baby steps, and a recipe: orange ricotta tart

orange ricotta tart | the merry gourmet

Every November, I wonder whether I’ll have the nerve to attempt NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) or NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). With the first, I’d commit to write a novel during the month of November, or, at least, commit to daily writing with word count goals. With the second, I’d commit to writing a blog post daily for the entire 30 days of November.

No. The answer is no. I don’t have the nerve, nor the stamina.

But here it is, November already, and I’m putting fingers to keyboard. Just one blog post. It’s a baby step toward what I really want to be writing, but I’m okay with that.

A couple of weekends ago, the weekend before my birthday, I attended a workshop in NYC on narrative medicine. I left my family at home and spent four nights alone in a hotel in the Upper West Side, a queen-sized bed and a bathroom all to myself. I was able to connect with some dear friends in the spare moments before the conference started, and oh, how wonderful were those moments. It felt so great to be with these women again — sharing a meal, sharing stories, feeling supported.

On day one of my workshop, when I opened my welcome folder with the weekend’s itinerary, I found a small, red Moleskine notebook, blank and ready to be filled. I smiled to myself when I saw it, and I was happy I remembered to bring my favorite pen.

As heralded by that blank notebook, writing was a big part of the workshop format, with writing prompts and other writing activities scattered throughout each day, and with small groups where we both wrote and read our writings aloud to those in our group. The focus was not on critiquing each others’ writings but instead on listening to the words and paying attention to the meaning of the words. I loved every single minute of it.

I felt selfish, being alone in New York City in October, with chilly weather and leaves in shades of orange fluttering in the breeze, in a beautiful hotel near Central Park, spending my hours reading and listening and writing, eating wonderful food with friends and sometimes alone (both of which I adore). I felt selfish and lucky and happy and inspired.

I felt so inspired.

And now let us flash forward to two weeks later, to the first day of November. Have I written much since returning from my workshop? Not much, but I’ve written. I’ve been carrying my laptop with me daily, and I’ve found some new places to write, as well as some different times of day in which to do it. Life has intervened, as it does, and there has been drama and tears and and fear and angst – but this is the nature of life, no?

I have even baked since returning, but only just once. I baked this gorgeous orange ricotta tart, and oh how wonderful it felt to blend and mix together these ingredients, so simple on their own yet so magical when combined in this way.

And here it is November already, and I have just completed my first blog post in entirely too long. Baby steps, dearest friends. Baby steps.

Yield: One 9 (or 9-1/2) inch tart

Orange Ricotta Tart

This tart recipe comes from the amazing Abigail Johnson Dodge in Fine Cooking, Issue 68. I've tweaked the recipe by making a Biscoff cookie crust, but the orange ricotta filling is all hers.


Ingredients for Crust:

1 cup finely ground Biscoff cookies (about 20 cookies)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (45 grams) melted butter

Ingredients for Tart Filling:

15-ounce (425 grams) container whole milk ricotta
3 ounces (85 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (16 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3 large egg yolks
Zest of one orange
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau)


Instructions for Crust:

Heat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in middle position.

In a medium bowl, stir together the ground cookies and sugar until well blended. Add the melted butter and stir well, until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Pour the crumbs into a 9 inch (or 9-1/2 inch) fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Using your fingers, press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and partway up the sides of the tart pan. Press the crumbs firmly in place, making an even layer.

Bake the crust until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Allow the baked crust to cool completely on a wire rack.

Instructions for Tart:

If oven is not already heated, heat to 350 degrees, with rack in middle position.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta and cream cheese. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until well blended and no lumps remain, about 3 minutes. Add sugar, flour, and salt, and continue beating until well blended, about 1 minute. Add egg yolks, orange zest, and orange liqueur. Beat until just incorporated. Scrape the filling into the cooled crust, using a rubber spatula to spread the filling evenly.

Bake the tart until the filling barely jiggles when the pan is nudged, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, then refrigerate the tart in the pan until fully chilled and firm, 2 to 3 hours.

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9 Responses to “baking therapy: orange creamsicle cake | the merry gourmet”

  1. DessertForTwo — September 9, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

    Such a lovely read, as always. I, too, cherish every morning, even if I’ve been up til 3am harvesting corn the night before. It’s such a fresh new start. I think about all the healthy things I will eat and do before bedtime.

    Lovley, lovely cake!

  2. MJ your mornings with the kids sound lovely. And I SO know how baking comforts – for a couple of hours, when you are baking, all seems right with the world. As it would with this cake in my life!

  3. jenn s — September 9, 2012 @ 8:10 pm

    I cannot wait to make this cake, MJ!! And I’m with you, baking/cooking is cathartic…

  4. Rosemary — September 9, 2012 @ 9:14 pm

    MJ, you always make me smile 🙂

  5. Laura — September 9, 2012 @ 9:22 pm

    Beautifully written! Baking is my therapy too. Stay strong throughout your “on service” time!

  6. Deb — September 10, 2012 @ 11:34 am

    I just adore the orange creamsicle cake, especially the pastel hue! I agree baking is great therapy! When my mind is spinning and my heart is heavy I busy my hands. The mind and heart will usually follow.

  7. olga — September 10, 2012 @ 12:48 pm

    I’m both sad and glad we don’t live close to one another. Mostly sad. 🙂 the cake looks delicious. Orange creamsicle? Yes, please.

    Also you’re way ahead of me on running. One of these days…

  8. Paula — September 13, 2012 @ 5:17 pm

    What a beautiful and delicious sounding cake. I hope your *on service* shift doesn’t fill your evenings with nightmares this time around. Baking is my therapy too but so too are your beautiful and tenderly written blog posts.

  9. Kelly Senyei (Just a Taste) — September 18, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

    This looks so spectacular! I love the rosy color of the frosting and especially the addition of the citrus.

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