Plum Ricotta Focaccia

This is for the #twelveloaves bread baking challenge, put together by the Cake Duchess, Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives, and Life’s a Feast. I can’t resist a baking challenge. The idea is to bake one loaf of bread each month, following that month’s theme. The theme for August is bread with summer fruit.

I knew right off I wanted to use Italian plums as my fruit, but I struggled with exactly how. Then the other night, as I was making pizza, it came to me. I set a piece of dough aside, shaped it into a square, topped it with halved, pitted plums, and let it rise while I baked off all the pizzas. When the pizzas were done, I took about 1/2 cup of ricotta, blended it with a bit of sugar, and dropped spoonfuls between the plums. I sprinkled the whole thing with cinnamon and slid it onto the pizza stone to bake.

I have no idea what exactly it is I made. I’m going to go with focaccia because it seems the closest. Whatever it is it is so very good.

Plum Ricotta Foccacia

  • 1/8 of the dough for Peter Reinhart’s Pain a l’Ancienne (recipe to follow)
  • 6 Italian plums, halved and pitted
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Begin recipe after removing the dough from the refrigerator and allowing it to warm up for 2 hours.

  1. Set a pizza stone on the lowest rack in the oven and preheat to 475.
  2. Shape the piece of dough into a square, roughly 6×6 inches.
  3. Arrange the plums, cut side down, on top of the dough.
  4. Allow dough to rest for 1 hour. It will rise slightly, but not dramatically.
  5. Mix the ricotta with the sugar and drop spoonfuls between the plums on the dough.
  6. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  7. Bake directly on parchment, on a pizza stone for 15 minutes or until bread is golden brown and plums are soft and beginning to release juice.
  8. Slice and eat warm or at room temperature.

Peter Reinhart’s Pain a l’Ancienne, from the Bread Baker’s Apprentice

  • 6 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp.  salt
  • 1 3/4 tsp. instant yeast
  • 2 1/4 cups + 2 T to 3 cups ice cold water
  1. Combine all ingredients and mix a mixer for 2 minutes with the paddle attachment. Switch to the dough hook and continue to mix for 6 minutes. The dough should stick to the bottom of the bowl, but not to the sides. Add more water or flour as appropriate to achieve this texture.
  2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and immediately place in the fridge. Refrigerate overnight.
  3. Remove the bowl from the fridge and allow it to warm up for 2 hours.
  4. Proceed with recipe above.

Strawberry Peach Panna Cotta Popsicles

This month’s bake together doesn’t actually involve baking. In deference to the summer heat, and with sympathy for those of us who just can’t bear to turn on our ovens, Abby chose ricotta panna cotta with raspberry brezza fresca.

The point of the bake together is to put your own spin on the recipe, and spin it I did, enough, I’m sure, to make Abby dizzy.

Despite the fact that I had a perfectly good tub of ricotta in the fridge, I decided to use queso fresco for my panna cotta, and to make it myself. It is the perfect light, summer cheese, and ridiculously easy to make. I am lucky enough to have access to non-ultra pasteurized milk, which gives the cheese a magnificently fresh taste. (In case you are tempted to warn me of the dangers of raw milk, note that it is still pasteurized, just not to the same degree, literally). If I were a goat cheese person I’d probably have used goat’s milk, but try hard as I can, I just cannot get myself to like the stuff, so cow’s milk it was.

I also wanted this to be kid friendly, so I skipped the gin in the raspberry sauce. I also skipped the raspberries, and went with peaches and strawberries instead. What can I say, it was what I had sitting on my counter.

Then I layered the panna cotta and fruit puree in a set of popsicle molds and froze it. The result is delicious. Delicious!
Strawberry Peach Panna Cotta Popsicles

Make the Queso Fresco:

  • 2 quarts unhomogenized whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 T. lime juice
  1. Combine the milk and salt in a large pot.
  2. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk comes to a full boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and gently stir in the lime juice.
  4. Continue stirring gently until curds finish forming. This takes only about a minute.
  5. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth, discarding the liquid and keeping the solids.
  6. Allow the curds to drain for 15 minutes, then proceed with panna cotta recipe.

Make the Fruit Puree:

  • 1 large peach, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 pint strawberries, hulled
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 3 T. lime juice

Place all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Make the Panna Cotta:

  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 tsp. gelatin
  • 1 recipe queso fresco (see above)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  1. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water, and let it sit until the gelatin has plumped up.
  2. Microwave it until the gelatin has completely melted, about 1 minute.
  3. Put all ingredients together in a food processor and process until smooth and well blended.

Assemble the Popsicles:

  1. Pour alternate payers of panna cotta and fruit puree into popsicle molds. Depending on what ratios you use you may have puree left over. Don’t panic, it is delicious on ice cream.
  2. Insert sticks into the molds and freeze until firm.

Candy Bar Pie

When I was in NY a few weeks ago, I stopped into Momofuku Milk Bar and sampled their candy bar pie. I cannot get this pie out of my mind. It was so very delicious. I decided to try to recreate it at home.

There is a Milk Bar cookbook with the recipe printed in it, but that would take the fun out things. I prefer to work things out on my own. So I did. Here is what I came up with. If anyone has the cookbook do a comparison and let me know how close I got.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the candy bar pie, it’s a chocolate cookie crumb crust filled with a layer of caramel, peanut butter nougat, and chocolate glaze, topped off by pretzel decorations. I think there is some sort of praline stirred into the nougat, which does add a lovely crunch, but I elected to skip this part, and substituted chopped dry roasted peanuts instead.

The results of my attempt are pretty close to the original, though a bit too sweet for my taste. I think I will try again, upping the amount of peanut butter in the nougat, and dramatically increasing the amount of dry roasted peanuts.

Candy Bar Pie (a Milk Bar replication)


  • 1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 3 T. melted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix crumbs with butter and pat into a pie pan so that it covers the bottom and comes halfway up the sides.
  3. Bake crust 10 minutes.


  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. + 2 T.  heavy cream
  • 6 T.  golden syrup
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  1. Heat the cream with the vanilla. Set aside on low heat to keep warm.
  2. Heat the syrup with the sugar, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is mostly dissolved and it starts to boil. Stop stirring and brush down the sides of the pot with water to dissolve any sugar crystals.
  3. Boil to 305 F.
  4. Stir in the butter and salt, then slowly stir in he cream. The mixture will boil furiously and foam, and the temperature will drop.
  5. Continue stirring until the temperature has climbed back up to 245.
  6. Immediately pour caramel into the prepared cookie crust. DO NOT scrape the pot, or you will wind up with weird crunchy bits in your caramel. If it sticks to the pot it stays in the pot.

Peanut Butter Nougat:

(this makes way more nougat than you will need. Pour the rest into a buttered waxed paper lined 8-inch square pan and if you’re feeling adventurous, cut it into squares and dip it in chocolate, or just snack on it as is.)

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup golden syrup
  • 1/3 c. water
  • 1 egg white
  • punch of cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-natural peanut butter, salted
  • 2 cups dry roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  1. Cook the sugar, syrup, and water until sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly.
  2. Stop stirring, brush down the sides of the pan with water to remove any clinging sugar crystals.
  3. Clip a candy thermometer in the pot and increase the heat. Begin whipping the egg white.
  4. When the egg white is foamy, add the cream of tartar and keep beating until it holds firm peaks.
  5. When the sugar reaches 245, remove it from the heat, and slowly pour it into the egg white, beating constantly. Continue beating until the mixture thickens and becomes firm. Switch to low speed (and use a paddle beater if you’re using a stand mixer) and blend in the peanut butter and peanuts.
  6. Scoop 2 cups of the nougat on top of the caramel, and pat it out with your hands to make an even layer. Periodically running your hands under the faucet to make them damp will keep them from getting too sticky.

Chocolate Glaze:

  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 T. golden syrup
  • 2 T. butter
  1. Melt ingredients together over very low heat, stirring constantly.
  2. Pour glaze over the nougat.

Finishing touch:

(the original pie has the pretzels underneath the glaze. If you prefer it this way add them, then pour it over.)

  1. Arrange pretzels over the still warm glaze, as many as will fit.
  2. Allow pie to cool completely at room temperature. Slice thinly and serve.