As I’ve said before, I’m not a baker. Like my Biscotti, this is the rare baked good that I’ve made successfully a sufficient number of times that I’m comfortable sharing the recipe and technique with you.
When I apprenticed at Po Restaurant, we would occasionally do cooking demonstrations at Macy’s, and in one of these demonstrations, we made a dessert/snack called Ciambella–a cross between a cookie and a cake.
Italians have their sweets more in the late afternoon (a snack known as “la merenda“) than after a meal, and this is the perfect late afternoon snack with an espresso or cup of tea. As a dessert, I like to dress it up a little with some preserves or macerated fruit and ricotta or some gelato.
I like to serve ciambella lukewarm, so if I’m serving it to guests, I’ll warm it in a 250-degree oven for about 10 minutes prior to cutting. If I’m making one simply to keep on hand, I’ll bake it, cool it, slice and freeze it. When I want a piece, I reheat an individual slice in the microwave (10 – 12 seconds) or oven, and it always tastes like it was just baked.
The basic recipe is Mario’s but I’ve made a few substitutions to suit my own palette, so I’ll share my version with you.
2 c flour
1/2 c sugar plus 2 tbls for sprinkling
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 stick cold butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c half and half
1/2 c orange-apricot preserves (I use Sarabeth’s, but any good orange or apricot will do fine)
2 tbls water
1 lb fresh ricotta
preheat oven to 375 degrees
Combine the flour, baking powder and 1/2 cup of sugar in the food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the cubed butter (which I throw into the freezer for 5 minutes).
Continue pulsing to form a mixture that has the texture of fine gravel.
In a separate bowl, combine egg, extract and half and half, then beat with fork.
Pour liquid mixture into the food processor and process continuously just until mixture comes together in a ball.
Remove from processor and place on a lightly floured surface. Gently shape into a log approximately 14″ long and 1 1/2″ diameter.
Place on a buttered cookie sheet and form into a ring, pressing the ends together to join them. Sprinkle with remaining sugar.
Bake for approximately 35 minutes, or until just golden on the bottom.
Partially cool on a rack, then slice and serve luke warm (can be re-warmed in a 250 degree oven for about 10 minutes).
To serve, add water to preserves and stir to thin.
Place a mound of ricotta in a shallow bowl and top with preserves. Serve the warm wedges of ciambella alongside.