Ricotta Filled Chocolate and Pecan Tart

By • March 7, 2011 • 36 Comments



Author Notes: We don’t eat a lot of sweets in this house, so when a big food-friendly holiday comes along, we always make sure that everyone’s happy with the desserts. My sons invariably request a fruit pie, so I make either a pear or apple tart or pie, which everyone will enjoy for breakfast the next morning. No one here feels a strong attachment to pumpkin or sweet potato pie, but I like the color it adds to the table, so I often stir the standard pumpkin spices and salt into mashed, roasted butternut squash, to serve with dinner. Mr T loves pecan pie, but will gladly eat any pie or tart made with a lot of pecans. Me? I love chocolate, and any dessert made with ricotta, especially when the ricotta is homemade. This then, is for the two of us, though my oldest son, when he tasted it, declared it one of the best desserts I’d ever made. I found inspiration for this in the Sicilian wedding cake known as “Cassata”, which always has bits of candied orange peel in it. You could sprinkle on a generous handful of those instead of the marmalade, if you like. Enjoy! ;o)
AntoniaJames

Makes one 9-inch tart

  • 1 tart crust, blind baked (See note below)
  • 2 tablespoons yellow raisins
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • 1 pound ricotta (preferably homemade), well drained (Let it sit over a cloth-lined colander for at least an hour.)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of one lemon, grated
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup marmalade or 1/4 cup diced candied orange peel (optional)
  • 1 ½ ounces dark chocolate, finely shaved, divided (I use a vegetable peeler for this.)
  • 1 cup pecan pieces, chopped (measured after chopping)
  1. In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the liqueur. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Blend in a food processor the ricotta, sugar, flour, vanilla extract, lemon zest, egg yolks and buttermilk until thoroughly combined and smooth. It will take two or three minutes, during which time you should scrape down the sides three or four times.
  3. Pour the liqueur off the raisins, pressing down on them; then add the liqueur to the ricotta mixture. Buzz for another few seconds to incorporate.
  4. Slather the marmalade on the bottom of the blind-baked shell. If using candied orange peel instead, sprinkle it on now.
  5. Sprinkle on about a third of the chocolate shavings, and the soused raisins.
  6. Spread on the flavored ricotta. It works best just to drop some large globs of it on, and then gently smear it across the chocolate-covered marmalade. It's sort of like icing a cake. Don't worry if some of the marmalade sticks to your spatula and gets into the ricotta. Once it's baked, no one will ever know. When you've gotten the ricotta smooth, sprinkle on the nuts.
  7. Bake in the bottom third of your oven for about 25 minutes. (Frame the outer crust, with foil or whatever other device you use, to keep it from getting too dark, if necessary. That will depend on how dark the outer crust got when you blind baked it.)
  8. Sprinkle on the rest of the chocolate shavings, lower the heat to 325 degrees, cover the tart lightly with foil, and bake for another 10 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool for at least two hours before serving.
  10. Enjoy!! ;o)
  11. N.B. I used the 3-2-1 ratio for pie crust in Michael Ruhlman’s exposition on the ratios compiled by Uwe Hestner, now retired chef-instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, in Ruhlman’s book entitled “Ratio.” I adapted the nut crust variation, grinding pecans with a few tablespoons of sugar, substituting a good bit of vanilla for part of the water, and using 2 parts of all-purpose flour to one part barley flour. I pressed the crust into the tart pan, but used a straight-sided small juice glass to roll it even. It smelled heavenly while blind-baking, like nut crescent cookies, because frankly, it's essentially the same dough. The ricotta filling has many of the same ingredients as the Crostata di Ricotta recipe in the old Time-Life "Cooking of Italy" recipe supplement, but I scaled down the amount of ricotta and altered the proportions to create the relatively thin layer of what is essentially a pound-cake flavored cheesecake. ;o)
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Tags: can be made ahead, can be made ahead, cheesecake, cookies, Desserts, dinner party, Italian, Italian, Italian, Italian, ricotta, ricotta, serves a crowd, travels well, winter

Comments (36) Questions (0)

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8 months ago annarose

Hi there-- I'm planning on making this later today, to be eaten tomorrow. How should this be stored overnight? In the fridge or on the counter ?

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8 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

You should put it in the fridge, after cooling completely on the counter. Hope you enjoy it! ;o)

Stringio

over 3 years ago testkitchenette

This is utterly amazing and I love your little touch of buttermilk in there too!

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thanks so much. I really like buttermilk with citrus (in fact, I posted an orange buttermilk sherbet here a week or two before I made this) . . . . plus, I thought just a hint of tangy flavor would go well with the marmalade and dark chocolate. I use a Bulgarian buttermilk (which is extra tangy) by the way, in dishes like this. It's great stuff if you can get it. ;o)

Me

over 3 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

Oh how I wish I could eat nuts! What would this be like without them? Or do you have any substitutions you would recommend? Beautiful photo and recipe, AJ!!

Gator_cake

over 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

What if you subbed pine nuts - would be very Italian, don't you think?

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I would try pine nuts! A traditional cassata alla Siciliana doesn't have any nuts in it, but the crostata di ricotta, which is very similar to the filling in this pie, often is covered in pine nuts. I'd use a regular crust, with perhaps some toasted wheat germ in it and a bit of barley flour, which both give it a nutty taste. I do hope you try it!! And thank you, as always, for your kind comment. ;o)

Me

over 3 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

Pine nuts I can do. I've been adding wheat germ to some of my breads lately, so I think I'll use your idea of adding it to the crust along with the barley flour. I've added this great sounding recipe to my list to try!

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I actually think that pine nuts might even be better, as they have a sort of savoriness to them that could go really well with the dark chocolate and the vanilla-pound-cake-flavored filling. . . not to mention, they'd be unexpected. Go for it!! ;o)

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over 3 years ago SallyCan

Yes, that is one gorgeous tart! Thanks for the memory ;)

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, Sally! I can taste and smell the fragrance and remember the texture of Mother's cassata as I sit here tonight . . . . and I can see us making it, too. Very, very good memories, indeed. ;o) P.S. Do you remember, did she make her sour cream cake in loaves for this?

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over 3 years ago Midge

This looks wonderful. Love that you were inspired by cassata cake, one of my all-time favorite desserts.

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Hey, thanks so much, Midge. You know, I've never seen Cassata alla Siciliana on a restaurant menu or in a pasticceria in the US or anywhere else, nor have I been served it at any dinner party other than those my mother's. It seems that cassata hasn't received the recognition it deserves, given its deliciousness. Pound cake, liqueur-flavored ricotta, and just a bit of dark chocolate . . . . what's not to love?! ;o)

Summer_2010_1048

over 3 years ago Midge

Come to the think of it, I haven't either. The cake I grew up with though is a very Americanized version, almost like a trifle, made by my Italian grandmother. But I love it!

Gator_cake

over 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

There's a version of Cassata at Papa Haydn in Portland. It uses coffee and espresso to soak the sponge cake, and a bittersweet chocolate ricotta filling. It's good, but your version sounds better!

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Yes, I've heard that many Americans make it with a sponge cake instead of a pound cake, which would make it much lighter and more like a trifle. I think the buttery, lemon-scented, ricotta-soaked pound cake is what makes the dessert unique, which is why I tried to replicate that in the ricotta layer here. ;o)

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

HLA that cassata at Papa Haydn's sounds good, but it doesn't sound like a cassata to me . . . . though I am admittedly no expert. The plain pound cake and the little bits of orange peel with the little bits of chocolate, in that white ricotta background, are what make it so good. But hey, I love creativity and interpretation and extrapolation, so more power to Papa Haydn. ;o)

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over 3 years ago thirschfeld

looks wonderful, glad you got freed up to get this posted, saving it to my recipes as we speak.

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you so much, Mr. H. I'm honored that you're saving it!! ;o)

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over 3 years ago caddysnax

that cassata recipe is classic and one of my favorite desserts too. i'd make more orange peel just for this though the marmalade sounds pretty good.

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

You could use candied orange peel instead, or any citrus peel for that matter, but I'd use a fair bit of it, to get the citrus flavor and the chewy texture. ;o)

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over 3 years ago TasteFood

This sounds amazing, AJ!

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thanks, TF! I have to agree with BigBear that it turned out particularly well . . . . . ;o)

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over 3 years ago healthierkitchen

It is a gorgeous tart!

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, HK!! You noticed . . . . .;o)

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over 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Wow! This looks awesome! I can't think of any other way to put it!

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thanks so much, fiveandspice. According to the two other family members who made short work of it with a lot of happy food-eating sounds, it tastes pretty good, too. ;o)

Bigbear_nonibear

over 3 years ago BigBear

The jam on the bottom is killer. Quite possibly one of your best desserts, ever.

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you so much. Glad you liked it. ;o)

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over 3 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Fabulous, AJ!

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, Dr. B! ;o)

Gator_cake

over 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Wow, AJ! Your talent amazes me as always.

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thanks, HLA! The feeling is mutual, of course. ;o)

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over 3 years ago Fairmount_market

This sounds delicious! I'm tempted to try it with some homemade hearty kiwi jam I have in the pantry.

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Oh, that sounds divine . . . .. just the though of the tart kiwi + dark chocolate makes my mouth water. But wait, you said Kiwi Jam?? I've never made kiwi jam, and the kiwis at the market are just gorgeous these days! I feel a project coming on . . . . . ;o)

Me

over 3 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

If you make some, AJ, you gotta post it!!