So I am really not the best at dessert. I don’t love sweets and I refuse to measure for the most part which does not lend itself to success in baking (which is essentially chemistry if you ask me). That being said, what dinner party is complete without a sweet ending? I mean, I would normally be fine with cheese, a piece of chocolate or a fortified wine, but convention holds the meal should end with dessert. I recently cooked a dinner party for a group in the host’s home. I had prepared a varied meal drawing on culinary traditions from the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa, and was faced with the challenge of preparing dessert, and somehow remaining consistent in cultural context. I toyed with the idea of several more complicated desserts I had seen in magazines, using pomegranates or apricots whipped with cream cheeses and the like, but as the meal came together those ideas seemed a bit much. I decided to keep it simple, and using the buttery and delicious phyllo dough that is common in cuisine of those regions, I had a contextual base that would work. I found some beautiful berries in the market and decided I would do chocolate and ricotta stuffed phyllo pies, served them with a blackberry, pepper and red wine reduction. The preparation was harrowing (phyllo is much more delicate and prone to drying than I remembered) and involved a LOT of butter. There were some tense moments during baking when I just wasn’t seeing the golden hue or crispy ends and started to panic. In the end I took some deep breathes and like magic it all came together. The phyllo emerged a glowing gold, with the perfect airy crunch in perfect juxtaposition to the creamy, chocolately filling. The red-wine berry reduction was equal parts sweet, tart, tannic and rich, and with the hint of spice from the black pepper, an apt finishing touch. Even as someone who does not enjoy dessert (especially making it), I have to admit they were unexpectedly delicious. With this recipe I can confidently say I am getting (incrementally) better and more comfortable with preparing dessert.
- 1 Package Frozen Phyllo dough
- 2 Bars Baking Chocolate (I used 1 dark and 1 semi-sweet)
- 10 oz Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
- 1 Stick of Salted Butter (unsalted is fine too) - melted
- 6 oz Blackberries (1 normal grocery package)
- 1 ½ cups red wine
- ½ cup sugar (plus more to taste)
- 1 Teaspoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Remove dough from refrigerator a few hours before you plan to use it to allow it to defrost. You will want to keep a damp clean cloth on hand to cover the sheets of dough you are not using so as to avoid letting them dry out. Pre-heat oven to 400F. Lay 2-3 sheets out and fold the sides in long ways, essentially tripling the thickness creating a long strip. Place 2 pieces of chocolate, and a large dollop of ricotta about 1 ½ inches from the bottom corner of the strip. Fold that corner up and across to the opposite side, so now the edge of the dough is a 45 degree angle. Take the opposite corner up and across to the other side in the same manner. Repeat like you are folding a flag until you have created a tri-angular pie. Place on a baking sheet and brush both sides with the melted butter. Repeat until you have used all your dough or all your filling, or both. Make sure they are evening spaced on a baking sheets and well coated with butter. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Meanwhile, in a small sauce-pan cook the blackberries, smashing with a fork, until they begin to reduce. Add the red wine, sugar, and pepper and cook down until it is a syrupy consistency. You can add sugar or wine as you go along according to taste. Drizzle the sauce over the top of the pies and serve immediately while the pie-filling is still warm.