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
- Separate the egg whites from the yolks.
- 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.
- Beat egg whites until they begin to turn white and form soft peaks.
- 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).
- Add the chocolate to the mixture, mix. Then slowly add the egg whites just until mixed, followed by the liqueur.
- 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).
- Bake at 170°C for 45-50 minutes. (If you have a convection oven, you can bake at 160° for 40 minutes.)
- Let cool and then sprinkle with powdered sugar.
- (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!
Probably the most famous Italian dessert (maybe after the ubiquitous gelato), tiramisù can be found at Italian restaurants in Italy and abroad.
It’s considered a semifreddo layer cake because it uses ingredients you might find in gelato, but without the freezing preparation and the zabaglione cream is whipped up, then spread over layers of ladyfinger cookies. The origins of this classic are a topic of great debate, many people claiming it to be a recent invention, with even the place of origin disputable, either in Tuscany or Veneto. Its name literally translates to “pick me up,” probably because of the pretty high caloric content, the presence of caffeine in the coffee and chocolate and a bit of sweet liquor in the cream.
And, guess what? It’s actually pretty easy to make at home! Just follow the recipe below and you can be enjoying delicious tiramisù at home in no time!
Cooking time: 15 minutes (plus at least 2 hours for chilling)
- 4 egg yolks
- ½ cup sugar (100-120 grams)
- 500 grams mascarpone cheese
- ¼ cup sweet Marsala wine (rum, port or brandy can also be used)
- Around 400 grams savoiardi cookies (Pavesini brand cookies also work)
- ½ – 1 cup any kind of coffee or espresso
- Sprinkling of bitter cacao powder
- Make the zabaglione cream. First whisk the egg yolks with half the sugar until the yolks have lightened in color and expanded in volume. It’s very important to whisk enough because the eggs undergo a transformation during this process. Then mix in the rest of the sugar and the mascarpone cheese. Lastly, add the Marsala. (It’s a good idea to make the cream by hand so the eggs stay fluffy.)
- Prepare the first layer of cookies in a cake pan. Lay cookies flat in one layer covering the pan, then spoon just enough coffee or espresso to wet the tops of the cookies, making sure not to soak them in coffee!
- Spoon a hefty layer of zabaglione over the cookies, covering them completely. Continue with 1-3 more layers of cookies and cream (depending on the size of the pan), just make sure you have enough cream to completely cover the final layer of cookies.
- Generously sprinkle cacao powder over the top. It’s important to use bitter cacao to provide a nice contrast to the sweet cream.
- Put in the fridge to chill for a few hours.
- Arrange candles and sing happy birthday to a lucky birthday boy or girl. (optional)
- Si mangia! Enjoy your homemade tiramisù with your friends!
Please note: The recipe calls for raw eggs, so you should be aware of the salmonella risk involved with eating raw egg products. It’s best to make sure the eggs are as fresh as possible (the date of when it was harvested is usually printed on the packaging or directly on the egg itself) and that they come from a trusted source.