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Sicilian Ricotta Cake with Chocolate Chips

(Makes one 9-inch cake)
Sicilian Ricotta Cake with Chocolate Chips
Sicilian Ricotta Cake with Chocolate Chips
Sicilians love ricotta desserts and there are many variations of this cake.  Different types of ricotta pies and cakes are particularly popular at Easter. In this recipe the crust differs from most ricotta cakes in that it is made with a sweet pastry dough called pasta frolla instead of the standard crumb base.

Pasta Frolla Dough:
2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
10 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 pounds ricotta
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia or orange extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Confectioners' sugar for dusting


To make the pasta frolla crust:

To make the dough by hand:
Place flour on a counter or in a large bowl.  Rub the butter into the flour with your fingers or a pastry blender.  Work quickly so the mixture remains cool. 
Incorporate the butter until the mixture has the texture of cornmeal.  Form a well in the center and add the remaining ingredients.  Gather the ingredients together and gently knead into a ball.  Add a few tablespoons of water if the mixture is too dry to form a ball.  Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To make the dough with a food processor:
Place all of the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse 3-4 times to blend.  Add the butter.  Process 10-15 seconds until the mixture resembles
cornmeal.  Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla.  Pulse until dough forms a ball.  Add a few tablespoons of water if the mixture is too dry to form a ball.  Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To make the filling:
In a large bowl, beat together the ricotta and sugar until smooth.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla, Fiori di Sicilia, and cinnamon.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Set aside.

To assemble the cake:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan and set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 15-inch round.
Roll the dough around the rolling pin and carefully place it into the prepared pan.  Gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
If it tears, simply patch it with your fingers.  Cut off the excess dough around the top of the pan. 

Pour the filling into the pan and smooth the surface.
Bake for 45 - 50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. The cake may seem a little jiggley in the center but it will firm up when cooled.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Run a knife around the end of the cake before you remove the pan's ring.  Refrigerate 2-4 hours before serving.
Dust the top generously with confectioners' sugar before serving.
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