Italian dessert needed + biscotti help

Discussion in 'Recipes' started by somethingtasty, May 12, 2011.

  1. somethingtasty

    somethingtasty

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    Hello!

    We're doing an Italian cuisine party in a couple of weeks and it's time to prepare some recipes. I am always in charge of the sweets and as a tradition bring a Tiramisu. However, except for the Tiramisu, I wanted to bring something else this year.

    I was thinking of biscotti, as it is a traditional Italian cookie with maaany variations. I had my eyes on almond biscotti, preferably spiced (I want something that would implement cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger)..

    What I am asking for is, first of all, ideas for any Italian dessert recipes that can be made the day before (so don't have to be eaten warm). If you agree with biscotti, it would be great if you could give me a recipe or ideas for almond biscotti with some spices, as well as ideas on the making of them. Or any other biscotti that are your favourite :)

    Thank you very much :)
     
  2. somethingtasty

    somethingtasty

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    Also, I was just looking at Amaretti di Saronno as another idea. What I like is they're made of almond meal, which I haven't used before, although I'd have to blanch and grind the almonds myself.. Is a coffee blender good for this? Also, what do you think is better, almond biscotti or Amaretti?
     
  3. siduri

    siduri

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    I'm out of town so i don't have my recipes with me, but i do have a recipe for tozzetti, the almond biscotti (which really just means cookies) that are used as desert, brought out with a glass of sweet wine, in some restaurants.  But they're not really very desert-like.  Traditionally italians use very few spices in sweets.  Aloso they are incredibly hard - intended to be dipped in wine or coffee. 

    You might want to try a cassata type desert, which is with ricotta, sugar, pieces of cut up chocolate and usually candied fruit but i know few people who like them.  You line a round mold with spongecake then pour the ricotta mixture inside.  cool it, then turn it out and put fondant on top. 

    Panna cotta is another typical restaurant desert here, easy to make (cream, sugar and gelatin)
     
  4. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    I would make a semifreddo or parfait. Hundreds of recipes, basically a sabayon + whipped eggwhite + whipped cream and all kinds of additions like fruits or nuts. All goes in the freezer in a cakemold. No stirring needed. Get out of the freezer 30 minutes before serving and slice. Delicious!

    Biscotti and vin santo or even limoncello afterward. Ended by a good strong Italian coffee, amaretti biscuits and don't forget a small glass of grappa...
     
  5. siduri

    siduri

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    Yeah, that all sounds very authentic, Chris, though there is not a single element of that list that I enjoy.  Isn't that ironic?  People go wild for all these things, from the strong black coffee to the limoncello, to the biscotti (cantucci or tozzetti) to the grappa (brrrrr) to ice creams with nuts and candied fruits or zabaglione.  A thousand great deserts in the world and this is what I get!  It's not fair.  (Many will think I'm an ungrateful wretch, lucky as i am to have access to these things but what can I do? I don't like any of them).    I like panna cotta ok, though a nice bavarian cream is much nicer, and a tiramisu (without any added "flavorings" besides coffee and chocolate) is always great, and maybe a cannolo or a sette veli cake, but the rest of the italian desert repertory has been a great disillusionment for me.  I came thinking i'd collect italian desert recipes into a book, and ended up thinking i'd write a book of american cakes for italians!

    And let's not talk about crostata - sugary jam on top of sugary pastry.

    But i do have a good recipe for cantucci/tozzetti/"biscotti" if you want it, S.T., they're easy and i used to make them for a restaurant and they thought they were great.  They have a hint of spice and lots of almonds.   And if you like italian dunking cookies i have also a recipe for "ciambelline al vino bianco" which are dry ring-shaped cookies that are crumbly and dry - often with anice seeds in them, and white wine in the dough which i think is not for flavor but for crumbliness or something, and they're rolled in sugar before baking.  Easy enough to do.  To me they;re what you'd eat if there was notning else in the house, but, hey, i have weird taste.  That would go for all the trendy italian deserts, like "biscotti" and all the other stuff.  Ask and i'll copy the recipe here.  The ciambelline are the authentic recipe from my mother in law. 

    Give me a good chocolate cake or a tarte tatin or a bavarian cream or a good quality american coffee ice cream (made with cream) with chocolate sauce, or ...any number of other things... any day.   Maybe I should change my pen name to "the grouch"
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2011
  6. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    Siduri, just like Alain Bernadin, founder of the Crazy Horse in Paris who committed suicide many years ago by shooting a bullet in his head (can you believe it?) , you will be severely punished in afterlife for not enjoying the many delightful temptations, daily offered to you in abundance, ánd probably cheaper than anywhere else, such as grappa, Italian coffee ... etc., etc.

    Anyway, since on our recently started food TV channel where Giogio Locatelli showed some of his recipes, I became a fan of that Italian.

    Just searched a recipe I saw on the internet, namely his cannoli and found this fantastic blog (I have to check that blog out thouroughly tonight) with a discription and pictures of the preparation. Not a deepfried crust like the traditional one, ovenbaked. I have to make that soon. Also, do a search on his one-person version of tiramisu in an eatable basket, you'll love it!
     
  7. siduri

    siduri

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    No shot in the head as long as the world still contains chocolate!
     
  8. somethingtasty

    somethingtasty

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    Thanks both of you.. CB, that's a biiig collection that I hope to use some day, but for now I only need two desserts, Tiramisu and something else.. also, can you give me a link to that website with Italian recipes with pictures? Thanks

    And Siduri, can I also get your biscotti recipe, if it's not a problem? Thanks a lot :)
     
  9. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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  10. siduri

    siduri

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    Hi S.T.

    ok, here it is.  Very simple.  The word "biscotto" means twice-cooked, same root as biscuit, and they're cooked once in a loaf form, then sliced, then the slices are cooked again to dry them out.  Just to give you an idea, I made brownies for some people (i do often, they love them here, there is nothing quite like the chewy moistness of brownies in italian sweets) and they asked for the recipe.  When i gave it to them, and said then when they're cool you cut them in squares they asked "and then do you put them back in the oven to dry up?"!!!!!  I guess that says it all. 

    This recipe is super authentic, comes direct from Artusi's cookbook, the classic italian cookbook of the 1800s.  The measures are not really precise because people didn't generally measure stuff carefully and the cookbook is in grams and i transformed them into cups, but may have calculated wrong.  They always came out fine and were loved by the clients, so i guess i must have calculated right, but you can do your own calculations - with flour the various cookbooks i used as references used different grams-to-cups proportions

    I also adapted the recipe slightly, in that the original says to just mix everything but the nuts, adding the fifth egg if the dough is not wet enough. Also the original calls for a few grains of anise, but the cantucci i've had are usually cinnamon, but very faint in either case.  In the usual traditional italian cookie recipes you make a "well" of the dry ingredients, and put the soft butter, eggs and any liquid (this has none) in the center, and mix the stuff in the center with a fork, and then gradually incorporate the flour, switching to a spoon and then your hands.  I did it in a mixer, creaming butter and sugar then eggs, and then the dry. 

    preheat oven to 325

    grease a cookie sheet

    3 1/2 cups flour (500 gms)

    1 1/4 cup sugar (220 gms)

    120 gms almonds (Artusi says you can also add pinoli)

    30 grams butter (yes, very little)

    4 to 5 eggs

    salt

    cinnamon (half a tsp - not more than 1 tsp - it really should be very subtle, they're not cinnamon cookies) or a pinch of anise

    1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

    Mix butter, sugar as well as you can (given how little butter there is) and add four eggs.  Mix remaining ingredients and add to the mixture, stirring till wet - add another egg if the dough isn't of a consistency that is soft enough to make a log. 

    form into four loaves, about as wide as a wrist (depending on how wide you want them - cantucci are usually smaller than what americans call"biscotti") and as long about as a hand.and about as high

    bake until solid but soft. 

    slice into slices about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide. 

    lay slices on their sides on the pan and cook again in same oven until hard. 
     
  11. somethingtasty

    somethingtasty

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    Thanks for the recipe as well as the grams.. I'm European too and I hate the cups.. Also, I think that 1 cup sugar is 200 gr, at least that's what my converter says and what I use.. so it would be less than 1 1/4 cup but nevermind.. thanks :)
     
  12. siduri

    siduri

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    Actually i did that recipe back before i had a computer - 20 years ago - and i don't know where i got the conversions from, but the cups worked, they were ok i guess.  Not quite my kind of cookie!
     
  13. somethingtasty

    somethingtasty

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    Actually I don't think they would be mine as well, especially after reading your comments. The people won't have anything to dip these into at this event, and I don't want stone-hard cookies..

    So I guess I'll turn to amaretti. Any tips for these, or a recipe? :)
     
  14. siduri

    siduri

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    no recipe for amaretti, unfortunately, at least none that i've tried, since i can't stand bitter almond or amaretto liqueur, even if i'm really hungry.  Those should be easy to find online though. 
     
  15. somethingtasty

    somethingtasty

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    They are, but a little professional help is never refused.. and you do seem to dislike many stuff :)
     
  16. siduri

    siduri

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    Yes, i understand, and i'm sorry to have referred you to internet which i don;t consider a very useful tool since you never know how good the recipes are if there isn;t a person who's tried them - what i meant was that the recipes for amaretti must be pretty common.  I really hate when i ask if anyone has a recipe and get a snotty reply to google it, there are plenty of them, duh.  It's annoying, because otherwise why go on a forum!  so i apologize, that wasn;t my meaning. 

    Yes, i must seem very fussy, but I actually will eat practically anything if i don;t cook it - just that my dislikes are very strong - two tastes i can't tolerate are amaretto (bitter almond) and cilantro.  They make me cringe, with all the good will i can put (and there can be a lot of good will when you;re really hungry!) 

    But some things have been a disilusionment for me (i must have spelled that wrong) a big disappointment - one is italian deserts.  I came hankering for a whole new world of deserts, and found very little that I felt was better than anything i had in my more generic american/international repertory.  Italy was a very poor country for so long that sugar and butter and eggs and cream (the basis of most good deserts) were scarce for most people, and they made do without.  When they did make sweets, like for holidays, they were usually just somethijng with lots of sugar and i really like more creamy, or bready or mild deserts, and of course chocolate.  So the traditional sweets are not very appealing to me.  I like jam on bread, but not spread on an already oversweet cookie dough (crostata). 
     
  17. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    ST, I have these recipes on my computer. They are however original recipes published by the BBC, so all credits go to them and the respective chefs Locatelli and James Martin.

    I saw them make both recipes on TV, that's why I searched for them quite a while ago.

    Locatelli's tiramisu is made in individual portions, served in an easy to make shell. I'm gonna make these for sure! James Martin makes biscotti and homemade(!) lemoncello to dip in. I remember that the dough for the biscotti looked very wet, you need to roll it very lighthandedly. And as always, biscotti come out quite tough, thats why you need to dip them in lemoncello, but also in sweet wine if you prefer.

    Giorgio Locatelli tiramisu

    Ingredients

    For the base:

    2 egg whites - 50 g caster sugar - 50 g flour - 50 g butter, melted

    For the coffee sauce:

    300 ml milk - 2 egg yolks - 50 g sugar - 1/2 tbsp espresso coffee

    For the tiramisu cream:

    2 eggs - few drops of marsala - 250 g mascarpone - 1 tbsp sugar

    8 sponge fingers - espresso coffee, for soaking - cocoa powder, to decorate

    Method

    1. To make the base, beat together the egg whites and sugar until the sugar has dissolved, then fold in the flour. Carefully add the melted butter and beat until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes until set.
    2. Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas 3.
    3. Using the back of a metal spoon, spread four thin circles of the mixture onto a baking parchment-lined baking sheet. Leave plenty of space between the circles. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 10 minutes until just golden.
    4. Meanwhile, put the sponge fingers in a bowl and sprinkle with enough espresso coffee to soak. Turn the biscuits so they are evenly soaked. Refrigerate until needed.
    5. Remove the base from the oven. Lift from the baking parchment with a palette knife, and while still soft, place on upturned glass tumblers or small bowls. Mould to form a basket. Leave to cool on the glasses.
    6. Now make the coffee sauce. Heat the milk. Mix the egg yolks, sugar and coffee together. When the milk comes to the boil, remove from the heat and slowly stir in the egg yolk mixture. Return the pan to the heat and simmer very gently for 2 minutes over low heat. Do not let the mixture boil or the egg will overcook and scramble. Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl and leave to cool. Put in the fridge to chill.
    7. Now make the tiramisu cream. Separate the egg whites and yolks. Put the yolks and sugar in a food processor or mixer, and whisk on medium speed for about 10 minutes until the mixture is almost white. Add a few drops of marsala wine.
    8. Add the mascarpone and continue whisking until well mixed. Scrape into a bowl, cover with cling film and put in the fridge.
    9. When ready to assemble the tiramisu, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Then carefully fold in the mascarpone mix.
    10. Spoon some of the tiramisu cream into one of the baskets. Add some crumbled soaked ladyfinger biscuits and then some more cream. Continue until the basket is full, making sure the final layer is the cream. Repeat with the remaining baskets.
    11. Sprinkle with cocoa powder and serve at once.

     

     

    James Martin Apricot and almond biscotti with limoncello

    Ingredients
    For the limoncello
    700ml/1 pint 5fl oz fruit alcohol, 40-80 per cent proof, or vodka
    200g/7oz caster sugar
    8 unwaxed lemons, zest and juice
    For the biscotti
    250g/9oz plain flour
    250g/9oz caster sugar
    1½ tsp baking powder
    3 medium free-range eggs, lightly beaten
    50g/2oz dried sweetened strawberries, chopped
    100g/3½oz dried apricots, chopped
    50g/2oz medjool dates, stones removed, chopped
    75g/2½oz pistachio nuts, shells removed
    50g/2oz whole blanched almonds
    50g/2oz hazelnuts, shells removed
    1 lemon, zest only

    Method
    1. For the limoncello, pour a little of the alcohol into a pan, add the sugar and heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved.
    2. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and zest. Stir in the remaining alcohol and allow to cool. Pour into a clean bottle, then place into the fridge or freezer to chill thoroughly.
    3. For the biscotti, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
    4. Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder together in a large bowl. Add half the beaten eggs and mix well, then add half of what's left and mix again. Add the last quarter a little at a time until the dough takes shape but isn't too wet (you may not need to use all of the eggs). Add the fruit, nuts and lemon zest and mix well.
    5. Divide the dough into six pieces. With wet hands, roll each piece into a sausage shape about 5cm/2in wide and place well apart on the baking sheet. Lightly flatten the 'sausages' and bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden-brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool and harden for ten minutes.
    6. With a serrated knife, cut the 'sausages' on an angle into 0.5cm/¼in slices and lay these on the baking sheet. Return to the oven and bake for eight minutes, then turn the slices over and cook for a further 10-15 minutes, or until they are a pale golden colour. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks. When completely cold, the biscotti can be stored in airtight jars for a week or more.
    7. To serve, pour the limoncello into a chilled shot glass and serve with the biscotti.

       
     
  18. somethingtasty

    somethingtasty

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    Chris, thanks a lot for the recipes.

    Siduri, I am sorry if I misphrased my comment, I only said it as a statement, it's no problem and of course no need for apologise.

    Anyway, after reading some tips and recipes on Amaretti here's what I found most appropriate:

    325 gr. almonds (I will buy raw and blanch them)

    300 gr. sugar

    3 egg whites

    1 tsp. almond extract

    The typical recipe demands grinding the almonds first in a food processor and then adding the sugar, but I also read that it's better to do it in the same time? Also, castor/powdered or regular granulated sugar? And some people advice putting the whites directly in the processor, while others say to first beat them until stiff/hard peaks. I know that you don't like these, but perhaps from your experience you would know what's better to do?
     
  19. siduri

    siduri

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    I never made them, and i don't like them, so i haven't really paid much attention to their texture. 

    If you like the taste of bitter almond (which is what almond extract is, not the taste of regular almonds) the traditional way would be to put a few bitter ones in the mix.  Not more than that because they're slightly toxic. 

    Ok, now i found the recipe in artusi

    300 gm powdered sugar

    180 gm sweet almonds (normal)

    20 gm bitter almonds

    3 egg whites

    peel the almonds, dumping them in boiling water then draining and popping them out of their skins.  (the almonds are presumably shelled before weighing of course)

    dry them out in a low oven

    crush them in a mortar (maybe a blender would do the same, they will become greasy in the mortar as they do in a blender)

    add the whites as you crush them adding one of the egg whites that you add a little at a time .  MIx in half the sugar, working with your hands.  transfer into a bowl and keep working with your hands, adding half an egg white, then half the sugar, then the last half egg white and last half sugar. 

    The dough should be very homogeneous and you should be able to roll it into a long stick and cut it in equal pieces.  Take them up one by one with wet hands and form a ball as large as a walnut.  squash them to about a cm in height, and continue dusting them lightly with sugar before putting in a hot oven - yields about 30 amaretti

    This was preceded by another recipe (though he says this one is better) and probably intends the baking to be described in the previous recipe.  You are supposed to put them on "host" (that thin flat floury paperlike stuff that hosts are made for for churches, and that you find on the outside of sticky torrone) or bake on well greased and floured pan.    no indications of time, and they didn't use thermometers in those days!
     
  20. somethingtasty

    somethingtasty

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    Judging by the recipes, Amaretti is a drop cookie, meaning you just take from the batter with a tsp. and put it on the sheet. No rolling like biscotti :)