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Paper Chef #6: Strawberry Ricotta Fool




On Friday Owen, from Tomatilla, announced this weekend’s Paper Chef ingredients: 

  • Strawberries
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • White Chocolate
  • Almond Paste

Owen has been shooting for ingredients that would lend themselves to desserts and this was definitely a great line-up for that! 

When I read the list two things happened.  I groaned (just a little) because I have a policy (just a guideline not a rule) of not buying strawberries until the local berries are on the market.  Here in Seattle we are still two or three weeks away from that fabulous event! Originally, this was due to shipped berries tasting pretty sad, even when they looked good.  I have to admit, as the berries that are shipped here get better and better there is no real reason for this except that eating that first berry has always meant that we’ve really hit summer.  So this wasn’t a big issue for me and I managed to get over it. :-)

The second thing that happened was my mind starting racing towards crepes!  I love crepes and these ingredients just screamed crepes.  I quickly threw that idea out, though.  I’ve been making a lot of crepes lately and I wanted to think up something that was a bit different than what I normally do.  That’s when a little kernel of an idea began to form – "What about a fool?" , I said to myself.  And isn’t that cute how it works with my name?  What an appropriate idea for the Culinary Fool!  I love synchronicity! :-)

However, I couldn’t exactly remember what a fool is, so I checked out the definition, and decided I could make this work! A traditional fool is really just fruit and whip cream but the variation I had in mind would still be pretty true to the concept.  I made a plan and decided to combine Paper Chef with my Wine Blogging Wednesday (WBW) tasting.  I’d be thinking pink in more ways than one!

R was already coming over on Sunday for the WBW tasting so I let her know that I’d also be experimenting on her with a new dessert.  Luckily for me, my friends are used to this sort of behavior from me so this really was no surprise for R.

Sunday morning I set about preparing the fool. I first cooked the strawberries so they could cool.  Then, I started with the whip cream mixture, as it needs to have time to chill thoroughly and set up.  After getting those two elements in the refrigerator I started on the cookie baskets. 

A note about the baskets:  From this recipe I made a dozen baskets and a dozen flat cookies so there is plenty of batter to experiment, if you’d like.  You could easily halve it and still have plenty to mess with.

The baskets are actually pretty easy, you just need to make sure that you really let the cookie start browning before removing them from the oven, otherwise they are too soft to mold into shape.  Once you remove the tray from the oven, let them sit just 30 seconds or so before you try to handle them.  Don’t wait too long though or they will completely set. 

A note about the chocolate:  If you look at the pictures you may notice the chocolate is not white.  Not white at all. :-(   I started out with white but I must have had the chocolate longer than I remembered.  It wouldn’t melt properly.  It was very sad looking, so I ended up using Callebut semi-sweet instead.  After tasting the dessert, the white may have been too sweet, anyway and visually the dessert would not have had as much contrast.  So I broke the rules, but only accidentally and I think the result was probably better.  In fact, next time I might use bittersweet chocolate. 

Other than that I was pretty happy with this dessert and R liked it, too!  One thing I might do next time is increase the amount of Ricotta to give it just a bit more body.  But I think it’s personal taste and can be made successfully as in the recipe below or with up to twice as much Ricotta. 




Strawberry Ricotta Fool in Almond Florentine Cups
Makes 4 servings

2 cups strawberries
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ sugar (depending on sweetness of strawberries, you may want to start with less)
1 cup sliced strawberries
½ cup ricotta cheese (drain, if using fresh)
1 Tbsp almond paste
½ cup heavy cream
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Fresh mint

In a saucepan, combine the strawberries, lemon juice and ¼ cup sugar. Cook over medium heat until the strawberries begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Place the strawberry mixture in a food processor and process until smooth. Remove ¼ cup of the strawberry mixture for later use. Add remaining strawberry mixture to a bowl, mix in the sliced strawberries and place in the refrigerator. Chill for several hours.

In a bowl, cream the ricotta with the almond paste. (I found it best to soften the almond paste in the microwave for a few seconds prior to mixing with the ricotta.) Add the ¼ cup reserved cooked strawberries and mix thoroughly. With an electric mixer, whip the cream, 1 tsp sugar and vanilla until stiff. Gently fold ½ of the whipping cream into the ricotta. When incorporated, gently fold in remaining whipped cream. Chill for at least 4 hours.

Almond Florentine Cups
1 stick unsalted butter
¾  cup brown sugar
½ cup corn syrup
½ cup ground, toasted Almonds (see note below)
1 cup flour
4 oz chocolate

Preheat oven to 350° F. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until they resemble fine crumbs. Be careful not to over grind and create a paste. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar and the corn syrup. Bring to boil. Remove from the heat and add the ground almonds and flour. Mix well.

Drop heaping tablespoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet several inches apart, these cookies will really spread out. (Plan on 2 or 3 cookies per ½ sheet pan.) Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until brown around the edges and lace-like in appearance.

Remove from the oven, let set for a few seconds then immediately and carefully shape the cookie over an upside down 8-ounce glass to form a small bowl. Allow to cool completely.

Once you have 4 “good” baskets, use the rest of the batter to make Florentine cookies. Use a scant tablespoon of batter for each cookie (you should be able to get 6 per ½ sheet pan). Bake as directed and then place flat on cooling rack.

Place chocolate in a small bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water, and stir until the chocolate is melted. Once the chocolate is melted, paint one side of the Florentine cups with a thin layer of chocolate. Place on cooling rack and allow the chocolate to dry.

Use remaining chocolate to coat a few strawberries for garnish or to dip edges of the cookies.

Note: Place blanched, skinned almonds in 350° F oven, for 10 to 15 minutes until just turning golden. Watch carefully, as once they start toasting they go quickly. To make ½ cup of ground almonds, you’ll need to toast more than ½ cup of whole almonds. Save any extra for garnish.

To Assemble
Place Almond Florentine Cups on dessert plates. Add a layer of the Ricotta-Whipped Cream mixture, top with some of the Strawberry mixture. Sprinkle a few toasted, ground almonds over the strawberry, if you had extra. Repeat.

Add a small dollop of the Ricotta-Whipped Cream mixture on the very top. Garnish with a whole strawberry, sprig of mint and a few more toasted almonds, if desired. You can also garnish the plate with some of the chocolate covered strawberries and fresh mint.



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