Greetings, and Happy Spring to all! We’ve made it through another winter. With that in mind, I wanted to come up with something yummy and unusual for Easter, as well as a little side trip to sunny Italy. As you can see by the title, this is a dessert that can be considered many things: Pie? Cheesecake? Torte? Probably not the latter. I would consider it a cross between a pie and a cheesecake.
This is also a dessert with a history. A long one. One source consulted many years ago says it goes back to the early days of the Roman Empire, but in another source I looked at that same time said it goes back even further, to Etruscan times. They were the forebears of the Romans, and gave their name to the famous Tuscany of today. Also you see the use of sugar below, and that is a modern adaptation, the Etruscans would have used honey. Feel free to experiment there. So there you have it, another history lesson with your recipe. Without further adieu:
For the pastry:
¾ cup flour (can be white, or 50/50 whole wheat/white*)1/3 cup butter, preferably2 tbsp sugarPinch salt
* I happen to believe a 50/50 mix would also be more authentic, as my research has shown they wouldn’t have had pure white flour. It probably wouldn’t have been as heavy as pure whole wheat flour either, and it’s also possible they may have used some rice flour.
For the filling:
1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese (any style)
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon, optional
1 tsp grated orange peel (mixing in some lemon is good too, I use both)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp golden raisins
2 tbsp cut-up citron
2 tbsp chopped almonds (preferably blanched)
Powdered sugar and cinnamon, to dust
For the pastry: Blend together with a pastry blender all ingredients, and pat into an ungreased 9-inch springform pan. (10-inch will work if you don’t have a 9, just watch (shorten) your baking time.) Bake at 450 F for about 5 minutes.
For the filling: Mix the cheese, sugar, flour, eggs, orange peel, vanilla and salt in a large mixer bowl until creamy and smooth. Add in your raisins, citron, and almonds. Some people add in a handful of chocolate chips, if that is your raison d’état, go ahead. It’s just not authentic. Pour into pastry lined pan and bake at 350 F for 75 or 90 minutes, until the center is set and the top is golden brown. Don’t over bake it, or it will come out like leather. Cook on rack. Chill for 12 to 24 hours, then remove outer rim. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar if desired.