Sunday, June 30, 2013

Chocolate Ricotta Icebox Cake

summertime chocolate perfection...and no baking ! it's magically delicious !  
Chocolate cake in the heat of summer can be a bit of a tricky proposition. Certainly, you don't want to eat anything warm. Even cakes that are usually eaten cold - like, say, cheesecake - require turning on the oven, which seems a bit of a waste (especially when you have 3 AC's going full blast). Plus you really don't want to eat anything so heavy that it might cause you to pass out into the pool. And sure, you can always do a chocolate mousse or something instead...but what if you just need cake ? Like, cake you can stick birthday candles in and pass out slices of ?

Readers, I think I found the solution :
Sadly, I only got to snap the slices after it was almost all gone...with two men with forks looking over my shoulder waiting for the last piece. Trust me when I say it served up MUCH neater than this !!

Well, actually, Martha Stewart really found it. And truth be told, my original intent wasn't to beat the heat; my mother had requested one of my "decadent flourless chocolate cakes" for her birthday/retirement party (turning 65 will do that to you :).) I have a few cakes that fit that bill, but unfortunately they all involve nuts - and we had a possible attendee with a severe allergy. Clearly, a new recipe was in order. I'd been thinking about trying to make a cake with a really delicious ricotta cheese that we've been buying at Russo's...and I knew I wanted to make something chocolate. Googled "ricotta" and chocolate"...and before I knew it, I had a new favorite summer chocolate cake. And - super bonus - there was no turning on of the oven ! Yes, I love it when a plan comes together...

Top to bottom - killer ricotta, chocolate wafers (in package and deployed), Ghiradelli chocolate

I think one of the keys to this cake is that you absolutely have to use quality ingredients - you'll see that there aren't too many actual ingredients in this thing, so you'll really want to make sure the few you use are the best stuff you can possibly get. The ricotta I used in this is from a New England company called Liuzzi Angeloni and it is a revelation -a big muffin-top bulge of cheese, packaged in little white pails with tiny holes and water all around to keep it fresh. It tastes like no ricotta you've ever had - creamy, slightly sweet and a little tangy at the same time. We've been known to eat it by itself on a plate, with a little salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh basil snipped over...but I digress; back to dessert. Use the best ricotta you can find, as local as you can get (I'm also itching to try and make my own, which would be perfect for this). Oh, and go for the full fat instead of the part skim - you'll taste the difference, and it's not like you're going to eat this every day. (Or maybe you are...hey, whatever does it for you :) Quality chocolate is also key (Ghirardelli is a reliable standby you can find in most supermarkets), and the Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers are absolutely necessary - they're the perfect thickness to make this whole thing work. Do not be tempted to grind them up - they form a solid base for the cake layers to set up on, and then absorb just enough moisture to turn into a delicious cake-like layer and's like magic !   The whole thing turns out like a cross between a chocolate mousse and the smoothest cheesecake you've ever had...definite Culinary Orgasm.

Chocolate Ricotta Icebox Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Nonstick cooking spray
16 ounces semisweet chocolate (do not use chips)
30 ounces ricotta cheese, room temperature (see below)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Godiva Liquor or Kaluha (optional)
1 package (9 ounces) chocolate wafers (about 44 cookies)

Place your ricotta in a strainer (best to line with cheesecloth or even a paper towel) and let as much water drain out as possible. Set aside to let it come to room temperature.
Prepare your pan: Remove sides from a 9-inch round springform pan. Place a sheet of waxed paper over bottom, leaving an overhang; lock sides onto bottom, firmly securing paper. Spray inside of pan with cooking spray; line sides with a strip of waxed paper 28 inches long and wide enough to match the height of your pan (mine was about 3 inches)  

Make chocolate-ricotta mixture: Break 12 ounces of the chocolate into pieces. Place in a double boiler (or a heatproof medium bowl set over, not in, a pan of barely simmering water.) Cook, stirring occasionally, until chocolate has melted, 8 to 10 minutes.
In a food processor (do not use a blender; you need power for this step!) blend ricotta until very smooth, a couple of minutes, scraping down sides of bowl. Add warm chocolate (and liquor if using); blend until smooth. In a large bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in chocolate-ricotta mixture.

Assemble cake: Arrange half the cookies in an overlapping pattern to cover bottom of pan (see picture). Spoon half the chocolate-ricotta mixture on top of cookies; smooth top. Cover with remaining cookies; top with remaining chocolate-ricotta mixture, and smooth top. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 2 days.
This cake is much easier to serve if you can pop it in the freezer for about 30 minutes before serving. Before you put it in the freezer, use a vegetable peeler to shave curls off the last 4 oz of chocolate over top of cake.

After it comes out of the freezer (or just before serving, after adding the chocolate curls) release sides of pan and remove waxed paper from sides.

Wiping the blade after each slice will help immensely!