My deserts barely have recipes. I know that baking involves science, and there are rules to follow…but I’m not good at that. I like to have my desert while I’m picking raspberries, or up in the field in a blackberry thicket. Most berries that make it back to the house get eaten just as they are, the sooner the better. Berries and cream, berries and yogurt, berries and ice cream…those are good deserts. When we have lots and lots of berries– like when the mulberry tree rains down bucketsful every day– I make pies. In a good berry year, we have enough berries in the freezer for pies all year.
I like to keep things simple, so that’s what my pies are. I make crusts in a food processor that can be pressed into a pie dish or crumbled on top. The fillings are just fruit tossed with sugar and cornstarch, or creamy custards whipped up in the blender. Actually, they taste delicious, and people ask for recipes!
Torta di Ricotta
This is really great if you can find really fresh ricotta, but grocery-store ricotta works fine, too. Whole milk ricotta has the best flavor. I like to add a little lemon or orange zest to the crust, as well as some of the fresh juice.
The crust: In a food processor, pulse 2/3 cup rolled oats and 1/3 cup almonds to make a fine meal. Add 1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, 4 Tbs softened butter, 2 Tbs brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and 1tsp lemon or orange zest. Pulse to blend well. Sprinkle with 1 tsp fresh lemon or orange juice and pulse briefly. Pinch the mixture to see if it will hold together. If not, add a little more juice or water. Transfer the mixture to a pie dish (preferable a generously sized one), and press the crust evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the dish. Bake the crust in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 7 to 10 minutes, until lightly toasted. Remove from the oven.
*Crust option #2: Use 1/2 cup crushed Amaretti cookies (made from almonds, egg white and sugar) and 1 cup crushed breakfast cereal flakes (many gluten-free options). Mix with 2-3 Tbs butter, 1/2 tsp almond extract, and 1 Tbs water or fruit juice. No need to pre-bake this crust.
The ricotta filling: Use a blender or whisk to mix 1 cup whole milk ricotta, 2 eggs, 5 Tbs. cream or sour cream (I use the cream from “cream-top” yogurt), 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch, and a pinch of salt Blend smooth.
Assemble the torta: Pour about 1 cup berries or other sliced fruit over the crust. Pour the ricotta filling over the fruit. Add more berries if they fit! Put the torta in the oven and bake @350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. The top will be golden brown.
This pie could be called the lazy woman’s cheesecake. My daughter, Naomi, says it tastes like a milkshake in a crust.
Make a crumb crust of 1 1/4-cups crushed cookies, cereal flakes, graham crackers, or granola. Mix the finely ground crumbs with 4 Tbs nut meal and 2 Tbs softened butter. Add a few tsp fresh orange juice or water to make a mixture that can be pressed into a pie dish.
The filling: In a blender, mix together 8 oz cream cheese,(or substitute Nuefchatel or yogurt cheese), 1/2 cup vanilla or plain whole milk yogurt, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup sugar, 1Tbs orange marmalade, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, and 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch. Blend smooth.
Assemble the pie: Press the crumb mixture into a pie dish to make a crust. Cover the bottom with 1 cup berries or other fruit or preserves. Pour the cream cheese filling over the fruit. Bake in a pre-heated, 350-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes.