March 10, 2010
Italian meals usually end with some kind of a dessert, be it a crostata or tart usually made with fruit, a dry crumbling cake such as Sbrisolona or something richer like profiteroles, almost all meals end with desserts. These desserts are not always elaborate nor are the portions given out the type that you would see in an American diner. Instead they tend to be somewhat restrained and not quite as sugary as one might expect.
Many times the meal will finish with the ubiquitous biscotti that come from Tuscany and have been replicated throughout the world although the American version is about four times as large as the cantucci you find in Tuscany.
Not all Italian desserts are contained though. La Cassata Siciliana comes to mind. Many meals also end with Panna Cotta or other types of puddings. Another family of desserts are the Ciambelle or large donut like rings.
Here’s an easy recipe for a Ciambella.
300 grams of sugar
300 grams of fine flour
100 grams of butter
1 packet of yeast
1 cup of milk
Grated lemon rind
Beat the eggs and the sugar together added the melted butter and the lemon rind. Then add the flour, the milk and last but not least, the yeast. Cook in the oven in a buttered and floured pan for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees.
To go with this delicious cake, you can have a semi sweet sparkling wine, such as Asti DOCG made with the Moscato grape or any recioto, passito or late harvest dessert wine. Italy has numerous dessert wines although they are not quite as famous as their dry counterparts. Sweet wines have been somewhat ignored in the past but wine lists are increasing adding variety and many of these come from Italy.
December 1, 2009
As the Christmas season rolls around, one begins to think of what foods signify Christmas and the holidays. Italian regions each have their own particularities and today, we will speak about one dessert which comes from Naples, Struffoli.
Struffoli are fried balls of dough covered in honey and candied fruit. There are a great addition to any holiday meal and are not that difficult to make. The main issue is to get good honey. Together with sfogliatelle, the baba and the pastiera, struffoli are among the most well known and amusing desserts from the Campania region of Italy.
Legend has it that the dessert hails originally from Greece, when Naples was part of the Magna Grecia. Magna Grecia means Greater Greece and refers to the 7th and 8th centuries BC when Greeks populated Southern Italy in search of more land. Many inhabitants of these regions retain cultural traditions and foods that began during that time.
The name struffoli, in fact, comes from the Greek “strongulos” which means “round in shape”. This dish was originally made by nuns from the different religious orders and apparently given out in recognition of good works. Struffoli are considered good omens or harbingers of good things.
Here’s a great recipe for making struffoli from Accademia Barilla.
Pairing a dessert wine from Italy could also be a lovely idea for Christmas. Campania grows a fair amount of Malvasia Bianca but not a lot of it is sold in the United States. You can find Malvasia Bianca from Apulia more easily or try struffoli with a dessert wine from another region, such as Sicily which offers a host of dessert wines made from Malvasia and from the grape Zibibbo, also known as Moscato d’ Alessandria.