GERMANY

As promised, today is the second day of Desserts Eaten for Christmas Around the World. Another dessert I prepared for our Christmas dinner comes from Germany – Stollen. It’s basically a fruit cake, with dried fruit, nuts and often marzipan. My version doesn’t have marzipan, as none of my family members, except for me, like it.

Stollen1

I completely altered a recipe I found and added ingredients I like – a lot of raisins, walnuts and almonds. This is a dessert you can play around with a lot. It all depends on what you like and how creative you are.

I found the original recipe here. But what you see below is “my recipe”; that is the version that I made up, by adding in stuff I love and leaving out what I don’t.

Stollen

Stollen2

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons dried active baking yeast
  • 175ml warm milk (45°C)
  • 1 large egg
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 50g unsalted butter, softened
  • 350g bread flour
  • 100g raisins
  • 175g diced candied pineapple and papaya
  • 50g chopped almonds
  • 50g chopped walnuts
  • 1 heaped teaspoon icing sugar for dusting

Preparation

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the egg, caster sugar, salt, butter, and 3/4 of the bread flour; beat well. Add the remaining flour, a little at a time, stirring well after each addition.

When the dough has begun to pull together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead in the dry fruit and nuts. Continue kneading until smooth, about 8 minutes.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Lightly grease a baking tray. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the marzipan into a rope and place it in the center of the dough. Fold the dough over to cover it; pinch the seams together to seal. If you’re doing what I did, leave the marzipan out and just form a loaf.

Place the loaf, seam side down, on the prepared baking tray. Cover with a clean, damp tea-towel and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180°C / Gas mark 4.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 150°C / Gas mark 2 and bake for a further 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown.

Allow loaf to cool on a wire cooling rack. Dust the cooled loaf with icing sugar.  Stollen3

Advertisements

SLOVENIA

Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve and I’ve been baking like crazy for the past week. Some of the things I made are even national and I will tell you all about it in the next couple of days. If fact, for the next three days I’m calling this blog Desserts Eaten for Christmas Around the World.

I would like to begin this story of my Christmas baking with a dessert from my own country, which I naturally had to bake for the holidays. There are quite a few desserts from Slovenia that I enjoy baking and eating, but I think nothing can beat a homemade Walnut Roll (Potica) for Christmas.

Let me tell you my secret. Despite the fact that I’ve been baking since I was like 12 and there is practically no dessert that I wouldn’t be willing to make, I didn’t bake my own Walnut Roll until earlier this year. The reason is that, although I like it very much, I never ate it often or in large amounts. To me, it’s just a dessert I eat about twice a year (for Christmas and Easter) and even then eat very little of it.

So when I made it for the first time, I was surprised at how well it turned out. It was almost perfect and for the first time in my life I ate a lot of it and it wasn’t even a holiday. This time, when I was making it for our Christmas dinner (for about 12 people), it sadly didn’t turn out so well. How do I put this…there’s just too much filling. Right?

Potica3

Now here’s the recipe. It’s really old and, as I’ve been told, this is the way our grandmothers and great-grandmothers used to make it. No, seriously, the recipe is from a book which is over 100 years old. It actually lacks a lot of instructions on how to make it, since this was apparently common knowledge to housewives at the time. This is also why I made some alternations when it comes to directions, to make it more clear, and substituted fresh yeast for dry.

Potica (Walnut Roll)

Potica1

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 1 package of dry yeast
  • 500g flour
  • 250ml warm milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp soft butter
  • ½ tsp salt

Filling:

  • 375 ml whole milk or cream (depends on whether you prefer a fuller taste or fewer calories)
  • 750g ground walnuts
  • 200g sugar (again, you can cut back, depending on your taste)
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • rum
  • raisins (optional)

Preparation

Mix together flour and yeast. In a different bowl, beat the egg yolk with milk and sugar. Combine the two mixtures, add the butter and salt and start kneading. It is very important that you truly blend all of the ingredients together well, so knead really thoroughly, for about 10-15 minutes. Let it rise until it doubles in size (about 1 hour).

In the meantime, prepare the filling. Boil the milk and pour it over the walnuts. Beat the egg white until stiff and add it to the walnut mixture, along with sugar and rum (if you choose so). The filling should be pretty thick; the kind a spoon stands upwards in. Let it sit for a while and you will see it thickens in time. If you still think it’s too runny, you can add some bread crumbs.

Cut the dough into two pieces and roll each of them about 1 cm thick. Spread the filling over both of them, sprinkle with raisins and roll two walnut rolls. Alternatively, you can also make just one really long one, but I prefer to make two, since they are easier to handle. Move them to a greased pan or use baking paper (I prefer this option) and bake until it is done. At least that’s what my recipe says. I can say that I baked at about 175°C for about 45-50 minutes. But I guess this depends on the kind of oven you use, so be sure you’re nearby when baking and keep checking on it.

Potica2

AUSTRIA

LinzerAugen1

To be completely honest, I did not bake these cookies because they are a national dessert of Austria, but because they are a part of traditional holiday baking where I live as well. I even used my own (my mom’s, actually) recipe, without ever considering it might be anything more than just a recipe for the simplest kind of cookies I know. But then, while I was baking, I started wondering why exactly they’re called Linzer cookies. Well, I knew Linz is a city in Austria, well-known for its Linzertorte, but I really never thought of the fact that my cookies were just a smaller version of a Lizertorte and that they have every bit of the national dessert status as the cake does.

LinzerAugen3But that’s not all. Linzertorte is the dessert my mom made the most often when I was growing up. I knew immediately that I couldn’t go past Austria without making a Linzertorte with my mom, so I grabbed the opportunity the next time I was visiting and made the cake that my mom didn’t even know was from Austria (we don’t really call in Lizertorte around here).  And what’s even more interesting, Linzertorte is thought to be the oldest-known cake in the world, dating as far back as 1653. Even I didn’t know that.

So I made two things from Austria, but none is what I originally had planned – I wanted to make Sachertorte. But I’m pretty sure that I’m not finished with Austria just yet.

Linzeraugen (Linzer Eyes)

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 250g flour
  • 150g butter
  • 100g sugar
  • vanilla to taste
  • 1 egg
  • 100g ground almonds
  • cinnamon to taste
  • ½ grated lemon peel

Filling:

  • jam (current, raspberry, strawberry)
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Preparation

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl, until a firm ball of dough forms. Set it aside for 20-30 minutes to a cool place. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Roll the dough about 3mm thick and cut out different shapes, then cut out the centers of half the disks with a cutter in the shape of your choice. Re-roll scraps and repeat. Bake for about 10 minutes or until edges turn golden then cool on a wire rack.

Heat the jam (you can even add some rum) and spread the solid disks with a layer of the hot jam. Dust the lids with powdered sugar and then glue the two pieces together. I do it in this order because this way the center remains clean and stands out even more.

LinzerAugen2I use exactly the same recipe also for the cake, I just double the ingredients.  The cake takes much less time to make, since you only roll out ½ of the dough, place it in a pan, spread the jam over it and cover the whole thing with another layer of dough. You get the classic look by rolling the remaining dough  into a long rope and then take the pieces of rope and place them around the outer edge of the cake where the ends of the strips meets the bottom crust, and create a kind of a web.

Linzertorte

Healthy Creations

As Sunday is usually the laziest day of the week (at least for me), I’ve decided to use the spare time to share with you the photos of some of my healthier creations, which I’ve been busying myself with lately. They’re not really ethnic, so I can’t categorize them properly, and they have no business being on this blog. But here they are anyway.

Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Super Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Healthy Chocolate Chip CookiesYes, I know Chocolate Chip Cookies technically could be classified under American desserts, but this recipe is so far from the original that I wouldn’t dare doing something like that.

Strawberry Cheesecake

Strawberry Cheesecake

StrawberryCheesecakeWholeA healthier version of a classic New York-style cheesecake, with canned strawberries and strawberry jelly on top.

CocoaWalnutPie

Cocoa&Walnut Pie

Cocoa&Walnut Pie

You can find the recipe for Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies at my new blog – Healthy National Desserts.

 

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

I’ve been baking like crazy this past month, since my favorite time of the year is (well, almost) finally here. I have to admit, most of my desserts were not really based on my desire to explore foreign cuisine, but more on what I found to reflect the season best. A lot of what I’ve baked was also quite typical for my country, but I’ll write about that sometime later.

One thing that I did make (though not really for the very first time) and is a national dessert from somewhere around the world is my very own, healthy, version of an American apple pie. I didn’t make it because it’s a typical American dessert, though, but because for me, there really is no fall, or winter for that matter, without apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, cloves, oranges, hot chocolate…anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself again.

I mentioned healthy before, since I made the pie completely without butter, with whole wheat flour and brown sugar (yes, even the crust). And yes, it was totally delicious.

Apple Pie

ApplePie3

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 100g whole-wheat flour
  • 30g white flour
  • 60g low-fat yogurt
  • 1,5g stevia
  • 100ml water (more or less, depending on the texture you get)

Filling:

  • 700g apples
  • 40g brown sugar
  • 2g cinnamon
  • 1g nutmeg
  • 7,5g stevia

Preparation

ApplePie2In a large bowl, combine all of the flour, stevia and yogurt. After that, slowly add water and mix thoroughly until the mixture forms a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours.

In the meantime, you can prepare the filling. Simply combine all of the ingredients. Preheat the oven to about 425°F (220°C). Roll out 2/3 of the crust and cover the bottom of a 9 inch (23cm) pan with it. Roll the remaining 1/3 of the crust. Fill the pan with apples and cover with the remaining rolled out crust.

ApplePie1Bake for about 10-15 minutes at 425 degrees F (220°C). Then reduce the temperature to 350°F (175°C) and bake for another 35-45 minutes. But make sure you check on it regularly, as baking time really depends on what type of oven you have.

 

Miscellaneous Weekend

Although I spend as much time with my husband, my family and my two cats as a person possibly can during the week, weekends, especially Saturdays, are always the time when our fun together doubles, or even triples. This weekend was very busy for me, since I spent most of it in the kitchen, baking my sister’s a birthday cake, as well as some other sweets and treats. As I tried to combine that with my mission to bake as many culturally diverse desserts as I can, one of them was also the Nanaimo bars.

As for the cake, I wanted to make something really special, so I decided for an open book cake, which took me almost two days (or at least two afternoons) to finish. I have to say that was I bit more than I was prepared for. But it turned out absolutely beautiful, and a bit less tasty (in my opinion, at least). The thing was that I was afraid it would start falling apart if I made it a bit juicier, so it turned out too dry for my taste. My family liked it, though. It was half vanilla, half chocolate.

Anyway, this is it. In the final version, there was also some writing on the right page, but I took this photo before I added that.

OpenBook

RosesAnd these are more than twenty marzipan roses that I spent more than two hours making.

Hope you had a great weekend too.

CANADA

I discovered this recipe for Nanaimo bars a while back, but I had no idea that this was the national dessert of Canada. To be completely honest, the only reason I made them was because I am a huge fan of peanut butter. Well, this recipe is not, strictly speaking, the original “national” one (or so I’ve heard), but just one of the many varieties.

The original Nanaimo bar consists of a wafer crumb-based layer, topped by a layer of light vanilla or custard flavored butter icing which is covered with melted chocolate made from chocolate squares. See? No peanut butter. But then I even changed the peanut butter variety to make it at least a teeny tiny bit healthier, if not less caloric (‘cause you just can’t really do that with a butter, nut, sugar, chocolate recipe).

NanaimoBar2

On the other hand, I did like this recipe because it doesn’t require baking, is very easy to make and can be really neatly cut and decorated, so the squares can look quite amazing.

So, to get to the point, this is my recipe, adapted slightly from a variety of Nanaimo bars found at GroupRecipes. Mostly, I just made it even more peanut-buttery.

Nanaimo Bars

NanaimoBar1

Ingredients

Cookie:

  • 70g peanut butter
  • 45g butter
  • 30g powdered sugar
  • 45g cocoa powder
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 250g graham cracker crumbs
  • 50g sweetened coconut
  • 60g finely chopped walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds (I used both almonds and walnuts and I definitely prefer walnuts)

Peanut butter filling:

  • 50g unsalted butter, softened
  • 100g peanut butter
  • 50g confectioners’ sugar

Chocolate Glaze:

  • 120g semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preparation

Line an 8 by 8-inch (20 by 20 cm) baking pan or casserole with aluminum foil (or in my case, just foil), with long flaps hanging over each edge.

For the cookie:

Put the butter and peanut butter in a heatproof medium bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water to a very slow simmer over medium-low heat. Set the bowl over, but not touching, the water.

Once the butter is melted, add the sugar and cocoa, and stir to combine.

Add the egg and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, until warm to the touch and slightly thickened (it should be about the consistency of hot fudge), about 6 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in graham crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press the dough firmly into the prepared pan.

(Save the pan of water for melting the chocolate.)

For the filling:

Beat the butter, peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until light. Spread over the cookie and freeze while you prepare the chocolate glaze.

Filling can be doubled or tripled, but in my humble opinion, the best part is the crust.

For the glaze:

Put the chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl, and set over the barely simmering water. Or, just use the microwave. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth in both cases, though.

Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

When cool but still runny, pour the chocolate layer over the chilled peanut butter layer and carefully smooth out with an offset spatula. Freeze for 30 minutes. Or put in the fridge over-night.

Before serving, let it sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. Pull out of the pan using the foil flaps and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 1-inch (2, 5 cm) squares with a sharp knife.

Serve cool or at room temperature.

NanaimoBar3

RUSSIA

I couldn’t be happier to say that I think autumn has finally really kicked in. I enjoy summer as much as the next person, but to me, shorts, sweat, camping , swimming  and all can in no way be compared to the peace of mind that follows when all that is done. When spending a lazy Saturday afternoon cozily under your favorite blanket, watching old movies and drinking hot chocolate becomes totally justified once more. Or, for that matter, spending the day in the kitchen, baking anything that will go great with your next cup of hot tea, coffee or cocoa. To me, there is really nothing more special than fall baking…except for winter baking.

So when my official baking season finally opens, I always want to go straight ahead to making pies, chocolate chip cookies and anything with cinnamon. But I’ve decided to tease myself a little longer this year, and so this weekend I decided to make something I would never usually bake as an entrée to honey & spice season. This time from Russia – Vatrushkas.

vatrushkas2

Vatrushkas are basically small pies, filled with cottage cheese. The dough is actually similar to white bread, but sweeter, and the filling is very simple too, consisting almost entirely of cottage cheese. They’re great to make, since you don’t need a whole lot of ingredients, but assembling a vatrushka can be a bit trickier. But don’t worry; once you get the hang of it, your vatrushkas can look as pretty as the ones in a Russian bakery. Well, almost.

Vatrushkas

vatrushkas1

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 2 cups (270g) all-purpose wheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) milk

Filling:

  • 1 lb. (450g) cottage cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour

Prepare the dough

If you’ve ever made homemade bread, this should be a piece of cake for you. If not, well, this experience will also give you some knowledge for when you’ll decide to bake your first loaf of bread. Also, if you have a bread maker, this is a recipe where you can really take advantage of it. I actually have it, but still I decided to make the dough by hand.

Heat the water to 110°F (40°C – a bit warmer than your body); add 1 tbsp of sugar, yeast, and ½ cup (30g) of sifted flour. Stir well, cover, and leave in a warm place for about an hour. The mix should develop a lot of bubbles and rise.

Separate the egg white from the yolk. Save the yolk in a cup in the fridge.

Heat milk to 110°F (40°C) and add to the mix with yeast. Stir in the egg white and the remaining sugar. Gradually add sifted flour while stirring in one direction (a wooden spatula is preferred). While stirring, keep your spatula close to the center of the mixing bowl instead of rubbing the sides of the bowl with it. When the dough becomes too dense to stir with the spatula, start kneading it by hand while adding small amounts of flour at a time. Whenever I’m making dough with yeast by hand, I knead it long enough for it to become almost silky smooth (10 to 20 minutes). This way, all of the ingredients mix together very well and the dough rises a lot easier. Make sure you don’t use more flour than necessary, as that may result in a stiff, chewy bread.

Finally, form the dough in a ball, cover it and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in size. After that, press it down and let it rise one more time.

Prepare the filling

Simply mix together all of the ingredients, either by hand or using an electric mixer. If you use a mixer, the texture will be smoother, but the filling can end up too runny.

Assemble vatrushkas

Dust your work surface with flour and roll out the dough into a sheet about ¼ inch (0,5 cm) thick.  Cut out circles about 5 inches (10 to 15 cm) in diameter (you can use a tea saucer for that).

Place 1/2 – 1 tbsp of filling in the middle of each circle. Do not overfill! Carefully roll up the edges making neat, smooth, and even walls about 2/3 inches (1,5 cm) in height. Even make them a bit higher if you are afraid you are overfilling. Carefully smoothen the surface of the filling making sure it is even and fills the entire space.

Turn on the oven to preheat it to 425°F (210°C) – 450°F (230°C).

Lightly grease a baking sheet or pan. You can moisten it with water instead, especially if it has a non-stick surface. Arrange vatrushkas on the baking sheet some distance apart so they don’t stick together when they expand. And I mean really place them far apart. To tell you the truth, I had to make two batches of vatrushkas to get these pictures, because the ones from the first batch got stuck together and they turned out square-shaped.

Afterwards, let them stand for another 15 minutes in a warm place. Meanwhile beat the saved egg yolk, since you’ll need it to brush your vatrushkas with, after the 15 minutes have passed.

Let vatrushkas stand for another 10 minutes and carefully puncture the top in 2-3 places with a fork, without puncturing all the way to the bottom. Place them in the oven.

Baking time will vary, but it usually takes 15-25 minutes to obtain a smooth brown crust.  I baked them for 15 minutes. You can preheat the oven to a higher temperature and then turn down the heat right after you put vatrushkas inside. Testing with a toothpick can help: the toothpick stuck into the crust should come out clean.

After the baking is finished, immediately place vatrushkas on a wooden board or a wire mesh for cooling.

Let them cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. This is important for full flavor development. But if you ask me, they taste the best when they’re completely cool, since that’s also when the texture of the filling changes completely.

vatrushka

Adapted from Russian Recipe Book.

GREECE

I simply love honey. And cheesecake. So once I decided that this week I’ll be making something from Greece, I knew immediately what I wanted to make. The only problem was that I wasn’t quite sure if what I had in mind existed and was an authentic Greek dessert. But it seemed pretty plausible. Greek sweets are always somehow associated with honey, but also with nuts and filo dough. Still, I soon happily discovered that this recipe did not only exist in my mind and I  was able to make  my very own honey and cheese cake – Sifnopitta.

Sifnopitta

Greece1

Originally, the recipe called for a Greek cheese called Mizithra, similar to ricotta (which I used instead). This cheesecake really is a must try for any cheesecake or honey lover, as it beautifully combines the two flavors in a soft, creamy filling. So here is the recipe.

Ingredients

225g, 2 cups plain flour, sifted with pinch of salt
30ml, 2 tbspn caster sugar
115g, 1/2 cup unsalted butter
45-60ml, 3-4 tbspn cold water

Filling

4 eggs
50g, 1/4 cup caster sugar
1 tbspn plain flour
500g, 2 1/2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
4 tbspn Greek honey
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preparation

  1. Prepare and line with greased baking paper a 25cm (10-inch) round springform baking tin.
  2. To make the pastry, mix the flour and sugar in a bowl, cut the butter into small cubes and add to the flour. Rub the butter in to the flour using your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Add the water, a little at a time, until the mixture clings together and forms dough.  Make sure it is not too wet.  Form the dough into a ball and wrap in cling film. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180 °C, 350 °F, gas 4.
  4. Roll out the pastry until fairly thin on a lightly floured surface and line the baking tin. Make sure the pastry goes into the edges and up the sides. Trim any excess pastry.
  5. Beat the eggs in a bowl. Add the caster sugar and the flour and beat until fluffy. Add the cheese, honey and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and beat until well mixed. Pour the cheese mixture into the pastry lined tin and level. Bake in a preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until it is light golden. Remove from the oven and, using a sieve, dust quarter to half a teaspoon of cinnamon over the top whilst still hot.

(Recipe adapted from Ultimate Guide to Greek Food)

Greece2

Variations

  • One variation to this cheese cake recipe is to make individual little tarts instead of one tart, although you may need more pastry than this recipe requires.
  • Sometimes the Greeks will put some fruit on top during cooking to decorate the top. 5-10 minutes before the cake is ready, take it out of the oven, place some very thin slices of fruit such as apricots or peach on top of the cake, push into the top slightly.
  • I used whole-wheat flour for the pastry and it turned out great.

You can find the recipe for a healthier version of Sifnopitta at my new blog Healthy National Desserts.

Greece3

ITALY

When someone mentions Italy, my first association is always good food and the best desserts in the world. There are numerous very different desserts, which are usually very typical for a specific Italian region. The most famous Italian dessert is definitely tiramisu, which originates in Treviso, near Venice. And we mustn’t forget that Italians are also famous for having the best ice cream, called gelato.

Then, among the most well-known ones, there are also desserts such as Panettone, Torta Barozzi, Cassata, Cannoli, Panna cotta and Biscotti. Here is a whole list of Italian desserts and their places of origin:

  • Amaretti (Lombardy)
  • Aranci in Salsa di Marsala
  • Bigné di San Giuseppe (Rome)
  • Biscotti (Prato)
  • Biscotti dei Fantasmi
  • Brutti ma Buoni (Tuscany)
  • Canestrelli (Monferrato area)
  • Cannoli (Sicily)
  • Cantuccini Prato (near Florence)
  • Cassata (Sicily)
  • Cavallucci (Siena)
  • Cenci alla Fiorentina (Tuscany)
  • Colomba  (Milan)
  • Crostata
  • Gelato
  • Génoise (Genoa)
  • Gianduiotti (Piedmont)
  • Krumiri (Casale Monferrato)
  • Marron Glacé (Piedmont)
  • Nociata (Rome)
  • Ossa dei Morti Biscotti
  • Pan di Spagna
  • Pandoro (Verona)
  • Panettone (Milan)
  • Panforte (Tuscany)
  • Panna Cotta (Piedmont)
  • Pan Pepato
  • Pastiera (Naples)
  • Pignolata (Sicily)
  • Pitta M’Pigliatay  (Calabria)
  • Pizzella (Abruzzo)
  • Ricciarelli (Siena, Tuscany)
  • Savoiardi (Piedmont)
  • Sfogliatelle (Province of Salerno)
  • Sfogliatine (Venice)
  • Spumoni (Naples)
  • Struffoli  (Naples)
  • Tiramisù
  • Torrone
  • Zabaglione
  • Zeppole
  • Zuccotto (Florence)
  • Zuppa Inglese (Parma, Bologna, Forlì, Ferrara and Reggio Emilia)

As Italy is culturally and, consequently, culinary such a diverse and interesting country, I have decided to make more than one Italian dessert. But I started out with tiramisu, not only because it is the most well-known Italian dessert, but also because it is my favorite one and I prepare it quite often.

Tiramisu

First, let me tell you a bit about the history of tiramisu, since I find it quite interesting. The translation of the name (tirami sù) literally means “pick-me-up” (metaphorically, “make me happy”). This probably refers to the caffeine in the espresso and the effect of the cocoa used in the recipe.

There is some debate regarding the origin of tiramisu, so I can only offer you a short recap of some of the facts connected to the invention of this dessert.

According to the article, “The Trail of Tiramisu”, by Jane Black, Washington Post newspaper, July 11, 2007, the present day version of tiramisu was said to have been created in a restaurant in Treviso, located northwest of Venice on Italy’s northern Adriatic coast, called Le Beccherie. Carminantonio Iannaccone claims to have invented the tiramisu:

“Iannaccone’s story is simple. He trained as a pastry chef in the southern city of Avellino, then migrated to Milan to find work at the age of 12. In 1969 he married his wife, Bruna, and opened a restaurant also called Piedigrotta in Treviso, where he cooked up a dessert based on the “everyday flavors of the region”: strong coffee, creamy mascarpone, eggs, Marsala and ladyfinger cookies. He says it took him two years to perfect the recipe, which was originally served as an elegant, freestanding cake.”

“Tiramisu was an instant hit. Chefs, Iannaccone says, ‘came to taste it, and soon they were either making their own versions or he was supplying them with his. By the early ’80s, tiramisu had become ubiquitous throughout Italy and beyond.”

The Timeless Art of Italian Cuisine – Centuries of Scrumptious Dining, by Anna Maria Volpi, states the following from her research on the history of tiramisu:

“Later in my research the oldest recipe I could find was in the book by Giovanni Capnist “I Dolci del Veneto” (The Desserts of Veneto). The first edition was published in 1983 and has a classic recipe for Tiramisu. Recent recipe with infinite variations from the town of Treviso”, says Capnist, “discovery of restaurants more than family tradition.

But the final word on the origin of Tiramisu is from the book by Fernando e Tina Raris La Marca Gastronomica, published in 1998, a book entirely dedicated to the cuisine from the town of Treviso. The authors remember what Giuseppe Maffioli wrote in an article in 1981: “Tiramisu was born recently, just 10 years ago in the town of Treviso. It was proposed for the first time in the restaurant Le Beccherie. The dessert and its name became immediately extremely popular, and this cake and the name where copied by many restaurants first in Treviso then all around Italy”. Still today the restaurant “Le Beccherie” makes the dessert with the classical recipe: ladyfingers soaked in bitter strong espresso coffee, mascarpone-zabaglione cream, and bitter cocoa powder. Alba and Ado Campeol, owners of the restaurant, regret they didn’t patent the name and the recipe, especially to avoid all the speculation and guesses on the origin of this cake, and the diffusion of so many recipes that have nothing to do with the original Tiramisu.”

Researcher Pietro Mascioni traces the dessert back to the 1960’s, to a town in Tuscany called Treviso.

“Born recently, less than two decades ago, in the city of Treviso, is a dessert called Tiramesu which was made for the first time in a restaurant, Alle Beccherie, by a pastry chef called Loly Linguanotto. The story is very credible, said Mascioni, who traveled to Treviso to talk to the Campeols last fall. There, matriarch Alba Campeol told Mascioni that she got the idea for the dessert after the birth of one of her children. She was very weak in bed and her mother-in-law brought her a zabaglione, spiked with coffee to give her energy.”

Now, because this is my favorite dessert in the world, I don’t have any interesting anecdotes about making it, but let me explain why I use ricotta cheese instead of mascarpone and latte instead of espresso. I simply like it more this way. I never drink espresso, but always latte. My favorite one is latte macchiato. And I’ve been preparing tiramisu with mascarpone for many years, but then I tried it out with ricotta and found it much tastier. Mascarpone is too strong for my taste. So this is my personal recipe for tiramisu, custom-made to satisfy my preferences.

Ingredients:

  • 500g ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • rum to taste
  • Latte (about 120 ml – ½ cup)
  • Savoiardi/Ladyfingers (store-bought or home-made)
  • Cocoa powder

Preparation:

Coffee

Prepare whichever coffee you prefer, add as much sugar as you wish and any other aromas you may like (vanilla, rum…).

Filling

Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites (I use egg whites instead of cream). Beat egg yolks and sugar in a bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water until tripled in volume, 5 to 8 minutes. Use a whisk or, to make things easier, a handheld electric mixer at medium speed. Remove bowl from heat then beat in ricotta cheese until combined.

Whip the egg whites in a bowl until it holds stiff peaks. Combine with the ricotta cheese cream and some rum, if you like the aroma.

Assemble Tiramisu

Cover the bottom of a 9-inch (23 cm) square dish with Savoiardi. You can beforehand dip them in coffee, or, like me, pour the coffee over it. I do it this way because I really like my tiramisu juicy.

Spoon half of the ricotta filling over the ladyfingers and spread into an even layer. And cover with another layer of ladyfingers. Then dip the remaining ladyfingers quickly into the coffee and arrange a second layer over filling. Spoon remaining ricotta mixture over ladyfingers and sprinkle cocoa powder over it. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours.

tiramisu