The Horror’s birthday is coming up and I like to get in early with cake requests. As anticipated it went something like this: “Strawberry cake. No, friands. No, caramel cake. Oh, some people like chocolate, how about half strawberry and half chocolate cupcakes? Or how about a ricotta cake?”
Anyone in the Inner West know that the the best ricotta cakes come from Papa’s Pasticceria. On weekends they have a line out the door and down the street of slavering hordes buying them as fast as they come out of the kitchen. Actually I don’t know if they are the best, I’ve never tried anyone else’s version. They are excellent. I knew I couldn’t replicate them, not with a week’s notice anyway, but I could have a stab at the ricotta tarts.
These are what you have if you just want a taste of ricotta cake. Not as widely known as the cake, I’m surprised they sell anything other than the cake at the weekend because the surging crowds rather obscure the long glass counter. You need to be in the know. I am, being a local, so I braved the throng last weekend and procured some for research purposes.
Pastry. Into the Thermomix chuck 50 grams of cold Pepe Saya butter, two tablespoons of sugar, two tablespoons of cream, a cup of flour, a teaspoon of baking powder. Zap. In a few seconds you’ll get a jug full of damp crumbs.
I pressed these into fifteen fluted Bakers Secret tart tins, the ones with the removable bottoms. There was enough for sixteen, but I’ve lost the bottom out of one of them. Surprised its only one, really. Baked these for a touch over five minutes, until they just started to colour.
In another bowl mix together 125 grams mascarpone, two tablespoons of cream, 250 grams of fresh ricotta and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. You can do this with a fork. The old skills remain. Fold the cream mixture into the egg. Spoon into the tart shells. Bake at 140 degrees for about forty minutes, I like to go easy on the cheese. Take it out when it’s just starting to tan a little around the edges. The cheese filling will be puffed up, but will subside once it cools.
Oh, they were good, all right. “A lot like custard tarts”, remarked the Moose as he embarked upon his third. The pastry was quite fragile, but melted in the mouth. The whole lot was just sweet enough. The ricotta filling was light and fluffy, quite a bit lighter than Sam Papa’s version. And that’s what the Horror couldn’t get past. He couldn’t even finish one. “It just isn’t right”, he said, handing me half. “I can’t forget that they’re not Papa’s”. Well, he’s right, they’re not. I need a tougher pastry and a creamier filling.
Having said that, I’ve just sampled one two days later and they age in the fridge very well indeed, as do Papa’s. The pastry is still fresh and delicious, but not nearly as fragile. The filling has compacted a little. I may see if the Horror can bring himself to try another one. But you know what? Papa sells these for less than two dollars each. I have an excellent tart recipe for my next afternoon tea extravaganza and I’ll buy the Horror his birthday cake from the Pasticceria.