eat in my kitchen

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Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

The temperature’s high, the brightest blue is painted all over the sky, and my kitchen countertops are piled with berries and stone fruits. Strawberries, raspberries, the first red currents, peaches and apricots – I’m in fruit heaven. And soon I’ll be back in Malta, where figs, naspli (also known as loquat fruit or Maltese plum), and bajtra (prickly pear) will be added to the table. I adore summer, I love its richness and lusciousness, the vast variety of colourful produce that inspires me every time I go to the farmers’ market. A handful of ingredients perfectly ripened under the warm sun turn the most minimal dish into a regal meal. Or a simple sponge cake sandwiched with a creamy filling and seasonal fruit. Is there a better way to feast and celebrate summer than with a Peach Ricotta Torte?

When I was a child, my mother introduced my sister and me to a beautiful Sunday afternoon tradition. We’d pick a recipe, for cake or waffles, chat and bake, and listen to classical music. When our work was done, we’d get cozy on the sofa (in winter) or set up our teatime table in the garden. One of my culinary summer highlights is my mother’s sponge torte with whipped cream and strawberries. It’s almost too pretty to eat. And my uplifted summer mood called for a revival of our little tradition. Instead of German Rührkuchen – a sponge cake made with butter, which my mother bakes – I went for a lighter fat-free sponge, made with lots of beaten egg white. It’s soft and airy, not filling at all, which explains why the two of us ate almost the whole cake in one day.

Malta was my inspiration when I thought about the filling: I chose the lemon-ricotta filling for Maltese cannoli from my book. Lighter than whipped cream, it has a slightly sour touch, perfect for a summer torte. My cake only had one layer of ricotta, but feel free to double the amount and also use it as a topping – in case you aim for a richer cake-sandwich. A little icing sugar to finish it off was just right for me.

White soft and juicy vineyard peaches (also known as doughnut peaches) added the right amount of sweetness, red currants to decorate the cake brought a sharp note to the palate. Stroll over the farmers’ market and grab whatever fruit pleases your eyes and taste. Just try to balance out sweet and sour – that’s what a fruity summer torte is all about.

More fruity summer sponge cake and swiss roll inspiration:

Blueberry Victoria Sponge Cake

Cheesecake Swiss Roll with Mascarpone and Blackberries

Bittersweet Chocolate and Orange Sponge Cake

Blueberry Lemon Swiss Roll

Strawberry White Chocolate Breakfast Cake

Blackberry Cake with Lemon Mascarpone

Strawberry Cream Roll

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

Makes 1 20.5cm / 8″ cake

For the ricotta filling
Double the amount for the filling if you also want to use it to spread it on top of the cake.

fresh ricotta, drained, 250g / 9 ounces
granulated sugar 2 tablespoons
freshly grated lemon zest 2 teaspoons
vanilla bean, split and scraped, 1/2

For the sponge cake

organic eggs, separated, 4
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
granulated sugar, divided in half, 150g / 3/4 cup
freshly grated lemon zest 1 teaspoon
vanilla bean, split and scraped, 1/2
plain flour, sieved, 160g / 1 1/4 cups

The fruit

ripe white vineyard peaches or doughnut peaches, with or without skin, cut into very thin wedges, 3 plus 1 peach cut into thicker wedges, for the topping
red currents and raspberries, for the topping, a handful

icing sugar, for the topping, in case you don’t double the ricotta to also use it for the topping

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F (conventional setting). Butter a 20.5cm / 8″ springform pan and line it with parchment paper.

For the ricotta filling, in a medium bowl, whisk the ricotta, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla seeds until creamy and transfer to the fridge.

For the sponge cake, in a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg white and salt for 1 minute. Add half the sugar (75g) and continue whisking for about 7 minutes or until very stiff and glossy.

In a clean bowl, using a stand mixer, beat the eggs yolks, the remaining sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla seeds for about 2 minutes or until light yellow and creamy.

Gently fold the stiff egg white into the egg yolk mixture, it should be almost combined. Then fold in the sieved flour, stir gently until relatively smooth and combined. Don’t overmix it and don’t worry if there are a few smaller pieces of egg white left here and there, however, there shouldn’t be any flour left.

Scrape the batter into the lined springform pan and even out the surface a little. Bake for about 20-23 minutes or until light golden and spongy. Check with a skewer, it should come out clean. Let the sponge cake cool in the springform pan for about 10 minutes before you take it out and transfer it to a cooling rack. Remove the parchment paper from the cake; let it cool completely before you cut the sponge cake and assemble the torte.

When the cake is completely cool, using a sharp large knife, cut the cake in half horizontally. Spread the cold ricotta filling on the bottom half of the cake (if you doubled the amount of the filling, only use half the ricotta). Spread the thinner peach wedges in circles on top of the ricotta and gently push them into the filling. Lay the top of the sponge cake on top of the peaches. Either dust with icing sugar or, if you doubled the ricotta, spread the remaining ricotta filling on top of the cake. Decorate with the thicker peach wedges, raspberries, and red currants.

Serve immediately or keep the torte in the fridge, it tastes best on the first and second day. Take the torte out of the fridge about 10-15 minutes before serving and dust with additional icing sugar, if necessary.

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

Mâche, Avocado and Raspberry Salad with Honey

Mâche, Avocado + Raspberry Salad

This week I can’t get enough berries! When I see all those boxes filled with tiny colourful berries at the market I don’t even know where to start. Raspberries, gooseberries, red currants, strawberries, so much to choose from! Unfortunately, they haven’t reached their peak in sweetness yet due to our disastrous summer weather, but I enjoy them nonetheless. I can’t wait any longer, we only have them for a few months and I don’t want to miss out.

As much as I love to throw these fruits on tarts or enjoy them as a fruity nibbling alternative to chocolate, they are just as good in fresh and crunchy salads. Combined with the slices of a ripe and velvety avocado, they bring some freshness into the mix. Some mâche salad (also known as field salad or lamb’s lettuce) mixed in adds some crunchy bite, perfect for those hot days which I’m still hoping for optimistically. I’ll be in Malta soon, there I will definitely get my boiling hot summer weather but I won’t find my delicate raspberries. Sometimes you can’t have everything in life!

For the 2 of us, I spread a handful of lettuce on 2 plates and coverd each of them with the slices of a quarter of a soft avocado and 8 raspberries. I wanted to keep the dressing sweet and fruity, you can use either Balsamico vinegar or raspberry vinegar (or mix the two of them). Whisk 3 tablespoons of olive oil with 2 tablespoons of vinegar, add 1/2 a teaspoon of honey and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle over your salad sparingly.

Mâche, Avocado + Raspberry Salad

 

Mâche, Avocado + Raspberry Salad

A Perfect Raspberry and Blueberry Tart with Bavarian Cream

Raspberry + Blueberry Tart with Bavarian Cream

More than twenty years ago I spent a beautiful two weeks in the South of France together with my uncle’s family. We stayed in a pink house in the hills of Grasse surrounded by a blossoming garden full of roses, jasmine and lavender. My room faced this fragrant oasis, a French picture book scene in white, blue, red and pink. I used to sit on my bed with the windows wide open, watching the curtains fly in the warm wind, mesmerized by the scent that caught all my senses. Grasse has been known as the “world’s perfume capital” since the end of the 18th century. Thanks to its warm climate it is ideal for flower farming, this is where the best parfumeurs get trained to distinguish between thousands of scents. Although I didn’t go there with any professional intentions I’m sure my sense of smell wasn’t the same after this holiday!

This leads me to another sense, the sense of taste! My family is very passionate about food and so are my aunt and uncle. We went to amazing restaurants and kept the cooking in the house quite simple but nonetheless delicious. Salads, fruit, pasta but also quail and fish were on our table. One afternoon, we invited some friends to come over for tea and the lady who took care of the house offered to bake a fruit tart. Her creation was one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen and definitely one of the best I have ever eaten. It was very simple, a perfect short crust base topped with circles of four or five different berries, all sweet and ripened under the French sun. We all loved it!

I’m a big fan of these summer tarts, buttery short crust and fruit is just my kind of combination. This is a cake you can enjoy in the hottest temperatures when heavy cream cakes are already out of the question.

This holiday will always remind me of this wonderful cake and the memories of the smell and the hills of Grasse will always inspire me to bake a tart. Today I gave it a raspberry and blueberry layer on top of a delicious Bavarian cream, fluffy, light and full of vanilla. The pastry is crisp and light but strong enough to carry the cream without getting soggy. This is a perfect tart to me – so good that I always bake two of them straight away!

Raspberry + Blueberry Tart with Bavarian Cream

 

Raspberry + Blueberry Tart with Bavarian Cream

Raspberry and Blueberry Tart with Bavarian Cream

For 2 tarts in 22cm / 9″ tart pans you need

blueberries 200g / 7 ounce
raspberries 100g / 3.5 ounces

 

For the short crust base

flour 400g / 14 ounces
(I use spelt flour type 630 but you can use any other plain flour)
sugar 100g / 3.5 ounces
salt 1/4 teaspoon
butter 200g / 7 ounces
organic egg yolks 3
water 3 tablespoons

Combine the flour with the sugar and salt. Cut the butter with a knife into the flour until there are just little pieces of butter left. Continue with your fingers and work the butter into the flour until combined (there shouldn’t be any lumps of butter left). Add the egg and water and continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form 2 discs, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F top/ bottom heat.

Roll out the dough between cling film and line your tart pans with the flat pastry. Prick it with a fork and blind-bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes or until golden. Let the tarts cool completely before you take them out of their pans.

 

For the Bavarian cream

organic egg 1
organic egg yolks 2
sugar 80g / 3 ounces
a pinch of salt
milk 250ml / 8.5 ounces
vanilla bean, slit slightly, 1/2
gelatin sheets 2
heavy cream, whipped, 230g / 8 ounces

Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water for a few minutes.

Whisk the egg, egg yolks, sugar and salt till thick and fluffy.

In a sauce pan, bring the milk together with the vanilla bean to the boil. Take the vanilla bean out, scrape the seeds out of the bean into the milk. Whisk the egg mixture into the hot milk and put the pan back on a medium heat, stirring constantly. When the cream is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (it will take around 5 minutes depending on the temperature) take it off the heat.

Squeeze the soaked galatin sheets into the egg mixture and crumble the sheets in. Whisk well, fill in a bowl and let it cool for a few minutes before you put it in the fridge to bring it to room temperature.

Gently fold in the whipped cream and cool in the fridge for 2 hours until the cream is set.

 

The fruit tart

Divide the Bavarian cream between the 2 tarts and spread evenly. Garnish with the fruits and serve immediately or keep in the fridge.

The crust is best when it’s fresh but we still enjoyed a couple pieces after the tart had been in the fridge.

Raspberry + Blueberry Tart with Bavarian Cream

 

Raspberry + Blueberry Tart with Bavarian Cream

 

Raspberry + Blueberry Tart with Bavarian Cream

Fudgy Raspberry Chocolate Brownies

Raspberry Chocolate Brownies

The first bite of these chocolate brownies changed my opinion about this cakey treat completely. After a few rather dry, too heavy or painfully sweet experiences with brownies I already felt like giving up on them. I never felt inspired and motivated to give them a try in my own kitchen but this recipe changed everything! They are fudgy, dense, chocolaty and juicy and a thin layer of sweet raspberry jam even adds a hint of fruitiness. You can’t really ask for more when you pull a chocolate cake out of your oven!

It’s important to use good quality chocolate, bittersweet, the kind you like to eat without putting it in a cake. Mine is 50% cocoa, I tried stronger ones but this works best for me. Sometimes I make the recipe without the jam layer which doesn’t effect the brownie’s fudginess, they just have to bake shorter as the fruit keeps the dough soggy for a bit longer. When I want chocolate, pure and intense than that’s my choice! I like both, so much that I always make a big tray right away, even if there’s just the two of us. I also like to make them for easy dinner parties, a sweet finger food dessert, no plates, just napkins and everybody gets a big brownie in their hands.

This recipe comes from my boyfriend by the way. One day he went into the kitchen, came up with this recipe and baked these wonderful brownies. I don’t remember why or how, I don’t ask questions, I just enjoy them!

Raspberry Chocolate Brownies

 Raspberry Chocolate Brownies

For a 28,5 x 23,5 cm / 11 x 9 ” baking dish making 24 brownies you need

butter 350g / 12.5 ounces
chocolate 350g / 12.5 ounces
a pinch of fresh vanilla
organic eggs 6
sugar 320g /11.5 ounces
flour 250g / 9 ounces
salt 1 teaspoon
raspberry jam, whisked with a fork, 100ml

Set the oven to 175°C / 350°F (fan-assisted oven) and line a 28,5 x 23,5 cm / 11 x 9″ baking dish with parchment paper. (It must be roughly this size).

Melt the butter together with the chocolate and vanilla in a sauce pan. Set aside and let cool for a couple minutes. Beat the eggs together with the sugar till fluffy and add to the chocolate mixture. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt, add the liquid mixture and mix with your mixer until everything is combined. Pour half of the dough into the baking dish, even it out and spread the jam on top, carefully so that the layers stay separate. Add the rest of the dough and spread evenly.

Bake in the oven for 55 minutes. The top will be a pale brown and speckled. When you push in the middle you should feel a soft but spongy resistance. Let it cool for 10 minutes before you cut it into small squares.

If you make the brownies without the jam layer, check them after 30 minutes. It should look and feel as described above.

Raspberry Chocolate Brownies

 

Raspberry Chocolate Brownies

 

Raspberry Chocolate Brownies

 

Raspberry Chocolate Brownies

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