3.17.10 Piece of Cake
This cake came about because I found some gorgeous-looking hazelnut flour when I was poring over the Market Hall Foods website and I had some lovely fresh ricotta from the farm upstate. Plus I'm always looking for new, gluten-free treats for G so he doesn't feel deprived in this wheat-centric world. Sicilians make a ricotta cheesecake with chopped hazelnuts, perfumed with lemon zest, so that—and the classic Italian hazelnut cake—was my inspiration. It's sort of my own hybrid, so I've called it Torta "La Cosa Nostra," but after sharing it with you, I won't have to kill you. Light yet rich, it has a dense but crumbly texture. As with my orange-almond flour cake, I like to sprinkle the top with demerara sugar (a raw cane sugar with a large crystal) which forms a lovely crunchy crust. The cake is pretty irresistible served warm with a dollop of creme fraîche or a scoop of lightly sweetened ricotta. It's also good accompanied by fresh, macerated or stewed fruit. (Some suggestions: fresh blood oranges; strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar; stewed apricots.)
The ricotta should be on the dry side so, if yours is very watery, line a colander with cheesecloth, place the ricotta in it, and set in the sink to drain for an hour or two.TORTA “LA COSA NOSTRA”serves 8 5 eggs, separated¾ cup sugar1 teaspoon vanilla extract2 cups fresh ricotta1 tablespoon lemon zest2 tablespoons olive oil1 ½ cups hazelnut flour¼ cup heavy cream¼ teaspoon salt2 tablespoons demerara sugarPreheat oven to 350 degrees.Generously butter the sides and bottom of an 8” springform pan. Dust the sides lightly with hazelnut flour. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter this, too.Whisk together egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy, then whisk in vanilla. Stir in ricotta, lemon zest and hazelnut flour until well blended. Whip heavy cream until soft peaks form and fold that in.In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with salt until they hold firm peaks. Fold this into ricotta mixture in three increments, trying not to overmix.Pour into springform pan and sprinkle a layer of demerara sugar over the top.Bake for 20 minutes; rotate and bake for another 20. Cake is done when slightly springy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve with a dollop of créme fraiche, whipped cream or whipped ricotta.