I was in our backyard cleaning up after Mavis—one of my favorite chores—when I noticed that our lemon tree already had sizable green lemons on it. It was surprising because they seemed so far along on their journey to ripeness even though I know they won't be ready until late November (at the earliest), which is the last time I harvested and preserved them. And while I was thinking about all of this, a strange little question came to mind: "What was Teddy doing while I leisurely preserved all those lemons last year?" As in, that experience was such a casual, uninterrupted one; how could I have pulled it off while also monitoring Teddy, who would have undoubtedly been repeatedly army-crawling towards dangling electrical wires? Of course, my (silly) internal question was immediately followed up by the answer: Duh, it was last November; Teddy wasn’t born yet. (Maybe this is what people are talking about when they say they can't remember a time that their son or daughter wasn't a part of their lives.)
I bring this up because our original plan was to shoot a video of the making of this zuccotto pudding, which was completely inspired by this video, which stars my newest culinary hero, Gennaro Contaldo, who had me shouting, "Hoo dont like chocolate chip?!" for the better part of my Saturday. But alas, by the time we were ready to start shooting, it was 5pm; Teddy was becoming less and less able to entertain himself; and the light in our kitchen had gotten all weird. So, we shifted gears.
The good news is that we still made this Italian dessert; Matt still photographed it; and we got to eat it. The bad news is that it’s an example of a problem that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. See, I love the videos Matt and I make. We have a lot of fun shooting them and, bonus, as Bon Appétempt is essentially an ad-free space, the videos are the one component of the site where we get paid a little bit. But, as we probably should have expected, with Teddy growing up more and more each day, it’s getting harder and harder to make them. Not because Teddy is super demanding while we’re shooting. It’s much more because our weekends—the time when Matt is home from work and can work on his other job as the in-house Bon Appétempt photographer—have become even more precious. And even though this site is basically 99% fun for us, it’s of course, still work, and well, oftentimes I’d rather spend the time lounging around in my house clothes and eating lunches and dinners made by Matt.
I also like the videos because they’re less work for me! (They’re more for Matt though. Hi, Matt!) With posts like these, I have to write something, which I normally quite enjoy as well. But as you probably already know, my first book is coming out February 3rd, 2015, which is just over six months from now. As far as I see it, I have six months to work on a follow-up. Not that it needs to be finished in six months. Not at all. But I would like to be invested in something by then. Currently, I have four different word documents with four different potential next projects, none of which have taken on much shape. And as you can see with this very post I’m writing now, it’s difficult for me to share a recipe here without telling you a little bit about what’s going on inside my cluttered headspace, and thus, I end up using my window of writing time on blog posts and very little on the next project.
OK, so I’ve done some quick brainstorming and have come up with a few possible solutions to my problem(s):
A. Offer to make potato salad so that Matt can quit his day job to focus on Bon Appétempt, Heirloom Lab, and glorious child-rearing shifts during the week.
What do you guys think?
For now, the winner is option C, but I hope you won’t be too alarmed if occasionally option B wins out anyway. Ultimately though, and it feels strange to say, I like the sound of option D—provided we can find the right jobs, of course.
Now that my problems are solved (ha!), let’s talk zuccotto. I loved it. It’s neither too sweet nor too heavy. Like an unfamiliar light cheesecake that’s just right for summer. And it was pretty cool to unmold too. The trick, I think, is finding an appropriate vessel to build it in. I didn’t have the patience to watch the video with pencil and paper and write down all of the ingredient measurements Gennaro (God bless him!) used before my own attempt. (Plus, they were in milliliters and grams!) So, I kind of winged it, and the bowl we ended up using was a little too large for the pound of ricotta we were working with. I’ve adjusted the recipe below accordingly and hope things will work out a bit more ricotta-y for you!
OK, my nanny needs to go home. Bye!
Zuccotto Pudding inspired by Gennaro Contaldo
2/3 cup Amaretto
One 7-8 oz. package of Ladyfingers (You may want to buy two packages just to be safe.)
4 tablespoons sugar
16 oz. ricotta
approx. 1/3 cup chocolate chips
approx. 1/3 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
2-3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
special equipment: cling wrap, bowl that holds about 1 qt.
Press a few ladyfingers into the bottom of the bowl and then add them along the sides until the bowl is completely lined in Amaretto-y ladyfingers. (Watch Gennaro if you’re feeling unsure. He seems to have this part down.)
Mix the sugar into the ricotta and then add the chocolate chips and chopped, toasted almonds. (Gennaro adds dried fruit. I decided to skip it.) Mix it all together and then add half of this mixture to the ladyfinger-lined bowl. Cover with a layer of ladyfingers. Follow Gennaro’s lead and press it down with your knuckles.
Add 1½ tablespoons of the cocoa powder to the rest of the ricotta mixture and stir until combined. Scoop this out on top of the ladyfingers, and press it down with a spatula. Cover with another row of ladyfingers. Next, pull up the overhanging cling film, gathering any ladyfingers that were sticking out past the top of the bowl along the way. The cling wrap should completely cover the surface. Once more, press down on the mixture a few times. Then, cover it with a plate; put something weighty on top of the plate and place the whole thing in the refrigerator.
After 24 hours, remove it from the fridge, pull back the cling wrap, and unmold it. Finish it off with a dusting of cocoa powder. Congratulate yourself on a job well done.