Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake

It’s hard to find delicious apricots in Massachusetts–usually I’m limited to whatever the grocery store has shipped in from California, and while  plenty large these are often mealy  and flavorless.  Apricots are notoriously poor travelers, and much like strawberries, flavor gets sacrificed for sturdiness–and the ability to travel cross-country.

Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake (3 of 4)

So I go a little crazy during those few short weeks when the Red Jacket Orchard apricots from upstate New York come in at the grocery store, and even crazier when the farmer’s markets have apricots on display.  (It’s a good year for fruit!).  So it was that I bought about seven pounds of apricots and carried them home on the commuter rail–the majority dedicated to an apricot-cardamom jam.  True to their delicate nature, a few still remained for eating fresh out of hand, but the rest were bruised from their commute–feeling, perhaps, much as we all do after a long day?  No way could these be wasted, so little surprise what comes next:  I found myself baking!

Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake (2 of 4)

As you know, I love baking with ricotta–it adds a wonderful springiness as well as sturdiness to baked goods.  More prosaically, we were about to go on vacation and the expiry date on the tub was nigh.  There’s plenty of cheesecake-apricot recipes on the web, but I had the urge to make one of those snacking cakes that can acceptably be eaten at breakfast.  I found this recipe on the blog Seasonal Desserts, and made a few tweaks of my own, adding a bit of whole grain flour and a splash of rose water.

Apricot rose ricotta cake, assembled.

As you can see from my shoddily-lit instagram photo above, the cake looks rather flat and unsubstantial in batter form–be not dismayed, as you have ample proof it bakes up beautifully.  You can also see that no matter how unphotogenically you’ve arranged your apricot halves, the result is nonetheless stunning.  Don’t you love it when that happens?

I’ve provided Maria Teresa’s suggested amount of apricots (six to eight) but if you are using local fruits you might have a variety of sizes.  Just fit as many halves as you can over the surface, bake, and enjoy.

Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake (1 of 4)

 

Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons, divided
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 250 grams ricotta []
  • 1 teaspoon rose water
  • 6-8 apricots, washed, divided in half and stone removed
Instructions
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a 9-inch round cake or springform pan and place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Place the eggs, zests and the sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  4. Beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale and thick, about 3 minutes.
  5. Set the mixer to its lowest speed and beat in the ricotta.
  6. Add the sifted dry ingredients, beating only until they are incorporated.
  7. Pour about the batter into the prepared pan. Place as many apricots as you can fit on top of the batter and sprinkle them with the extra sugar.
  8. Bake the cake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.
  9. Carefully remove the sides of the springform pan and let the cake cool for at least 30 minutes. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream.

Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake (4 of 4)

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Rhubarb-Rose Ice Cream

While I like to say I came up with recipe for Rhubarb-Rose Ice Cream, as with all things, it’s a synthesis of other inspirations.  I only just recently discovered how beautifully the flavors of rhubarb and rose meld after making the Rhubarb-Rose Upside-Down Cake from Jody and Ken at the Garum Factory, and I’ve been in love with the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream recipe since reading about it on Mariannika’s blog (and subsequently, just about everywhere else).

Rhubarb Rose Ice Cream (1 of 1)

Rose water has an ancient pedigree–and it’s so easy to imagine it’s flavor being liberally enjoyed in opulent, courtly settings–so it can only be with a sense of irony that I declare that it tastes new and (for lack of a better word) exotic to me.  Parenting books tell me I should offer a picky toddler something 30 times before I can conclude that they don’t like it.  (Good luck with that).  For me it has never been a question of “acquiring the taste” but more of acclimating myself–my confused tastebuds being sure that I wasn’t biting into a leafy bouquet, a waxy bar of soap, or worse, accidentally downing a vial of Chanel No. 5.

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I made this compote with two stalks of rhubarb I had left over after making Jody and Ken’s cake.  Rhubarb is one of my absolute favorite fruits (or “fruit-like” foods, maybe I should say) and I couldn’t let it go to waste.  Lacking in too much ambition, however, I decided to chop it up and toss in the remainder of a bag of frozen strawberries, pour in some sugar, and set over low heat.  That’s what’s nice about compotes.  They are as easy to make as they are to eat, and the word compote is fun:  it’s very 19th century British period drama, no?  Being old-timey then it just begs for that rose water flavor.  After streaking this chunky sauce into my yogurt the next morning, I looked at my cup of berry reds swirling into creamy white and thought:  ice cream!

Rhubarb Rose Ice Cream (2 of 6)

And of course I turned to Jeni, the famed Ohio ice cream maker:  what I love about the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream recipe is that it uses corn starch to thicken the base rather than egg yolks.  I’m not afraid of making the custard sauce, but as I’ve said before, I certainly suffer from guilt at the fate of all those cast-off whites.  (Incidentally, here are some ideas).  And Jeni has a few more interesting moves at play:  a bit of corn syrup and cream cheese to enhance scoopability, (yes, I just coined that word!), boiling the milk for a few minutes to evaporate out water and thicken the base even more.  Jeni’s “base recipe” is what I used as my starting point, but if you get your hands on her book you’ll see that the recipes are anything but basic–from the wild flavor combinations of coriander raspberry ice cream to elegant riesling-poached pear sorbet.  And the book is organized by seasons, including winter recipes (such an influenza cure sorbet).  It sounds a bit funny, but then again, ice cream knows no season!

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Rhubarb Rose Ice Cream  (ice cream recipe based on Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home)

A few notes:  you’ll have extra compote to swirl into your yogurt or bump up your ice cream as a sauce.  If you’re like me and don’t always have whole milk around, you’ll be glad to know that my low-fat ice cream has always proved delicious.  And if you’re scatterbrained like me, and neglect to put in the cream cheese, that’s OK as well:  I was asked, the next day, if there was a reason I had butter (or “at least I think it’s butter?”) sitting in a liquid measure cup in the microwave.  Yes, that would be me trying to quickly soften the cream cheese and then completely forgetting it.

Really, this is two recipes in one, so use it and have fun!

Compote

  • 2 stalks of rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup or so frozen or fresh strawberries (why not use frozen and save the fresh for something else?)
  • 3/4c sugar
  • 1t rose water

Ice cream

  • 2 c milk
  • 4 t cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 c heavy cream
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • 2 T light corn syrup
  • 1/4 t kosher salt
  • 3 T cream cheese, softened
  • 2t rose water

For the compote:  combine the rhubarb, sugar, and strawberries in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the fruit has broken down, about a half hour to 45 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the rose water.  Chill before using in the recipe.

For the ice cream:  In a bowl, stir together 1/4 cup milk and the cornstarch; set this slurry aside. In a 4-quart saucepan–you don’t want to worry about the milk boiling over–whisk together remaining milk and the cream, sugar, syrup, and salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 4 minutes; stir in the slurry. Return to a boil and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Place the cream cheese in a bowl and pour in 1/4 cup hot milk mixture; whisk until smooth. Then whisk in the remaining milk mixture. Stir in the rose water. Pour the mixture into a plastic bag; seal, and submerge in a bowl of ice water until chilled–at least 20 minutes. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker; process according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Transfer ice cream to a storage container and drizzle a very generous cup of compote over the surface.  Freeze until set (about 4 hours).

Other ice creams from our site:  A lavender-honey recipe (there’s that floral again!) and another for Mexican chocolate.

As for Jeni, you can find various variations of her recipe and discussion of her technique in the Saveur feature article from last year, on David Lebovitz’s site, and at Food and Wine.

Now, that should keep you busy for a while!

Rhubarb Rose Ice Cream (1 of 6)