I've just come back from Montréal and all I want to do is book another holiday.
I'm sure you all remember when I guest posted on Giulia's blog a few months ago. Well, this week Giulia is guest posting here on Mowielicious with beautiful photos that are making me long to travel to Tuscany. I called on Giulia's help before I flew to Montréal so that I could have a post ready to publish when I got back and she was gracious enough to create this stunning post for me, and all of you, to enjoy.
My normal posting schedule will resume next week. Hope you're all well and thanks for all your recommendations on what to see & do in Montréal - they were really very helpful. Full Montréal post soon.
For now, over to you Giulia:
Wait, wait a second. Oh my God, I’m a guest blogger at Mowielicious! Sparkling eyes and smiles were my companions for days after Mowie asked me to do a guest post for his blog. Little Juls is growing up, I was thinking, I must overdo myself to choose something really amazing for Mowie and his readers. Obviously it was supposed to be a dessert, I wanted it to be a dessert, as it was about to appear in the glossy window of one of the sweetest blogs in the world!
But, to be completely Juls’ style, it was supposed to be Tuscan, I wanted it to be Tuscan, as recently I finally understood that I am a Tuscan country girl to the core, and I wanted to celebrate it! The best choice was Zuccotto, a bright scarlet dessert.
Zuccotto is a Tuscan semifreddo dessert, typical of the city of Florence. Its origins are related to one of the most clever and influential women of the XVI century, Caterina De' Medici, a woman belonging to the most important family of Florence, who later became queen of France. Caterina introduced many innovations into the French court, as the division between sweet and savoury dishes during a lunch, forks and panties for ladies!
A few notes about this dessert. Reading the recipe, it could seem a quite long and difficult procedure, but it is actually very simple, it only requires attention and dedication, and obviously a bit of your precious time, but I assure you that you won’t be disappointed with the result.
Its core ingredient, along with Pan di Spagna (an Italian sponge cake made without yeast) is the Italian Meringue, the best ingredient to give a soft and airy texture to a dessert. It requires the use of a sugar thermometer. The recipe calls for alchermes to brush the sponge cake: alchermes is an Italian liqueur made by infusing neutral spirits with sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla. Its most striking characteristic is its scarlet colour. If you don’t happen to have alchermes, you can substitute it with rum, grappa, brandy or any liqueur you prefer, even with coffee.
Sponge cake (Pan di Spagna)
granulated sugar, 200 gr
flour 00, 150 gr
cornstarch, 50 gr
vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon
salt, 1 pinch
Preheat oven to 170°C.
Separate yolks and egg whites. Whip yolks and sugar with an electric mixer (traditional recipe would require a wooden spoon) until they are light, white and creamy.
Add sifted flours and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
In another bowl whip egg whites until soft peaks form.
Gently fold in whipped egg whites into egg and flours mixture, using a metal spoon and stirring over and under the mixture. The final mixture should be light, white and very soft.
Pour into a 25 cm diameter mould, previously greased and dusted with flour.
Bake for about 45 minutes.
Allow it to cool on a wire rack, then wrap in aluminium foil and store until needed. (It should be made at least one day in advance).
granulated sugar, 200 gr + 50 gr
water, 50 gr
egg whites, 125 gr
Beat egg whites with 50 gr of sugar in a stand mixer bowl at low speed.
While whites are being beaten, put water then 200 gr of sugar in a thick based pan and let the sugar melt. It will start slowly to make bubbles, so pay attention and wash down from the pan sides the sugar crystals with a clean brush dipped in water.
When the syrup reaches 121°C, remove it from the heat and slowly add it into the egg whites which are now white and stiff.
Pour syrup in a thin stream, taking care not to let it run onto the whisk, but letting it slide along bowl sides, as to be conveyed into the centre by mixer movements.
Beat at high speed until it is glossy white and airy, you’ll need about 10 minutes: don’t overbeat. Put in the fridge covered with cling film.
Orange pastry cream
sugar, 50 gr
flour, 25 gr
milk, 250 ml
Heat milk on medium heat with the peel of one orange.
Whip egg with sugar and flour.
Pour hot milk over the egg mixture and bring back to the heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
As soon as custard is thick and veils the spoon, take off the orange peel, remove from the heat, cover with cling film and let cool down.
Orange pastry cream semifreddo
Italian meringue, 135 gr
orange pastry cream, 100 gr
whipped cream, 260 gr
Whip cream until soft peaks form.
Add orange pastry cream and Italian meringue, stirring gently from the bottom to the top.
Set aside in the fridge.
Italian meringue, 165 gr
whipped cream, 335 gr
unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder, 75 gr
Whip cream until soft peaks form.
Sift cocoa powder over whipped cream, fold in Italian meringue and mix, stirring gently from the bottom to the top until thoroughly incorporated.
Set aside in the fridge.
Syrup to brush sponge cake
Mix water and alchermes in equal quantities.
Making the dessert
Use 6 half sphere moulds (I used moulds of about 250 ml capacity).
With these amount of ingredients you’ll have delicious leftover.
Remove brown sides from the sponge cake and slice it, making 1 cm thick slices.
Line moulds with sponge cake slices pressing it down gently.
Spread with orange pastry cream semifreddo, filling half of the mould, then cover it with sponge cake slices and press gently.
Brush with alchermes and water mixture.
Spread with cocoa semifreddo and cover with sponge cake slices.
Wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for about 3 hours.
When completely set, remove from the freezer, turn out the dessert and brush the outer surface of the zuccotto with alchermes and water mixture.
You can serve it with a chocolate sauce, whipped cream or as it is.
If stored in the freezer for long time, remove it at least one hour in advance before serving, to allow it to defrost.