Sunday, April 03, 2005

Sicilian Cassata

These days, what I bake is dictated by what I need to use really fast before its expiration date. The leftover ricotta cheese from White Chocolate and Chestnut Cheesecake had to be saved, but I did not want to make another cheesecake. After some searching in my cookbooks, I came across this recipe in A Gourmet's Guide to Chocolate, something I've never tried before. The original recipe used a dusting of powdered sugar and chocolate curls for decoration. I opted for a ganache glaze which can only improve a cake, right? The cassata turned out OK with its Italiene filling of candied fruit, almonds and chocolate studded ricotta. But it won't be in my "sure to try again" list.


1 1/2 c self-rising flour
1 tsp baking powder
10 tbs butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
3 eggs


2 c ricotta
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate, grated
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs orange juice (to substitute for brandy in original recipe)
1/2 c chopped candied cherries or other fruit
1/4 c chopped almonds

To Decorate:

3 oz chocolate chips (about 1/2 c)
3/8 c cream

Some orange juice to wet layers

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a deep 8-inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper. Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Beat sugar and butter until smooth and creamy. Add eggs one by one and beat 10-15 seconds after each addition. Add the flour mixture and continue beating until well mixed. Pour into prepared pan and bake 30-40 minutes, until golden-brown and firm. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

To prepare filling, sieve ricotta cheese into a medium-size bowl. (I don't know why this was necessary.) Add chocolate, sugar, vanilla and orange juice; beat thoroughly until mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in candied fruit and chopped almonds.

Cut thin crust of cake and save to nibble on later. Cut cake horizantally in 3 layers. Place one layer on prepared plate. Drizzle it with some orange juice. Cover with half of cheese mixture, repeat layers finishing with cake. Press down lightly, cover with a weight and chill overnight.

To make the ganache, bring whipping cream to a simmer and take it off heat. Put in the chocolate chips and stir until they are all melted. Correct with more cream or chips until you achieve the desired consistency. Cool a little. Glaze the cassata. Decorate the sides with sliced almonds, if you desire.