A few years ago during a cycling trip in Sardinia, we fell in love with simple desserts that feature ricotta. I think Jody’s heart was still in Sardinia for this treat, but her head was in England, imaging fruit fools, simple summer concoctions of whipped cream layered with whatever fruit is in season. The result is a cherry compote topped with a rosemary ricotta mousse, accompanied by some simple almond shortbread cookies.
Don’t skip the cookies – they’re stars – and they make a wonderful buttery contrast with the rich-sweet-tart combo of the cherries and ricotta mousse.
P.S. Monday marked the beginning of Phase 2 Reopening for Massachusetts, which means that restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating can now open for business IF they observe certain protocols such as masking front of the house staff, seating clients at socially distanced tables, sanitizing tables between parties, enforcing a mask protocol, etc. Wish us luck.
CHERRY COMPOTE, RICOTTA-ROSEMARY MOUSSE, ALMOND SHORTBREAD
Cherry Compote Ingredients
- 1½ pounds bing cherries, weighed before pitting
- ½ cup sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ¼ teaspoon cracked peppercorns, 3-4 peppercorns (NOTE: In the ingredients shot, there are many more peppercorns. I only used 3-4.)
- Cassis for drizzling
Ricotta Mousse Ingredients
- 1 sprig rosemary
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 pound dry ricotta
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, soft
- ¾ cup sugar + extra for sprinkling
- 1 egg, separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
- ½ cup ground almonds, skin on
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
- 72 whole almonds
Cherry Compote Instructions
- Cut the cherries in half and pit.
- Combine the sugar, lemon juice and peppercorns in a large saucepan. Simmer for 5-6 minutes until syrupy.
- Add the cherries and cook 5 minutes over low heat. They should still be a little crisp.
- Let cool.
- If the juices seem too watery, drain the juices into a saucepan and cook to reduce to a syrup. Pour over the cherries. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Ricotta Mousse Instructions
- Strip the leaves from the rosemary so you have 1 tablespoon or so.
- Save some sprigs for garnish.
- Put the rosemary leaves in a mortar and pestle with 2 tablespoons of sugar and bash around until the rosemary leaves are in small pieces. Add the lemon zest and bash around some more. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, use a knife to chop the rosemary and lemon zest.
- Beat the ricotta with the seasoned sugar and the remaining sugar.
- Whip the cream until it holds soft peaks.
- Mix ⅓ of the cream into the ricotta.
- Fold in the rest. Refrigerate.
Almond Shortbread Instructions – Makes 24 cookies
If you think 24 is too many all at once, freeze a portion of the dough for another time.
- Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla or almond extract.
- Beat in the ground almonds and salt.
- Add the flour and mix until combined.
- Transfer the dough onto a sheet of parchment paper. Form into a fat log about 2 inches thick. Fold the parchment so the far edge comes down to meet the near edge. Use a bench knife or dough scraper to tuck a pleat of parchment beneath the log, working your way along the width of the log. This is more complicated to explain than to do (see photos), but it compresses the dough, eliminating air pockets, and smooths the surface. When you’ve finished, roll the bundle up, twist the ends closed and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
- Make an egg wash by beating the egg white with a teaspoon of water.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Slice the chilled dough into disks ¼-inch thick.
- Place the disks at least 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined sheet pan. I like lots of space between the shortbread as it cooks, so I used 3 sheet pans, but if you adhere to the 1 inch rule of social distancing, you may get more cookies on fewer pans.
- Brush the cookies with egg wash.
- Top with 3 whole almonds.
- Sprinkle with a little sugar.
- Bake at 325 degrees until golden brown, about 18 minutes.
You can prepare the this ahead and chill until serving. Spoon cherry compote into the bottom of each dessert glass, then place a dollop of mousse atop the compote. Wait until serving to garnish each with a few leaves of rosemary and some cherries, then drizzle with cassis. Offer shortbread on the side.
The gate is being lifted. The world is opening up… a little. It’s strange how after three months, quarantine has become the norm and now I’m reluctant go out, or let people in. The truth is I’ve grown to like some of the limitations forced on us. Life has become smaller and simpler, I’ve gotten into a daily routine, and Ken and I spend every evening together. It’s the longest stretch in our 34 years of married life that I’ve been home for dinner every night. In light of the trauma inflicted by the virus around the world, it feels right to pair things down.
But now the world needs to start turning (churning?) again. Believe me, I get it that people need to work – I saw my income and that of almost all the people who work for me drop to nothing. Just as important, there is a new civil rights movement emerging, spearheaded by Black Lives Matter and protesters putting their health on the line, including our own children. And all of us need to be involved, whether that means marching in the streets, doing double diligence around workplace practices, supporting black and brown friends, taking a deep breath and JUST LISTENING, or doing the kind of self-examination that unearths unconscious bias. Ken and I have been talking about this a lot, ever since we visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice (AKA The National Lynching Memorial) in Montgomery, Alabama last year. If you’re looking for a place to start your own education about race in America Bryan Stevenson’s JUST MERCY or Robin Diangelo’s WHITE FRAGILITY are good options. You can find additional resources in our post from last week, CLOSED.
When you need to come up for air, there will still be dessert. And if you have any compote left over, it’s great on toast for breakfast.
1 pound bing cherries
½ cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
A couple of peppercorns
¼ cup booze–grappa?