Friday, February 26, 2010


Yesterday was my mama's birthday. I would post a photo of her, but I wouldn't dare post a photo she had not pre-approved for posting. My mother is quite glamorous. Obviously, I must have been switched at birth--I didn't inherit the glamour gene. We're having a birthday lunch for her tomorrow. I'm bringing salad (boring . . . ) so I needed to pump up the volume and cook something much more interesting. So I made this bittersweet chocolate and ricotta cheese tart, adapted from a recipe I found in The Washington Post. It's barely sweetened, like an addictive drug to a chocolate lover. When I first made the recipe about a year ago, I was intrigued by the ganache. The ganache is fabulous, but the combination with the crust and the ricotta filling is perfect. And search for Scharffen Berger chocolate because no ordinary chocolate will do. Warning--this recipe is rather time-consuming and complicated. But it's worth it. Trust me--it will be a much bigger hit tomorrow than the salad will be.

Bittersweet Chocolate and Ricotta Cheese Tart

1¼ cups flour, plus more for the work surface
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
4 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg

1 pound whole milk ricotta
4 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream

4 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup heavy cream

For the crust: Combine the flour, sugar, lemon or lime zest, baking powder, salt and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mix is crumbly. Add the eggs and process just until the dough begins to come together. Lightly flour a work surface. Transfer the dough to the floured surface; knead the dough just until it is fairly smooth.

Have ready a 10-inch round tart pan (or rectangular equivalent) with a removable bottom. Roll out the dough on the floured surface into a 12-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick). Carefully transfer it to the tart pan; gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides; fold the overhanging dough into the rim to reinforce the dough on the sides. Use a rolling pin or your hands to even off the perimeter (top) of the dough in the pan. Refrigerate dough at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator; use a fork to prick the bottom of the shell all over. Bake the tart shell for 10 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to turn pale golden. Remove the tart shell from the oven and let it cool while you make the filling. Leave the oven on.

For the filling: Place the ricotta in a large bowl. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and cream; use a fork to gently incorporate those ingredients, breaking up the ricotta as you work. Spoon the filling into the partially baked tart shell; bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the filling is set but not at all browned. Transfer the tart (still in the pan) to a wire rack; let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the topping: Combine the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat just until it bubbles at the edges; do not let it come to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly pour it over the chocolate mixture; stir as you work so the cream is incorporated and the mixture becomes a glossy, dark and smooth ganache. Carefully spread the topping on the cooled filling, starting in the middle and creating a thick layer that stops short of the crust (there should be the tiniest bit of white ricotta filling showing around the perimeter of the tart). Refrigerate for 2 hours, until well chilled. To serve, remove the rim of the tart pan and transfer the tart to a serving platter. Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Makes one 10-inch tart (12 servings)

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