Thursday, August 19, 2010

recipe: chocolate ricotta tart (and making your own ricotta)

I went to a friend's house for dinner the other night, and got to thinking that maybe we both wished for fall. It's not that I'm totally over summer - I just love the changing of the seasons, and I do love, love, love fall. My friend served the best wild mushroom risotto ever, and I took over this torta ricotta, which, with its walnut crust and rich filling, would work well for a crisp autumn night - which should be here in, oh ... two months.

However, this is an all-season recipe, and it travels well - perfect for parties and picnics. I strapped a Pyrex full of slices onto my bike rack, and they did just fine.

Chocolate ricotta tart
(adapted from Giada De Laurentiis's recipe)

For the crust:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 3/4 cup
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 large egg
For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon amaretto or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese (homemade, or a good full-fat store-bought kind; recipe follows)
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large egg yolks

Blend the flour, cornmeal, 3/4 cup walnuts, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt in a food processor until finely ground. Add the butter and egg and pulse, just until the dough forms. Press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of an 11-inch-diameter tart pan with a removable bottom. Refrigerate until the dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Prick the dough all over with a toothpick or cake tester - bottom and sides. Bake the tart shell in the lower third of the oven until just set, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

Combine the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cool the sugar syrup slightly. Add the amaretto or extract.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds.

Pulse the ricotta cheese and cream cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add the egg and egg yolks, 1 at a time, and process until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and process until combined. With the machine running, add the sugar syrup in a thin steady stream and process until smooth.

Pour the custard into the tart shell and bake until the filling is set but the center still jiggles slightly, about 25 minutes. Let the tart cool completely before serving; serve at room temperature.

This would be great with raspberry sauce or whipped cream.

Ricotta Cheese
(Adapted from The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg)
Ricotta cheese is really easy to make at home, and tastes a lot better than store-bought.
  • 3 quarts low-fat milk
  • 3 drops lemon juice
  • 1/2 pound unflavored yogurt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
Pour the milk into a bowl or a plastic container, and add the lemon juice. Cover, and refrigerate for about 24 hours.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in the yogurt and salt. Transfer to a large stockpot. Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a boil, and boil for two minutes. A thick layer of curds should form on top.

Remove from heat. Line a mesh sieve with cheesecloth, and strain mixture, reserving the whey (liquid) in a bowl.

Spread the curds to cool on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Separate the curds as much as possible by rubbing them between your hands.

When the curds have cooled, place them in a bowl, and stir in the cream and 1/4 cup of the reserved whey.

Can be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to two weeks.


  1. The tart got two big thumbs up next door as well!

  2. Gah! This post needs a warning to dieters! YUM!!