Chocolate Mousse Sponge for Passover and a Cheese Cake for Easter
My dear friend Rozanne Gold has done it again, written a cookbook that is sheer genius. And I don't exaggerate just because I love her like a sister. She's written another three-ingredient cookbook in which she manages to rend full flavor, contemporary style, and, in this case, healthful dishes from what seems like nothing. It's called Healthy 1-2-3 and it is the most gorgeous of her 1-2-3 series. We like to call her The Queen of Simplicity, and the following recipe exemplifies this perfectly. It was not meant to be a Passover cake, but since it contains nothing one can't use on Passover, it serves well for the holiday. Find the best chocolate you can, and use the new kosher-for-Passover confectioners' sugar (made with potato starch instead of cornstarch) that is now available in stores fully stocked for the holiday.
Chocolate Mousse Sponge
This serves so many because it so rich you shouldn't eat more than a small wedge.
8 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate (such as Callebaut or Valrhona)
8 large eggs
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat sides of an 8 1/2 inch springform pan with nonstick vegetable spray (or rub with vegetable oil) and line bottom with waxed paper.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and keep chocolate warm over the water.
Separate egg whites from yolks while eggs are cold from the refrigerator. Then allow them to come to room temperature. Whisk yolks until thick and pale yellow, about 2 minutes with a standing mixer or 4 minutes with a hand held. ( Do not beat to ribbon stage.) Fold chocolate into yolks.
Using thoroughly cleaned beaters, beat whites with 1/4 cup sugar and a pinch of salt, until they just hold soft peaks. Fold one-fourth of whites into chocolate mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven, 25 to 30 minutes, just until cake is almost set but still trembles slightly in center when shaking gently. Do not cook it beyond this stage, or you won't get a mousse-like center. Cool cake on a rack (it will settle as it cools) and chill (still in pan), covered at least 6 hours.
Let cake stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Run a small, thin-bladed knife between side of pan and cake. Open springform and remove side of pan from cake. Dust with confectioners sugar.
Migliaccio: Aunt Loretta's Cheesecake
I suppose the subject of migliaccio has come up several times lately because in some Italian-American families it is traditional for Easter.
The word migliaccio means pudding, derived from the Latin word for millet, the grain. In antique times, migliaccio was porridge or gruel made from millet. Today, it is different things in different parts of Italy, although I believe it is a word used mainly in the south of Italy. It can be a savory or sweet pudding, and it can be made with semolina (the flour of hard wheat) or cornmeal, or, in one case I know, from pasta. That case, the migliaccio di Ischia, which is capellini (angel hair) baked with eggs, milk, sugar and candied orange peel, is in my book Naples At Table. It's a recipe from the Calise family, who own the largest and best pastry shop and cafe on the island of Ischia, although it is a homey dessert, not something the Calise make or sell in their elegant shops. (An interesting side note: There is a very good Italian restaurant on Henry St. in Brooklyn Heights called Noodle Pudding, which is called that because the owner is from Ischia and his last name is Migliaccio. Not knowing that the connotation of Noodle Pudding in New York would be Jewish kugel, he translated his name to what he knew Migliaccio to be back in Ischia.)
The savory migliaccio I know is essentially polenta (corn meal mush) baked with eggs, pork crackling or bits of ham, dried sausage, pancetta (Italian bacon), like that. It can be very heavy and it is not made much these days in Naples and surrounding area, the place from where it hails.
When I was asked about a sweet mulyach by my friend Marie Bianco, one of Newsday's food columnists, who used the dialect pronunciation of one of her readers, I was at something of a loss. I didn't have a recipe, although I knew it existed. I decided to put the question out to my radio listeners, but first I did a little book research and found the following recipe in my friend Michele Scicolone's La Dolce Vita, her book on Italian desserts. When I recited it on the radio, a number of people called to say that it was essentially the same as their family's recipe. It is from Michele's aunt Loretta, who I happened to meet last year – a charming, pretty woman. It is made with farina (cream of wheat breakfast cereal), not semolina or cornmeal. I think this is so because when Loretta's family came to the U.S., semolina, which is the grain they probably used in the old country, was not available. They substituted farina, just as, to offer just one other example, many Italian-Americans make their Easter grain pie, called pastiera with barley or rice instead of whole wheat berries – because the whole wheat used to be difficult or impossible to get.
Aunt Loretta's Cheesecake
Makes a 9-inch round, serving about 12
6 large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds) whole-milk ricotta
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon orange liqueur
2 cups milk
1 cup water
3/4 cup uncooked farina
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely chopped candied citron
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9- by 3-inch springform pan.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Beat in the ricotta, sugar, orange and lemon zests, and the liqueur.
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and water, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the farina in a fine stream, stirring constantly. Stir in the salt and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until thick and creamy.
Stir the cooked farina into the ricotta mixture, then stir in the citron. Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
To serve, run a thin-bladed knife around the outside edge of the cake. Remove the springform sides, and serve the pudding/cake off the base. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. Store in the refrigerator.