bocconotti di ricotta. You know how we all have a dessert which we seem to be known for? Well I have two, but they are both based on the same premise: ricotta and a form of pasta frolla (pâte sucrée).
I first had a crostata di ricotta (ricotta pie) in a beautiful summer evening in Ostuni, Puglia. It was love at first taste. Pretty much the best dessert ever. So simple in essence, but with such a delicate yet flavoursome taste that got me thinking about desserts in a different way.
But it was not until some months later that I began cooking from Ada Boni’s Il talismano della felicità (I cannot recommend this book enough) that I realised a recipe for the now infamous crostata was there. And not just that, there was one for some bocconotti di ricotta as well.
To make a long story short, I have whipped these up on numerous (countless?) occasions and they never fail to bring some sort of praise.
So this Christmas, as I was given free reign in the dessert department (I have a feeling gnom-gnom had something to do with this…), I opted for these. After spotting some fresh lavender (we are having a ridiculously mild winter over here in Mexico) when buying our organic turkey (more on this later on), I decided to make them with candied cedro and lavender instead of the usual winter chocolate. And let me tell you, without a doubt they were the stars of the dessert table.
After making these in several ways throughout the years, I like it best when the pastry is as thin as possible (without tearing or becoming translucent) and just a small dollop of the ricotta mixture in the centre. And I find it easier to cut out the pastry rounds before spooning the ricotta (as opposed to spooning it, adding the second pastry sheet and then cutting… which can lead to a ricotta mess).
Alternatively, you can make these in bocconotti moulds (essentially tiny tartlet cases), but note that you will have to double the amount of filling (depending on the depth of the moulds of course).
My favourite fillings are with candied orange, candied cedro (can be substituted for candied lemon peel) (with a touch of lavender when in season), dark chocolate bits, or even some cocoa powder mixed in with the ricotta.
Trust me on these.
click through for recipe
for the pasta frolla
150 g (scant 1 1/4 cup) unbleached flour
150 g (1 cup + 2 TBS) whole wheat pastry flour
30 g (1/4 cup) powdered sugar*
pinch of fine sea salt
160 g (11 TBS) cold butter, diced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2-4 TBS ice cold water
plus one egg, lightly beaten for egg wash
for the ricotta filling (double if using bocconotti moulds)
250 g (8.8 oz) ricotta
50 g (scant 1/2 cup) powdered sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
40 g (1.4 oz) candied orange (or candied cedro or lemon) (or dark chocolate, finely chopped)
1 tsp fresh organic lavender**, finely chopped (when using candied cedro)
To make the pastry, place the two flours, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to thoroughly mix. Add the diced butter and pulse a few more times, until crumbly. Add the egg and pulse again. If needed, add 1 tablespoon at a time of the ice cold water until it just holds together. Form into a disk, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least one hour.
For the filling, mix together the ricotta, powdered sugar, egg, vanilla extract and chosen filling. My favourite is the candied cedro (or lemon) with the fresh lavender (when in season) and of course, the chocolate one.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC (390ºF). On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough as thinly as possible (without it breaking or becoming translucent), making sure it is not sticking to the surface. With a 6 cm (2 1/2 inch) round cutter, cut out 48 circles. Add a spoonful of the ricotta mixture (making sure not to add too much!) to the centre of 24 of the pastry rounds. Brush with the beaten egg around the ricotta and cover with another pastry round (with the egg you only need to press lightly). Place on a baking sheet and brush with the egg wash.
Refrigerate for 15 minutes, brush once again and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until tops are golden brown.
Trust me, these are way better cold, so allow to cool completely on a rack before serving.
makes 24 x 6cm bocconotti
* I make my own powdered sugar by running evaporate cane juice (or cane sugar) through the blender until powdered
** the amount of lavender used depends on the strength of the flower, but 1 tsp is a good benchmark (you really do not want to over do it). Alternatively, you can use a drop (maximum two) of lavender essential oil (just make sure it is the edible variety!)
IMPORTANT NOTE: while I provide measurements in both grams and cups throughout my recipes, I tend to favour weighing the ingredients for greater precision. Measuring by cups depends on too many variables (starting with how you pour the flour) and can be imprecise. I therefore highly suggest following the metric measurements for best results.