sbrisolona from Italy

Went on quite a food voyage a couple weeks ago that kept me more than busy : organizing a dîner des vignerons (winemaker's dinner) for 100 people for les Vins du coin, a natural wine tasting festival in the Loire Valley.

Wanting to provision it with 100% organic, artisan produce, and as local as possible, I went about searching out producers from the region—it''s quite alarming how sometimes it's easier to find organic produce in Paris than out in the countryside... although hopefully that's changing, as I met a handful of passionate farmers and piled my car full of their beautiful vegetables.

While I was getting together all the ingredients and pot and pans and helping hands (a dream team it was), David Lebovitz posted my adaptation of an Italian cookie called baci di dama (lady's kisses) on his website. We'd spent a day making them and having quite a lot of fun ! Seems there was quite a reception to them... which brought a smile to my face.

And in writing my new post, I thought I'd send out another recipe of pasticceria secca (crumbly dessert) the Italians are so good at. This one is called Sbrisolona, a typical rustic sweet from the Lombardy region, and more specifically from the town of Montavo. The verb sbrisolarsi means to crumble, which is exactly what this dessert does when you bite into it. Not to mention that the way it's served is simply broken into pieces, never cut clean with a knife.

This is also the dessert I conjured up for my big dinner. Traditionally it is served with a dish of mascarpone and sometimes a dusting of chocolate, but I find mascarpone to be a bit too rich and since only the yolks of the eggs are used in the recipe, I made up a light egg-white cream to serve with my Sbrisolona and dusted it with cinnamon. The recipe's below...

A great simple dessert to serve at one of your holiday dinners. Enjoy !

As for links, here's one for "a good bee cause" ... put your voice to the banning of neonicotinoid insecticides which are devastating them.

TORTA SBRISOLONA... di Mantova   :   serves 6 to 8
125 gr | 4.4 oz unbleached flour (I use 50 gr | 1.75 oz brown rice flour + 75 gr | 2.6 oz spelt flour)
75 gr |  2.6 oz corn flour
100 gr |  3.5 oz  unsalted butter (straight from the fridge) cut into small pieces
100 gr | 3.5 oz blond cane sugar
100 gr | 3.5 oz almonds (skins left on)
Zest of 1 lemon (organic)
2 egg yolks (from a scratching, pecking hen)
Pinch of unrefined sea salt

|||  Separate the eggs : much easier done if they're cold... don't want any yolk in the whites. Place the whites back in the fridge.

|||  Preheat the oven to 160 ˚C | 350 ˚F

|||  Coarsely chop the almonds in a chopper... not too fine.

|||  Combine the flours. almonds, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter, sugar, egg yolks, and lemon zest and combine with a flat beater or mix by hand until the butter is completely incorporated and the mixture crumbly. Do not form into a ball, the mixture should remain crumbly.

|||  Generously butter a 24-cm | 9-inch square baking dish (or equivalent), or line it with parchment paper. Add the crumbly mixture, pressing down ever so lightly to simply level it. The sbrisolona should come about 2 cm | 3/4-inch up the sides of the dish. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

|||  Bake in the oven on the middle rack for 20 - 30 min, until the top and edges are golden. Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the baking dish on a rack before gently removing it.

|||  Break into large pieces and serve with a small bowl of egg-white cream below, garnished with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon.

egg-white cream :
 2 egg whites (from the same scratching, pecking hen)
25 gr | 0.9 oz powdered sugar (make your own *)
35 gr | 1.25 oz crème fraîche or heavy cream (very cold)

|||  Make sure your mixing bowl and whisk are free of any grease. Take the egg whites out of the fridge and begin whipping them. As soon as they're nice and frothy gradually add the sugar and continue beating for another 4 - 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

|||  If using the same mixing bowl and whisk, wash them first. Set your bowl and whisk in the freezer for 10 or so minutes. Whip the crème fraîche or heavy cream (make sure it's very cold) until it forms soft peaks. Now by hand, first mix a spoonful of the egg whites into the whipped cream then gently fold in the rest. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Best to use the day of, but can be kept in the refrigerator for 24 hours, with a bit of separation occurring.

.... feel free to whip both egg white and crème fraîche by hand with a whisk

* sugar note : make your own powdered sugar... to avoid ingesting anti-clumping additives et d'autres. Just put your sugar in a coffee or herb grinder and grind away for 30 seconds or so.

wine note : by reason of its crunchy nature, sbrisonlona is traditionally enjoyed with a sweet wine (Malvasia, Passito di Pantelleria or Vin Santo) or a late-harvest white wine.

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