Ricotta & Wheat Pies [start of a new Easter tradition]

Ricotta & wheat pies are not an Easter tradition in my own family, but I have declared it a new tradition from here on out. They are crusted with a pasta frolla (a kind of shortbread), and then filled with a sweet ricotta filling, either adding chocolate or wheat berries at the end. My grandmother always made Sicilian Easter Rings growing up, and next year I’ll tackle those as a new project.

I made a total of 8 pies for Easter to give away as gifts and bring to the various households (both my boyfriend and I come from split families, so there’s always double to dish out) It was not a small feat considering my sad excuse for a kitchen and erratic stove. They turned out fabulous to my surprise. I used two different ricotta bases, and the version with the wheat was the general favorite. The wheat pies turned out lighter and creamier, whereas the ricotta pies were thicker and denser.

SO, I’ve adapted the recipe so that the base is the same, and you can simply add the wheat or chocolate chips at the end.

This recipe makes two pies. Go ahead and make the dough 1 full day in advance. It softens very, very quickly once you begin handling it. Make the wheat berries in advance too (takes about 1 hour or so).

Pasta Frolla- The Dough

  • 4 sticks of butter, room temp.
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup water, room temp.
  • 4 cups flour

1. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

2. Add the zests, the honey, the baking soda and baking powder. Mix for about 1 minute until everything is really incorporated.

3. Add the water, beating at medium speed until you’ve created a liquid batter.

4. Add the flour and mix until you’ve created a nice little ball of dough. Do not over-mix or knead it like you would if you were making pizza dough.

5. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for a full day.

6. Prepare your pie pan with a cooking spray or grease. Set aside 1/4 of the dough for the lattice strips on top. Roll out the bulk of the dough so it can cover the pie tin/ plate (about 13-14″). Gently lift and drop the pie tin/plate so the dough settles, and then trim off the edges.

Tips:

  • Work quickly with the dough, because it begins to soften immediately.
  • Use plastic wrap above and below the dough while rolling it out, so it won’t stick to anything. Pull off half of the plastic wrap when you’re ready to place the dough, and then after you’ve folded it over the pie tin, peel off the remaining wrap.
  • If you’re going to use metal, disposable tins, either bake the pie with three of them stacked up OR place the tin on a pre-heated baking sheet. This will help it cook more evenly.

The Filling

  • 2 pounds ricotta
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons of orange blossom water (optional) 
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 orange
  • 5 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 6 extra large eggs
  • 1 pound wheat berries (prepared) or 2 cups mini chocolate chips (both optional, depending on the kind of pie you want)
1. Prepare the wheat berries (if you’re making a wheat pie) by soaking them for 10 minutes in warm water. Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the berries (as if you are making rice) and bring to a simmer. Add the drained wheat berries, along with the zest, juice and rind of an orange and some honey, brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Cook for about an hour, until the berries are still chewy but soft. Stir often so the bottom doesn’t burn and then drain, and set aside to cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
3.  Incorporate the ricotta, the two zests, the sugar and the orange blossom water.
4. Add the eggs one at a time until everything is thoroughly mixed and fluffy.
5. Fold in either the wheat berries OR the chocolate chips OR leave it plain!

6. Pour the mixture into the pie shell until it is about 3/4 full. Top it with a thin layer of pasta frolla or a lattice design. Use an egg wash and brush egg over the pie. Bake until it is golden brown, set but not too hard (it will continue cooking for a while). It took mine about 45 minutes to an hour.
7. Chill it and serve!
Tips:
  • It was a PAIN to find wheat berries. I went to Target (obviously futile), Sprouts/ Henry’s, Albertson’s and finally Mother’s Market, which of course has every random nut and flake you could ever dream up.
  • Be sure the wheat berries are cooked and ready to go before starting the mixture, because the actually filling takes minutes to stir together.
  • Wheat berries are cooked like rice, and make a fabulous breakfast. Swap out oatmeal for wheat berries!
  • If the pie is beginning to brown too much on the crust, cover it with foil.

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Pumpkin Pie Brûlée

This Thanksgiving I made 20 crème brûlées for my mom’s side of the family for our get-together. I normally just use the broiler to melt the sugar, but this time I decided to simplify it, give in and get the torch. I started going a little crazy that week with torching things and this recipe is one of those consequences.

I know it’s January and we should be putting the pie and pumpkin behind us, but I couldn’t help sharing this (very tasty) dessert. I hate to admit, but this was just a recipe on the back of an extra large vat of Libby’s pumpkin pie mix, neatly written out HERE. I won’t bore you with an exact replica of it on this blog. It’s a great recipe and a delicious pie.

BUT, now comes the fun part! Once you make the pie and are ready to serve, take out your brûlée torch, sprinkle your pie with a thick layer of sugar and let your inner pyro out!

Let the pie cool for a bit and then you have a crunchy, sugary crunch! Enjoy!

Revision: How to sabotage your diet with a delicious coconut cream pie

Based on a true story. I’ve completed seven days of SBD Phase 1, not counting two days of cheating caused by this recipe (and some other delicious food… more on that later).

This is one of those, oh-my-god-I-never-knew-I-liked-pie kind of pies.

Wish I had taken a better photo of this, but the family was hungry and waiting.

  • 1 can coconut milk/cream
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cups flaked coconut, toasted
  • 3/4 cups flaked coconut, not toasted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 1 (9 inch) pie shell, baked (or make your own if you’re feeling Martha Stewarty)
  • 2-3 cups whipping cream (depending on how much topping you want)
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine coconut milk, half-and-half, eggs, sugar, corn starch and salt. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly (should take about 15-20 minutes). Mixture should thicken to a pudding. Remove from heat, and stir in 3/4 cup of the grated coconut and 1 tsp. of coconut and vanilla extracts. Pour into baked and cooled pie shell and chill 3 to 4 hours, or until firm (leave it in the fridge covered overnight if you really want a flavorful pie).
  2. When ready to serve, beat the whipping cream on medium-high speed with an electric or stand mixer in a large bowl. Beat for 10 minutes until it thickens and holds soft peaks on a spatula. Add 1 tsp. coconut extract and resume beating until stiff peaks form. Top the pie with the whipped cream and toasted coconut.
  3. To toast coconut, spread it in an ungreased pan and bake in the oven on 350 degree until golden brown, stirring occasionally.

This is probably one of my favorite desserts and I’m getting cravings just thinking about this recipe… I’ve been in a coconut mood lately and am thinking of baking some South Beach-friendly coconut macaroons tomorrow, especially since I have a fresh coconut sitting on my counter.

The dinner with the family last weekend was a great success. The ribs came out tender, my first stab at mashed potatoes got the approval of my Dad, and Nana’s macaroni & cheese was delicious, even though I forgot the salt.

I will update tomorrow about the South Beach Diet itself. I’ve had a couple people ask me what it’s all about, and I think it’ll be good to shed some light on what I think is one of the healthiest “diets” out there.

Enjoy!