This Hazelnut Ricotta and Pear Cake is a popular dessert in Southern Italy. What I love about this cake that it’s flourless and contains few of my favourite ingredients: ricotta and hazelnuts. Moreover, it’s not overly sweet and heavy. Pears add freshness and their subtle flavour is complemented by a light lemon note while hazelnuts gives an earthy accord. Delicious cake!!!
For the hazelnut dacquoise
- 160 g raw, skin-on hazelnuts
- 100 g icing sugar, plus more for finishing
- 4 large egg whites
- pinch of kosher salt
- 125 g granulated sugar
- 1 lemon, finely grated zest
For the pear filling
- 455 g ripe Bartlettpears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 65 g granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp pear liqueur
For the ricotta mousse
- 455 g fresh ricotta, well drained
- 150 g granulated sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 270 ml heavy cream
- 2 sheets gelatin
To make dacquoise
- To make the dacquoise layers, preheat the oven to 180°C with racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a 22 cm cake pan as a guide, draw a circle in pencil on each piece of parchment paper, then turn over the parchment paper so that the writing can be seen through the paper. Lightly oil the parchment paper inside and slightly beyond the two circles with neutral-tasting oil.
- Combine the hazelnuts and icing sugar in a food processor and process until the nuts are the texture of medium-fine cornmeal, scraping down the bowl as needed.
- Beat the egg whites with the salt at medium speed in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they form soft peaks. With the mixer running, add the granulated sugar in a few additions, then increase the speed to high and beat until peaks form that are firm but not at all dry.
- Use a large spatula to fold in the hazelnuts and the grated lemon zest in three additions, until they are fully incorporated. Put the dacquoise mixture into a large piping bag with a 1-2cm nozzle and pipe the outline for two circles, then fill in the centre with ever decreasing circles of cake mixture.
- Bake until the layers are dry to the touch and light golden all over, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the layers on their parchment paper liners to a flat surface.
- To ensure the cakes will fit into the pan, trim all around the edges of the warm layers with a sharp paring knife, using a 22 cm cake pan as a guide. Slide the layers onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To make filling and ricotta mouse
- Put the pears in a small nonstick skillet and add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir over high heat until the fruit is translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the liqueur.
- Transfer the fruit to a small strainer placed over a bowl and set aside to cool.
- Press the ricotta through an ultrafine-mesh strainer or splatter screen into a large bowl. Use a spatula to stir in the granulated sugar and vanilla until well mixed.
- In a separate bowl, whip the cream (2 tbsp set aside) using an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Use a large spatula to fold the whipped cream into the ricotta mixture.
- Put the gelatin into a small bowl of cool water to completely submerge it; let stand for 5 minutes to soften.
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of cream in a bowl in the microwave or in a small saucepan over medium heat until it simmers. Squeeze the water from the soaked gelatin and stir it into the hot cream until it dissolves completely.
- Stir 1/4 cup of the ricotta mixture into the dissolved gelatin, then use a large spatula to fold this mixture back into the ricotta until well mixed.
- Gently fold the cooled drained pears into the ricotta mousse. Cover the mousse and refrigerate for 1 hour.
To assemble cake
- Place a dacquoise round top side up in a 9-inch springform pan.
- Spread the ricotta-pear filling over the cake, leveling the top.
- Top with the second cake.
- Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours or up to a day.
- To serve, release the outer ring from the pan and transfer the cake on its base to a serving platter, or use a large spatula to transfer the cake directly to the platter.
- Dust the cake with icing sugar (optional) and cut into wedges with a sharp serrated knife.
Recipe adopted from Foodista