Almost Al’s Ricotta Tart

plum-topped ricotta tart

Almost Al’s Ricotta Tart (with puree from our own Kaga plums and a few Johnny Jump-ups because why not?)

Summer and winter – and spring and fall; this is a treat that knows no season – my friend Alex Tuller’s ricotta tart has been a go-to dessert ever since I had the first piece, back in 2006.

It’s easy, delicious, handsome, ideal for making ahead…and on top of that it’s infinitely variable, which is why I call it “Almost” Al’s tart. Good as it is in the original I usually wind up playing around with it.

ricotta plum tart, sliced

The plum puree is so intense only a very thin layer is needed. If using freshly cooked peaches, for instance, you might want it a little thicker

When I asked Alex about a few details, just to be sure I had it right, she was inspired to post the recipe on her food blog, Cooking Lola’s Way, so you might as well get it there. The darker crust in her picture may be a matter of taste,  or it may come from her “crummy” stove, which is central to the nifty story about how she got cooking locally, seasonally and in earnest when she moved to the country.

Additional notes on the tart:

1. The pan: A 9 inch tart pan with a removable ring is large enough if it’s a deep one (@ one inch). If you’re using a classic low rider French pan, 10 inches works better. Buttering isn’t essential, but it’s good insurance.

2. The dough is soft, so while it’s easy to press into the pan it’s tricky to roll unless well chilled and sandwiched by pieces of waxed paper. Chilling the rolled-out dough in the freezer enables a lazy lattice like the one in the picture, but it softens too much, too quickly for a real woven one. Don’t it roll too thin; in this tart the crust and filling are more or less equal partners.

3. A complete top crust helps prevent filling-puff. If you make the lattice or simply top with puree, the tart will rise in the oven and then, being a cheesecake, sink. Letting it cool in the turned-off oven helps.

4. Fruit toppings may be either jam or thick cooked puree, but don’t try to bake raw fruit on top or you’ll have a soggy mess. (You can bake with no top crust at all and then pave with raw strawberries or raspberries, if you want to take more attention away from the ricotta for some reason. Unprotected filling may overbrown before being fully cooked; have foil ready. And the cooked surface may wind up just a tad tough; brush with fruit juice or liquor before putting the fruit on.

5. Playing around tends to leave small bits of extra filling or dough or both. Filling is good baked in buttered custard cups. Crust is cookies. Leftovers from the plum one here made a mini deep dish rhubarb pie: stewed rhubarb almost filling pie plate; leftover filling dotted on, leftover crust rolled out rather thinly and placed on top.

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