All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013
I had a really brutal holiday season. Very isolated (right down to a three day stint with no internet or cable) where the only people I saw for days on end were the AT&T techs that came to my house a few times a day for a few days. I used this as an excuse to drink champagne before noon & cook myself foolish and I ate enough for a small family.
Christmas night – I accidentally locked myself into a storage closet that is little more than a bunker because I had no idea that the door locked at all – let alone from the outside. Me & three dogs locked in a windowless room in the deepest recess of my house – a room most of my friends do not even know exists. A series of UNBELIEVABLY LUCKY breaks is all that stands between me typing this now & me, officially missing, locked in a small room with three pooping & peeing dogs & a case of wine with no wine opener. The luck came in these forms:
1) I had recently (like – last week) installed a light in there that could be turned on from INSIDE the room.
2) I had my cell phone with me.
3) My phone MIRACULOUSLY got cell service – despite the fact that it hardly gets service anywhere in my house.
4) I had a little tool box in there with a hammer, screwdriver & pliers.
5) The door is hinged on the inside.
So – I called my mother in Boston (at 1:30am her time) and my boyfriend in Arkansas to tell them I was trapped. I called a local friend, my friend Dave, and told him how to break into my house. My plan was to just sleep in there & have him bust me out in the AM. I think it was my mother who asked if I had tools & when I confirmed that I did – she told me to take the door off the hinges which, feeling VERY McGyver-esque – I did.
So – I am not a week of no food thinner, nor are my hands & throat bloodied from efforts to escape or draw someone’s attention to my predicament. A week long fast might not have been the worst thing – but a week in the dark with three hungry dogs and lots of poop would have REALLY warped my mind.
Anyway – so on December 31, I decided to make a decadent dessert to bring as an offering to the party I was to attend that night. It would be the first time I did ANYTHING remotely social since Christmas eve and I was desperate for a way to shed the self pity & negativity I had wallowed in for a week. I had almond bark in the fridge that I had made on Xmas eve. I decided to break some of that up & use it in a cannoli tart. I also decided to make the ricotta cheese required from scratch, too. You can just use store bought ricotta & chocolate chips, though.
After I made the ricotta cheese & the made (and chilled) the cinnamon crust & then the cannoli filling – I assembled and baked this gorgeous tart. Because the ricotta was homemade – I expected a lighter, fluffier result. The smells of cinnamon & chocolate filled my house.
I took the tart out of the oven & went to sprinkle it with powdered sugar. Alas – I had none – so I used some Ghiradelli ground chocolate & cocoa.
White would be prettier but whatever. I photographed this guy extensively because I never post desserts & I wanted to get this first effort just right. I reached into the cabinet overhead for a plate I could transport the tart on. I selected one & closed the cabinets. As I popped off a few final shots, lamenting the fact that I couldn’t get a shot of it SLICED, I heard a rumble. Suddenly, the cabinet doors I had just closed burst open & the cabinet began vomiting a torrent of dishes, both plastic & ceramic, all over my counter & floor. It was so loud & sudden it nearly gave me a heart attack. When it was over – I calmed myself & assessed the damage. Several broken plates, glass everywhere and one DOA assassinated Chocolate Cinnamon Cannoli Tart.
I almost cried. The dishes didn’t matter. The tart!!! I had worked so lovingly on it. And there wasn’t time to make another – even from store bought ricotta. I would have to go to my party empty-handed. 😦
So – at a loss as to what else I could do – I cut out a nice slice from an unmarred section & took these photos.
I tasted it, too. It was incredible. Just as light & subtle (not too sweet) as I’d hoped. I kept this slice in the fridge & sampled it last night after a day of chilling. It took on a more dense, cheesecake-like quality & remained delicious! So – while nobody else got to taste this baby, I recommend you try it. With store-bought ricotta & chocolate chips (and powdered sugar) – you could do this fairly easily & it should look as lovely as it tastes.
Chocolate Cannoli Tart
2 1/2 cups ricotta (instructions on EASY homemade ricotta HERE. It will net you just under 2 cups – so I added 1/2 cup of store-bought. If you are making ricotta you need: 9 cups whole milk, 1 cup buttermilk, salt & white vinegar.)
1 TBS sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips – more for melting if you want to garnish with a chocolate drizzle
powdered sugar as a topping – or cocoa – or shave a candy bar (dark or white chocolate) over the tart as garnish – or drizzle melted chocolate chips
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp cinnamon
6 TBS cold butter – cubed
1-3 TBS milk – or more
Make the crust in a food processor. Blend the flour, sugar, salt & cinnamon. Add the butter in pieces & pulse to incorporate. Add the egg & the milk (one TBS at a time) & pulse until a ball forms that travels around the bowl. You might need less than 3 TBS of milk – maybe more.
Roll the ball of dough round & press into a circle. Place it between two pieces of parchment paper & roll it out until it is big enough for your tart pan. I made mine kinda too big but I like a rustic look. Grease your tart pan (or spring form pan) & press your crust into the pan. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
For the filling – use your food processor to blend the ricotta, sugar, egg & vanilla. Do not over process this. Add the chocolate chips & pulse to mix them in.
Pour this into your chilled crust. Know that the filling will rise up a bit to do not over-fill your crust. Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes. Mine was done in 30.
Let the tart cool completely. Then – sprinkle powdered sugar or cocoa over the tart or melt some extra chocolate chips & drizzle them over it or shave a dark or white chocolate bar over the tart.