Quick Quiches: My light and creamy ricotta cake.
Sometimes we’ve got something stuck in our heads. The image of this dress that we want so desperately, but cannot afford. This great joke that we carried with us all day, but that no-one wants to hear. The taste of ripe lemons and the smell of wooden baskets, that remind us of the sunny days we spent in Rome with a lover, who is no longer ours. Often it’s the past that gets stuck in our heads, that invades our minds, every now and then, to remind us of the things that we can’t have anymore. Because their moment passed by, because they are lost or because they were never truly ours. And as these thoughts enter our minds, they sometimes bring with them the warm feeling that accompanies pleasant memories, and we like thinking back, reminding us of the good things that were. But sometimes, these intruders bring with them the less pleasant feelings of life. They remind us of all the “could-have-been”s and “should-have-been”s that became “never-were”s. However unpleasant these thoughts might be, they will pass by eventually.
And then there is this other kind of thought. This stuck, that doesn’t make us stuck, but rather drives us ahead. The face of this boy or girl, whom we like and who likes us back. This great story that we have trapped in our brains and that so desperately wants to be freed on a piece of paper. The taste and smell of a dish, that fills our heads, which we have never tasted. And when these kinds of thoughts claim their space, they inspire us, they excite us and bring with them a whole range of possibilities. For me these thoughts are on food. They inspire me to try something new, and granted, sometimes their result can’t quite hold up to their promise – but that just makes me want more. This post is about one of these dishes. My vision of a most fantastic ricotta cake, that might not be exactly what I had imagined, but still tastes damn good.
When you try something new, there is always the possibility of failure. ( It took me almost one kg of white chocolate and several hours to realise this, when I made my white chocolate mousse.) Personally I find this to be less true when it comes to cooking – cooking is relatively easy, you just need to have a rough clue of what you want to do and then start, things will turn out fine eventually. However, baking is a whole different story and sometimes scares me a bit. You throw all these different ingredients in a bowl, stir and the resulting liquid batter magically turns into something solid and delicious, with just the right amount of moisture. Once you put your tin in the oven, there is nothing you can do – you can’t add more or less butter, sugar, salt or flour – just have to live with it.
One of my statistics-professors used to say: “If you are using something that you don’t understand, then that’s like using magic.” He was talking about statistical software, but I guess the same holds true for baking. You are relying on chance if you are not using any recipe and on magic if you are, as long as you don’t understand what exactly you are doing. It doesn’t help much if you don’t fully think through the few things that you do understand. How on earth could I ever come to believe that a soft bit of thin puff pastry would be able to magically carry a set yet smooth ricotta-filling, about 30 times its thickness? But more on that later.
Overall this dish is still incredibly tasty. The filling is light, and creamy. If you love ricotta as much as I do, you are definitely in for a treat. I just love, love, love how the slightly coarse ricotta and its subtle acidity is countered by the sweet smoothness of the tomatoes. It was so good, that I emptied the whole tin (I left a tiny guilt-piece for the next morning, so that I can convince myself later, that I ate from it for two days ) all by myself within minutes (literally), which is not much of a problem, as the cake itself tastes rather light (it clearly isn’t). Thank god, that tomorrow is a gym-day. If you are up for something special, that takes as long to prepare as it does to eat (minutes, I said) – then definitely have a go at this. It might be useful to pay some attention to my suggestions for changes.
My light and creamy ricotta cake.
(and yes, what you see are pictures.)
Ricotta Cream cheese Basil Tomatoes Eggs Puff-pastry (store-bought) Salt Pepper Garlic Oregano (dried or fresh) Parmesan (optional)
I started with lining the base of a Quiche tin (unfortunately, it seems impossible to buy a Quiche tin with a loose bottom, if you can do so by all means). I thought it would have been a good idea to line the base of the tin with parchment paper (store-bought puff pastry usually comes with it). But either buttering or oiling the tin will work just as fine. This step is important – I planned on doing it, but didn’t and ended up with a Quiche almost impossible to remove without breaking.
If you want to go through all the troubles of making puff-pastry yourself, then you are an insane person. Use store-bought instead. The base will only be fully solid after it has been chilled in the fridge, it will scramble a bit if you eat it heated, which has its charm. Just line the tin with the dough and use a rolling pin to cut of the edges. For a better (firmer) result, make a Quiche dough from scratch or use pizza-dough and blind-bake it until the dough is solid.
Wash and slice a couple of ripe tomatoes, marinate for a few minutes with a splash of good olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh garlic, chopped basil and a pinch of sugar. (For my 24 cm tin I use about five tomatoes).
Mix 5 parts ricotta with about 2 parts cream cheese (250 g of ricotta for my tin). Add a bit of salt and a tiny amount of pepper. And mix in 1 whole egg and one yolk. Stir well, to form a smooth batter. Don’t be tempted to add any liquid to the batter, it will make things soggy, you want a batter that is smooth but not runny. Fill into the tin.
Marinate a few sliced tomatoes in the remaining juices from the bottom layer. If necessary, add more of the ingredients for the marinade. I like using heirloom tomatoes for this, because they bring a bit more colour to the table. Scatter over the Quiche batter.
Grind a bit of parmesan over the Quiche if you like and put the dish into an oven at about 180°C for about 30 minutes. Normally puff pastry would be baked at a higher temperature, for less time. However, you want the filling to set, much like custard. This requires the protein in the egg to denaturate without water from the cheese to evaporate. Bake until the pastry is golden and the filling has set.