Ricotta and Strawberry Tart

I apologize that my postings have been so few and far between these last 9 months, but I  have been taking French classes.  What a great experience it has been, but at the same time very intense.  We’ve gone from learning the present tense and saying “bonjour” to learning the conditional tense and everything in between.

I’m ready to finish up the semester and get back to cooking; realizing though that with a language it’s practice, practice, practice.  Otherwise, it is quickly lost.

I will also be creating recipes, doing recipe demonstrations and teaching cooking classes for Cedar Summit Farm.  This means I will get to create recipes using their products.  They will be posted on their website as well as on mine.

Here’s the first one using a homemade ricotta using both whole milk and cream from their farm (see recipe at the bottom).

Serves:  8 – 12
6 ¾ ounces (1 1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 ounces (1/2 cup) confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 ½ ounces (9 tablespoons) very cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg

12 ounces (1 ½ cups) drained fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese, preferably homemade*
4 large egg yolks
3 ½ ounces (½ cup) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon orange flower water
Pinch of salt
Zest of 1 lemon, preferably organic
Strawberries, sliced for garnishing
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Special Equipment:
9 ½ – inch tart pan with removable bottom

For Crust:

Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor to combine.  Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in.  Some pieces of butter should be the size of say oats and others the size of peas.  In other words, different sizes are okay.  In a separate small bowl, stir the egg, just to break it up.  Then, add it a little at a time to the flour mixture, pulsing after each addition.  When the egg has just been incorporated, process the mixture in 10 seconds pulses until the dough just begins to form some clumps.

At this point stop the machine.  Turn the dough out onto a work surface and with a gentle hand knead the dough just to finish incorporating any dry ingredients that might have escaped the mixing in the machine.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about 2 hours or overnight.  Roll out chilled dough between two pieces of parchment paper or on a marble counter-top to a 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to prevent it sticking to the paper or counter.  Note that less flour will be needed if rolling between the parchment paper than on the counter.  And, using less flour means a more tender crust so use as little as possible to keep the dough from sticking.

When at the 12-inch round, roll the dough onto your rolling pin and lay it over the tart pan pressing the dough firmly into the bottom edge of the pan.  Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch.  Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides and extending the sides to about ¼ – inch above the pan’s rim.  Pierce crust all over with fork.  Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, but preferably longer, before baking.

When ready to bake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375° degrees F.  Take a piece of the parchment paper that was used to roll out the dough and line the tart dough with it.  Add pie weights.  Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 20 to 25 minutes.

Carefully remove the weights and parchment paper.  Return the tart shell to the oven and continue baking about 10 minutes longer to fully bake it, or until it is firm and golden brown.    If the edges start to become to brown cover with pieces of aluminum foil or what I do is cover it with the “top” of a 10-inch removable tart pan.

For Filling:

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.  In the bowl of a food processor, using the metal “S” blade add the cheese, egg yolks, sugar, orange flower water, salt, and zest.  Pulse until combined and smooth.  Spread filling into tart shell.

Bake, rotating once halfway through, until just set in center about 20 – 25 minutes.  Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool completely.  Arrange sliced strawberries in concentric circles atop tart.  Dust edge of crust with confectioner’s sugar.  Remove tart from pan and serve.

Homemade Ricotta
Ricotta is so easy to make and so delicious.  You will need to have a cooking thermometer for your first couple of attempts.  The Taylor instant read pocket thermometer is my preference. It is reliable, inexpensive, and compact.   Yield: about 3 cups

1 gallon whole pasteurized milk
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt (more if you want a saltier taste and if you are not going to use it for desserts)
1 pint heavy cream (optional)

Rinse the inside of the pot you intend to use with cold water (this helps prevent the milk from scorching). Place 1 gallon milk in large, heavy non-reactive pot on medium heat.

Add salt and stir briefly. Allow milk to heat up slowly, stirring occasionally. Soon you will notice steam start to form above the surface and tiny bubbles appearing on the milk. You want it to reach 180-185 degrees, near scalding temperature, just before it comes to a boil. Check the temperature with your thermometer.

When it reaches the correct temperature, take the pot off the burner, add the vinegar and stir gently for only one minute.  You will notice curds forming immediately. Cover with a dry clean dish towel and allow the mixture to sit undisturbed for a couple of hours.

When the ricotta has rested for 2 hours or more, take a piece of cheesecloth, dampen it and place it inside a colander. With a slotted spoon, ladle out the ricotta into the prepared colander. Place the colander with ricotta inside of a larger pan so it can drain freely. Let it drain for two hours or so depending on how creamy or dry you want your cheese to be.

Lift the cheesecloth up by the four corners and twist gently. If the liquid runs clear, squeeze a little more. If the liquid runs milky, there is no more need to squeeze. Place in a tight sealed container. Refrigerate. It will keep for up to 7 days.

Ricotta does not freeze well but any remaining that is not used for the tart can be spread on crackers for a delicious snack.

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