For quite some time, I have been drooling over this cake. It was first spotted from one of my favorite shows on cable TV, Italian Food Safari. Then a while later, I saw this recipe on Not Quite Nigella.
Ms. NQN had gone to Pasticceria Papa in Haberfield, Sydney and tasted the famous ricotta cake. She then made an italian ricotta cheesecake that was said to be very similar to the Pasticceria Papa one. The source was from Italian Food Safari.
Since I’ve started baking again, this recipe has been on my to-do list. That is almost a year plus ago. What held me back was the cost. Ricotta cheese costs around S$10 for a 250 grams tub. It is really a killer price to pay for such a small amount. To make this cake, I’d need 3 tubs and just the ricotta and cream cheese would set me back about S$40!
I don’t know what got into me that I didn’t check on making ricotta cheese until recently. I always thought making cheese would involve plenty of complicated steps and special equipment. I stumbled onto homemade ricotta cheese on the net and realized it was really quite easy to make your own whole milk ricotta cheese.
I used the recipe from Not Quite Nigella, with some adaptations.
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
- 3 litres whole pasteurized milk (I used Hokkaido 3.6 milk)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 250 ml heavy whipping cream (I used 47% fat heavy whipping cream)
- 6 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice (see below)
- Pour the milk, cream and salt into a large pot.
- Heat mixture to 190 F, stirring occasionally to prevent milk at the bottom of the pot from burning.
- Pour in vinegar or lemon juice. Stir gently about 3 rounds to distribute evenly.
- Cover with a cloth and let rest for 10 minutes. The curds will separate from the whey. Do not move or shift the bowl during resting time.
- Pour into fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth, placed over a large bowl.
- Let the cheese drain until it reaches your desired consistency. Mine was just a bit damp.
- Use cheese immediately or store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
This recipe yield around 910 grams of ricotta cheese. As for the whey, it was around 1.5 litres. I used some for bathing, as suggested by Ms. NQN. The smell was wonderful to me. The remainder was stored in an airtight container in the fridge. I plan to use some for bread making.
With regards to using vinegar or lemon, let me share my experience. I used lemon juice initially. But when I drained the curds from the whey, I discovered the whey was still white in color and still smelled like milk and cream. I suspected the lemon juice was insufficient, so I reheated the mixture and when it reached 190 F, I poured in 4 tablespoons of vinegar. This time, on draining, the whey became murky yellowish in color.
There was still around 280 grams of curds from the 2nd round! I did notice the curds seemed more rubbery than the first round. For this cake, I used 625 grams of curds from the 1st round and 25 grams from the 2nd round. My opinion is, stick to the vinegar when making the ricotta cheese.
For the cake, I must admit I’ve never made anything that required so many steps before as yet. It was pretty tiring but exciting as I went through the steps.
(A) – Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
- 100 grams castor sugar
- 200 grams unsalted butter
- 300 grams plain flour
- 1 egg (optional)
(B) – Egg Mixture
- 3 eggs
- 60 grams sugar
(C) – Cheese Filling
- 650 grams ricotta cheese
- 350 grams cream cheese
- 50 grams sugar
- 80 ml heavy whipping cream (35% fat)
- 100 grams sultanas, soaked in brandy or rum (I soaked in juice from 1 orange)
- 80 grams orange peel, diced (I used 65 grams dried Japanese oranges bought from Isetan)
- 80 grams blanched almond meal
- Line the bottom of a 26 cm removable bottom pan.
- To make the sweet shortbread pastry, cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add in egg and beat until combined. Add in flour and mix for 15 seconds on medium speed until just combined. Scrape out dough, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for an hour. The dough will be quite wet and sticky, especially if you opted to put in an egg.
- Preheat oven to 180 C. Roll out dough between 2 pieces of cling film to around 0.5 cm, if you can. Cut out dough to fit the base of the pan. Place the dough on top of the lined pan and bake at 180 C for 10 minutes. I had great difficulty managing the dough in Singapore weather. It was warm and humid and I gave up rolling the dough. I just mashed the dough into the lined base as well as I could, placed a cling film over the dough in the base and used a rolling pin to roll over it to create a cleaner look.
- When baked, let cool then roll the remainder of the dough out to fit the sides of the pan. Remember to smoosh the uncooked dough into the cooked part so it sticks together. As per above, I just did my best to coat the sides as evenly as possible, chilled it for 10 minutes and used a spoon to smooth it over.
- For the egg filling, in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs with sugar until thick and fluffy. Set aside.
- For the cheese filling, in another bowl, beat cream cheese with sugar until smooth.
- Add ricotta cheese, beat until smooth.
- With the mixer on low, add in whipping cream gradually.
- Turn off the mixer, scrape in the egg filling. Beat until fully combined on medium speed. This should take about 2 minutes. Mixture will turn a very light yellow.
- Sift in almond meal, add in sultanas and orange peel and fold until everything is just combined.
- Pour mixture into the prepared pan and bake for an hour at 180 C.
- Cool in the oven, with the door ajar, for an hour.
- Remove from oven and cool completely. Chill in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight, if possible.
- Sift icing sugar and cinnamon over the cake before serving.
The toughest part was the shortcrust pastry. There were no clear indications of how much to use for the base and the sides. I pretty much winged it and I am glad I had enough. The pastry kept sliding down as I mashed it to the sides and it was shrinking in the oven as well. That is how hot it is here! The butter was melting quite fast. But in the end, the pastry ended up the perfect height to accompany the filling. 🙂
The taste is super! Smooth, rich and utterly delicious. It is not too sweet and the taste is a explosive combination of rich cheesy milky filling with a slight tang from the sultanas and orange peel, finished with the fragrance of cinnamon. The crust is good! I like it! I was worried it would be over-cooked and hard but it is just fine. Makes all the pain to make the crust worth it. 🙂
I have not tasted the original Pasticerria Papa but I plan to someday. In the meantime, this will definitely make my day. However, I cannot eat too much. Diet diet diet..:(
Have a happy Good Friday holiday!