Cassata Siciliana – The alternative to Christmas Pudding


IMG_1779So you’re entertaining for Christmas, but you want something a little different?  Just as rich and decadent, but maybe something chilled, or something a little bit lighter than the traditional pudding?  Give this cassata a go.  Packed with the festive richness of christmas pudding fruits soaked in rum, filled with creamy ricotta and covered in chocolate, marzipan and icing, this traditional Italian dessert makes a great change

Reprise

Many Italian recipes describe Cassata as ‘energy giving’.  This is clearly one of those irregular verbs –

  • ‘My cassata gives me energy’
  • ‘Your cassata has a high fat and sugar content’
  • ‘His cassata has sent him to A&E with a massive coronary’  

This is a VERY rich dessert, and I reckon will easily serve 10-12 people

In the end I just didn’t have the opportunity to ice this dessert, and in fact I was quite pleased that I didn’t.  It is a terrific end to a meal, but the marzipan alone makes it incredibly sweet and any icing would just take it over the edge for my tastes.  Suggestions for the future:  Don’t use commercial marzipan, stick to my home mdd marzipan recipe (but considering that the marzipan gives this some structural integrity, use the ‘uncooked’ version, which shouldn’t be too soft).  The filling really benefited from the  candied ginger and cranberries – a little spice and acidity offset the richness really well.  The dark chocolate coating was also critical in this respect, and provided the only ‘solid’ structure to the dish, acting as reinforcement preventing it from collapsing – this did make ‘carving’ an interesting experience.  Can you get more structural integrating into this dish without spoiling the concept?  I don’t think so, but you could make ‘mini’ versions which should eliminate the problem completely 

Serves 8+

Ingredients

  • 600g Marzipan
  • 100g Dark Chocolate
  • 4 tbsp Rum
  • 1 mug full (350ml+) Good quality dried fruit, e.g., Raisins, Cherries, Cranberries
  • A little good quality Mixed peel, cut small
  • A handful of Pistachio Nuts
  • 3-4 lumps of candied Root Ginger, diced
  • A dozen Glace Cherries
  • 500g Ricotta
  • 200ml Double Cream
  • 100-150g Icing Sugar
  • 275g Sponge, e.g., Madeira Cake

Method

  • Roll out the marzipan and carefully line a deep 20cm loose bottomed cake tin. Trim off the edges. TIP: It may be easier to do this by lining the sides first, then the base, sealing the joints with a little dab of water
  • Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of gently boiling water – do not stir too much or the chocolate will seize
  • Once melted, use a pastry brush to cow the inside of the marzipan with the melted chocolate.  Take care to get an even coating and cover any seals well
  • Carefully slice up the sponge into thin layers.  Use about 2/3rds to line the bottom and sides of the tin, sticking the sponge to the melted chocolate
  • Place the dried fruit and chopped peel not a small bowl and cover with the rum.  Zap in the microwave for about 1 minute, then stir and set aside to soak up the liquid and cool a little
  • In a mixer, whip the ricotta and cream together until thick
  • Add half of the icing sugar and beat in.  Taste – depending upon the ricotta you may need to add more sugar to taste, but the mixture should be sweet
  • Add the chopped nuts, cherries and ginger and mix again
  • When cooled, drain the rum from the fruit and set aside
  • Add the soaked fruit to the cream mixture and gently beat in
  • Brush some of the rum onto the sponge lining the tin, then add the cream mixture
  • Level off and cover with the remaining sponge.  Splash with more rum
  • Cover with cling film and refrigerate, ideally overnight, until set
  • Carefully turn the cassata out onto a serving plate and cover with icing glaze or a white chocolate ganache.  Decorate with a few glade fruits or chocolate and serve in small portions!

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