27 September 2012

AUNTIE PASTA: Sbrisolona - Mix it Up

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.
 So Good
The secret to a great Sbrisolona lies in crumbling all of the ingredients together by hand and not letting the pastry  dough become a solid mass.  It’s also suggested that you use a disposable aluminum cake pan because it’s easier to get the cake out of the disposable pan without breaking it – the cake that is.



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.



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