Growing up in a Sicilian family means two things, loads of screaming, and loads of good food!! Whenever my mum would cook, she would usually get me and my brother involved. When I have children I'll do the same thing. Even though recipes are never written down, I know exactly how to make some traditional recipes straight from my brain, and I have my mother to thank for that. Cassata is a sweet that would always be close to my heart.
Traditionally Cassata's are a combination of sponge cake, ricotta and candied fruit, but in our family it is a baked ricotta tart flavored with whatever is handy at the time, and Nutella is something that is ALWAYS on hand in our household.
The pastry is so dead easy, its basically a sweetened pizza dough and the filling is so easy to put together as well. My mum would usually make the shells quite thick and mould the cases all by hand. I've decided to cheat and use a muffin tin, mainly because I like my pastry a little thinner and crispierI've even exposed Daz to the humble Cassata and eating just one is never enough.
So here is the recipe for Nutella and Vanilla Cassata's
Nutella and Vanilla Cassata's
Make 18-20 Cassata's
200 g plain flour
2 table spoons sugar
7 g dried yeast
a dash of olive oil
300 g ricotta
1/2 cup of sugar
1/3 cup cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence/vanilla bean paste
For vanilla filling up the amount of vanilla essence and for chocolate add a generous amount of nutella
Preheat oven to 170C
1. Add half a cup of blood warm water to yeast and set aside. Allow it to become frothy and complete dissolved, around 10 minutes
2. Add flour and sugar in a large bowl and mix until they are well combined. Add yeast mixture and oil. Knead together to form a firm dough. If you need more water add it little by little. If the dough is too wet, add a little more flour. Once the dough is the right consistency, roll into a ball and dust the top with a little flour. Leave in the bowl with a tea towel covering it. Place in a warm place and allow to double in size. Around 45 minutes.
1. Using a fork, break ricotta up into small piece, using the fork mash the ricotta until it is fine. You can put it in a food processor or through a sieve, but I think the fork method is enough. Add eggs, vanilla, sugar and cream, using the fork combine all ingredients until they are well mixed.
2. Divide the mixture into two batches. Flavour each batch to your liking. Loads of nutella is the way to go!!
1. Grease muffin tins with a little non stick cooking spray, this will ensure that the cassata's will pop out and not stick to the sides.
2. Dust a working surface with plenty of flour. Using a rolling pin, roll pastry out until its roughly 3-4 mm thick. You can roll it as thin as you like, the thinner the pastry the crunchier it becomes.
3. Using a cookie cutter, cut enough pastry to fill muffin tins and then line tin with pastry.
4. Spoon ricotta filling into each of the pastry cases, filling to 3/4 full. The filling will rise, but once it is out of the oven it will flatten out and sink to its original size. Bake for 20 minutes or until pastry tops are golden and filling is firm to the touch.