Ricotta & Apricot Jam Crostata, a lavish yet simple cake, with all the flavors of the fading summer. A tender, lemon flavored crust, a rich and moist ricotta layer with a subtly smooth sweet apricot jam filling.
Song of the day: Bonfire Heart - James Blunt.
Today is my mother's birthday and also the last day of our Italian summer vacation. Tomorrow we'll be on a plane, homebound to Canada. Time flew, and what a time! One month of gorgeous sightseeing, family and friends gatherings, luscious eating, sun-filled days, leaving our hearts full of memories, experiences, and inspirations.
We feel happy, tired and relaxed at the same time. So many the places we saw, the new dishes we tried, the people we kissed and hugged, the laughs we shared, the things we bought to bring back home. We had planned the vacation so we could be in Italy for my friends Laura and Luca's wedding, at the beginning of our holiday, for my brother's birthday, and for my mother's birthday, right at the end. For tonight we booked a nice place overlooking a quiet lake to celebrate her. There won't be any cake, we'll have dessert there. So I am dedicating this Ricotta & Apricot Jam Crostata to her. I baked it last week and we enjoyed it with her and my family. Needless to say, she loved it, as much as each of us. Ricotta is possibly my mother's favorite food, you often find cow or sheep ricotta on their table in Rome. And jam, well, jam, is my father's passion, making it and eating it on a fetta biscottata every breakfast. This apricot jam is his homemade. Every summer he makes all kinds of jam, little jars of different colors filling our cupboards.
The inspiration for this amazing Ricotta & Apricot Jam Crostata came from Laura's wedding; among all the many desserts that crowded the dessert table, there it was, a ricotta and jam crostata. I always reach for this kind of cakes: crostate, pies, tarts they have my absolute preference. The flavor exploded in my mouth with such a power that my first thought was: I need to make this again, soon! It was soft, not too sweet, with a gorgeous filling. The ricotta and the jam together in a mouthful was incredible.
The one I had at the wedding was a bit different in texture and density, however, with that being said, both equally delicious.
The pastry is easy to make with basic ingredients you can have in your fridge and pantry: flour, eggs, vegetable oil (I used peanut oil), sugar, lemon juice and zest, baking powder, vanilla. It is so soft and delicate to work with, you need a little bit of care when doing the lattice top, but even if it should break like it did for me and you have to join pieces together, it's okay. This is an unsophisticated cake, it is not the look that matters, the flavor and texture win you over.
I'm not saying that this Ricotta & Apricot Jam Crostata is ugly, actually, I find it very pretty. It is like an old antique, a bit weathered yet has this inner beauty. You might have noticed that this type of rustic baking is my trademark. This is what I grew up with and if you were to go to these small towns in the country you would find this rustic beauty of pastries.
As a matter of fact, I baked this Ricotta & Apricot Jam Crostata in our country kitchen located in Agosta, my parents' birthplace east of Rome, full of antique pieces and collectibles. The cast aluminum pan you see in the pictures belonged to my aunt Teresa's mom, and I have to say it cooked the cake quickly and beautifully. So, the baking time may vary according to the size and the type of pan you're using. Mine baked in 30 minutes. If you're using a modern spring form cake pan it will be easier to take out, I had to do it the old fashion way by flipping it upside down putting a plate on top and then placing a plate at the bottom of the cake and turning it right side up.
The first thing you notice before you even cut into it is the aroma: the lemon with its juice and zest lends an unmistakable fragrance, uplifting and joyful. Then you cut into the crust and you realize how delicate and elegant the pastry is. The jam beautifully lays on the creamy bed of ricotta.
At first bite, the wholeness of this dessert falls into your mouth like a feather. The dance of texture begins with the crumbliness of the pastry melting, giving way for the ricotta and jam to become one. The ricotta is the perfect canvas to allow the flavor of the jam to shine through.
Bite after bite you're left with this incredible flavor in your mouth and your tongue dancing to capture any last bit of flavor.
Song of the day: Bonfire Heart - James Blunt.Print
For the crust:
- 1 egg, organic free range
- 100 ml vegetable oil (I used peanut oil)
- 150 g sugar (I used granulated sugar)
- 1 small organic lemon, juice and zest
- 300 g flour 00 (or organic unbleached all purpose)
- 8 g baking powder (½ packet)
- 1 tsp vanilla
For the filling:
- 250 g ricotta
- 1 egg yolk
- 30 g powder (icing) sugar
- 300 g jam, more or less, any kind you like
- Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C) and line a spring form cake pan with oven paper (I used one with a diameter of 20 cm). Set aside.
For the crust:
- In a large bowl add sugar, egg, vegetable oil, lemon juice and zest, vanilla. Mix the ingredients using a wooden spoon or a whisk.
- In another bowl whisk together flour and baking powder.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until well blended. Form a ball and set to rest in the fridge while you make the filling.
For the filling:
- In a medium sized bowl work vigorously the ricotta, the egg yolk and the powder sugar until smooth (I used a wooden spoon).
Assemble the Crostata:
- Take the dough out of the fridge. Divide the dough leaving a ¼ out to make the lattice top. Using your hands, press the dough at the bottom and the edges of the cake pan.
- Add the ricotta mixture and level it slightly.
- Finally, spoon the jam over the ricotta and smoothen the surface.
- Flatten the set aside dough and make a lattice top by cutting strips (about 2 cm wide) with a knife or a cutting tool.
- With an offset spatula pick up strips and place in a lattice pattern cutting any excess off the edge.
- Bake the Ricotta and Apricot Jam Crostata in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until nice and golden.
- Take out of the oven and let it cool completely before slicing.
- Keep any leftover in the fridge.
You can use a stand mixer to mix the batter.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Serving Size: 8 people
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I love baking and kneading dough because it takes me to a happy place in my soul.