You’re Baking Me Crazy.

PicFrameI’ve been thinking about rhubarb pretty much constantly for the past several weeks, picking up stalks regularly at the farmer’s market and grocery, as it finds its way into cakes, jams and spreads.

photo 1This weekend, I was able to do a bit of pruning at my father’s and took home a moderately sized sack of perfectly rosy beauts. I’d been planning to make dessert for some friends, and, given our glorious hint of early summer, a sort of strawberry-rhubarb shortcake came to mind. A recipe I’d discovered recently boasted a sweet-savory concoction of roasted fruit with balsamic and maple flavors, which brought my own craft into the sweet-savory realm. I dreamt of thyme and pepper-coated berries and barb, caramelized and tender, folded into layers of whipped cream and fluffy biscuits.

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Given that I still had a bit of ricotta on hand from recent baking adventures, I thought it might be interesting to incorporate it into some pastry for shortcake. Much of baking is the result of a formula: fat+liquid+flour. I recalled Michael Rhulman’s genius concept of using ratios for basic batters, pastry, cake and the like. You can find a link, here.
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I added a couple of tablespoons of sugar, as this is more of a dessert biscuit, and used equal parts ricotta and milk. The rest is well, all me.
Like so many fine things, this dough takes only a moment to come together, then it must rest, given some delicate handling, then rest again. The biscuits can be refrigerated, or frozen to bake at a later time. The resultant crisp and flaky texture is ruined by moisture, so it’s aways best to eat biscuits the day they are baked.
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I measured my ingredients out using a scale, however I’ll provide approximations using household measurements. For the original recipe, refer to link above. Additionally, I bake my scones and pastry at a higher temperature, say, 425 degrees F. This melts the butter quickly and creates those lovely air pockets that make for a light, fluffy, buttery-layered biscuit.
Enjoy, and much love,
J
Thyme and Balsamic-Infused Rhubarb with Strawberries , Ricotta Shortcake and Vanilla Whip Cream

Thyme and Balsamic-Infused Rhubarb and Strawberries , Ricotta Shortcake and Vanilla Whip Cream

Thyme and Balsamic-Infused Rhubarb and Strawberries 
Inspired by Ladystiles Roasted Rhubarb and Strawberries:
**Note: the fruit can be prepared 1-2 days ahead of time and stored along with their juices, until ready to serve.
2.5-3 cups rhubarb, cut into ~1-inch lengths
1 pint strawberries, split
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
2 sprigs thyme, plucked of leaves
dash of freshly-ground black pepper
Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan with parchment paper.
Combine rhubarb and strawberries in a large bowl. Whisk remaining ingredients together; pour over fruit. Toss gently.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake for about 40 minutes, until juices have started to bubble and thicken. Remove and serve with Ricotta Biscuits (recipe follows)
Ricotta Biscuits
Ingredients:
2 c flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 c butter, chilled and diced
1/2 c ricotta
2 oz milk
Method:
Mix dry ingredients together; set aside.
Using a pastry blender or food processor, cut flour and butter until the mixture starts to resemble coarse sand; leaving a few larger pieces strewn throughout.
Whisk together ricotta and milk; add to flour.
Using a wooden spoon or hands, stir the liquid into the flour/butter until it’s just barely absorbed. Turn onto a flat surface, and knead, just a few times to bring it all together. There will still be bits of butter poking about; this is key to a flaky biscuit.
Wrap in plastic/parchment and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Once chilled, begin rolling: roll out dough into a rectangle ~1/2 inch thick.
Fold in thirds, then refrigerate a further 30 minutes.
Repeat the rolling, folding and chilling cycle once more.
As the dough makes its final rest, preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment; set aside.
Shape dough with your hands, or roll out to ~3/4-inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter.
Brush biscuits with a bit of milk, if desired, then bake for ~12-15 minutes until golden and puffed to about twice their original volume. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

 

Aiming for Perfection.

It’s no secret that I love a good cake. Or a cookie, or a pie. When I’d happened upon a recipe for a ricotta-based cake recently, I had to try it. I am a huge fan of ricotta cheesecake, and after making several flour-based cakes with yogurt or buttermilk, I had no doubt that incorporating ricotta into a cake would result in something rich, moist and luxurious. I fantasized about it for days and proceeded to make it over Mother’s day weekend (you’ll find a in image of the finished product in my last post).

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Berry Tartlets with Lemon Curd

Berry Tartlets with Lemon Curd

While the flavor was superb, especially alongside freshly-made mango sorbet, I was not pleased with the consistency. I was craving a cake with a firmer crumb, one would pair well with a velvety cup of black coffee or tea.

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Needless to say, I was sucked into the vortex of time by other responsibilities (and not to mention, tartlets!). I’d nearly forgotten about the cake until last Sunday. After a leisurely day spent with friends, I was gifted with a jar of grapefruit marmalade, made by my most fabulous and talented friend, Lisa. The peel was candied to the point of jewel-like perfection; the fruit bathed in bitter-sweet syrupy goodness. At that moment, thoughts of a Ricotta and Cornmeal Cake with Grapefruit Marmalade began swirling about in my head.
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I’m rather pleased with the consistency. Dense, but with a delicate spring, the cake pulled easily away from the pan’s edges and turned the most glorious of nut-brown. The cornmeal gave it just the right amount of toothsome crunch I was hoping for, and kept the cake appropriately moist. Dots of marmalade tucked into the batter gave it a flirty and sweet astringency, however what brought it all together was the marmalade syrup that was drizzled on top while still warm.
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I’d meant to reserve a slice for photographing, however this cake didn’t make it more than two days. Needless to say, I received many accolades and had to restrain myself from buying more ricotta at the grocery this afternoon.
Grapefruit Marmalade

Grapefruit Marmalade

Enjoy, and much love,
J
Ricotta and Cornmeal Cake with Grapefruit Marmalade
Ingredients
10 tbsp butter
3/4 c sugar
zest of 1/2 lemon
3 eggs, separated
1 c ricotta, drained of excess water
1/2 c unbleached white flour
1/4 c cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 c grapefruit marmalade
Method
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Generously butter a medium-sized bundt pan, or an 8-inch round pan.
In a small bowl, combine dry ingredients. set aside.
Combine butter and sugar in a stand mixer. Cream for 2-3 minutes, until light, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
Add egg yolks, one at a time, then add ricotta and lemon zest.
Mix in dry ingredients with a few swift turns. Be cautious not to over-mix.
In a separate bowl, whisk egg white until firm, but not dry. Fold into batter.
Pour about half of the batter into pan. Drop spoonfuls of marmalade onto batter, then cover with remaining batter.
Insert a skewer or the handle of a spoon into batter and swirl slightly to incorporate the marmalade; smooth top of batter.
Bake for ~50 minutes, until cake is set and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Remove from oven; cool on rack for ~10 minutes then invert.
While cake is cooling, quickly warm 2 tbsp of marmalade with 1 tsp of honey. Pour over inverted cake.
**Note: this cake keeps well on the counter for 1-2 days, or in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, one can imagine.
I didn’t find the need to test that theory.