Ricotta Espresso Pie
Ricotta cheese is a dense, dryer version of cottage cheese but without the additives that most commercial products have. The main ingredients of the finest Italian versions are milk, vinegar or salt. It makes beautiful, rich desserts without baking and with only a fraction of the calories of its fat-rich relatives.
This "Pie" can be made up to one day ahead. The chocolate sauce is the crowning touch, but it tastes best made just an hour or two before serving.
This recipe makes 6 large servings.
Ingredients for the Ricotta "Pie":
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon cold water
1/4 cup very strong espresso or double strength coffee
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 pound whole-milk ricotta (low fat can be used)
1/3 cup sugar
2 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/4-inch chunks
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks and chilled
Ingredients for the Chocolate Sauce:
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder or 2 teaspoons coffee pulverized to a powder in a coffee grinder or spice grinder dedicated to coffee beans
1/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons high quality unsweetened cocoa
1/2 ounce high-quality bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Line an 8" pie pan with plastic wrap and set aside.
Whip the whipping cream into peaks and chill it covered in the refrigerator.
In a small saucepan, pour in the cold water and mix with the gelatin; allow to stand five minutes, then add the espresso and the cinnamon.
Put the saucepan over medium heat and warm until the gelatin dissolves.
Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract and stir lightly.
Over a medium size bowl, press the ricotta through a fine sieve so that the excess moisture settles in the bowl then discard the extracted water. Put the drained ricotta into the bowl.
Remove the whipped cream from the refrigerator and stir into the ricotta cheese along with the espresso mixture, sugar, and chocolate. The mixture should be thoroughly combined.
Spread this into the pie pan, patting it down to set it; cover and chill overnight or up to 24 hours.
Directions for the sauce:
Use a small saucepan in which you combine the espresso powder with the hot water; stir to dissolve, then blend in the chocolate, cocoa, and sugar.
Stir over low heat until the chocolate melts.
Add the half-and-half and heat until it is 100ºF (using a candy or instant-read thermometer.) The cream will have a thin consistency.
Remove the saucepan from the stove and add the vanilla extract; taste for sweetness and add more sugar as desired.
Set aside, covered, only for an hour or so.
Directions for plating:
To serve, remove the pie from the refrigerator and allow to warm slightly; this pie tastes best cool, not cold.
To plate, warm the sauce over medium heat, stirring gently.
Cut the pie into wedges taking care not to cut through the plastic liner.
Place one wedge on each plate.
With a large spoon, scoop up some sauce and draw a design like a curlicue or zig-zag over each slice of pie; two tablespoons of chocolate sauce per slice should satisfy most chocoholics.