My parents are the type to have everything, so I've taken to making their 'gifts' a dinner I prepare from top to bottom... they LOVE this as both love food and love to cook and we all teach each other so many things...
So mother's day is upon us and my mother has requested an Italian Meal. Not a big problem except for one aspect... The dessert. Now, I usually go buy something, but in my efforts to learn to bake, I'd really like to make them something this time...
So, any ideas on simple Italian desserts (Cookies to go with Expresso would be great!) would be appreciated! :D
I am not sure you would consider this "simple" (some would, some wouldn't...) but here you go...
Vincent Price Boccone Dolce from A Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary and Vincent Price (8 servings)
This is a classic northern Italian dessert. The combination of strawberries and chocolate in a meringue is enough to send you right out of this world!
Meringue Layers (see recipe below)
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate pieces
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
1 pint strawberries, sliced; sugared
Chocolate curls (for garnish)
Make Meringue Layers.
Melt over hot water the chocolate pieces and water. When perfectly smooth, remove from heat and cool (but don't let harden).
In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff; gradually add powdered sugar and then vanilla extract.
Slice two pints of strawberries: One is used between cake layers, the other is sliced, sugared and refrigerated to produce more juice. The sugared berries are served as a sauce. Save several whole berries for garnish.
To assemble, place a meringue layer on a serving plate, rounded side down. Spread a VERY THIN coating of chocolate over it. NOTE: GO EASY on chocolate - too much will make it impossible to cut cake!
Top chocolate with a layer (about 3/4-inch thick) of whipped cream. Top cream with a layer of sliced berries. Place a second layer of meringue on top of this, and repeat filling. Top with final meringue, rounded side up, and frost sides and top smoothly with remaining whipped cream. Additional cream may be used to pipe a design onto sides and top of cake.
Refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with several whole strawberries and chocolate curls.
4 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup superfine sugar
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. In mixer, beat egg whites, salt, cream of tartar, cider vinegar, and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar and continue beating until meringue is stiff and glossy.
Line baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Trace three, eight-inch circles on paper. Spread meringue evenly and equally over circles. Bake one hour or until meringue becomes bisque colored. Then turn off oven, open oven
door and let meringues "rest" in oven another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully peel off parchment or waxed paper. Put cake on racks to dry until thoroughly cool. Once cooled, meringues may be wrapped in saran and frozen.
Thank you so much for all your recs everyone!! I decided on the Almond Cookies (my mother LOVES almonds) and Double Chocolate Biscotti)...
Both recipes turned out pretty good (I perfered the Almond Cookies to the Biscotti, which I thin turned out too bitter due to the use of Valhrona Chocolate with out me compensating for it with extra sugar), and I learned quite a bit from making them both (Since they both involved different techinques!)
The rest of the dinner turned out GREAT! I made herb breadsticks, Cesar Salad (Which I know isn't really Italian! :))Straciatella and Veggie Lasagna. We all were stuffed! :D
Lots of great ideas so far, and I'll just echo that nothing beats homemade biscotti or a freshly made cannoli.
I'll add another cake idea as well. I saw this one on Michael Colameco's Food Show, and I'll link the recipe. It's for an orange/olive oil breakfst cake, but I like it as a coffee cake as well. It utilizes the whole orange- peel and all- and has a very interesting flavor and texture that really grows on you.
This is a tough one - those Italian women tend to put a lot of time/energy/love into those desserts! (Especially time...) Also, some of them require special equipment (think of molds to fry the cannoli shells around - little metal cylinders).
That being said, biscotti is always easy.
Also ricotta pie (be sure to run the already-drained ricotta through the food processor before baking to improve the texture!) is yummmm-o, easy, and only requires a springform pan (or a regular pie pan if you want...)
Or, if you want individual type things, we always got pasta ciot (sp??? pronouched "ch-aw-t"), which is like a little mini ricotta pie with a top crust, baked in a little tort-type pan.
If it was me, however, I would bake these spectacular cookies that we call "Zizi's cookies" (pronounced "sit-zy" - means aunt). They're along the line of biscotti (or unscotti since it's only baked once) and they're dipped in a little glaze and topped with colored candies. They're just a nice change-up from the ol' standard biscotti. They go REALLY well with coffee and you can bake them early in the day.
Zizis Italian Cookies (Zizi is what weve always called our Italian aunts)
NB this makes a LOT of cookies, so you may want to ½ it or be prepared to give some away!
2 sticks butter
1 c sugar
1 c orange juice may want to avoid pulp, but whatever
1 tsp vanilla
about 5 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp baking powder
A little orange juice to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Cream butter and sugar until pasty. Once mixture is pasty, add eggs slowly. After eggs, add orange juice and vanilla (dont be surprised when it looks like something has curdled and/or gone horribly wrong its okay youre doing it right )
In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder)
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients only until mixture is sticky it will be really sticky.
Now for the messy part: using your hands, take small bits of the mixture and roll into balls (~1-1.5 inch diameter) were talking like 50 cookies! Place balls onto un-greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
While the cookies are cooling, you can make the frosting this is very un-scientific. Just take some water and add some confectioners sugar and a bit of o.j. to taste. The bottom line is that you want a thick but still liquid frosting thats sweet and a little orange-y if you want. You want it to be a consistency such that you can dip the cookies into it.
Take the cool cookies, dip them into the frosting and leave them out to dry. While theyre drying, sprinkle the nonpareils. This just takes some artistry if you wait for the frosting to dry a bit, then the color wont run as much. Heres where you just need to experiment. Hooray! You have some great cookies! Enjoy!
Store the extras in an air-tight container (they WILL go stale if you just leave them around)
Corby Kummer wrote a book called "The Joy of Coffee." On p. 188 is his recipe for biscotti--both a vanilla and a chocolate version. These are, in my opinion, the best biscotti I've ever had. I made these once for my aunt (who is a fantastic Italian cook) and she was enchanted by them.
I don't know how involved you want to get, but Vincent Schiavelli gives instructions on making a cassata cake in his book "Bruculinu, America." Cassata cake is basically a syrup-infused sponge cake filled with almond paste and sweetened ricotta cheese. It is assembled in stages, and it can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight. I have fond memories of it from my childhood--one of my great-aunts used to make it.
Speaking of sweetened ricotta, you can make cannoli. Those are the deep-fried pastry shells, rolled into a cylider and then filled with ricotta cheese that has been sweetened with sugar, almond extract, vanilla, and grated chocolate. You can make the shells from scratch (as my mother did), or you can buy very good ones from Italian specialty stores or well-stocked supermarkets.
Hope these ideas help.
re: La Dolce Vita
Hi La Dolce Vita- Not sure if you will get this since the post is from two years ago, but worth a shot! I am desparate to find the recipe for Baked Macaroni from Bruculinu, America by Vincent Schiavelli!!! I can't find my copy of the book and have managed to find the first and third pages of the recipe on google book preview, but the middle page is gone. Do you still have the book? If so, would you mind helping me fill in the blanks? Many thanks in advance....
There is a delicious cake in Marcella Hazan's Essentials book - I believe it is just called Almond Cake. As far as I remember, it is basically whipped egg whites, almond, and sugar (maybe some orange zest?) For me, it kind of hits the same spot as brutti ma buoni cookies - light, with a slightly chewy texture and carmelized edges. This cake is excellent served with some macerated strawberries.
re: Chris Willging
re: Carb Lover
Just saw your posting today - here is the recipe....
You might need to make ice cream or some kind of custard with all of the leftover egg yolks...actually I first made this because I had made a few batches of ice cream and had leftover egg whites in my freezer.
from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
10 oz. shelled, but unpeeled almonds, about 2 cups
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
8 egg whites
The peel of 1 lemon, grated
6 tablespoons flour
An 8 or 9 inch springform pan (I've just used a regular cake pan)
Butter for greasing the pan
Instructions (paraphrased, of course)
Preheat oven to 350.
Pulse almonds and sugar together in a blender or food processor until they are of a fine consistency.
Beat the egg whites with 1/2 teaspoon salt until they form stiff peaks.
Gently fold the ground almond mixture and grated lemon peel into the egg whites, a little at a time, until they are thoroughly mixed.
The egg whites will just deflate a little, hopefully not a lot if you are careful.
Add the flour a little bit at a time through a strainer, mixing gently.
Smear the baking pan with plenty of butter and put the batter in.
Bake it in the middle of the oven for one hour (testing with a toothpick of course).
If you used the springform, unlock the ring & take it off.
Let cool completely before serving.
(Marcella says it will keep a while in a tin, it has never lasted long enough for me to find out.)
If you want to bake go with biscotti or you could try a ricotta pie. Most Italian desserts feature ricotta fillings like cannoli, sfiogitelle (sp?), lobster tails, cream puffs...custard fillings also. I've made the double chocolate walnut biscotti from Epicurious several times and it's wonderful. Also a friend made the tiramisu from Cooking Light for Christmas and it was very good, she substituted marcaspone for the light cream cheese! My grandmother made almond/anisette biscotti and a few other Italian cookies but that's about it for baked desserts! If you need recipes let me know!!
My late mother-in-law used bake biscotti, she called them 'slices.' These are the pastry that are made with a sticky dough filled with slivered or whole almonds and flavored with anise. They are shaped as flat loaves about 3/4" high, 3 to 4" wide and between 10 and 12" long. After they are baked, they're allowed to cool a bit before being diagonally sliced, laid on the same cookie sheet on one cut side, and returned to the oven to be toasted. Hence, the name biscotti for being twice cooked. The biscotti can be dipped in coffee, espresso or cappuccino.
Buon appetito! (from an IBM, Italian by marriage)
Tiramisu is always a crowd-pleaser and pretty easy to make. Since you're cooking a full meal, may make more sense to leave the experimental baking for another time. But here are some baking ideas:
Hazelnut and orange biscotti dipped in grappa (dessert wine)
Lemon polenta cake
Unfortunately, I don't have any tried-and-true recipes for any of these. You can check FoodTV for recipes/ideas from Giada, Mario, or Michael Chiarello. Good luck. I'm making a Cinco de Mayo/Mother's Day feast for my MIL and SIL tomorrow night.
re: Carb Lover
I don't know if I'd call grappa a "dessert wine." It's related to brandy, and therefore to wine, but "dessert wine" makes me think of Reccioto (sweet, red dessert wine) or something. Very different!
Grappa is probably a love it or hate it thing. Me, I love it. I'd suggest trying it yourself (if you haven't) before involving it too much in after-dinner drinks or desserts for your folks.
Thanks for clarifying; I know jack about grappa. I remembered seeing a show on FoodTV that featured biscotti which they dipped into a pale syrupy wine, looked like a moscato or something. I remembered it as grappa, but from seeing another suggestion below, it may have been vin santo!