Recipe for the Italian Dessert Torta Caprese

The almond is a nut-like food found in cuisines the world over. When paired with chocolate in candies such as Toblerone, a Swiss treat made with milk chocolate and almonds that is always available in airports around Europe, and Jordan almonds (called confetti in Italian) which are given as favors at special occasions such as graduations, weddings and christenings, a great flavor combo is created. The same flavor combination can be found in a rich dessert which originated in the southern Italian island of Capri, called the torta caprese.

This sweet is a specialty from the region around Naples. Legend has it that the cake was invented in Capri (of course!) in the 1920s for visiting American tourists. The hotel cook reportedly forgot to add flour to his almond and chocolate cake. The visitors liked it so much that they asked for the recipe and dubbed it a Caprese, making it famous in Italy and abroad.

And since there’s no flour or baking powder used in the recipe, it’s a good dessert for anyone who can’t eat gluten.

 

Cooking time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Ingredients (makes 6-8 servings)

  • 4 eggs
  • 300g almonds, chopped into a fine powder
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 200g butter
  • 200g sugar
  • 1Tbsp liqueur or liquor such as Sambuca or rum
  • butter and cacao powder or cornmeal for coating the pan
  • powdered sugar for decoration
  1. Separate the egg whites from the yolks.
  2. Whip the butter until creamy, then add the sugar a little at a time. Add the yolks to the mixture, then the almond powder. Mix until blended.
  3. Beat egg whites until they begin to turn white and form soft peaks.
  4. Melt the chocolate in a microwave or a double boiler (you can use a small pot filled with water, putting the chocolate in a larger pan or metal bowl over the heated water).
  5. Add the chocolate to the mixture, mix. Then slowly add the egg whites just until mixed, followed by the liqueur.
  6. Butter a cake pan and coat with cacao powder or cornmeal (this is to make sure the the cake doesn’t stick to the pan).
  7. Bake at 170°C for 45-50 minutes. (If you have a convection oven, you can bake at 160° for 40 minutes.)
  8. Let cool and then sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  9. (optional) You can have fun with the powdered sugar by simply cutting out paper in whatever shape or words you want before sprinkling on the sugar. Then carefully remove the paper and the black cake will contrast nicely with the white sugar!

I Scream for Ice Cream!

Among other things fashion, fine wine, and art are often associated with Italy lest we not forget the food, and who can for forget the best loved dessert of them all? Ice cream. Italy claims to be the inventor of ice cream (whether this is true or not is not for me to discuss here) but it certainly aided its popularization with immigrants opening parlors throughout the world.

A massive 9.2 liters are consumed per capita in Italy per year (and I’m responsible for just about half of that) and with the vast array of beautiful colors and flavors available it is easy to see why. It is consumed throughout the year, hot or cold (the weather obviously), with 54% of Italians eating it more than once a week.

With so much at stake Italians will go to great lengths so seek out artisans who produce the unique and I am here to share with you some of those secrets today. Here is a list of my top 3 gelaterias in Milan:

3) Amorino
Alzaia Naviglio Grande, 24 (Navigli area)

You will no doubt when asking for the best gelateria hear the words Grom, Grom, Grom. Grom is excellent and deserves a mention but it is not special. Amorino has a vast range of flavours with no limits with your orders, you can have as many tastes as you want for the size! If you are a fan of cinnamon (and why wouldn’t you be?) I recommend the Speculoos, it’s truly life changing!

2) Shockolat
Via Giovanni Boccaccio, 9

Located a stone’s throw from Parco Sempione and a favorite night haunt of many locals, this gelateria surely can’t be matched in terms of it’s chocolate offerings. Combined with a sumptuous pistachio this is not to be missed!

 

1) Drum roll please… Gelateria Marghera
Via Marghera, 33

This is a recent and startling discovery. After dinner with friends in the area (also recommended as there are many fine restaurants) we went in search of something sweet and were fortunate enough to find this place. On entering our eyes feasted on an orgy delectable delights. It wasn’t just the ice cream available it was the mini ice creams, ice cream cakes and other unique inventions. As a true fat kid at heart I found the choice impossible and was forced to go back for seconds. The ice cream flavors themselves are quite limited but my word…just try it!

NB: An honorable mention should go to Stick House located on Via Vigevano. This parlor specializes in ice lollys but as it is not strictly ice cream it just missed out on the list.

Cioccolati Italiani

For all you chocolate lovers out there in the city, the name of this place should be enough motivation for a visit. Cioccolati Italiani prides itself to not be just a regular ice cream place or a shop that sells chocolate, but rather a chocolate laboratory. The restaurant goers are not just there to eat dessert, but are also spectators watching the chocolate, pastries and cakes being created in real time through glass windows that look into the kitchens. Their motto is lo facciamo davanti a tutti, which roughly translates to we make it [the chocolate] in front of everyone.

Located in the heart of Milan, just a few minutes walk from the Colonne di San Lorenzo, Cioccolati Italiani is not just trying to sell delicious desserts, but is also trying to promote the culture of chocolate-making and appreciation in Milan. The place has been open for about a year now, and is open seven days a week. If we had one complaint about Cioccolati Italiani, it would probably be that their menu is just too extensive. There is so much choice and variety that it takes you ages to finally settle upon what you want to order.

In this cold, grey Milanese winter, their cioccolata calda is a must-have! Their ice creams may be slightly more expensive than the ones in other gelaterias in Milan, but the portions are larger and the chocolate is much richer, not to mention the fact that the base of the cone is filled with liquid chocolate. The rest of their prices are also reasonable in terms of the quality of food being served. We also recommend you to try any of their cakes or crepes. And for those few of you who dislike all sweets, fear not, they even have a whole range of savory food, which is also quite delicious.

Cioccolati Italiani
Via Edmondo De Amicis, 25
20123 Milano
Tel: 02 89406651

It’s Chocolate Time!

Today is a special day. The winter is giving us one of its best gifts: the snow.

In Milano this means that everything is silent and peaceful, surrounded by an unreal atmosphere. Almost no one is in the street, but people that want to enjoy silence and tranquility.

You may ask: so what am I going to do? Don’t worry: Milanozine will not leave you alone!

So we thought about something that will make you warmer and sweater inside: hot chocolate. If you are brave enough to have a walk around the city, you cannot miss the 4 best places to have an Italian-made hot chocolate. Maybe with a friend, or maybe with someone more special.

Shocolat, Via Giovanni Boccaccio 9
“Nine out of ten people like chocolate. The tenth person always lies.” – John Tullius
Even if there are just few seats, grab a chocolate candy on the left of the entrance (they are for free) and be ready for an unforgettable experience.

Cioccolati Italiani, Via De Amicis 25
“Anything is good if it’s made of chocolate.” – Jo Brand
Perfect after a nice walk in Colonne, the place is big and welcoming. For the real chocolate lovers, ready to try all the different tastes of chocolate ever imagined.

Choco Cult, Via Buonarroti 7
“All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt!” – Lucy V. Pelt
A bit more expensive, but a Milanese must. And don’t forget to ask for whipped cream on top!

Grom, various locations
“Chocolate is nature’s way of making up for Mondays”. – Anonymous
Grom is easy to find, cause it’s everywhere!
So it’s perfect if you are shopping or just enjoying a nice walk around the city.

And of course, if you’re not brave enough to go out, just make sure you have some chocolate at home!