Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Candied Kumquat and Ricotta Tart

For years and years, I've saved a candied kumquat and gingerbread cake recipe to make at the holidays. I love the idea of it, and the festive, jewel-like sparkle of candied fruit. But gingerbread just always sounds too heavy or substantial to follow what always ends up being rich and elaborate holiday meals. So when I came across this recipe also using candied kumquats but instead atop a delicate tart with a light ricotta filling, (on a day I just happened to unrelatedly click through a Facebook link to a blog post about making your own ricotta in the microwave!) I knew I had a winner. 

I have read previously about making ricotta at home and how easy it is and how superior it tastes to store-bought versions, but I'd still felt intimidated. Nor am I enough of a ricotta fan to notice sub-par commercial cheese in the few applications I ever use it. But when I read this posting for making it in the microwave literally in minutes, I had to try it if for no other reason than novelty. 

The recipe says 2 cups of milk yeild about 1/2 cup of ricotta. I repeated the recipe twice (used 1 quart milk total) and ended up with slightly less than a cup of cheese, which was just the right amount for the tart filling. I strained through paper towels for maybe 10 minutes and after refrigerating 24 hours, the cheese was quite firm and hadn't separated any more liquid. It was a lot of fun to watch the curds and whey separate so quickly and easily after just a couple minutes zapping, and in spite of the ridiculous ease, I didn't mind bragging that not only was the tart homemade, but so was the ricotta.

I also made the tart crust the day in advance, pressed into the tart pan and refridgerated unbaked. Other reviewers on epicurious were not as enamored with the crust, but I found it to be exactly right with this tart. It didn't crumble when sliced, it held up well against the soft cheese, and it was a tender crunch of sweetness. I only used just over half of what the recipe called for, and found it plenty thick in the pan. More would have disrupted the balance between flavors.

Slicing and deseeding the kumquats was by far the most time-consuming task. But put on some good music and it only takes about 40 minutes. I thought I did a really good job but when the kumquats were candying, a number more seeds floated to the top which I removed, and when I assembled the final tart, I found a number more that I couldn't retrieve, but which did not impact the final taste or texture. So, be conscientious in your removal, but absolute vigilance is not necessary.

I completed all steps the day in advace and kept components chilled separately overnight. The afternoon of the dinner I baked the crust, and as it takes just minutes to spread the filling in and top with kumquats, it was easy to assemble after it had cooled and still have time before dinner. 

One reviewer suggested slicing the tart before topping with the kumquats to make it easier to create attractive servings. I didn't have much trouble cutting through the full slice, but that is a good recommendation. My family all asked for seconds and were really impressed with the play of flavors in this tart. Happy Holidays!