Pancakes: Once you go ricotta, you’ll never go back!

I have never been a big fan of pancakes… Since I wasn’t born in the USA I didn’t grow up having pancake breakfasts, I didn’t know what maple syrup was, I just didn’t know they existed at all. My first experience eating real American pancakes was quite some years ago at a classic pancake house during breakfast with some coworkers. I remember quite well I ordered pecan pancakes and coffee that morning. They looked fabulously stacked with the butter on the top and maple syrup dripping from the edges. I enthusiastically dug in, but to my disappointment they somehow tasted like dish-washing detergent… and I am serious when I say this! It was such a let down! I tried to finish them taking big gulps of coffee to flush them down. That first experience somehow just got me into thinking that I should never eat pancakes again. Luckily, in years to come I have had some great pancakes at friends’ homes, homemade and all yummy, but I still didn’t have the courage to try to make them myself. Since my daughter is a big fan of pancakes I’ve made them for her a few times and they’ve turned out OK, but still for me that wasn’t it. Practicing and experimenting with ricotta, I managed to come up with a recipe that totally suits my family’s taste buds. The batter is so light and fluffy, the pancakes are airy and just sweet enough. Adding some berries to it, just further enhances the taste! I will say it again: Once you go ricotta, you’ll never go back!!!

Ricotta pancakes with blackberries                        Printable recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs (divided)
  • 8 oz  (225 g) ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) milk
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon vanilla extract (or pack of vanilla sugar)
  • 3/4 cup (96 g) flour
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • Blackberries (or blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.)

Preparation:

  1. Divide the eggs. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until fluffy. Set aside.
  2. In one bowl whisk the egg yolks with vanilla, add ricotta cheese, milk and lemon zest and mix until combined.
  3. In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, sugar and a pinch of salt.
  4. Add the flour into the egg mixture and mix until smooth. Fold in the egg whites and lightly mix by hand just until combined. Batter will be very fluffy.
  5. Heat a griddle or a pan, butter lightly and using a small ladle pour the batter onto it. Add a few blackberries on each pancake and bake on each side for a minute or two until golden-brown.
  6. Serve with butter and maple syrup. Yum, yum, yummm!

Bon Appétit!

Easter Cassata and how pressure can be a good thing

A person like me gets involved in a craft project and easily forgets about everything else (such as Easter grocery shopping and dinner preparation) I tell you, this year I did everything in such a rush just because I spent too much time coloring eggs.

I was in a total time crunch, but that kind of pressure is good sometimes! It puts me into a creative state of mind and usually things turn out better than when I plan for a long time.

This Easter for desert I made Cassata. Since I spent too much time on egg coloring, I didn’t have enough time to bake a sponge cake for cassata. The pressure I was telling you about made me think of another easier way to make it – with lady fingers. Here it is:

Cassata            Printable recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 packs of lady fingers
  • 26 oz (750 g) ricotta cheese
  • 4 tbsp maraschino syrup (or maraschino      liquor)
  • 1 small lemon (juice and zest)
  • 2 envelopes (14 g) of plain gelatin
  • 6 tbsp water
  • 1.6 cups (400 ml) heavy cream – whipped   *Reserve 1/4 of it for decoration
  • ½ cup (100 g) sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract (or 1 pack vanilla sugar)
  • 5 oz (150 g) candied fruit
  • 3.5 oz (100 g) chocolate  *3/4 finely chopped for filling, 1/4 for decoration
  • Maraschino cherries

Also needed:

  • Two 5 X 10 inches (about 13 X 25 cm) loaf pans
  • Plastic wrap

Prepare Cassata:

You may use a half measure of above ingredients just to make one loaf pan cassata.

  1. Line each pan with plastic wrap, cover the bottom with lady fingers (about 7 lady fingers fit on the bottom). Line the sides of the pan with lady fingers too. You will probably need to cut them so they don’t reach above the  edge of the pan. You may choose to moisten lady fingers before lining the pan, but if you leave cassata in the fridge over night, lady fingers will pick up some moisture from the filling and they will be soft.
  2. Combine ricotta cheese, maraschino syrup, lemon juice and zest.  Mix well and set aside. (You may add some sugar if you think it wouldn’t be sweet enough for you).
  3. Mix 6 tbsp of water with 2 envelopes of gelatin in a small cooking pot, let it rest for 10 minutes.
  4. Whip the heavy cream until dense, add sugar and vanila.
  5. Now place the pot with gelatin on the stove and let it melt at a low temperature, mixing the whole time. Don’t let it boil. Take about  1 cup of ricotta cheese mixture and add it to the melted gelatin. Mix well and then pour it back to the remaining ricotta cheese mixture. Mix again.
  6. Now add to it bit by bit whipped cream alternating with chopped chocolate and candied fruit. Mix slowly by hand until everything is nicely blended.
  7. Pour the filling into prepared pans lined with lady fingers. Cover with plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge for at least 3 hours or over night.
  8. When ready to serve, invert the pan slowly onto a serving plate, decorate with melted chocolate, remaining whipped cream and maraschino cherries.

BON APPETIT!