Sunday, April 4, 2010

Italian Sweet Ricotta Pie with Candied Pistachios - Plus How to Make a Perfect Pie Crust


I love Ricotta cheese. I'm not kidding!  I have always wanted to make an Italian Sweet Ricotta Pie, and have never gotten around to it.  I have a very special friend, Donna, who was born and raised  in Providence, Rhode Island.  We met, 19 years ago, when she (and her husband) were living and working in Carmel, California.  They helped me with my business advertising, and we became fast friends. I talk to Donna just about every Monday morning, as I drive my 40 minute commute to work. The three hour time difference works out well, because I can catch her wide awake and ready to chat... and chat, we do!
Donna, and her husband, are both "True Foodies".  Donna is also 100% Italian. I love her, dearly.  I told Donna that I had seen a recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, "Proud Italian Cook" for a Sweet Ricotta Pie".  That's all it took-- Donna carried on and on about how much she loves that dessert! She told me all kinds of variations of this traditional Easter dessert.  Before we knew it, we had dreamed up a version I couldn't wait to make! Marie's version-- which looks fantastic-- uses chocolate chips.  I'm no longer chocoholic  (long but true story behind that one, and I've blogged about it before...).   I asked Donna if pistachios seemed like a substitute for the chocolate chips. She shrieked with delight at that suggestion, so a recipe adaption was born!  One thing Donna mentioned to me is that it is not unusual to have crustless ricotta pies. I thought about it, and liked that idea-- even toyed with making these as individual ramekins.  But, as I kept researching about Ricotta pies, I decided that my first attempt at this dessert would have a crust.

How to make a perfect pie crust-- it's not that hard!

The first thing I hope to do, is to encourage folks who think that pie crusts are too hard to make. I used to be one of you!  My first pie crusts were as hard as concrete. Not only that, I couldn't roll a perfect pie crust to save my life!  I kept patching the crusts together-- and, worse, my pie crust kept sticking to the surface and I got so frustrated!  I even considered buying gadgets like zippered plastic round bags, that claim to help you roll a perfect crust.  One day, I caught a demo on "America's Test Kitchen" and the penny finally dropped!

What is key in making a tender and flaky pie crust, is that you want cold butter and ice cold water.  You do not want to overwork the dough.  I used to marvel at how my food processor would combine my butter/shortening while I let it whirl away for the longest time.  This is not cake batter, folks! That's why my crust was so tough!  Pulse, baby!  Pulse! Seriously, you want to just combine the dough but don't whirl it to death!
You can use a pastry cutter and elbow grease-- be my guest. Me? I'll use my food processor any chance  I get.  This crust uses flour-- I used organic pastry flour, but you can use all-purpose.  To the flour, I added sugar and baking powder and salt.

You'll want to cut ice cold, unsalted butter, into pieces and add it to the bowl.  Do a few quick pulses-- like about ten.  See?  It's crumbly, and there are bits of butter. This is good!

Now, Add the eggs and pulse repeatedly until the dough begins to stick together. Again, don't overwork the dough. Slowly add the ice water (NOT COLD TAP WATER) by the tablespoonful, while using a few long pulses. Add more drops of ice water as necessary, until the dough holds together well.


Invert the dough onto a floured work surface and divide in half. Form a ball out of each half and flatten into a disc; wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate while preparing the filling. (Dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days before continuing.)  Now, it's time to make the ricotta pie filling.  Ideally, the night before, you'll want to drain the liquid from the ricotta cheese.


I use a fine mesh sieve, over a large bowl....

See?  There's quite a bit of liquid!  

Now, let's prep the ingredients. King Arthur Flour doesn't pay me to rave about them. I just love their products and customer service. I bought this candied mixed peel a few months ago, with the intention of making Stollen. Um, that never happened.  So, here's another reason I jumped at making this recipe-- I could finally use this ingredient that's imported from Italy.
I'm crazy about almond/marzipan. Love it!  That's why I bought this Almond Bakery Emulsion from King Arthur Flour..  This was it's maiden voyage. I have to tell you, that is smells incredible! I did a little happy dance-- almond does that to me. I used two teaspoons of this-- if you use regular almond extract, I'd try 1 teaspoon.  Or, if you don't love almond extract, then go with vanilla.

So, here we are-- orange zest, candied peel, eggs, almond emulsion, vanilla extract, sugar and cinnamon. You like?  You can use a hand mixer, but my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer is my "go to". 

Beat the ricotta with the sugar until very smooth. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, almond extract and cinnamon. Last, stir in the candied fruit, and the zest of one orange. Easy!  Put the batter into the fridge and grab one disc of the dough.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Rolling out pie dough, made easy

I have owned many rolling pins in my years of baking.  I still have my mother's traditional rolling pin, that must be 40 years old. I don't use it any longer, because, I have bonded with my French rolling pin. Here is what I finally figured out-- as I begin to roll the dough, I make quarter turnsHello?!  I used to roll and roll, and then I'd dig out a spatula to scrape my pie crust off the board-- and tear it!  I finally realized that if I keep turning the dough, it won't stick. Practice makes perfect. If my pin starts to stick, I gently rub a little flour on the rolling pin. If necessary, I give a very light sprinkle of flour to the dough. This dough was very soft, so I had to keep adding a little flour here and there. Gently grab a corner and drape it over the rolling pin (top right photo), and roll "backwards" to wrap the pie crust around the rolling pin. Now, (lower left photo) unroll the dough over the pie plate (bottom right photo). There!  (In the past, I'd fold the dough into fourth's and try to unwrap it-- much to my frustration, I'd break the pie crust).  I hope this helps you fearful pie crust bakers!  This works like a charm for me, and now I enjoy making pies. Would you believe that I'm not the biggest fan of eating pies-- but my husband is!

Pour the filling into the pie shell. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and swirl it with the tip of a knife.
NOTE: My original plan was to roll out the second pie crust disk and to make a lattice on top. However, this dough was very soft to work with, so I abandoned that idea. I had to crimp the dough, after I poured in the filling, which was a little challenging for me.  

I like to cover the outside of my pie crust with foil, so that it doesn't risk burning.  Of course, me being the kitchen gadget junkie, I use a pie crust shield.  I remove this shield when the pie is about halfway baked, which yields a light golden crust.

I'm ready to put this into the oven.... and I set the timer for 45 minutes.  Then I realized.. I forgot to add the cinnamon on top and swirl it with a knife. Aaaaaaaaaack!

So I quickly pulled out the rack, sprinkled some cinnamon and tried to swirl it the best that I could. Not perfect, but it'll do... whew!

 I made Candied Pistachios, similar to my Glazed Pecan recipe-- only I used fresh squeezed orange juice, and some almond emulsion. My goal was to incorporate the same flavors as the ricotta filling. I wanted a little crunch to the pie-- so I finely chopped about 1/4 cup of these and sprinkled them on top about 25 minutes into the 45 minutes of baking-- and I said a silent prayer that my idea would work. By the way, the candied pistachios rock! I'm making pistachio ice cream with there rest of these! My son took home half of them, because he loved them.

After 45 minutes, the toothpick tested clean. It was all puffy, and smelled so good! I allowed it to cool, and then chilled it for about 3 hours.
I have pre-cut 9" round parchment paper that I buy from-- who else-- King Arthur Flour. I decided to use one to make sure that the pie wouldn't stick.  So, the moment of truth--

So far, so good...

The texture was creamy and moist- and the pie crust was perfect (if I do say so, myself)... a moment of silence, please...

I love the texture of ricotta-- creamy, a little grainy... the orange zest with just the right balance of almond... the candied citrus was subtle-- then the crunch of the pistachios... it was slightly sweet, but not over-the-top. I have no idea how authentic Italian my version is... it's a hit in my household. My son loved it, and I was impressed that he was able to identify all the different flavors going on.  The pie crust was tender, and my husband didn't even notice that it was made with whole wheat flour.  I'm liking this pastry flour!

Donna was right-- I enjoyed this with a fresh cup of dark roast coffee.  I'll have one more piece for breakfast, tomorrow.  The rest is going to my husband's office. I don't need this whole pie alone with me-- while I am on vacation.   I can't wait to tell Donna how it turned out.  I hope that they're moving back to California soon. I miss having a Foodie Friend like her!

VARIATION NOTES:  I think I'd like to make this, without a crust. While my husband and son liked the crust, I wanted more of the filling. Donna also tells me that there's a pineapple version that she really likes. I'm intrigued by that!  I'd make this again, and not necessarily just at Easter time. It's very easy to do.

I will give credit to Marie, at Proud Italian Cook a shout of thanks for her inspiration in making my first (and not last) Italian Sweet Ricotta Pie.









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30 comments:

Debinhawaii said...

Looks so delicious & creamy and I love the candied nuts on top.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

What a beautiful pie! I really love all the different variations of sweets that you can make with ricotta!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Wonderful pie - love the candied pistachios. You can't go wrong with a recipe from Marie.

Stacey Snacks said...

Ricotta pie is my favorite at Easter and ANY TIME!
You must use the candied orange!!!

You are such the gadget queen! I love that pie shield, and need to get one, my crust does brown too quickly!
Enjoy your vacation Deb!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Those pistachios look to die for.

Easter is ricotta pie time. I did a savory one for my own Easter with lots of Italian cured meat. I did have some piecrust issues. I've been making them for years, but they're rarely perfect. Still, I solider on.

Hope you had a wonderful Easter!

Proud Italian Cook said...

Oh Debby, I woke up to such a nice post here. Your ricotta pie looks perfect, I'm a big pistachio fan so I love your version. Don't be afraid to make it crustless, I have many times, and it's just as good. Ricotta is such a good base to add so many different flavors and ingredients to. I have made Susan at Food Blogga's ricotta pie with crushed pineapple several times and it's always a hit, believe me I don't wait til Easter to make this, I make ricotta pies all through out the year. I even made some with, dare I say...Splenda, to cut out the sugar, turns out perfect! I'm glad I inspired you, but your off and running on your own girl!

TKW said...

I don't think I could handle that pie at home with me, either! It looks amazing! I adore pistachios!

Chiara "Kika" Assi said...

I love ricotta pies... but I don't like candied anything, so I always end up having to extract the little pieces of candied fruit and make a pile on my plate. Which looks kind ridiculous at almost 30 years old. So maybe I should make my own pie and skip the fruit, so I'd eat it like a normal person! Yours looks amazing!

Bridgett said...

Perfect with a cup of dark roast! This pie looks fabulous and I love the candied pistachios.

From the Kitchen said...

This looks absolutely delicious. I almost want to pick up a fork and snag a piece! I have trouble with pie crusts. I've conquered the pate brissees and pate sucres but otherwise, good crust continues to elude me. Now I'm going to try yours. I never give up!! Thank you.

Best,
Bonnie

Kim said...

I've never heard of a ricotta pie before. Is it a little bit like cheesecake? I love how creamy it looks and think your addition of candied pistachios is terrific!

p.s. I've always wanted to place an order with King Arthur, but I can never decide on what to get. I want it all:D

The Cooking Photographer said...

Hi Debby,

I've never made ricotta pie before, but this will be the next pie I make! We love pie around here and I'm always trying new recipes.

Laura

Lucie said...

This looks totally delicious - the photos capture it so well, I can almost taste it - oh I wish! :)

pastry studio said...

Terrific photos, great instructions and luscious pie! It really does look perfect.

I love ricotta, too. It's also easy to make from scratch, too. Great blog!

Susan said...

Oh my! That pie! Fabulous looking. I am going to have to give it a try!

Thanks for stopping by and the words of encouragement. I am having a good day off today and have posted some pictures from a walk I took with my dog. We will keep in touch. :)

Mary said...

This looks glorious. It would be perfect with espresso or a glass of sherry. Your photos are terrific.

Joanne said...

i feel like the worst Italan ever for never having had this! I absolutely need to try it. Love your version of it. It has my mouth drooling everywhere!

kathy said...

This reminds me of a Eastern European Cheescake which is made with Farmers Cheese or white cheese which is what ricotta is without the whey... Yummy.

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Muneeba said...

I'm no Italian, but I think I should be made an honorary one 'coz I love their cuisine SO MUCH! Have been wanting to try this pie for ages ... thks for making such a fabulous one and giving me the inspiration to just dive into pie-making!

Carla and Michael said...

Lovely pie with the pistachio addition. Looky so creamy and delicious. I love ricotta so I must try this as we are not big sweets eaters here. Enjoy your down time.

Tasty Italian Cook said...

Looks SO good! We didn't have any ricotta pie this year for Easter, but my mom did make some Fravioli, stuffed with ricotta. mm... Love it! I will have to try your pistachio ricotta pie soon!

Jen_from_NJ said...

That pie filling looks just amazing! Thanks for the great pie crust tips also.

Monica H said...

A few thoughts-

This would be great with lemon zest.

I'm intrigued by a crustless pineapple version of this.

And hello candied pistachios. YUM!

This looks great and such a nice job you did on your tutorial. I remember brick like pie crusts too :-)

Simple Simon said...

This looks absolutely amazing and tasty. What a nice tutorial on pie crusts. Thanks!

Lori (All That Splatters) said...

This looks soooo good! I haven't had a pie like this in some time. Beautiful photos!

Rettabug said...

Debby, I just ♥ your blog! All your photos are so beautiful & your wording is so wonderfully detailed & descriptive. I thought I talked a lot! LOL

I also love that you admitted to forgetting the cinnamon. Sounds just like something I would do. :-)

Thanks for sharing this recipe.

Thibeault's Table said...

Debby, your Ricotta pie looks soooooo gooooood. I can't wait to give it a try. And thank you for introducing me to the "Proud Italian Cook".

KAF Customer Service said...

Thanks for the mentions. Your pie is beautiful and I'm very jealous of how great your photos are. I really enjoyed your post!
~ MaryJane

Ingrid said...

My mouth is watering!

I LOVE ricotta cheese. Seriously, any time I eat tomato based pasta sauces I MUST have a big scoop of it along side and forget eating ricotta as a sweet.....even yummier!

Thanks for the awesome recipe except now I'm torn between this one and your lastest strawberries & cream cake! I want BOTH! :)
~ingrid

Kait said...

This pie looks so good. The candied pistachios are a wonderful touch.