Germaine Stafford meets famous pastry chef Salvatore De Riso who shares with us his recipe for a Ricotta and Pear cake, which seems to have been one of Pope Giovanni Paolo II’s favourite Italian dessert.
Self taught and hugely successful, Master pastry chef Salvatore De Riso has made a name for himself the world over. In the business since 1989, his small bakery-cum-pastry shop in the town of Minori on the Amalfi Coast has flourished and expanded into a business that turns out more than six hundred cakes a day and exports all over Italy, to France, Spain, Australia and Great Britain.
The first pastry chef from the South of Italy to be admitted into the prestigious Academy of Italian Master Pastry Chefs, Salvatore has a curriculum vitae that is an impressive list of medals, accolades, and record breaking achievements. In the year 2000, he had the honor of meeting Pope John Paul II during the Jubilee.
For that occasion, he created a special cake called Oro Puro, a grand cru guanaja chocolate mousse with mandarin filling and DOP annurca apples. But according to rumors, another of Sal’s amazing cakes had conquered Giovanni Paolo II, Ricotta e Pere, which is one of Salvatore’s signature cakes, in demand from Paris to Sydney.
Ricotta and Pear Cake
For the Hazelnut sponge
350g eggs (weight with shell) 200g caster sugar
275g ground hazelnuts
100g plain flour, sieved
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
75g melted butter
For the Syrup
200g caster sugar
3 tbsp rum
3 tbsp pear brandy (eau de vie de poire)
For the Ricotta Cream
500g ricotta (preferably half sheep’s milk and half cows’ milk) 125ml whipping cream, lightly whipped
225g caster sugar Pear filling
350g ripe Williams pears 100g caster sugar
1 1/2 tbsp pear brandy (eau de vie de poire)
10g sheet gelatine
To make th etwo sponge disks: beat the eggs with the sugar until thick and pale. With a spoon, fold in the ground hazelnuts, the flour and the grated lemon zest, and then incorporate the melted butter. Put the mixture into a large piping bag with a 1-2cm nozzle, and in two shallow 26cm diameter cake tins (lined with a disk of baking parchment), pipe the outline for 2 x 26cm circles, then fill in the centre with ever decreasing circles of cake mixture. Bake in an oven preheated to 180°C for approx. 35 minutes. Allow to cool.
Make the ricotta filling by mixing the ricotta and the sugar and then folding in the whipped cream.
To prepare the syrup, boil the water and the sugar together. Add the rum and the pear brandy and boil for a minute or so then take off the heat, but cover to keep warm.
Next, prepare the pear filling. Place the gelatine in a small bowl of water and leave to soak for 10 minutes. In the meantime, peel and dice the pears. Place them in a frying pan with the sugar and cook for five minutes. Then add the pear brandy, the newly prepared syrup and the gelatine, slightly squeezed to remove excess water. Stir until the gelatine has completely dissolved. Cool.
To assemble :
place one of the sponge disks at the bottom of a 26cm spring form cake tin and spread half the ricotta mixture on top.
Next, cover with the pear mixture and finish with a layer of ricotta. Place the other sponge disk on top and press gently. Freeze cake, and move from freezer to fridge approximately an hour before serving. Decorate with a dusting of icing sugar.