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Ricotta and Nutella Tart

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.
 

 

Castagnole

Castagnole

 Hello castagnole …or bignole or frittelle or whatever you call them where you live. They’re like fried doughnut holes but better. I made the pale ones using ricotta in the recipe, and the dark ones with cocoa powder. Both are delicious as is, but wickedly good when you fill them with Nutella. Just take a look.
See what I mean? Who the heck can resist one of these stuffed babies? Personally, my favorite are the pale ricotta castagnole.  For the chocolate ones, I originally used a recipe I found in a February 2009 issue of Cucina Italiana magazine, but the batter was extremely thin and didn’t work at all. I had to add a lot more flour than the recipe called for just to keep them together in the oil. The next day, I checked the magazine’s website and found the recipe was corrected to triple the amount of flour that was in the magazine copy.  Even so, making the chocolate ones is more difficult because it’s hard to tell from the color alone when they’re actually cooked through.

 

Carnevale is celebrated in many Catholic countries including Italy. Children dress up in costumes, flinging tiny scraps of colored paper called coriandoli (we call it confetti) along the streets. In Venice the celebration is particularly festive, with people in elaborate costumes and masquerades arriving from all over the world eager to strut their finery and vie for prizes. I’ve had the good fortune to be in Venice a few times during Carnevale. Here is just one of the many people in costume you see strolling the narrow streets and posing for photographers.

 

Fried food, including castagnole and chiacchiere (featured on this blog here) are a staple of the festivities, especially in the final week and days leading to Ash Wednesday and the solemn 40 day Lenten period. It’s a time to throw caution to the wind – party all night, eat all those decadent desserts and rich, cholesterol-laden meats. Hence the name fat Tuesday, as it’s known in the U.S. or Mardi gras, the French equivalent. The word carnevale derives from the Latin carn, meaning flesh, and levare, to put away.  This year Ash Wednesday falls on February 22, so you’ve still got time to indulge in these delightful little treats.
And if you’ve decided to give up something else for Lent, like peas or okra, well then, you can continue eating these castagnole guilt-free all through the 40-day period.
Join me for a week in Italy at the end of May and live like an Italian – sightseeing, cooking and eating in a villa located in the Alban Hills near Rome. There’s still time to enroll. For details go to:
 

 

 
Ricotta Castagnole
3 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 t. vanilla extract
1 cup flour
2 t. baking powder
oil for frying (safflower, canola or similar oil)
powdered sugar
Nutella for stuffing
Heat oil in a pan (I use a cast iron skillet) to a depth of about three inches on a medium-high heat.
Beat eggs with a whisk in a large bowl. Add sugar, ricotta, salt, vanilla, flour and baking powder. Beat with a wooden spoon until mixed well. Batter should be thicker than pancake batter but not as thick as bread dough.
Drop a tablespoon full into a pan of hot oil. Fry the batter until they balls of dough are golden brown. They almost turn themselves over, but if they don’t make sure you flip them to fry all sides. Check the interior after you fry a few to make sure they’re cooked through. Adjust the temperature if necessary.
Drain on paper towels. Use a pastry bag and pipe with Nutella. Alternately, cut a hole with a knife and insert a small bit of Nutella. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.
Chocolate Bignole
From lacucinaitalianamagazine.com

Ingredients

Pastry Cream
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1¼ tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
Puffs
  • 1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • About 3 quarts vegetable oil
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar

 

Instructions

For Pastry Cream: In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt until thick and pale, about 2 minutes. In a medium saucepan, bring milk to a boil over medium heat; remove from heat.

In a slow and steady stream, whisking constantly, add about 2 tablespoons of the hot milk to the egg mixture; then, whisking, add remaining milk. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, return to medium heat, and, whisking constantly and vigorously, bring to a boil. Cook, whisking constantly and into the edges of pot, until mixture is thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in chocolate, and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in butter pieces, one at a time, until pastry cream is smooth and silky. Transfer cream to a clean bowl, immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming, and chill until cold, about 1 hour (pastry cream can be made up to 1 day ahead).

For puffs: In a bowl, whisk together flour, ⅔ cup cocoa powder, granulated sugar, eggs, egg yolk, milk, butter, baking powder, vanilla and salt until smooth.

Heat about 3 inches oil to 375° in a 3-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat. Drop teaspoonfuls of batter into oil and fry, about 10 at a time, until puffed and dark golden, 1 to 1½ minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer puffs to paper towels to drain.

Transfer filling to a large pastry bag fitted with a ¼-inch plain tip. Insert the pastry tip into the center of one puff; pipe in about 1 teaspoon pastry cream (do not overfill). Transfer filled puff to a parchment-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining puffs.

In a bowl, whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons cocoa powder and confectioners’ sugar; dust puffs with cocoa mixture. Serve at room temperature.

Nutella-filled Cream Puffs

Nutella-filled Cream Puffs

It’s useless. I’m not even going to apologize for posting a decadent dessert after the more waistline-friendly pavlova dessert in my prior entry. Blame it on World Nutella Day – and the creators of the phenomenon –  Ms Adventures in Italy and Bleeding Espresso.
Together, they’ve managed to corral Nutella lovers around the world with recipes, stories, artwork and other adventures involving the chocolate-hazelnut treat.
Today, February 5, is the sixth year of World Nutella Day – an event dedicated to spreading the Nutella joy across the blogosphere. So if you haven’t participated as an entrant, at least you can enjoy the hundreds of posts from other Nutella devotees – and try making some of them yourself, like these cream puffs.
I got the best results when I used an ice cream scoop to portion out the batter. I used a piping bag with the first batch and made flatter “disks” that didn’t rise as high. They were certainly edible, but didn’t reach the heights of the second batch, made using the ice cream scoop.
You can see for yourself the height I got from using the ice cream scoop as a measurer and form for the puffs.

 

 
Those were the ones I took to a dinner party a few nights ago. They were also the ones where the chocolate glaze didn’t exactly turn out the way I wanted, even if it tasted good.

 

 

This cream puff is one of the rejects I kept from the first batch – a little flatter but still delicious – and this time I used a store-bought chocolate syrup from Hershey’s as the glaze.



Cream Puff Shells


printable recipe here
makes 8 large cream puffs

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/4 t. salt
1 cup flour
4 large eggs

Melt butter and water in a saucepan, add salt and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until it pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball around the spoon.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture should be smooth after each egg is added. Using an ice cream scoop if you have one, drop some of the mixture on a cookie sheet that has been greased, or on a sheet of parchment paper or Silpat. Bake at 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another half hour. Let cool completely before cutting in half and filling.

Filling:

2 cups whipping cream
1 13-ounce jar Nutella

Beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add the Nutella, by spoonfuls, until all the Nutella is incorporated and the cream is stiff. Fill the cream puff shells and drizzle with a chocolate glaze. I used a store-bought syrup made by Hershey’s.

Nutella Chocolate Rice Pudding

Nutella Chocolate Rice Pudding

I was inspired by Marie of “Proud Italian Cook” to make this dessert, after she posted her recipe for a decadent Nutella Hot Chocolate earlier this week.

I got to thinking … hmm, I have a jar of artisanal chocolate and hazelnut spread that was given to us last October by a young couple we met at a chestnut festival in Soriano, Italy. It’s made with dark chocolate – my favorite – but after microwaving it in the jar several times to pour over poached pears and ice cream, it had hardened beyond hope. Maybe I could salvage it by melting it in some heated cream to flavor a rice pudding — one of my husband’s favorite desserts.
I had just enough for about three servings.
That was last night.
Now who gets to eat the one serving that’s left in the fridge?
This is not going to be pretty.

Nutella Chocolate Rice Pudding

If you don’t have Nutella, or an artisanal chocolate-hazelnut spread as I did, you can substitute about 3 tablespoons of cocoa.

1 1/2 cups skim milk
1 1/2 cups cream
or
3 cups half and half

1/4 cup Nutella, or a similar spread
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup arborio riceCheck Spelling
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. Cointreau, rum or any liqueur

In a medium saucepan, gently heat the milk and cream or half and half. Add the remaining ingredients, except vanilla and liqueur. Stir constantly over low to medium heat for about 20 minutes, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and add vanilla and liqueur. Pour into serving bowls and cover with a piece of plastic wrap in order to avoid “skin” from forming. Serve as is or with whipped cream.