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Easter Ricotta Pie

  • April 5, 2022

Have you started planning your Easter dessert yet? Easter is one of my favorite holidays for the plethora of traditional foods that are found on most tables in Italian or Italian-American homes – from appetizers to main course to dessert. See the end of this post for more ideas. One of my all-time favorite Easter desserts is this ricotta pie, and there are endless variations, including one with the addition of chocolate chips. I have nothing against that – I’d happily eat a couple of slices — but for Easter, give me a pure, unadulterated ricotta pie with a hint of orange – the Italian version of cheesecake – and one that’s very popular in my household.

Feel free to use your favorite homemade pastry crust recipe or a store-bought one. I relied on Trader Joe’s this time, but it can be a bit fiddly to use since it has a tendency to split when you’re placing it in the pie plate. No problem, just press the pieces back together. Prick the pie crust and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

Make sure you drain your ricotta (full-fat only please) thoroughly. I line a sieve with paper towels, add the ricotta, cover with plastic wrap, then put a weight on top and leave it in the fridge overnight.

Look how much liquid came out. If you don’t take this step, you risk having a soggy bottom crust.

I started out with three pounds of ricotta and was left with a little over four cups after draining overnight.

Mix with the orange and lemon peels as well as the rest of the ingredients. If you don’t have orange blossom water, use some orange flavored extract. Mix it all well then place into the prepared crust.

Cover with lattice strips and crimp edges. It’s easier to weave the lattice strips if you cut them out and place them in the freezer for a bit before placing on top of the pie.

Bake and let it cool thoroughly before serving.

Buona Pasqua tutti!

Here are a few more ideas for Easter dinner:

Ricotta Broccoli Rape Torta – This is a dish my son makes as an appetizer for Easter, using broccoli rape. No, that spelling is not a mistake, it is rape in Italian, while most Americans spell it broccoli rabe or raab. Any way you spell it, it’s delicious, and a lighter alternative to the heavier, meat-laden pizza piena.

Braided Easter Bread – This bread, studded with hard boiled eggs, is braided with soppressata, olives and cheese, and would be perfect with drinks before dinner.

Grilled Leg of Lamb – Marinated and cooked on the grill, this lamb recipe from Julia Child, is tender and full of flavor.

Honey Baked Ham with roasted grapes – This recipe will make you forget those prepared hams purchased from franchise ham shops – and it’s so easy to make too.

 Neapolitan Pastiera – This traditional Southern Italian dessert is made with ricotta and wheat berries.

Colomba Pasquale – It wouldn’t be Easter in most Italian households without this Easter dove, which you can make at home too.

Coconut covered lamb cake – A childhood favorite, I continue the tradition with the same cake mold my mother used more than sixty years ago.

chocolate lamb cake – Why not give equal time to the black sheep? This cake, decorated with crushed cookie crumbs, will please the chocolate lovers in your family.

coconut cream Easter eggs – These are a weakness of mine, which is why I can’t make them more than once every few years. Otherwise, I’d end up eating dozens of them.

Perfect hard boiled eggs – And if you don’t make any of the above recipes, you’ll probably make hard-boiled eggs at some point. If you’ve ever struggled with peeling them, here’s a primer that will help you avoid frustration.

Buona Pasqua a tutti!

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Easter Ricotta Pie
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • Two of your favorite homemade or store-purchased pie crusts (one for bottom and one for the lattice top)
  • 4 cups drained full-fat ricotta cheese
  • (I started out with 3 pounds of ricotta from the supermarket and there were more than 4 cups when it was all drained.)
  • 6 eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • juice of one orange (a little less than ¼ cup)
  • grated rind of two oranges
  • grated rind of one lemon
  • ½ teaspoon orange blossom water (or 1 teaspoon vanilla)
Instructions
  1. Drain the ricotta cheese overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. To do this, I place a paper towel in a sieve, put the ricotta cheese in the sieve, then cover with a piece of plastic wrap and finally, a heavy weight.
  3. Roll out the pie crust and place it in a deep-dish pie pan.
  4. Prick the crust with a fork.
  5. Place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes while you roll the lattice.
  6. Roll out the other pie crust on a cutting board or something that will fit in the freezer.
  7. Cut nine lattice strips and place the whole thing, cutting board and all, in the freezer.
  8. Make sure you can keep it flat.
  9. This technique of putting the strips in the freezer for a few minutes will help keep when the lattice strips from breaking apart when weaving them on the top after you have placed the filling inside.
  10. Beat the eggs gently (but don't beat too heavily or the pie will rise too much, and then deflate too much.)
  11. Mix the eggs with the ricotta and the rest of the ingredients.
  12. Place the filling in the pie shell.
  13. Place the lattice work on top, weaving over and under till you get the desired effect.
  14. Swipe the lattice with either some beaten egg, milk or cream.
  15. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven forr one hour.
  16. When cooled and ready to serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar and top with grated orange peel.
 

 

Chocolate Rugelach

  • December 13, 2021

Have you been baking cookies this holiday season? Although these rugelach, originally from the Jewish community of  Poland, were never part of my Christmas cookie traditions growing up, they’ve been a favorite of mine for decades. I finally got around to making them this year, and they are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I’m going to have to tuck these away in the freezer or I’ll eat the whole batch before company arrrives for the Christmas holiday.  I followed the basic dough recipe from Ina Garten, but instead of using the traditional raisins, jam and nuts filling, I opted for a chocolate filling. I also lowered the temperature to 325 degrees, and kept them in a little longer, since at 350 degrees, some of the interior dough wasn’t thoroughly cooked.

After chilling the dough, quarter it and then roll each quarter to a circumference of about 9 or 10 inches. Spread the chocolate filling all around, cut into triangles, then roll up each triangle, starting from the wide end.

Place the rolled cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, then brush with some beaten egg, and sprinkle with a little bit of sugar and a pinch of cinnamon.

Bake for about 20 minutes at 325 degrees F., or until lightly golden. Let them cool, then sprinkle with a little powdered sugar (optional) and enjoy.

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Chocolate Rugelach
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • FOR THE DOUGH:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½-pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar plus 9 tablespoons
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • CHOCOLATE FILLING
  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ ground cinnamon optional
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • FOR THE TOPPING:
  • an egg, lightly beaten with a teaspoon of water, to brush on top
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • a pinch of cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light.
  3. Add ¼ cup granulated sugar, the salt, and vanilla.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix until just combined.
  5. Dump the dough out onto a well-floured board and roll it into a ball.
  6. Cut the ball in quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  7. While the dough is chilling, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, then stir in the sugar, cinnamon and salt and mix well.
  8. On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9 to 10-inch circle.
  9. Spread the dough with ¼ of the chocolate mixture.
  10. Cut the circle into 16 equal wedges, cutting the whole circle in quarters, then each quarter into four pieces.
  11. Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge.
  12. Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  13. Brush each cookie with the egg wash.
  14. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on the cookies.
  15. Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned.
  16. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.
 

Chocolate and Nut-Covered Toffee

  • December 23, 2020

Looking for a last minute gift for friends, neighbors or relatives? You still have time to make this, and it’s really great to give away — not just because it’s delicious and a nice thing to do at holiday time, but also because it’s so darn addictive, you’ll have to get it out of the house before you eat it all. It makes a lot, so you’ll have plenty for passing to sweets lovers.

The hardest part is making the toffee, because it can easily burn if you’re not keeping an eye on it. Conversely, if you don’t cook it enough, it will be too soft and won’t have that crunch you associate with toffee. If you have a candy thermometer, you’re one step ahead of the game. I found mine broken in a drawer, so I had to rely on another way to gauge whether it was ready  — dropping a bit from a wooden spoon into a glass of ice water. If it’s still pliable after you’ve dropped it in the water, it’s not done. If it snaps crisply, it’s done, so you can pour the syrup over the nuts and chocolate.

Spread half of the nuts (toasted to bring out the best flavor) over a sheet of parchment paper, then spread  half of the chocolate that you’ve broken up either by hand or in a food processor. Pour the syrup over everything.

After you’ve poured the syrup over the nuts and chocolate, then spread the remaining chocolate over the syrup. Wait a few minutes for the chocolate to soften, then smooth it over the candy with a spatula. Sprinkle the remaining nuts on top and wait for it to cool.

Take a knife, and cut into pieces. If you’re like me, you’ll have a lot of loose bits that won’t look too great as gifts, so save those for yourself to eat out of hand, or for using as an ice cream topping.

Place into attractive boxes, tins or jars, and spread some good cheer to others before you eat it all.

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Chocolate and Nut-Covered Toffee
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 16 tablespoons (227g) unsalted butter, cold
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups (298g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional; for enhanced flavor
  • 3 tablespoons (43g) water
  • 1 tablespoon (21g) light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, optional (see "tips," below)
  • 2 cups (227g) diced pecans or slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2⅔ cups (454g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped; or chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. In a large, deep (3 quart) saucepan, melt the butter.
  2. Stir in the salt, sugar, espresso powder, water, and corn syrup, and bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Boil gently over medium heat, without stirring, until the mixture reaches hard-crack stage (300°F on an instant-read or candy thermometer; you'll be taking it off the heat a few degrees sooner).
  4. The syrup will bubble without seeming to change much for awhile, but be patient; all of a sudden it will darken, and at that point you need to take its temperature and see if it's ready.
  5. (If you don't have a thermometer, test a dollop in ice water; it should immediately harden to a brittleness sufficient that you'll be able to snap it in two, without any bending or softness).
  6. This whole process should take about 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Pay attention; too long on the heat, and the syrup will burn.
  8. While the sugar is boiling, spread half of the nuts in an even, closely packed layer on a parchment-lined 9" x 13" pan.
  9. Top the nuts with half the chocolate.
  10. When the syrup has reached 295°F, remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda; it will foam up, so use caution.
  11. Pour the syrup quickly and evenly over the nuts and chocolate.
  12. Top with the remaining chocolate and let sit for 2 to 3 minutes, until it softens; spread the chocolate with an offset spatula in an even layer and immediately sprinkle the remaining nuts on top.
  13. While the candy is still slightly warm, pull it out of the pan and use a thin spatula to loosen it from the parchment.
  14. When completely cool, break into uneven chunks.
 

 

 

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

  • October 20, 2020

Have you got a celebration coming up? If not, consider this afternoon a good enough occasion for a celebration. Forget Norman Vincent Peale. If you want to win friends and influence people, chocolate is where you want to be and this is the route to take. This cake has great flavor and texture, and is the second best chocolate cake around. THE best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten is a chocolate truffle cake from a local shop here in town (Olive’s) and the hubs is getting it for me for my birthday this week. (Yea!) Only fitting, since I made this cake for his birthday earlier this year.

Most of you don’t live within a quick drive to my town and that shop, so I’ve giving you the next best thing. It’s almost the same recipe as Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate Cake” but since I had buttermilk in the house from another recipe, I decided to use that instead of regular milk. Buttermilk adds a bit of a tang, and makes a big difference in the tenderness of cakes. Even if you don’t have buttermilk in your refrigerator, you can create it by squeezing a little lemon juice into regular milk and letting it sit for five to ten minutes.

This ratio of chocolate frosting to cake is crucial, in my humble opinion, but then again, I’m a pushover for chocolate frosting (well, any kind of buttercream frosting, actually).

I melted a little chocolate for the decoration, and also shaved some chocolate to press into the sides of the cake.

If that’s too much chocolate for you (you’re kidding, right?), it tastes delicious with a plain buttercream frosting too, as my granddaughter demonstrates in the video below.

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Chocolate Buttermilk Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1¾ cups flour
  • ¾ cup dark cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot coffee, cooled (I use espresso, and add more water to bring to one cup)
  • CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup dark cocoa powder
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
Instructions
  1. MAKE THE CAKE:
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Grease and flour two 8" cake pans, and line the bottoms with parchment paper for easy removal later.
  4. Whisk together in a large bowl of a standing mixer (or use a hand mixer) the sugar, flour. cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  5. In a separate mixing bowl, add the buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla, and whisk to combine.
  6. Beat at a low speed, then and slowly pour in the wet ingredients until just combined, scraping sides of the mixing bowl if necessary.
  7. Keeping the mixer at a slow speed, carefully pour in the coffee. Mix until just combined, scraping the sides of bowl as needed.
  8. Pour batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Remove cakes from oven.
  10. Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then flip gently onto cooling racks to continue cooling.
  11. Remove the parchment paper and cool completely before frosting.
  12. MAKE THE FROSTING:
  13. Beat the butter, vanilla and salt together until smooth and creamy.
  14. Whisk together the cocoa powder and powdered sugar, then add the mix and the whipping cream to the butter mixture, a little at a time until mixed together.
  15. Continue beating for 3 or 4 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy.
  16. Frost the cake, using about ⅓ for the inside of the cake and the rest for the tops and sides.
  17. If you want to decorate as I did, shave some chocolate using a vegetable peeler and press on the sides (It can be messy)
  18. For the top, microwave an ounce or two of dark chocolate with a 3-4 tablespoons of cream.
  19. You may need to add more cream to get to a pourable consistency.
  20. Stir until it is liquid enough to pour, then drizzle in lines across the top.
  21. Using a toothpick or butterknife, swipe across the opposite directions of the chocolate lines, first in one direction, then the other, to get the wave pattern.
 

Ricotta and Chocolate Crostata

  • June 12, 2020

As soon as I saw this recipe by Domenica Marchetti in Italy Magazine, I knew I had to make it. Domenica’s recipes are always sure-fire winners, from soups to stews to desserts. That chocolate topping! That ricotta base! It’s a seemingly simple recipe, with basic flavors that complement each other perfectly — from the slightly lemony tang of the crust to the sweetened ricotta and dark, bittersweet chocolate.

Yes, you can buy your own crust, and I sometimes do, but in this case, homemade is infinitely better. The recipe makes enough for two tarts — one of which went into the freezer — and with the trimmings, I eeked out enough for two mini tart tins as well.

Follow the directions exactly to make sure you don’t have a soggy bottom. That involves resting the dough in the refrigerator for a bit, then pricking the dough and “blind-baking” it for ten minutes or so.

Fill it with the ricotta/sugar mixture and bake some more.

Then cover it with a ganache of dark chocolate and heavy cream. It will be hard to resist cutting into this one right away, but refrigerate for an hour or two to firm up the chocolate.

Serve as is, with some strawberries on the side, or if you’ve got any growing in your yard, mince some pansy flowers for a confetti of edible color.

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Ricotta and Chocolate Crostata
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups (390g) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon fine salt
  • ½ cup (115g) cold unsalted butter, cut into dice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 pound (500g) fresh sheep’s milk or well-drained cow’s milk ricotta
  • ¼ cup (30g) confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (250ml) plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 8 ounces (250g) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, combine the flour, granulated sugar, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Add the eggs and process just until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, divide it in half, and pat it into two disks. Wrap one half in plastic wrap and freeze for another use. Wrap the second piece and refrigerate it for 1 hour.
  2. Remove the pastry disk from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll the disk into a 12-inch (30-cm) circle. Carefully transfer the dough to a 10-inch (25-cm) round tart pan with a removable bottom. Gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim the overhang. Refrigerate for 1 hour (or up to overnight).
  3. Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C). Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork. Bake until the edges are just beginning to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Leave the oven on.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons heavy cream and mix well. Spoon the mixture into the crust. Bake until the filling is set, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.
  5. In a heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate and cocoa powder. Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a small saucepan and heat on medium until small bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and cocoa and stir until the mixture id dark, glossy, and smooth and all the chocolate has melted. Carefully spread the chocolate ganache over the cooled filling, starting in the middle and creating a thick layer that stops just short of the crust.
  6. Refrigerate the crostata until thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours. Remove the sides from the pan and set the crostata on a serving plate. Let stand a few minutes, then cut into wedges and serve
 

 

Chocolate-Filled Paris Brest

  • June 20, 2019

Have you eaten a Paris Brest? It’s a delectable cream puff pastry commemorating a bicycle race that took place in 1891 between Paris and Brest, a city in Northwest France (hence the circular shape.) I ate individual ones recently at a great bakery not in Paris, but in Prague, Czech Republic. (shout out to Pekárna Nostress Bakery on Vezenská 8, Prague – a place that became a daily obsession.) One was made with a vanilla pastry cream and berries, the other with the traditional praline filling. Both were sensational.

I knew I had to make this dessert for my book group, who met this week for a French dinner and discussion of “Babette’s Feast” (actually a short story) by Isak Dineson. I wanted to make it filled with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, but since I seem to have missed strawberry season in New Jersey, I decided on this chocolate and whipped cream version by well-known French chef Jacques Pepin. Like all his recipes, this one did not disappoint, although it is a bit tricky to make if you’re a novice in the kitchen. I’ll take you through the various steps.

First you have to make the pate a choux – or cream puff pastry. You cook the milk, flour and butter until it starts to pull away from the pan. It’s kind of hard to keep stirring because it really gets dry and lumpy. But that’s ok. It will smooth out later in the food processor.

Let it cool for 1/2 hour, then break it into bits and put it in the food processor and add the eggs one at a time. The recipe says to whir it for about 20 to 30 seconds, but that wasn’t long enough to attain a smooth dough. I’m sure I processed it for at least a couple of minutes.

Here’s what it looked like after the eggs were incorporated. It’s a very smooth, sticky dough.

Next you’ll want to pipe it, using a piping bag. I always fill the bag after placing it into a tall glass. It’s much easier than trying to hold it in one hand, while filling with the other.

I didn’t even use a piping tip. You don’t need one. Just cut a hole at the bottom of the bag that’s about 3/4 inch wide in circumference.

Pipe a circle onto the silicone mat about 8 inches in diameter, as shown below. You can use parchment paper if you don’t have a silicone mat. Then pipe another circle inside the first one, and a third circle on the top of the first two (sorry I forgot to take a photo of all three circles).

Before you pipe the second circle and the third circle, press the filling in the bag toward the tip so it doesn’t squirt out the top. The recipe makes EXACTLY the right amount of dough with no extra, so if you lose some out the top, you’ll come up short when piping the circles.

Brush the circles with beaten egg, then sprinkle slivered almonds over everything. Brush off the excess almonds.

While the dough is baking, make the chocolate filling. No need to buy expensive chocolate. Hershey’s Special Dark works great, and came out number one in a blind taste-testing on America’s Test Kitchen several years ago. It’s what I always use in baking. Whip the cream and keep it in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Here’s what the ring looks like right out of the oven. It rose a bit, but isn’t as huge as you’d expect. But that’s ok because the filling increases the height at least double!

Slice it in half and separate the two halves.

Here’s a great tip from Jacques Pepin to avoid a mess when you serve it. Take the top part and slice it into 8 to 10 pieces. Keep them in order for when you assemble, and they will give you a good guide when slicing through with a knife, without crushing your beautiful concoction.

Spread the chocolate filling evenly over the ring.

Then pipe the whipped cream over the chocolate (or just spread it with a spoon but the piping does give it a more polished look).

Place the sliced top pieces over the whipped cream and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

All that’s left to do is to serve it and eat it. Best served within two or three hours of making it, but be prepared for no leftovers.

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Paris Brest
 
Author:
Serves: 8-10 people
Ingredients
  • DOUGH
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • CHOCOLATE CREAM
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into 1-inch pieces
  • GARNISH
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1½ tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. FOR THE DOUGH: Combine the milk, butter, salt, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Remove from the heat, add the flour in one stroke, and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  4. Then place back over the heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 15 to 20 seconds, until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan.
  5. Transfer the dough to a food processor and let cool for 10 minutes.
  6. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and mix them well with a fork.
  7. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the beaten egg for use as a glaze.
  8. Pour the remaining eggs into the processor bowl and process for 20 to 30 seconds, until the eggs are well incorporated and the dough is smooth.
  9. Line a cookie sheet with a nonstick baking mat, or use a nonstick cookie sheet.
  10. Spoon the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a ¾-inch plain tip.
  11. Pipe a ring with an outside circumference of 8 to 8½ inches on the cookie sheet.
  12. Pipe another circle of dough inside and another on top of the rings until you have used all the dough and have a circle that is 1½ to 1¾ inches high with a hole in the center that measures about 5 inches across.
  13. Do not start and end the dough circles in the same spot, since this can cause the pastry to open at the seam during baking.
  14. Brush the dough with the reserved tablespoon of egg.
  15. Using a fork, mark the surface and sides of the dough, running the tines of the fork gently around the circle to create a crosshatch effect.
  16. Sprinkle with the sliced almonds. Bake for 20 minutes.
  17. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 35 minutes, or until browned. (If the pastry begins to brown excessively, cover it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil.)
  18. Turn the oven off and let the pastry remain in the oven for 30 minutes with the door partially open to evaporate some of the moisture.
  19. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature before removing from the cookie
  20. sheet.
  21. FOR THE CHOCOLATE CREAM: Bring the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  22. Meanwhile, combine the yolks and sugar in a bowl, mixing them with a whisk for about 30 seconds. Add the 1½ tablespoons flour and mix it in with the whisk.
  23. Pour the boiling milk in on top of the egg yolk mixture and mix it in well with a whisk.
  24. Return the mixture to the saucepan and bring to a boil, mixing constantly with the whisk.
  25. Boil for about 10 seconds, then remove from the heat and add the chocolate.
  26. Stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted and is incorporated into the pastry cream.
  27. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and let cool, then refrigerate until chilled.
  28. FOR THE GARNISH: Whip the cream, rum, and sugar in a bowl until stiff. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  29. TO FINISH THE CAKE: Use a sharp knife to remove a ½-inch-thick horizontal slice, or “lid,” from the top; set it aside.
  30. Using a spoon, spread the chocolate cream in the bottom of the pastry round, pushing it gently into the cavities of the pastry.
  31. Transfer the whipped cream to a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch star tip, and pipe the cream on top of the chocolate cream. It should come at least 1 inch above the rim of the cake.
  32. Cut the pastry lid into 8 to 10 equal pieces, and reassemble them in order on top of the pastry to make it easy to cut into portions.
  33. Sprinkle with the confectioners’ sugar.
  34. (The pastry can be assembled a few hours ahead and refrigerated.)
  35. At serving time, using the separations on the lid as guides, cut through the bottom half of the pastry, and arrange on individual dessert plates.
 

Ricotta and Nutella Tart

  • May 25, 2019

If you’re a chocolate and hazelnut fan, this recipe is for you. It’s got a bottom layer of Nutella, covered with a ricotta mixture and drizzled with more Nutella on top. The first time I made the recipe, I used a ready made crust and it crisped up nicely, browning perfectly on the bottom. I loved the flavor combination but thought it could benefit from a doubling of the ricotta layer.

So the next time I made it, I doubled the recipe for the ricotta layer.

The filling tasted great, but the problem was that the crust was undercooked on the bottom, even though I left it in the oven a little longer than the recipe called for. It could be because in addition to doubling the amount of ricotta, I also baked two tarts in the oven at the same time, which may have caused the pastry to bake unevenly. Or was it because I forgot to prick the pastry before smearing on the Nutella? In any event, it’s worth making this tart, but be warned – bake only one tart in the oven at a time for best results.

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Ricotta and Nutella Tart
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup 2% milk
  • ½ tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ cup plus ¼ cup chocolate-hazelnut spread, divided
  • your favorite tart or pie crust dough, chilled
Instructions
  1. In a blender, combine the ricotta cheese, milk and sugar, and blend until completely combined.
  2. Pour the mixture into a glass bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then lightly grease and flour a 9-inch tart or pie tin.
  4. Remove the dough from the fridge.
  5. On a floured work surface, roll the dough into a ⅛ inch thick circle.
  6. Place it in the prepared tin, trim any overhanging dough with a sharp knife and crimp the edges.
  7. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork.
  8. Spread the bottom of the crust with 7 ounces of the chocolate-hazelnut spread.
  9. If the spread is too thick, soften it in the microwave or place it in a heatproof bowl on top of a pot of boiling water.
  10. Remove the ricotta filling from the fridge and pour it over the chocolate-hazelnut spread.
  11. Bake the pie for 25 to 30 minutes or until the crust is golden.
  12. Let the pie cool completely then drizzle with the remaining ¼ cup chocolate-hazelnut spread.
  13. Refrigerate the pie for 2 hours before serving.
 

 

Chocolate Coconut Tart

  • October 23, 2018

Whenever I’m in Italy and the mood for gelato strikes (ok, let’s get real – when doesn’t the mood for gelato strike?), I’m likely to get a flavor that’s called “Bounty” –  coconut ice cream punctuated with small chocolate bits. It’s named for the eponymous candy bar available there, but here in the states, there is a similar candy bar called “Mounds.”

A few years ago I ate a slice of cake in Bellagio that had the same flavor profile, and I was determined to duplicate it at home.

I finally got around to it recently, and while I’m not sure it’s exactly the same, it’s really, really good, especially if you’re a dark chocolate and coconut lover, as I am.

I made two of the cakes, one half the size of the original one, since I was serving the larger one to my Italian chit-chat group and wanted a second, small one to serve guests after dinner the following night. A bit of gold leaf on top makes a nice decoration, but so would a simple dollop of whipped cream.

If you’re making just one tart according to the recipe below, the coconut layer will be thicker than in the photos above, since I made 1 1/2 times the amount of the chocolate cake part, but I spread the coconut quantity over the two cakes (the larger and the smaller version.) I hope that makes sense to you. If you’re still confused, send me an email and I’ll try to explain it better.

Just a word of caution – the chocolate ganache will not stay this glossy if you refrigerate the cake. So if you want to serve it with that sheen but want to make the cake ahead of time — just make the cake without the ganache and place it in the refrigerator (still in the springform pan), then a few hours before you want to serve it, remove from the refrigerator and top it with the ganache while in the springform pan. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes for the ganache to solidify, then release the side of the springform pan. Don’t refrigerate it again or you’ll lose the sheen.

Enjoy! It’s almost like eating a chocolate covered, coconut-cream Easter egg.


Chocolate Coconut Tart (Bounty Torta)
 
A rich, brownie-like cake, with a coconut layer and a topping of chocolate ganache.
Author:
Recipe type: dessert
Ingredients
  • FOR THE CHOCOLATE CAKE LAYER:
  • ½ cup unsalted butter melted.
  • ¾ cup white sugar.
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten.
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons espresso coffee
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • ½ cup flour.
  • ¼ teaspoon salt.
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder.
  • FOR THE COCONUT LAYER:
  • 12 oz sweetened condensed milk (I think the can was closer to 14 ounces)
  • 2½ cups unsweetened coconut flakes
  • FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE:
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate
Instructions
  1. FOR THE CHOCOLATE CAKE LAYER:
  2. Mix sugar and melted butter, with a wooden spoon. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Pour into a greased 9 inch springform pan and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
  3. FOR THE COCONUT LAYER:
  4. Put the coconut in a food processor and shred into small bits.
  5. Add the condensed milk and combine.
  6. When cake is cooled, spread coconut layer on top.
  7. It will be very dense.
  8. FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE:
  9. Heat cream and remove from heat.
  10. Add chocolate.
  11. Let sit for a few minutes then stir to blend.
  12. Pour chocolate over coconut layer a couple of hours before you serve it and leave it out at room temperature in order to keep the chocolate glossy.
  13. You can refrigerate it if you want, but it will lose some of its gloss.
  14. Remove the ring from the springform pan, and serve.
 

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Chocolate Salami

  • February 12, 2018

Looking for an easy treat for Valentine’s Day? You’ve got plenty of time to make this chocolate “salami” that requires no cooking, and comes together lickety-split, using ingredients you may already have in the house. I used amaretti cookies to simulate the bits of fat running through a real salami, but you could use graham crackers, digestive biscuits or even chocolate chip cookies.

Crumple them up and mix them in a bowl with nuts and dried fruit of your choice. I used pistachios, hazelnuts and dried cherries and it was a winning combination. But if you like almonds or walnuts instead, or dried cranberries or dried apricots, those would be delicious too.

Melt some chocolate. You could use milk chocolate, but I prefer dark chocolate and used Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate. If you want to spring for a more expensive chocolate, go for it, but Hershey’s Special Dark won a blind taste test on America’s Test Kitchen years ago and I’ve been using it since then for nearly all my recipes requiring dark chocolate. It costs a lot less than the specialty brands, so that’s a nice plus too. Mix the melted chocolate with all the above ingredients and add some liqueur. It’s not strictly necessary, but it does add another layer of flavor.

Some recipes for chocolate salami ask you to add raw eggs, but I thought I’d try it without, since so many people have health concerns about using raw eggs in recipes. The risk is miniscule, but still, why take any risk, I thought.

Next, dish out the chocolate into a log shape. It will be too soft to shape at this point, so put it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, or until it firms.

Once firm, roll it into a log shape to make it more “solid.”

Then roll into confectioner’s sugar to simulate the white “bloom” that appears on aged salami.

If you have some butcher’s string, tie it across the chocolate salami to mimic a real salami.

Slice it and watch the surprise when people realize it’s not really cured meat, but a delightful chocolate treat. Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

Chocolate Salami
 
Ingredients
  • 12 oz. chocolate, melted (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
  • 1 stick (8 ounces) butter
  • ½ cup crumpled amaretti cookies (or graham crackers or "digestive" biscuits)
  • ½ cup pistachios
  • ½ cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped (or other nuts you prefer
  • ¼ cup dried cherries
  • 1 T. Cherry Marnier (or any liqueur you like)
  • powdered sugar for exterior
  • twine (optional)
Instructions
  1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
  2. When it is nearly melted, add the butter in pieces and melt it.
  3. Chop the amaretti cookies and nuts (I left the pistachios whole) and put in a bowl with the cherries.
  4. Pour the melted chocolate over the nuts and cookies and add the liqueur.
  5. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes until it firms up, but keep checking because you don't want it so firm that it's too hard to roll.
  6. Dish out the chocolate onto a piece of plastic or waxed paper.
  7. Roll into a log and place it back in the refrigerator until very firm, maybe an hour or so.
  8. When it's firm, sprinkle powdered sugar all over.
  9. Tie up with butcher's string if desired, and slice to serve.
 

Chocolate Orange Marble Loaf Cake and a Giveaway

  • August 31, 2017
I’ve been trying to stay away from baking all summer (that doesn’t mean I haven’t had my share of ice cream however).
But when a new cookbook arrived and I started flipping through it, my resolve quickly dissolved.
The next day I baked this cake — one of the most delicious cakes I’ve had in a long time, with rich chocolate and subtle orange flavor, a tender crumb and a luscious chocolate ganache topping.
Fortunately, later in the day I was meeting some board members from an Italian cultural institution I’m part of, who offered to lend with our annual mailing.
I lure them each year by bringing food, and they happily stuffed envelopes and slapped on stamps, sustained by this cake from Jamie Schler’s new cookbook, “Orange Appeal.”  Several of them took slices home too, leaving me with just enough cake to give my dad the next day.
It’s definitely a cake that will make appearance after appearance in my kitchen.
The photos are beautiful too, by Ilva Beretta, who also collaborated for two years with Jamie on the blog, Plated Stories.
Jamie now lives in Chinon, France, from which she writes the blog “Life’s A Feast,” and where she also runs a hotel (Hotel Diderot) — a place I’m longing to visit at some point.
With her busy life, I don’t know how she found time to write a cookbook, but it contains a plethora of recipes that include oranges in some form or other — not unexpected for someone who grew up in Florida.
I’ve made my share of candied oranges, but never tried orange powder, orange sugar, or orange salt. But with Jamie’s instructions from the book, they’ll be on my to-do list as soon as citrus season rolls in here in the Northeast U.S.
The book contains many savory recipes as well as sweet ones, and I’m really looking forward to trying the sweet-and-sour marmalade-glazed oven baked chicken next.
I’ve also got my eyes fixed on the glazed blood orange yogurt loaf cake and many others too, but they’ll have to wait until I make this chocolate orange marble loaf cake again, this time for my husband to try.
After you mix the batter, it gets divided in two parts. One is for the chocolate mixture, and into the other go the orange peel and orange juice. The raw batter was so delicious I had to restrain myself from licking too much off the spatula.
I swirled the chocolate batter into the white batter using a knife.
The kitchen smells divine while it’s baking. Let it rest for a few minutes before removing it form the pan.
The recipe says the chocolate glaze is optional, but for me it was an absolute necessity (especially if you’re using a Lindt chocolate bar that contains orange bits).
It’s a good thing I had a meeting to take this to, or I’d have eaten half the cake myself.

 

I did have to eat one slice before taking it to the meeting (you know, quality control and all that stuff).
Now I’d like to offer one of you a free copy of “Orange Appeal” so you can try this and all the other recipes in the book.
Just leave a comment at the bottom of the blog post (not in email), and a way for me to contact you if your name is chosen.
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I’m cooking up each day.
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter.
Chocolate Orange Marble Loaf Cake
From “Orange Appeal” by Jamie Schler
1 3/4 cups (8 ounces/230 g) all-purpose flour
2 Tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
12 tablespoons (6 ounces/175 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/8 cups (225 g) granulated white sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large orange, zested
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 packed tablespoons (18 g) unsweetened cocoa powderPreheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).   Butter a standard 9 x 5 x 2 1/2 inch (23 x 13 x 6 1/2 cm) or 8 cup 2 l) loaf pan; fit a piece of parchment paper in the bottom.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, and then beat in the oil. Beat in the flour mixture until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Divide the batter evenly between 2 bowls. Beat the zest and juice into 1 portion of the batter, and the milk, vanilla and cocoa into the other portion of batter until well-blended.

Spoon large dollops of each mixture, alternating the batters, into the prepared loaf pan. Drag a skewer or a long, sharp knife blade back and forth through the batter in swirls to create a marble pattern. Smooth the surface if necessary.

Bake for 55-60 minutes, until the cake is set in the center and just barely beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cover the top of the cake loosely with a sheet of foil for the last 5-10 minutes of baking time to over over browning, if necessary.

Allow to cool in pan for about 10 minutes before sliding a knife around the edges to loosen the cake and turning it out onto a cooling rack. Remove parchment paper from the bottom, allowing the cake to cool, top side up, on the rack.

Drizzle chocolate orange ganache over the top. (recipe below)

Chocolate Orange Ganache 
3/4 cup (3 1/2 ounces/100 g) coarsely chopped orange-infused 70 percent dark chocolate, such as Lindt Excellence Orange intense
1/2 cup (125 ml) heavy creamPlace the chocolate into a medium heatproof mixing bowl. Slowly heat the cream in a small saucepan until it comes just to the boiling point. Pour the cream immediately over the chocolate and stir until it is smooth and creamy. Allow the ganache to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, until thickened to a drizzling consistency before spooning over the sponge cake.