10 Oct 2012
Vegan MoFo 2012 – Nonna’s almond ricotta tart and gelato
Truly la dolce vita!
It’s time for dessert, don’t you think? For this post, I’m indulging my sweet tooth and cooking from one of the few dedicated Italian vegan cookbooks that I know of.
Bryanna Clark Grogan’s Nonna’s Italian Kitchen was one of my earliest vegan cookbooks. I bought it due to a slight obsession with tiramisu and was hoping to find a recipe for Savoiradi. Sadly, I never did end up making any of the desserts.
This is partly because I would find myself looking at many of the ‘crème’ recipes and, due to the large amounts of nuts used, deciding against any attempts. I rarely bought nuts back then and thought that it would be too expensive and fatty to make. I didn’t have a solid blender either.
Things have changed though, thanks mostly to my experiments with raw recipes.
I’ve learned how versatile, tasty and relatively healthy nut-based dishes can be, and now there’s a dedicated part of my fridge for different types of nuts. In addition, I now own a Vitamix which makes blending almost fun!
So when I looked through Nonna’s Italian Kitchen without my nut-filtering glasses on, so many of the desserts were jumping out at me.
In the end it came down to a gelato and tart. Both won.
Almond Ricotta Tart
Ricotta tart used to be one of my favourite desserts and I would buy it from a local Italian cake shop for birthdays.
Nonna’s Italian Kitchen covers two different ricotta tart recipes: tofu-based and almond. Although the one I used to buy would have probably been best recreated using the tofu-ricotta version, I opted to try the almond. It’s something a bit different and a soy-free recipe is a bonus.
First up, I had to make the pastry. I was pleased that the Italian Sweet Pastry was very simple and could be mixed by hand. It uses oil instead of margarine and upon mixing everything together the pastry seemed very greasy. I was surprised to read Bryanna’s comments that this version is actually lower in fat than most.
I put the pastry in the fridge for a while but rolling it out was still tricky. The tart tin I had planned to use ended up being too big. I had a smaller tart pan, but next time I’d double the pastry to ensure I can use my preferred one.
On to the filling, and the great thing about this recipe was that it gave me another chance to use up some of that lovely Pedro Ximénez I bought in place of the sweet sherry.
The ingredients included raisins soaked in sherry, agar, cornflour, blanched almonds, lemon juice sugar, dried apricots, pine nuts and orange zest.
I didn’t have any blanched almonds so the there was the fiddly task of getting the skins off. I found that using one of those silicon things for garlic works pretty well.
Once the almonds were naked, they were blended up and transferred to a saucepan with other ingredients to boil and thicken.
Fruits and nuts were then stirred through before everything was poured into the tart shell and put in the oven.
I baked this in a fairly slow oven for 45 minutes. Once cool, I refrigerated the tart for over a day so the flavours could blend. It was difficult to resist a slice!
This recipe is a variation of Bryanna’s Vanilla Gelato. It has the addition of sherry (yes, enter Pedro Ximénez again), in place of some of the water.
In the past I’ve tried a few different ice-cream recipes and had fair results. Generally the mix goes into my ice-cream machine and sets to an unscoopable soft-serve point. Once I get it to the freezer to firm up, it becomes as hard as a rock and I lose all consistency. It’s frustrating but I’m determined to keep trying.
The sugar in this gelato recipe comes from a mixture of corn and maple syrups. I would usually avoid (evil) corn syrup, but in the interests of ice-cream science, I decided to give it a go to see how it would affect the end result.
The ingredients included water, corn syrup, vanilla (I used a whole bean), cashews, almond milk, maple syrup and tapioca.
It was really a matter of throwing it all in the Vitamix, blending and then transferring to a saucepan to heat until thickened. This mix got very thick and looked like caramel. It smelled amazing but when I tasted, it seemed far too sweet.
It took around 40 minutes to set up. The texture looked promising but it still needed to be frozen firmer for scooping.
I had a taste at this point and oh my… this is hands down the best gelato I’ve ever had – bought or otherwise. My husband concurs. The texture was amazingly smooth and creamy. It tasted divine and did not seem as sweet now.
I knew the true test would come after this gelato was in the freezer for a day so I transferred it to a container, put some glad wrap on the top of the gelato and sealed the lid.
Even after a few days, the consistency and scoopability (word?), was perfect. I know that the sherry plays a part in changing the freezing point, but the syrups must also.
I am amazed by the perfect result given my previous attempts, and I’m now encouraged to try more varieties.
Dessert is served
So after a couple of days of preparation, it was time to enjoy our dessert. My husband made the short-blacks and we tucked into the delicious tart and zabglione gelato.
The tart was fantastic. The pastry wasn’t too heavy and the filling had lots of texture from the fruit and nuts and wasn’t overly sweet. I think the flavours definitely matured after a day in the fridge too.
The gelato complemented the tart so well with the sherry and vanilla flavours. I can’t wait to try an affogato with this!
I know I’m probably still on a sugar high, but this really was the best dessert I’ve had in a long time. I’m so glad I returned to this book… It’s now earned two new flags and no doubt there’s more to be added.
Bravo Bryanna, you are truly an Italian dessert master!