Cassata di Pasticceria

Pastry Shop-Style Cassata

Ingredients

    Rum Syrup

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons white rum

    Ricotta Cream Filling

  • 2 pounds dry ricotta, commercial or homemade
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted after measuring
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ÂĽ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons white rum
  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • ½ cup candied citron or Zuccata

    Apricot Glaze

  • 1 cup apricot preserves
  • 2 tablespoons water

    Pasta Reale

  • 8 ounces canned almond paste
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • Green food coloring
  • Cornstarch

    Decorations

  • Red candied cherries
  • 1 ounce semisweet chocolate
  • ½ teaspoon oil
  • Candied citron

Method

All the components of the cassata may be prepared 1 or 2 days in advance of assembling it, although the cassata needs to chill at least 12 hours before it is unmolded.

For the rum syrup, bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally. Cool and add the rum.

For the ricotta cream filling, press the ricotta through a fine sieve or strainer into a mixing bowl. Sift the confectioners’ sugar over it and beat it in, either by hand, with a hand mixer set at medium speed, or in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the whip. Continue beating the ricotta and sugar until the mixture is very light. Beat in the vanilla, cinnamon, and rum, then stir in the chocolate and candied fruit. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Butter a 9- or 10-inch springform pan, depending on the size of the pan di spagna layer, and line it with plastic wrap. Cut two ¼-inch horizontal layers from the pan di spagna, using a long, sharp, serrated knife (see the introductory material for an explanation and illustration). Cut the remaining pan di spagna into ½-inch-thick vertical slices.

Place one of the horizontal layers in the bottom of the springform pan and moisten it lightly with the rum syrup, using a brush. Use the vertical slices to line the sides of the pan, and moisten them from the inside.

Pour the ricotta cream filling into the lined pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Moisten the other round layer lightly with the syrup and place it on the filling. Press gently with the palm of your hand to make the layer adhere to the filling. Cover the pan with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the cassata to make the filling firm again. Reserve any remaining syrup for finishing the cassata.

While the cassata is chilling, prepare the apricot glaze. Combine the preserves and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over low heat, stirring occasionally. At the boil, strain the glaze into another pan and reserve it, covered loosely, at room temperature.

For the pasta reale, cut the almond paste into 1-inch cubes and place in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle or in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the sugar and corn syrup. In the mixer, mix on low speed until the pasta reale begins to mass around the paddle. In the food processor, pulse the mixture on and off about 10 times. The mixture will remain crumbly.

Turn the mixture out onto a clean work surface and add a drop of green food coloring to it. Knead the pasta reale smooth by hand. Form the pasta reale into a thick sausage shape, double-wrap in plastic, and reserve in a sealed plastic bag at room temperature.

To unmold the cassata, remove the plastic wrap from the top of the springform pan and invert a flat platter or disk of cardboard on it. Invert the pan onto the platter or cardboard and release the sides of the pan. Lift it off carefully, then lift off the pan base and peel off the plastic wrap. Moisten the outside of the cassata with the remaining rum syrup, using a brush.

Return the apricot glaze to a boil over low heat and brush it all over the outside of the cassata.

Unwrap the pasta reale and knead it smooth by hand, shaping it into a 5-inch disk. Dust the work surface and the pasta reale very lightly with the cornstarch. Roll the pasta reale out into a thin 14-inch disk, moving the pasta reale often and adding cornstarch to the work surface to prevent sticking. Slide both hands under the pasta reale and center it on the cassata, allowing the excess to drape over the sides. Press the top smooth with the palm of one hand and press the pasta reale against the sides of the cassata, easing it into place to prevent pleats and tears. Trim away the excess at the base of the cassata with a small, sharp knife.

To decorate the cassata, cut the chocolate finely and place it in a small heat-proof bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of hot (but not simmering) water and stir until the chocolate is melted. Stir in the oil. Make a small cone from parchment, as in the illustration, fill with the chocolate, fold the top to seal it, and cut a small hole in the pointed end with sharp scissors. Pipe a series of designs on the top of the cassata, as in the illustration. Cut the citron into thin strips and make a geometric design with it and the cherries in the center of the cassata.

Keep the cassata, loosely covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator until time to serve it.

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