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Heavenly Ricotta

Ricotta Cheese Pound Cake

I grew up with a deep affection for ricotta cheese, the ‘re-cooked’ byproduct of cheese production.

Wow, doesn’t that sound tasty.

We’ve all had ricotta in things like cannoli, ravioli, and manicotti, but these products are often made with heavily processed, solidified, xanthan gum-injected, astronaut-sealed packaged crap. Not the soft, delicately sublime curds of a fresh, artisanal ricotta.

So, the good stuff. Ricotta is traditionally used in desserts like cannoli, though a handsome dollop of fresh ricotta placed on a fresh mound of pasta is a stunning indulgence.

I’ve never baked with ricotta in a dessert–remember, cannoli filling is not cooked–but this cake caught my eye. It just sounded, well, good. The fact that this is from the kitchen of the endlessly-excellent Babbo Restaurant was, admittedly, also a big selling point for me.

The cake came out a bit weighty, which is fine. I don’t think–with the heavy amount of ricotta in this cake–it was meant to be light and delicate. Eh, it’s a pound cake. I also incorporated a little more vanilla bean. A coworker who sampled this earlier suggested some lemon might be nice. I stand corrected–he thought there was citrus already in it–the ricotta has a bit of a tang.

All in all, a nice cake to pair with coffee. I didn’t serve this like a traditional slice of cake, opting instead for brownie cuts. I think it works considering the cake’s weightiness. What say you?

Ricotta Pound Cake
Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen
Makes one 9-inch cake. Approximately 10 servings

1 1/2 c cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks/6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c fresh whole-milk ricotta
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 vanilla bean
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the center. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan with butter, dust it with flour and tap to knock out the excess.

In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, ricotta, and sugar on medium speed until smooth and light, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the blunt side of a small knife, then beat them into the batter along with the vanilla extract. On low speed, beat in the dry ingredients to combine them, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat the batter for 30 seconds on medium speed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to smooth the top. Give the pan a few gentle whacks on the counter to remove any air pockets. Bake the cake for 15 minutes, then turn the pan 180 degrees to ensure even browning. Lower the temperature to 325 degrees F and continue baking until the cake springs back lightly when touched, the sides have begun to pull away from the pan, about 35 minutes more.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully invert on the rack to cool completely.

Dust the cake lightly with confectioners’ sugar before serving it; the flavor is best on the next day. Any leftover cake may be wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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