Chestnut Chocolate and Hazelnut Cannoli

Yes, it’s this time of the month. And the current Daring Bakers’ challenge is Italian cannoli hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives, who chose the recipe from the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book. The dough recipe was mandatory but the filling options were left entirely up to the bakers.

My filling was a mixture of chestnut puree, fresh ricotta, mascarpone, grated bittersweet chocolate, toasted hazelnuts and a bit of dark rum. This is what I used for stuffing the traditional cannoli shells.

I also fried larger in diameter, cylinder-shaped shells, so I could play a little. Into the bottom of these shells I fitted the circle cut-outs of chocolate-chestnut cake. I topped them with almost the same chestnut filling mentioned earlier, but lightened with some whipped cream to make the consistency more mousse-like. The very last layer was bittersweet chocolate ganache.

Lisa, thank you very much for the delicious challenge! We all (well.., everyone who can eat nuts) loved it!

Happy Holidays!

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Homemade Mascarpone Cheese

Much easier to make than it might seem, homemade mascarpone is a tastier and less expensive alternative to a store-bought cheese. It’s marvelous with ripe summer berries, finally appeared at our farmer’s markets.

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Fresh and Extra Creamy Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Fresh and Extra Creamy Homemade Ricotta Cheese

I’ve been asked a lot how I make this cheese and here is the answer. The recipe produces very delicate and smooth ricotta. It really matters what kind of dairy you use: organic whole milk and not ultra-pasteurized cream are preferred. I also want to emphasize the importance of timing: do not overheat the milk-cream mixture, and do not let it boil. Otherwise, you will end up with tough and rubbery curd. And, please, remember that the adjective “fresh” is applicable for a couple of days only; so consume the cheese rather soon.

By the way, speaking of fresh cheese. A long time ago I posted my favorite recipe of Russian fresh cheese – tvorog (“kefir cheese” or “farmers’ cheese”) which is made from buttermilk. That one is quite good too, but in a different, very tangy way.

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Fresh Ricotta with Caramelized Pineapple/Banana Topping

I wouldn’t even say it’s a recipe (it’s too simple to be called that); it’s more of a suggestion, one of a hundred possible ways to enjoy fresh cheese. And the cheese has to be fresh. So, either make your own (what I usually do) or buy it from a reputable source. Here, I processed the freshly made ricotta in a food processor to make it smooth and silky, added some lime zest and juice, a bit of sugar, drop of vanilla, pinch of salt. I topped the ricotta with thinly sliced pineapple and banana, brushed with a little bit of melted butter, sprinkled with raw sugar, and caramelized the last with a torch. Simple, indeed, but yet, it makes quite a delicious dessert.

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Raspberry Tiramisu with Cinnamon Cream

Raspberry Tiramisu with Cinnamon Cream

I’ve made a berry variation of this Italian dessert before. Usually I used berry puree with an addition of a matching liqueur for dipping the ladyfingers. But this tiramisu is different from what I used to make. Last weekend we were invited to our friends’ house for dinner, and after a terrific meal we were served the raspberry tiramisu for dessert. Somehow it had never occurred to me until then that Martini Bianco was perfectly suitable for dipping the ladyfingers. It makes such a wonderful and easy dessert base. An addition of cinnamon to the mascarpone cream and a lot of fresh raspberries (whole and intact, not pureed) tie nicely with the martini flavor. I’m very much obliged to my friend Olya for this neat idea. Below is my version of Olya’s dessert, tweaked just a little bit.

I used a 3 ½ -cups capacity Rehrücken mold for assembling, any loaf pan of similar size will work, or adjust the ingredients to fit into 8-inch square pan.

I’m submitting this dessert as my entry for this month Sugar High Friday, the theme of which is “Berries”.

Raspberries and Tim

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Sweet Ricotta Pudding with Roasted Grapes

Sweet Ricotta Pudding with Roasted Grapes Warm

This is a kind of dessert I’m the most fond of – rustic, homey, full of flavors, and incredibly easy to prepare. Don’t try to serve the pudding on its own, serve it with roasted grapes as intended. They are meant for each other providing so desirable contrast of sweet and sour, smooth and crunchy. For Russian readers of my blog (I know for sure there are at least two) – the texture of the pudding is similar to Russian “zapekanka”, but it’s sweeter since the ricotta cheese is way less tangy compared to tvorog (Russian curd cheese).

This is an adaptation of the latest “Gourmet” recipe. I prepared and served the pudding in individual shallow pans, each is about 4-inch wide and near ¾ -cup capacity. You can bake the pudding in a 9-inch pie-plate and serve it cut into wedges as it was suggested in the magazine.

Sweet Ricotta Pudding with Roasted Grapes Inside Warm

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