Tuesday Tutorial- Homemade Ricotta Cheese

,I live in a very Italian neighbourhood, and my local market makes the most outrageously good ricotta cheese. The thickest, creamiest, most glorious ricotta I’ve ever had. It’s so good.

It’s also $12.00 for 500mL. The deliciously is directly linked to the price tag.

I have made a lot of ricottas in my life. Sometimes for restaurants, sometimes for home, and it’s always good. It is. But it’s never as good as the kind I can buy at the market. So I gave up for a while, I didn’t want to go through the trouble. I forked over the cash when I had a craving.

The trouble, is that to fully appreciate ricotta you have to eat it at room temperature, or slightly warmer. When it has just been made, slathered on good bread, and dipped in olive oil and sprinkled generously with maldon salt- it is the best and simplest snack ever. Put a salad beside it and you’ve got a downright brilliant lunch.

So I started experimenting with recipes, trying to make one as good as the Italian brand down the street, but that I could make at home and then eat while warm. Ricotta isn’t hard to make, you just bring some milk to a boil, add in some lemon, stir it until it occurs, and strain it. It’s a funny thing really, because traditionally ricotta is made by reboiling the whey of other cheeses, the whey of course being nearly completely fat free (the word ricotta literally means twice cooked), but ricotta is ever so much more delicious when you add in fat.

A lot of recipes call for 1 litre of milk and one cup of cream, but I add just a half cup more cream, and it makes a world of difference. Such a difference in fact, that I prefer it to the store bought kind down the street that costs twice as much. Small miracles my friends, small miracles.

Ricotta Cheese

1 litre Whole Milk (or homogenized)

1 1/2 cups Whipping Cream

Juice of 1 Lemon

1 1/2 tsp Salt

Line a large sieve with cheesecloth

Bring the milk and cream to a roaring boil.

Add in the lemon juice and stir, still over the heat, until thick curds have formed.

Pour the liquid into the prepared sieve, put the sieve over a bowl and allow to cool at room temperature for about an hour. You can make it a bit thicker by letting it sit longer if you’d like.

Remove the cheese from the cloth, and serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.  

Double Chocolate Strawberry Pavlova

I have this sensational Australian friend named Liz who is significantly cooler than I am. When she moved back to Oz in January she gave me tons of her old clothes that she had had for too long and didn’t want to haul across the world with her. They are practically the only clothes I own that I get compliments on, and even though she bought them several years ago, they are also the trendiest things I have. Basically Liz tends to have her finger on the pulse.

She has introduced me to a many amazing blogs over the years, mostly Australian ones, some style blogs, but lots of recipe blogs as well, and the one I go back to over and over again is What Katie Ate. Of all the photography/recipe blogs out there What Katie Ate would have to be in the top 5 ever. Her recipes are amazing, every one of them, but her photography is my favourite part. I can spend hours looking over her photos. Unlike a lot of French and American photographers hers is a little darker, her backdrops are often slate and she uses slightly un polished silverware. Theres something slightly antique-y about them, and it’s something I love.

So I wasn’t surprised when I saw the most delicious looking chocolate pavlova on Pintrest and it turned out to be one of Katie’s recipes. Now, I’ve written here before about pavlovas, and I’ve talked about the impossibility of making one in my terrible no good oven, but I thought perhaps if I made mini ones than maybe my oven would cooperate. And miracles do happen friends because here it is, the best pavlova I have ever had or made. I followed the recipe nearly to a T, the spot of balsamic in the meringue that cuts the sweetness beautifully, and the texture cannot be improved upon. But I did change the whip cream to a chocolate whip cream, and guys, even if you don’t have time to make the whole dish, I can not recommend to you enough making chocolate whip cream and putting it on anything and everything, all the time. It just makes everything better, and this is no exception.

Double Chocolate Strawberry Pavlova


6 Egg Whites

1 1/2 cups Sugar

3 tbsp Cocoa Powder

1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

3 oz Dark Chocolate

Chocolate Whip Cream

1 cup Whip Cream

2 tbsp Cocoa Powder

1 tbsp Icing Sugar

1 pint Strawberries, hulled and quartered

Preheat the oven to 325F

Line a baking pan with parchment paper

In an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment whip egg whites until soft peaks form.

Tablespoon by tablespoon add in the sugar while still whipping on high speed.

Let it continue to whisk until the eggs are soft and shiny and hold very still peaks, but not until the eggs separate.

Fold in the cocoa powder, chocolate and the balsamic with a spatula, then spoon out the mix onto a baking sheet. I made 6 large ones but you could do 9 smaller ones if you were so inclined.

Put into the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 185F and bake for 45 minutes.

The tops should be hard and crack slighly with light pressure.

Allow to cool.

Meanwhile to make the chocolate whip cream just whisk everything together. You don’t need to do this in a mixer, because of the fat in the cocoa it will come together in a minute or so.

To assemble, carefully move the meringues with a metal spatula onto plates, spoon whip cream on top and then cover with fresh strawberries. C’est finis!

How to Bake and Ice a Cake in Under an Hour.


Scenario Number One:

You got stuck working late/in traffic and now you need to leave the house in 2 hours to get to a birthday celebration and you promised to bring a cake, you should bring a present, and you deffinately should shower, straighten your hair and look nicer.

Scenario Number Two:

You forgot it’s your friends birthday and only remembered after you’d phoned her to bitch about your day. You told her your running a little behind but of course you didn’t forget, you have a cake waiting for her in your fridge! Only to realize that the bakery across the street is closed for renovations.

Scenario Number Three:

Your dog has an alliance with your cats, who pushed the cake off the counter so he could eat it. I actually watched my pets do this once, so I know it happens. Now you’ve got one hour to reproduce a cake nice enough to serve for the birthday your throwing your friend, who used to date your husband and you want to show up, just a little bit.

I have an answer to all your problems! Well, not world peace, or a million dollars, but cake problems I have you sorted on.

The answer is, cake mix.

No no, not Betty Crocker just add water cake mix. Home made cake mix. Mix that you just throw together in a bowl with things you already have in your pantry. Your going to use half of it in the cake that your going to produce in seconds flat and the other half you’ll put in that mason jar that you got pickles or over priced jam in, tie a ribbon around it and then you have a present too.

Preheat your oven to 350F

flour and butter 3 8 inch cake pans.

Make this lovely cake mix,

Cake Mix:

5 cups sugar

7 cups Flour

3 tbsp Baking Powder

*optional, you can add in 1 cup of cocoa powder to make it a chocolate cake mix.

Save out 3 1/2 cups of the mix and package the rest up however you like.

Add to the reserved mix

4 eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup veg oil

*if you’ve added the cocoa powder to the mix make it 1 1/2 cups milk.

Mix that together and there’s your batter.

Pour it into the pans and bake for about 25 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out with only a few moist crumbs.

While your cake is in the oven your going to take a quick shower, wash your face, and moisturize. Then, you take the cake out of the oven and while its cooling you’ll pick and outfit, dry your hair, and whip together this until it holds stiff peaks:

2 cups of whipping cream

2 tbsp Icing sugar

1 tsp Vanilla extract

*optional, if you have a cup of creme fraiche, mascarpone, cream cheese or even sour cream you can add that in too. Lemon zest is also a nice addition if you have a lemon kicking around.

Now you’ll slice up

2 cups of fruit,

maybe it’s berries, maybe it’s pears, maybe it’s grapefuit segments. Canned peaches would be excellent. What ever you have on hand will be delicious.

Now for the cake.

Unmold it and put the bottom layer on the plate or cake stand.

Then you can blob some of the cream on it and push it to the edges without having it drip over.

Now add some fruit placing it in a single layer. Put the next layer of cake on top and repeat. Don’t fuss to much, this is a rustic cake, don’t break hairs over it.

Instead, pop it in the fridge and go make your hair look nice, throw some make up on, and then take your cake in one hand, and use your other to wave down a cab while all the cute guys within a ten block radius come to check out the cute girl with the awesome looking cake who looks so effortless about it all.

Hazelnut Scones with Macerated Cherries and Vanilla Whip Cream

A few years ago I ran the kitchen of a wonderful cafe called Little Nest. It’s a small restaurant with a full kitchen that makes only breakfast and lunch, and about half the menu changes daily. I had never run a kitchen before, never written my own specials before, never done the ordering before, never done the hiring before. To say I was in over my head was a serious understatement.

And while everyone was very patient in my slow understanding of how it all works, it’s important when your feeling entirely under qualified for a job to have a trick or two up your sleeve.

I call this the Amelia Bedelia.

You know the kids book about the maid who takes everything literally? She puts sponges in sponge cakes, and when asked to dress the turkey she puts it in childrens clothes. She absolutely makes a mess of her employers house BUT she always has just a little bit of extra time and she always bakes the most amazing pies. So. When the Mr. And Mrs. Rogers come home and freak out they eat the pie and all is forgiven. I think this book had an alarmingly large effect on me as a child.

So at Little Nest my Amelia Bedelia was pasta. It changed everyday but it was always dang good. And I gave one to the owner and manager nearly every day for a month and they decided I would be okay in the end.

Thank God.

So for the last few months I’ve been running on nearly nothing but adrenaline because I’ve been working so much and I will admit some very stupid mistakes have been made. Silly silly things, so silly I’m to embarassed to tell you, BUT fortunately I make killer scones. You know, they are super light and fluffy and with layer upon layer of butter flakeyness and that my friends, is my Amelia Bedelia.

Even though, my boss certainly doens’t always notice them, I do, and it give me the confidence when I feel dreadful (and maybe put coriander into the 10 times batch of cardamon cookies accidentally) I know that at very least I can do one thing very well. And that means that with some practise I can do other things very well.

I hope.

So, now that I’ve quit my second job and am focusing on not making stupid mistakes at the one job that’s actually important to me, I thought I’d make some scones for a girlfriend who came over for brunch the other day.

Light fluffy, flakey scones, these ones full of hazelnuts and then cut in half and stuffed full of fresh cherries and whipping cream.

Because if that isn’t going to save your job and make you feel a hundred times better, well, I don’t know what will.

Hazelnut Scones with Macerated Cherries and Vanilla Whip Cream

For the Scones:

4 cups AP Flour

1 tbsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Baking Soda

1 1/2 cups Hazelnuts

1 cup Butter, very cold

1 1/2 cups Buttermilk

Vanilla Whip Cream:

1/2 cup Whipping Cream

2 tbsp Icing Sugar

1/2 Vanilla Bean, or 1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Macerated Cherries:

1 1/2 cups Good, Ripe Cherries, cut in half and pitted.

2 tbsp Granulated Sugar

To Make Scones:

Preheat oven to 375F

Put hazelnuts in a single layer on a tray and bake until they turn a pretty auburn colour and smell very fragrant.

Using a towel try to scrub off the loose pieces of skin.

Grind them up very fine in a food processor and then measure out 1 cup.

Cut up the butter into cubes

In a bowl mix all the dry ingredients and then cut in the butter, breaking it up with your hands until the butter is in chunks, roughly the size of your baby fingernail.

Pour in the buttermilk and mix gently until it is almost combined.

Then put it out onto a cutting board or counter and gently push it down, fold it in half, push it down, fold it in half until your dough is cohesive, but not at all tough. As soon as you start to feel a resistance, stop.

Cut into circles and put on a tray, then put the tray in the fridge to cool for at least 20 minutes. You get nice flaky scones because the big pieces of butter which are very cold go into the hot oven and the change of temperature makes the butter produce steam which causes the layers.  So it’s important to let them chill.

Brush with a little extra buttermilk or cream and sprinkle some brown sugar on top if you’d like.

Get them into that oven right away and bake until the tops are nice and brown.

Meanwhile mix those cherries and sugar together and them sit and meddle and be happy together.

Whip the cream with the sugar and the vanilla (sorry i forgot to take a picture of that!)

And then break a scone in half, plop some cherries down put a dollop of whip cream on top and top oit with the other half of scone and hot damn thats a good breakfast, lunch, or dessert.

Rhubarb Pavlova

I reguarly am told by friends that I am an intimidating person to cook for. That I’m picky, (only true when I’m making it, if someone else cooks for me I’m over the moon happy!) that my food is always pretty (well I’m flattered really, but honest my non blog food is pretty non pretty) and that I don’t screw things up. Well the last one is a terribly terribly misconception.

Let the records show that I, Claire Lassam, have made some terrible meals. Terrible!

A great/tragic example of this was on Valentines Day. I came home to an amazing meal. Jordan had braised lamb, and made a wild mushroom risotto, and sauteed brocollini (my favourite!) and had put an excessive amount of love into the meal.

For my part I had found fresh passionfruit at a local market that deffinately does not usually sell fresh passionfruit and thought, perfect! Passionfruit curd on a pavlova. Simple, light, perfect.

Only my pavlova was hard as a rock, and with my terrible oven starting to brown, and the curd was overwhelmingly sweet. It was, absolutely, inedible.

So last weekend, when I was at Jordan’s parents place to make them an early Father’s Day dinner, (which is to say that I was in the presence of a properly working oven) and I couldn’t find the flour (of course it was there but I found it too late) and I had loads of rhubarb (pleasantly acidic) I decided to try a round two.

This time, I had a couple tricks up my sleeve. Mostly, instead of getting it off Martha, which does normally have good recipes, I got it off Smitten Kitchen, because she said she had tried two recipes and had made a master recipe that was perfect. And also because I love Smitten Kitchen and nearly everything she makes is brilliant. Also, an Australian friend told me that, when in doubt, keep whipping, and I did and it turned out very well.

And it is brilliant. It’s a light crisp exterior that leads the way to a marshmallowy centre. Marshmallowy. I don’t think I need to say any thing else except that with whipped cream and rhoasted rhubarb, this is not only a showy and incredibly good dessert, but also a very simple dessert, and those are the best kind in my books.


4 large (120 grams) egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 cup (200 grams) superfine (castor) or regular sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch, potato starch or arrowroot powder


6 stalks of rhubarb

1/2 cup Sugar

1 cup whipping cream, whipped with one teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Preheat oven to 225F

Whisk together your egg whites and your salt until soft peaks, using an electric mixer, unless you have incredibly strong arms and a great amount of determination, in which case, do it by hand.

Slowly add in the sugar and cornstarch, tablespoon by tablespoon until all of it is incorporated. Then keep whipping. Aren’t sure if it’s glossy enough? Keep whipping. Does is hold stiff enough peaks? Keep whipping. Basically keep whipping and whipping for a long time, until it is very glossy, and very stiff.

On a parchment lined pan spread the meringue out into a circle with an inverted spatula, i made mine about 10 inches wide.

Put it in the oven for about 45 minutes. If it starts to get brown turn the oven down, if it starts to crack turn the oven off. Once it feels firm to the touch but still has some give inside of it crack the oven open, turn the oven off and let it cool completely inside.

In the meantime, take your rhubarb and cut it into one inch pieces. Lay it on a parchment lined baking sheet and pour sugar over top. Once your pavlova has cooled, crank the oven up to 400F and put the rhubarb in until it is soft but still holds it’s shape, about 15-20 minutes.

To Assemble:

Transfer the meringue onto your serving tray.

Blob heaps of the whipped cream on top, and then dollop the rhubarb on top of that. Don’t be shy with the rhubarb, you need lots to balance it out.  

And if you’ve done everything right you get marshmallowy goodness.And you get happiness.

Strawberry Shortcake

Lately I don`t get out much. I work a whole lot, I bake a whole lot, and I read quite a bit, but mostly when I read I fall asleep, in awkward places in awkward positions that make my neck hurt later.

I haven`t been seeing my friends as much as I should, but I have time to call them sometimes if I walk home instead of running home, which is usually a good enough of an excuse for me.

But sometimes I worry that my friends will all abandon me for being so boring.

So last weekend, for my dear dear friend Arlene`s birthday, I went out.

I wore a short skirt.

I baked a cake.

I drank to much sangria.

I watched some amazing flamenco dancing and cheered on a man named Jose, a 60 year old ladies man who sang Spanish love songs while beautiful women danced in front of him.

I pretended that I didn`t work at 5am the next morning.

I felt like the 23 year old that I am.

It was wonderful.

And on the theme of playful, fun, youthfulness and all those good things that go along with them, I made strawberry shortcake. It was light and fruity, it was summery and it was darn good if I say so myself.

Stawberry Shortcake

Adapted from a recipe from Epicurious

8 Large Egg Yolks

1 1/2 cups Sugar

1/4 cup Milk

1 tbsp Vanilla Extract

Zest of 1 Lemon

1 cup All Purpose Flour

1 tsp Salt

4 Egg Whites

Cream Frosting

2 cups Whipping Cream, very cold

1/4 cup Sour Cream

4 tbsp Icing Sugar

Zest of 1 Lemon

1 tbsp Rosewater

Rose Syrup

1/2 cup Sugar

1/2 cup Water

1 tsp Rosewater

1 lb Fresh Strawberries, cut into slices

Make Rose Syrup

Combine all ingredients in a pot and simmer until the sugar is disolved. Cool. (sorry, I forgot to take a picture of that!)

Make Cake

Preheat oven to 350F

Line 2 8 inch round pans with parchment, do not grease pans! Worst case scenerio don’t use anything. They will come out with some patience.

Sift all the dry ingredients, reserving 1/2 cup sugar, into a bowl

Mix the yolks, vanilla, zest and milk into a small bowl

Add the yolk mixture to the flour mixture and mix until just smooth.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment whisk egg whites until frothy.

With the mixer still running slowly add in the remaining half cup of sugar, tablespoon by tablespoon, until the meringue is very shiny and holds stiff peaks.

Gently fold the whites into the cake batter being careful not to over mix.

Pour the batter into your prepared pans.

Bake until an inserted skewer comes out with only a few moist crumbs, about 25-35 minutes.

Make Frosting:

Mix all ingredients in a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

Whisk together until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes.

Assemble Cake:

Slice Layers of cooled cake in half lengthwise.

Put the first layer of cake on your cake plate and brush with the rose syrup.

Dollop with a heafty spoon of cream and gently spread out to the corners.

Spread some slices of strawberries on top.

Continue until you’ve done all the layers

Then ice the outside and put strawberries on the top!

I put some flowers on top, because I’m just like that.