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Baked ricotta, date and orange blossom pie

Looking for a Sunday baking recipe? Try this gorgeous creation from new cookbook
The Pie Project, which teams a sweet baked ricotta filling with an easy biscuit base.

Phoebe Wood and Kirsten Jenkins' baked ricotta, date and orange blossom pie from The Pie Project (Hardie Grant Books). Photo by Baked ricotta, date and orange blossom pie from The Pie Project.

Sydney food media duo Phoebe Wood and Kirsten Jenkins head up food and style respectively for top magazine delicious. And in their downtime, they've been busy creating and shooting 60 of their favourite sweet pie recipes. Here Phoebe shares some of their inspiration and a favourite recipe from their new cookbook, The Pie Project.

Why pie? Because everyone likes it! We loved the idea of a single-focus book and I'd been experimenting with recipes after spending a few months in New York – there is a real pie culture in America and some really interesting stories about how particular pies have come about. It was lots of fun to research.

What makes a great pie? Great pies are a perfect balance of filling to crust. My favourites are fruit-based, so produce that's in season and tasting its best is crucial, as well as using quality butter in your pastry. A good pie looks jammy and oozy, so don't be afraid for things to get a bit messy.

Best pie you've tasted in your research? The best ones are always homemade, as there's nothing like hot pie straight from the oven. But otherwise I'm a big fan of Christina Tosi's crack pie from Milk Bar in NYC.

Your favourite recipe from the book? The ginger brulee pies (a tribute to the ones at Bourke Street Bakery) because of the crazy reaction from our families when they tried them – Kirsten's partner, Georgie, actually cried with happiness. We also love the peach, white chocolate and bourbon pie affectionately known as Big Bertha (cause she's a whopper). It's an American-style pie, but the taste of summer peaches is so tied up in my childhood that it feels Aussie to me.

How do you and Kirsten work as a team? We really collaborated on every element of the project together. Kirsten does all the photography – she has such an amazing eye and I've always loved her composition, both in photography and styling. The recipes are mine, but we came up with ideas together throughout the whole process.

Authors Kirsten Jenkins (left) and Phoebe Wood. Photo – Simon Kelly. Authors Kirsten Jenkins (left) and Phoebe Wood.
Photo – Simon Kelly.

Baked ricotta, orange blossom and date pie

Serves 8

This pie is very close to being my absolute favourite in the book. I love the classic Middle Eastern pairing of orange blossom and dates. There is a natural sweetness to the dates that means the pie filling doesn’t need to be overly sweet. I also love the pattern we created on top of the pie, by putting a wire rack on top and weighing it down to create its distinct criss-cross pattern. Of course, this is not an essential step in the recipe but I think it creates such a visual talking point you’d be crazy not to. — Kirsten

300 g (10½ oz) shortbread biscuits (cookies)
80 g (2¾ oz) unsalted butter, melted then cooled
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) firm fresh ricotta cheese
250 g (9 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
170 g (6 oz/¾ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons orange blossom water
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
8 dates, pitted and chopped

Pulse the biscuits in a food processor to fine crumbs. Add the butter and pulse again to combine. Press the crumb mixture into the base and side of a 17 cm (6¾ in) pie dish. Chill while you make the filling.

Clean the processor then whiz the ricotta, cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, orange blossom water and vanilla and whiz to combine.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Scatter the dates over the chilled biscuit base, then spread the ricotta mixture over the top. Bake for 50 minutes or until a dark golden colour and firm to the touch. Turn off the oven and leave to cool in the oven for 30 minutes with the door ajar.

Remove from the oven, and press a wire rack firmly over the pie while it is still warm to make indentations on the surface. Weigh it down with a tin or your tub of baking beads. Leave to cool to room temperature, then chill for 2 hours or until cold.

This is an edited extract from The Pie Project by Phoebe Wood & Kristen Jenkins (Hardie Grant Books, RRP $29.99), available in stores nationally.


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