In Italy, ricotta is synonymous to Easter and springtime. Many tables will be adorned with ricotta dishes and desserts this holiday week-end and my table will not be different. Here is a recipe for an alternative to the traditional ricotta pie. The lemon scent is fresh and light and the pastry cream lights up the thickness of the ricotta. It's a bit of work, but so worth it!
1 lemon peel
½ liter whole milk
120 grams sugar
5 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
40 grams of flour
250 grams of ricotta cheese
150 grams butter at room temperature
150 grams sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
350 grams flour
1 zest of lemon
2 teaspoons baking powder
dash of salt
1-2 tablespoons of milk, only if needed
Directions for pastry cream:
1. Wash your lemon and with a pairing knife gently peel your lemon (as if peeling an apple), making sure you don’t remove the pith of the lemon (the white part under the peel) as that is bitter.
2. Bring to a boil the milk with the lemon peel.
3. In a separate medium stainless steel pot, mix the egg yolks and sugar until well blended, add vanilla.
4. Sift flour over egg mixture and blend.
5. Turn the heat on to low-medium and in a slow stream, add the hot milk to the egg mixture, mixing fiercely with a wooden spoon so as to avoid scrambling the eggs.
6. Cook the cream for several minutes until it thickens up.
7. Transfer cream to a bowl, place plastic wrap directly above it so as to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool. In the meantime, prepare your crust.
Directions for crust:
1. Mix soft butter with sugar.
2. Add egg and egg yolk and mix well.
3. Slowly add flour, it will look dry and crumbly but it will come together nicely.
4. Add the zest and baking powder and a dash of salt.
5. If dough appears dry, you may add 1-2 tablespoons of milk. You should only need to do this is your butter is not soft enough, or you are using smaller eggs.
6. Invert crust on a slightly floured surface and work the dough until it comes together in a nice ball.
7. Cut about 1/3 of the dough and set aside for topping.
8. Press the remaining 2/3 of dough into a 12-inch pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray for baking. (If you are concerned about being unable to remove the crostata from the pan after baking, use a tart pan with a removable bottom)
9. Poke the crust with a fork at least 12-15 times, this will prevent any air bubbles from forming while baking.
10. When the pastry cream is cooled, remove the lemon peel and add 250 grams of ricotta cheese and gently fold together.
11. Evenly spread cream and ricotta mixture over crust.
12. With a rolling pin, roll out remaining dough and cut 8-10 equal strips of dough about ½ inch wide. Top the crostata with strips.
13. Bake crostata for 45-55 minutes, until firm.
14. Cool completely before inverting crostata in a serving dish, dust with powdered sugar.
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