CASSATA DECONSTRUCTED – a postmodernist take on Sicilian Cassata

When my children were young they used to refer to me as the food police; everything had to be just right and particularly when we went to a restaurant I often seemed to find fault.

cassatastrawbs4

 

I cannot always be a purist. Sometimes I take shortcuts and this shortcut did not look or taste too bad.

I used sponge fingers, dipped in Cointreau. These formed the casing of the sweet – the  bottom and top layers. In between I used a sweet ricotta filling, in fact it a similar ricotta filling that I use when making a cassata. I then covered the top layer of sponge fingers with a whipped cream with a little ricotta, topped it with summer strawberries and leaves made from marzipan. The result is very much like a summer cassata and very suitable for the Christmas season.

The flavours and process of dipping sponge fingers or sponge cake in liqueur and layering with a cream filling are very much Italian. After all, I have been making cassata, zuppa inglese and tiramisu for years.

I have maintained the Italian colours.The only problem is what do I call this dessert?

The marzipan can be made days beforehand, wrapped in cling wrap and left in the fridge. The leaves can also be made beforehand and placed in a sealed container with baking paper in between each leaf.

This dessert fed 6-8 people – the strawberries were huge and because of their large size they give a wrong sense of scale.

INGREDIENTS
500 g fresh ricotta,
100 g caster sugar,
1 cup Cointreau or to taste
50g of chopped blanched almonds
vanilla concentrate
some orange and citron peel previously soaked in Cointreau for at least 1 hour
small pieces of dark chocolate
cream to cover the dessert, add as much as you like

PROCESSES
Arrange sponge biscuits in a square container lined with cling wrap. Sprinkle them with orange flavoured liqueur.
Beat 450g ricotta with a dash of cream, sugar and vanilla. The mixture should be creamy but stiff.
Fold in nuts, chocolate, and drained peel. Reserve the Cointreau.
Place this on the layer of sponge fingers and finish off with a top layer which you have sprinkled with more Cointreau – I used what I drained off the peel.
Leave it for at least 5 hours.
Close to serving, (I did this an hour before my guests arrived) decorate it with the whipped cream (mixed with a little vanilla, 50g of whipped ricotta and a little caster sugar to taste).
Place strawberries on top and decorate with leaves.

Marzipan leaves:
100g blanched almond meal
100g g icing sugar
1 egg white
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 drop green food dye

Mix contents together and use your fingers to knead the mixture; add more sugar of meal if the mixture is too wet.
Place the marzipan in between two sheets of baking paper and roll it out thinly. Cut it into shapes of leaves.

One of  the cassate (plural of cassata )I have made covered with green marzipan.

cassatacutonthebench

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