As you might imagine, we've been spending a fair amount of time plotting our Thanksgiving meal lately, and much of that time has been devoted to finding a truly special dessert (or three) to end the feast. Well, we're happy to say that we've found that Thanksgiving showstopper of a dessert in Francine Segan's latest cookbook, Dolci: Italy's Sweets.
The combination of toasty hazelnuts and brandy poached pears is perfect for fall, and adding creamy whipped ricotta can make anything exponentially more delicious. Plus, this Ricotta Pear Cake can be made and frozen up to a whopping six weeks in advance. How do you like that for Thanksgiving pre-planning?
- Active time: 1 hour
- Total time:1 hour 15 minutes
- For the cake:
- 2 cups whole hazelnuts, finely ground
- 6 tablespoons 00 flour
- 6 large eggs
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 7 tablespoons butter, melted
- For the pears:
- 2 (at least 6 ounces each) Bartlett or William pears, peeled, cored, and diced or thinly sliced
- ½ cup sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 to 2 tablespoons pear brandy
- For the syrup:
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 to 4 tablespoons pear brandy
- For the filling:
- 17 ounces ricotta cheese
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup heavy cream
Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and lightly flour two 9 ½ -inch springform pans.
Grind the hazelnuts and flour in a mini food processor until very fine.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the eggs and sugar and beat on high speed for 15 minutes, until the mixture has quadrupled in volume. Gently fold in the hazelnuts and flour with a spatula until just combined. Then add in the butter. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until firm to the touch. Set aside.
Make the pears: In a small saucepan combine the pears, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch and simmer over medium-low heat until the pears are soft. Remove from the heat, stir in the brandy, and let cool to room temperature. Set aside.
Make the syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and ½ cup water and bring to a boil. Stir in brandy.
Make the filling: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the ricotta, sugar, and vanilla for at least 5 minutes, until creamy.
Meanwhile, beat the cream until firm peaks form. Using a spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the ricotta mixture. Fold in the cooled pear mixture.
Assemble the dessert: Remove one of the cake layers from the pan and place on a serving platter large enough to hold the outer ring of the springform pan. Brush the cake with one-half of the syrup to moisten it. Pile the filling in the center of the cake and put the springform ring back over the cake.
Gently spread the filling to the edges and then top with the second layer of cake. Brush the remaining syrup over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the freezer until set, about 2 hours. Remove the springform ring and refrigerate until ready to serve.