Michelle Darmody: Desserts made with ricotta are the right whey to go

Chocolate ricotta cheesecake can be prepared in advance so you can chill while it's chilling
Michelle Darmody: Desserts made with ricotta are the right whey to go

Cannoli are a delectable Italian dessert.

When I visited Sicily, a few years ago, sitting having coffee outside a café I saw a small van pull up and deliver tubs of fresh ricotta to the proprietor. The van trundled further down the street and stopped at other businesses and then at homes delivering varying sized tubs of ricotta. I had known that the soft white cheese is a staple part of the local diet, but it was fascinating to see that it was of such importance it had its own delivery van.

It is understandable why the Sicilians love it so much; ricotta, an Italian whey cheese, is one of those ingredients that works well in savoury as well as sweet cooking. It can be stirred through a pasta sauce or seasoned, baked and served with olive oil and fresh bread.

Another lingering memory of Sicily is the delicious ricotta-stuffed cannoli that are served in almost every bakery. You say cannolo for one or cannoli for more than one.

For the cannolo recipe here you will need cannoli moulds and a deep fat fryer or large saucepan and a thermometer. When using any hot oil, it is advisable to take great care and to use tongs with heatproof handles to remove each cannolo from the bubbling oil. The cannoli moulds are metal tubes which you wrap the soft dough around, the mould is dropped into the saucepan with the dough attached. You then gently shake the cannolo off once the mould is cool enough to handle.

These are fiddly to make and take a bit of time, but the results are very tasty and for me bring back lovely memories of that hot summer holiday by the azure sea.

Chocolate ricotta cheesecake

recipe by:Michelle Darmody

This creamy dessert is indulgent and delicious and deceptively easy

Chocolate ricotta cheesecake

Servings

10

Preparation Time

2 hours 0 mins

Total Time

2 hours 0 mins

Course

Dessert

Cuisine

Italian

Ingredients

  • For the base:

  • 155g ginger biscuits, finely crushed

  • 65g butter, melted

  • For the topping:

  • 160g dark chocolate, broken into small even-sized pieces

  • 100mls cream, whipped to soft peaks

  • 2 tsp cocoa powder, sieved

  • 220g firm ricotta

  • 80g golden caster sugar

Method

  1. Line an 8-inch round spring-form tin with parchment.

  2. Stir the melted butter and crushed biscuits together until they are completely combined. Scoop into the prepared tin and press the mixture firmly into. the base. Place into the fridge until it is cold and firm.

  3. To make the topping: melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Set aside once melted — allow to cool to just above room temperature, it should still be runny but not hot.

  4. Fold the cocoa powder into the whipped cream and then whisk the ricotta and sugar. together Fold the cream and cocoa into the ricotta.

  5. Gently stir the chocolate into the mixture and scoop it onto the cooled base. Spread the mixture and flatten with a knife dipped into warm water. To firm it up nicely, place it into the freezer for about an hour and a half.

Cannoli

recipe by:Michelle Darmody

Crisp pastry housing light and fluffy ricotta - these are absolute heaven

Cannoli

Servings

6

Preparation Time

50 mins

Cooking Time

15 mins

Total Time

1 hours 5 mins

Course

Dessert

Cuisine

Italian

Ingredients

  • For the cannoli:

  • 150g plain flour

  • ¼ tsp bread soda, sieved

  • ¼ tsp cinnamon, sieved

  • a pinch of sea salt, sieved

  • 12g golden caster sugar

  • 30g cold butter, cubed

  • 1 egg, separated

  • 50mls marsala, sweet wine

  • clean oil for frying

  • For the filling:

  • 300g firm ricotta

  • ½ tbs honey

  • a handful of shelled and chopped pistachios

  • chocolate — optional

Method

  1. Mix the flour, bread soda, cinnamon, salt and sugar. Rub the butter into the flour mixture until it looks like very fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and marsala and bring the dough together. Knead for about a minute until smooth then place it into the fridge to firm up. I usually wrap it in baking parchment.

  2. Roll the dough as thin as you can and cut into circles of about 5 inches in diameter. They will need to go around your cannoli moulds with room to join the ends together. There should be about an inch of overlap. Brush the overlapping pieces with the egg white and then with your fingers press them together so they the dough makes neat tubes around the mould.

  3. Heat your oil in a deep fat fryer or a saucepan to 180 degrees. Fry the cannoli still attached to their moulds. The pastry should turn golden and blister. Very gently remove them from the oil with tongs and allow to cool so you can slide them off the mould. Allow the hollow cannoli tubes to cool on sheets of brown paper or kitchen paper.

  4. Whisk the ricotta with the honey and pipe your cold shells with the filling. Dip each end into chopped pistachios or you can dip the shells in melted chocolate if you wish.

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