SARONNO, Italy – Even the Italians have to admit they are not great desert makers. That’s not to say there aren’t some great deserts here, especially in Sicily, but it’s not really their strong suit. Especially here in the north. But there is one cake that I discovered a few years back on a trip to Mantua, called Sbrisolona. It’s an easy, crumbly cake with an irresistible flavor and I hope you’ll give it a try.
|Mantua's Delicious Sbrisolona|
This cake has been popular since the 16th century when it was created in the countryside around Mantua. It was popular with poor families, who, in order to save money, would make it by mixing cornmeal, hazelnuts instead of almonds and lard, instead of butter. In the wealthier, noble households, the recipe was enriched with more expensive ingredients like sugar, spices and almonds, without moving too far away from the original characteristics of the dessert. (For more about Mantua and the Gonzaga Dukes see Auntie Pasta Nuts to You, Feb. 23, 2012 http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=4191681270252851547#editor/target=post;postID=7517561150203407844
According to tradition, this hard, crumbly dessert would be broken into pieces and eaten with one’s hands, and that’s still the best way to eat it. In fact they recommend that you don’t even try to cut this cake with a knife. And just because you know about these things now, I’ll tell you that Sbrisolona has a D.O.P. designation (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) so you know it’s the real deal.
100 grams butter
250 grams white flour
150 grams finely ground corn flour (called fumetto in Italian)
Grated lemon peel from one lemon
150 grams of peeled almonds, finely ground
50 grams of unpeeled whole almonds
100 grams of lard or butter
2 egg yolks
1 envelope of powdered vanilla (or ½ teaspoon liquid vanilla)
200 grams of sugar
Step 1 - Blend all the ingredients on a table top work-surface.
Step 2 - Mix all the ingredients together with your hands to make a crumbly pastry dough.
Step 3 - Fill a greased cake pan by crumbling the combined ingredients into it.
Step 4 - Lay the unpeeled almonds on top of the crumbled mix.
Step 5 - Bake in a preheated oven at 360°F. for 1 hour. Let cool in pan.