Zuccotto Pudding

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.

B. Post a little less here so that I can have more time to focus on my next long-form project.

C. Stretch our finances as far as they can go so that we can up our childcare from one day a week to three.

D. Move back East so that Teddy’s grandparents can help out on a regular basis.

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.

Line your bowl in a couple of layers of cling wrap, leaving plenty of overhang. Place the ladyfingers in a large bowl and pour over the amaretto, tossing them to evenly distribute so that each biscuit gets slightly wet.

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.
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Matthew said...

This was such a strange and awesome dessert. Also, I watched the intros to the failed video for this and they are funny -- perhaps they'll make it into the season 2 blooper reel??

Ileana said...

Omg, thank you for introducing me to Gennaro. He rocks. And this dessert looks and sounds really interesting, kind of a next level tiramisu. And not too sweet. Def something I'd like to try and make. Anyway, good luck with any of options A-D!!

tannaz sassooni said...

You know it's gonna be good when they need to subtitle the host's English. Also, I veto D. Hush your mouth with that!

Andrea said...

Dadbers is freaking out in a good way over D. Love you guys!!!

eranfaraway said...

Is it acceptable to leave work early on a Tuesday to eat chocolate chips? That's what I want to do after reading this. Also, I love how frankly you characterize the changing rhythms of your life. It makes me feel a bit more normal, and less guilty about all be unstarted projects.

eranfaraway said...

I just realized it's Wednesday. I was obviously thinking about more important things, like zuccotto pudding!

sg said...

I hear you! That extra grandparent help seems like a dream and the conundrum of spending all the money on childcare is mind boggling. What about the grandparents moving here to lovely Southern California? Amila has two healthy grandparents in Switzerland and I lay awake thinking how nice it would be if they could be here to help out plus all the bonding and awesomeness that would be happening. Whatever you decide it will be okay cause you got your family with you.

Amelia Morris said...

So true. Thanks, Stefani!

Amelia Morris said...

I think I want to start a campaign to get Gennaro to visit the Bon Appetempt set. :)

Anne Zimmerman said...

Oh man. I have so much to say about this. But I'll keep it brief: I admire your tenacity & ambition! You're doing great, so don't stretch yourself too thin.

Shelley said...

Though I'm a writer, I enjoy the wordless pictures. The end product looks like something a cannoli would dream about.

Anonymous said...

Rainbow cake: http://topy.tv/v/W4aj

Sarah said...


That is all.

No but seriously, y'all are doing a great job, no matter what option you choose---balance is hard to come by no matter what you're doing in life.


Sarah said...

I just wrote this long comment about how your posts stir a lot of thoughts, so much so that I never get around to actually posting a comment. And by the time it was done, it was deleted.

So I'll just say--we are all ears, if you learn the answers to any of your life questions above. I am still trying to figure out how to dry my hair in the morning!

Also, I, for one (and likely many others?), love your blog for your thoughts and funny/insightful perspective. I love your videos (and am always impressed by the quality!) and recipes, too, but I would come back time and time again even if all you had was a photo and some thoughts. I especially appreciate your comments on Life (capital L), the publishing industry, community, all those things.

- Sarah W.

Amelia Morris said...

Thank you, Sarah!! This comment means a lot. And thanks also for taking the time to re-type it! speaking of, I wish I could change the Blogger comment system to make it easier! They basically make you jump through leaps to join in on the discussion. :( :(