perfect as well;
- Prick the dough with the tongs of a fork before spreading the filling to prevent it from swelling;
- Some dough has left: wrap it into cling film and refrigerate or freeze it up to a month.
Orange blossom scented crostata cake with ricotta cheese and chocolate
For the shortcrust pastry
- 270 gr flour type 00
- 3 egg yolks
- 100 gr butter
- 100 gr white caster sugar
- half tsp vanilla scented baking powder
For the filling
- 500 gr sheep ricotta cheese (o 50% of sheep and 50% of cow’s milk)
- 125 gr chocolate chips
- 1 egg XL
- 1/2 vail orange blossom extract
- 1 tsp powdered vanilla or a vanilla pod
- 100 gr white caster sugar
- powdered sugar to garnish
- First, prepare the shortcrust bread: soften the butter at room temperature, or in the microwave (be careful not to melt it);
- In big mixing bowl put the egg yolks, the sugar, and the coarsely diced butter. Work fast until a grainy texture;
- Add the flour and combine until an even dough;
- Use a spoon or your hands, but try not to warm the dough too much;
- Wrap it into cling film and refrigerate for 2 hours;
- In the meanwhile, prepare the ricotta filling
- Drain the ricotta to eliminate all the whey;
- Then combine ricotta, sugar and egg;
- Add orange blossom, powdered vanilla or pod; mix until even and smooth;
- Add chocolate chips and combine well;
- Refrigerate for about 2 hours;
- When the resting time is over take the dough out of the fridge and knead it;
- Take a 20cm round baking pan with 4cm high sides;
- Roll out the cold dough in two sheets of parchment paper;
- Make a 5mm thick disk which overlaps the baking pan;
- Place it onto the baking pan covering the bottom and the sides;
- Trim of the overlapping edges and make a ball and use it to garnish;
- Prick the dough with the tong of a fork;
- Evenly spread the filling
- Bend the edges over as a kind of cuff;
- Roll the extra dough, cut it into 2cm wide stripes and create a latice finish; seal the edges with the fingers;
- Refrigerate for 20 minutes;
- Pre-heat the static oven at 180°C (356°F) and bake for about 45 minutes;
- Turn off and let the cake rest in the closed oven for about 10 minutes;
- Open the oven door and let the cake cool down;
- When completely cold, generously sprinkle with powdered sugar.