Lemon, Ricotta and Almond Cake

There are so many versions of Lemon and Ricotta cake out there that I was reticent about adding another. This one, I can assure you, will go straight into the hand written sepia toned exercise book that I reserve for very good cakes. The recipe includes 4 lemons, and the batter is lightened by 6 eggs, the whites whipped and folded through at the end. It is an expensive cake but then it serves around 10 people, or two greedy people who eat it every day for dessert and afternoon tea. When served hot, it resembles a lemon delicious pudding. When served cold, it becomes more like a lemon cheesecake. It also keeps well. In summer, store the cake in a container in the fridge. Buonissimo e Molto Siciliano.                                         l

Torta di Limone, Ricotta e Mandorle,  Lemon, Ricotta and Almond Cake

Ingredients

  • 250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 250 g caster sugar
  • 6 free range eggs, separated
  • 250 g almonds, ground
  • 75 g self-raising flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • zest of 5 organic lemons and juice of 4 organic lemons
  • 400 g fresh ricotta

    Lemon, Ricotta and Almond Cake
    Lemon, Ricotta and Almond Cake

Preheat the oven to 180°C (Gas Mark 4).

Butter and paper a 25 cm round springform cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until very light and fluffy. With the motor running, add the egg yolks, one at a time, until all are incorporated.

Combine the ground almonds with the flour, salt and lemon zest. Fold into the batter.

Whisk the lemon juice with the ricotta until light and airy.

Fold into the cake batter.

Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold them carefully into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 50 minutes. Test by inserting a skewer into the cake. It should come out clean when cooked through.

Remove the cake from the oven and turn it out onto a cake rack to cool. It will remain moist for a few days. Store in the fridge in warm weather.

From Four Seasons, Manuela Darling-Gansser, Hardie Grant Books.

And Manuela’s great food and travel blog can be found here.

Rustic Italian Plum Cake

Torta Rustica con Prugne
Torta Rustica con Prugne

Cleaning out the fridge would have to be THE most objectionable of kitchen tasks- a duty better palmed off onto someone else, with generous bribes of unbridledness, or 25,000 frequent flyer points or both. But more often than not, the painful job lands on me. Amongst the buried treasure, wilting vegetables, jars of Chinese sauces past their use by date, half used tubs of mouldy mascarpone and… you know the score…. I found a bag of blood plums, just a little too ripe, but still consumable. Plums are my favourite fruit and I am a little sad when the season comes to an end. This bonanza was my reward. And so was the this lovely Italian inspired cake which soon followed the find.

served with runny cream
Served with runny cream.

Torta Rustica con Prugne. Rustic Italian Plum Cake

  • 400 g plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 300 g caster sugar, plus extra for the top.
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 150 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm
  • 8-10 plums ( blood plums are the best here) halved and stoned

Line the bottom and sides of a 26 cm round springform cake tin with baking paper and butter the paper well.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Combine 300 g caster sugar and the eggs in a bowl and whisk until the mixture is pale and thick ( use a stand mixer for ease or preparation). Fold in the flour mixture and lemon zest in three batches, alternating with the melted butter, beginning and ending with flour.

Spoon half the batter into the prepared tin, and top with the half the plums, cut side up. Smooth the remaining batter on to top and make a topping with the remaining plums, cut side up. Sprinkle with the extra sugar and bake at 180 C/160 C fan oven for 60-70 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove and slide the cake from the bottom, and let cool on the rack completely. Serve in wedges with cream or ice cream. Serves 8 to 10.

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My slightly different version.

It pays to read a recipe well before commencing. Here I have inadvertently shoved all the plums into the centre, rather than layering them. This made for a wonderful red gooey middle. And now that the plum season is over in Australia, I cannot attempt the layered version until this time next year.

From Splendido, The Best of Italian Cooking. Loukie Werle, 2001

Easy Cherry Frangipane Tart. Like a Version.

Those of you, dear friends, who have followed this blog for a while may remember the other versions of my easy frangipane tart. The summer apricot version is extremely popular with readers but the pear version is my favourite in late Autumn. Follow the seasons and try any fresh fruit you fancy.

The cherry rendition follows the same recipe but this time I have used a rectangular fluted baking tin, and added a cherry coulis. The pitting of cherries was a speedy exercise, thanks to a little research and Mr Tranquillo’s nimble hands. The best kitchen gadget for cherry pitting is a plain icing or piping tip- you just push the tip through one end of the cherry and out pops the pip. The alternative, but a little slower, is the pointed end of a chopstick. Magic tricks in the kitchen.

Torta di Mandorle, Ciliegie e Amaretto – Italian Almond and Cherry Tart with Amaretto.

Ingredients

  • 125 g softened unsalted butter
  •  150 g of castor sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 50 g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 375 g almond meal
  • 2 Tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
  • 500 g or less of dark, ripe cherries, pitted.
  • 25 g flaked almonds

Method

Preheat oven to 180c /160c FF. Grease a 34 cm x 12 cm loose bottom rectangular tin. Grease and line base. Grease and flour sides. ( or use a 25 cm round loose bottomed tin as per original recipe links above)

Place butter and sugar and eggs in a mixer bowl and beat for 5 minutes until thick and pale. ( if the mixture curdles at this point, throw in a little of your pre-measured flour, or just don’t worry). Scrape down the sides as you go.

Stir in the flour mixed with the baking powder, then fold in the almond meal, followed by the Amaretto.  Pour into the prepared tin.

Press whole cherries into the almond batter.
Press whole cherries into the almond batter.

Arrange the cherries and press them into the batter so they are submerged. Scatter the top with the flaked almonds. You might not use all the cherries so reserve them for a coulis.

Scatter top with almond flakes then bake.
Scatter top with almond flakes then bake.

Bake for about 40 mins but check after 30 mins and move the tray around for even browning. Cool in tin, then remove to a flat serving platter.

In profile
In profile after baking

Cherry Coulis.

Using the remaining pitted cherries, halve them, put in a small saucepan with a little caster sugar, water and lemon juice. Cook gently for five minutes then puree in a blender. Strain if you like a fine coulis. If too runny, put the mixture back into the pan to reduce a little.

Cherry Frangipane with a little sifted icing sugar
Al fresco con una torta di mandorle e ciliegie.
Al fresco con una torta di mandorle e ciliegie.

Pear Almond and Amaretto Frangipane Torta. Too Easy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA little anniversary passed by the other day : I published my 200th post on this site, making me wonder whether my blog has a secret life of its own. What started as a journal to record my obsession with cooking and all things Italian, interspersed with the odd travel and garden post, has acquired its own weekly and monthly rhythm and character. I enjoy the weekly travel prompts provided by Ailsa at Where’s My Backpack, and the photographic challenge offered by The daily Post at WordPress.  A month doesn’t pass by without popping into Celia’s ‘In my Kitchen’ at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial and I attempt to record my vegetable garden efforts in the monthly Garden Share Collective. I have met some wonderful folk along the way: my virtual world is a positive and palpable part of my life. These friends have encouraged me to make my own sourdough bread ( Celia) explore new recipe books, taking me out of my comfort zone, thanks to Leah at The Cookbook Guru, acquire wonderful vintage cookbooks due to scholarly accounts by Debi at My Kitchen Witch, visit a most fabulous garden and seaside in New Zealand at Julie’s Frog Pond Farm, read the most enticing recipes by the best cook in Melbourne ( Sandra at Please Pass the Recipe), be amused by Lorraine’s antics at Not Quite Nigella, feel envious of Jane’s energy and her volume of baking at The Shady Baker, reflect on the wisdom and beauty of Ardys desert photographs at Ardysez and the storytelling of Ella Dee. There are so many more, newer friends, too numerous to mention, especially the documenters of Italian life, those residing near Lucca and travellers in that great country.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy top rating post of all time is Apricot Almond Cake with Amaretto. Easy Frangipane quickly followed by In My Kitchen. February 2014 ,

My ostracised posts,those languishing at the bottom end of the stats page, are Travel Theme: World Cups  and Travel Theme: Energy.

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Thanks to you, dear reader, for encouraging me along the way with your comments, ‘likes’ and views. As a way of celebrating, I’m including the original Pear Frangipane Cake recipe as it’s pear season and I believe it is the best version of this cake. I love this cake because it impresses most guests, is easy to make, and doesn’t have a pastry crust, which is a bonus.  Also check out the blueberry version by the lovely Signorina at Napoli Restaurant Alert  as well as my raspberry version here.

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Torta di Pere, Mandorle e Amaretto. Pear Almond and Amaretto Frangipane Tart.

Ingredients

  • 125 g softened unsalted butter
  •  150 g of castor sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 50 g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 375 g almond meal
  • 2 Tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
  • Two large pears, peeled, cored and cut into thick wedges
  • 25 g flaked almonds for top (optional)

 Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180c. Grease a 25 cm loose bottom tin. Line base.
  2. Place butter and sugar and eggs in a mixer bowl and beat for 5 minutes until thick and pale.
  3. Stir in the flour mixed with the baking powder, then fold in the almond meal, followed by the Amaretto.  Pour into the prepared tin and smooth top.
  4. Arrange pear wedges over the top, pressing them down so they partly submerge. Scatter the top with the flaked almonds. ( optional)
  5. Bake for 45- 50 mins. Cool in tin.
  6. Serve dusted with icing sugar, cream or mascapone.
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My Italian Baking Bible.

Ciabbats cool. They don't last long in this house.
Two  Ciabatte cool. They don’t last long in this house. Trying to capture that slipper look.

There is one cookbook that keeps finding its way back to the kitchen bench, the big table, and the couch. Sometimes it likes to come to bed too. The Italian Baker by Carol Field is definitely my favourite cookbook, or perhaps I should say, book!  It is a bible and just a joy to read. I am suggesting to Leah that this inspirational book should become her Book of the Month for the Cookbook Guru.

Prawn Pizza
Prawn Pizza

Why do I love this book so much? Let me recount the ways.

  • It is well researched. Field spent more than two years travelling throughout Italy to capture regional and local specialties.
  • The opening chapters discuss bread making in Italy, ingredients, equipment and techniques. The discussion on flour is very informative.
  • The recipes include traditional breads, festive breads, torte and dolci ( biscuits and cakes) as well as chapters on modern varieties.
  • Instructions are clear and easy to follow. Measurements are given in metric, imperial and cups. Separate instructions are noted for mixing by hand, mixer and processor.
  • I love that she employs traditional ‘biga’ starters.  Less yeast and slower to make means easier to digest!
  • The photos are few; there is no celebrity chef talk.
  • The Italian proverbs and sayings regarding bread would appeal to any Italophile.
  • Before each recipe is a wonderful short prologue.
A traditional walnut cake made by the older folk in Vaireggio, Toscana
A traditional walnut cake made by the older folk in Viareggio, Toscana

Here is a shortened excerpt from the  prologue for Pane Toscano.

“Tuscans have been making this saltless bread for many centuries. Dante even referred to it in the Divine Comedy. Anticipating the difficulties of his exile from Florence, he speaks of them figuratively, “you shall learn how salty is the taste of another’s bread’. P 84.

All rather wonderful. Time to read Dante’s Inferno. In the meantime, I plan to cook every recipe from this book, a rather ambitious idea,  given that I don’t eat many sweets and only a little bread each day. In the meantime, I propose this book to the cookbook club, and to all readers in search of an inspirational baking book.

These photos show a few things that I have made in the last few weeks. I plan to post a ‘new’ recipe from this book before the month is over.

Torta Rustica do Noci e Caffè
Torta Rustica di Noci e Caffè