One of the things I love about living in Toronto is the number of great places to eat. Alex and I have an ongoing list of restaurants that we want to try and it just keeps getting longer. It seems that for every place we visit, two more come up. And that doesn’t even include the places that we go off-list that turn out to be amazing. Let’s just say everyone should go get a cubano sandwich from La Cubana on Ossington.
Buca has been on the list for a while, but somehow always ended up on the back burner. We did manage to get to Buca Yorkville for coffee and dessert one gloomy afternoon, but never for dinner. When OpenTable approached me to make a reservation at one of their Toronto restaurants and do a blog post about a dessert inspired by that restaurant, Buca was an obvious choice.
The dessert that I ordered was called Crema Fritta and I had no idea what to expect from it. What I got was a round, crispy-fried dough sphere filled with a light, lemony, ricotta cream. It was nestled in a pool of vanilla sauce and topped with chopped pistachios. Lemon desserts are always some of my favourites. I loved that it wasn’t too sweet, and of course, who doesn’t love fried dough?
We don’t have a deep-fryer and trying to control the temperature of a pot of oil on our electric stove is too much for me on most days, so I decided to recreate this amazing dessert but I wanted to bake it instead. My initial attempt was to simply make a lemon ricotta cream filling and bake it in a buttered ramekin at a high temperature, kind of like a lava cake. But I wasn’t able to get the outside crispy enough and baking longer took away the creaminess of the filling.
In the end, I filled puff pastry squares with the lemon ricotta filling and baked them until they were puffed, golden-brown, and crispy. Perfect.
I called this dessert “Crema (Ri) Cotta” because crema cotta means "baked cream" in Italian and the filling uses ricotta cheese. My first Italian pun!
These are amazing fresh from the oven sprinkled with powdered sugar, but for a fancier version, like the one I had at Buca, drizzle them with a vanilla crème anglaise and sprinkle with toasted almonds right before serving.
One more to check off the list.
This post was sponsored by OpenTable Toronto – the online restaurant reservation company. All opinions are my own.
Crema (Ri) Cotta
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 + 1/2 cup milk, divided
1/4 cup flour
1/8 cup cornstarch
Zest of one lemon
1/2 ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla
One sheet of frozen puff pastry, defrosted as directed.
Egg, for egg wash
In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar until pale yellow. Set aside.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together 1/2 cup of the milk, flour, and cornstarch until there are no lumps. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 cup of milk with the lemon zest until just before it boils. You should see little bubbles around the sides of the saucepan, but no big bubbles yet.
Whisking constantly, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg yolks. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and return to heat. Quickly give the flour/cornstarch/milk a stir to make sure everything is still suspended and pour into the saucepan, still whisking constantly.
Exchange your whisk for a wooden spoon or rubber spatula and continue stirring constantly until the mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and ricotta. Let cool completely.
At this point you can refrigerate the cream until you’re ready to bake. It should be fine in the fridge for a couple of days.
To finish, preheat the oven to 425F. Butter 9 molds of a muffin tin. Unroll or roll out your puff pastry into a 12x12 inch (30x30 cm) square (about 1/2 cm thick). Cut into 9, 2x2 inch (5x5 cm) squares. Place a square into the muffin tin and scoop about 2 tbsp of filling into the centre. Carefully wrap and seal the edges of puff pastry around the cream filling. Repeat with the remaining pastry squares.
Beat an egg in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of each pastry with the beaten egg. Poke a small hole into the top of each pastry with a toothpick, to let air escape.
Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Remove from the tin immediately and let cool on a wire rack. The holes we poked should have prevented the pastries from exploding, but don’t be alarmed if some of the filling leaks out of the top. Just push it back in using a toothpick after removing from the oven.
Serve warm sprinkled with powdered sugar, or drizzled with vanilla crème anglaise.