Rosalia's Bittersweet Pastry Shop (43 page)

Torta Savoia
(Chocolate Hazelnut Cake)
 
Yield: approximately 12 to 14 servings
I only discovered a couple of years ago the many extraordinary desserts made with chocolate and hazelnut, and this recipe is one of my favorites. The cake was named in honor of the Duke of Savoy, who ruled Sicily for three years during the eighteenth century. As you'll see, the cake is as regal as its name.
 
SYRUP
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
6 tablespoons dark rum
FILLING
One 13-ounce jar Nutella (chocolate hazelnut cream)
1½ cups heavy whipping cream, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
CAKE
1 recipe Sponge Cake (see recipe on pages 386–387)
 
GLAZE
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
FOR THE SYRUP
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and boil until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is reduced by one-quarter. Let cool, and stir in the rum.
FOR THE FILLING
In a small bowl, whisk the Nutella with ½ cup of the cream to lighten the Nutella. In a mixing bowl, whip the remaining 1 cup of cream with the vanilla until it begins to hold its shape. Add the Nutella mixture and continue to whip until stiff.
 
TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE
Line a 10-inch springform pan with plastic wrap. Cut the sponge cake into three half-inch layers. Place one cake layer in the bottom of the pan, brush with one-third of the rum syrup, and spread evenly with half of the filling. Repeat with another layer of cake, another one-third of the syrup, and the remaining filling. Finish with the final cake layer and the remaining syrup. Chill, covered, for 2 hours before unmolding.
 
MEANWHILE, MAKE THE GLAZE
Bring the cream and butter just to a boil and immediately remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt, then whisk until smooth. This glaze solidifies significantly upon cooling; if it becomes too stiff to work with, warm it over low heat, stirring carefully.
 
TO FINISH
Invert the cake onto a serving platter and remove the pan and plastic wrap. Pour or spread the glaze evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Allow the glaze to set before serving.
Adapted from
Sweet Sicily: The Story of an Island and Her Pastries,
by Victoria Granof (William Morrow Cookbooks)
Pignolata
(Honey Clusters)
 
Yield: 10 to 12 servings
This is my mother's recipe for
Pignolata,
which she made every year for Christmas. I'm proud to now carry on this tradition for the holidays.
 
DOUGH
4 cups flour
1 orange, zested
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick of unsalted butter, cut into smaller pieces
6 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Canola or vegetable oil for frying
GLAZE
2 cups honey
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ cup sugar
Confetti sprinkles for decorating.
FOR THE PIGNOLATA
Place the flour, orange zest, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor and lightly pulse to blend the ingredients. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Then add the eggs and vanilla and pulse until the mixture begins to come together into a dough. Take the dough out of the food processor and shape it into a smooth ball.
Pinch off one-inch pieces of dough and roll between your hands to shape into small balls. Place on a lightly floured work surface or on a baking sheet that has been lightly floured.
Add 3 inches of oil to a large, heavy-bottomed pot and heat over medium heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees on a candy thermometer (or when a small piece of dough dropped into the oil rises to the surface). Place batches of the dough balls into the oil (do not place too many at one time) and fry until the balls are golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. With a spider or slotted spoon, scoop the balls out of the pot and place on a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
 
FOR THE GLAZE
In a large pot over medium heat, bring the honey, orange juice, and sugar to a boil. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove the pot from the heat and add the balls.
Be careful: This glaze is very hot.
Stir until the balls are all coated with the glaze. Let cool for about 15 minutes.
With a large spoon, place the
Pignolata
onto a large serving plate or platter. With wet hands, pile the
Pignolata
into a pyramid. Sprinkle with confetti sprinkles.
This is a family recipe.
Cassata
(Sicilian Ricotta Cake)
 
Yield: approximately 12 to 14 servings
While there are several steps involved in making a
cassata,
it is well worth your time, especially for a special occasion. For there's no doubt this cake will impress your guests with its decadent, rich flavor. You can find fresh ricotta in Italian food specialty stores or gourmet food specialty stores.
 
FILLING
2 cups fresh ricotta
½ cup sugar
½ cup candied fruits, chopped
4 ounces milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate or small chocolate morsels, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
RICOTTA ICING
2 tablespoons fresh ricotta
2 cups confectioners' sugar
ASSEMBLY
1 recipe Sponge Cake (see recipe on pages 386–387)
1½ cups Marsala wine
½ of a whole candied citron (if you cannot find this ingredient, you can leave it out)
¼ cup candied cherries
½ cup sliced blanched almonds
FOR THE FILLING
Beat the ricotta and the sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Divide in half and add the fruit to one portion and the chocolate and cinnamon to the other. Set aside.
FOR THE ICING
Beat the ricotta and the sugar until smooth and of spreading consistency. Set aside.
 
FOR THE ASSEMBLY
Place four triangles of waxed or parchment paper on a serving platter under and all around where the cake will be so that the papers can be pulled out after the cake is assembled. Place one cake layer on the waxed paper. Place the Marsala wine in a small spray bottle and spray a third on the first layer. Spread the ricotta and fruit filling on top of the cake layer. Place the second layer on top of the ricotta filling and spray with another third of the Marsala wine. Spread the ricotta and chocolate filling on the second layer, top with the third layer, spray it with the rest of the Marsala wine, and let rest.
Place the citron, if using, on a cutting board and slice thinly. Slice the candied cherries in half.
Spread the icing on the top and on the sides of the cake. Press the sliced almonds lightly over the sides of the cake. Place the citron slices, if using, in a pattern around the top of the cake. Add the cherries, cut side down, to complement the design made by the citron slices. Chill until ready to serve.
 
Adapted from
Sicilian Feasts,
by Giovanna Bellia La Marca (Hippocrene Books)
Pan di Spagna con Crema Pasticciera
(Sponge Cake with Pastry Cream)
 
Yield: 10-inch sponge cake and 6 to 8 servings of pastry cream
 
This cake is the starting point for many more elaborate Sicilian cake recipes. It can be made with or without the pastry cream. If the cake is not filled with pastry cream, a scoop of ice cream on top of a slice is perfect; even an excellent store-bought or homemade jam complements the cake well. Whether you eat it plain or with a filling or a topping, this cake will satisfy your sweet tooth.
The pastry cream can be used for many other desserts as well or even eaten simply with fresh berries. The pastry cream recipe I chose to include is not a Sicilian-style pastry cream, which typically uses cinnamon, lemon zest, and cornstarch, but when testing recipes I found the recipe below was easier on most palates with the absence of the cinnamon.
 
FOR THE CAKE
6 eggs, separated
¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
1 tablespoon hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1¼ cups cake flour (see Note)
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar for dusting on top (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease well a 10-by-3-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper, greasing the parchment paper as well.
In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, whip the egg yolks with ½ cup of the sugar, the water, the vanilla, and the lemon zest until light yellow and tripled in volume. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt directly into the yolk mixture and gently fold in.
In a separate bowl, with clean beaters, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Whip in the remaining ¼ cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form. Fold the whites gently into the yolk-flour mixture until no white streaks remain.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and the top springs back when lightly touched. Cool the cake completely on a cooling rack before removing from the pan. If desired, dust with powdered sugar.
 
IF FILLING THE CAKE
 
With a serrated knife, cut the cake through its center so that you have two layers. Place one of the layers, cut side up, onto a plate. With a spatula, spread the pastry cream on top of this layer of cake. Take the second layer and place it cut side down onto the layer with cream. Dust with powdered sugar.
Note: If cake flour is unavailable, substitute 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour and ½ cup cornstarch. Sift both the flour and cornstarch well before measuring.
Adapted from
Sweet Sicily: The Story of an Island and Her Pastries
, by Victoria Granof (William Morrow Cookbooks)
 
FOR THE PASTRY CREAM
2 cups milk
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons flour, sifted
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the milk just to the boiling point, add the vanilla, and remove from the heat. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks together with the sugar until the mixture is pale yellow, then whisk in the flour. Continuing to whisk, very slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture.
Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and, stirring constantly, bring it slowly to close to the boiling point—but do not let it boil or the eggs will curdle and you will have a lumpy sauce. Remove from the heat, cool briefly, then place a sheet of plastic wrap on the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming.
Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to use.
Adapted from
Sophia Loren's Recipes and Memories,
by Sophia Loren (GT Publishing Corporation)
A READING GROUP GUIDE
Rosalia's Bittersweet Pastry Shop
 
 
 
Rosanna Chiofalo
About This Guide
 
The suggested questions are included to enhance
your group's reading of Rosanna Chiofalo's
Rosalia's Bittersweet Pastry Shop
.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1.
Madre Carmela coaxes Rosalia to talk after her ordeal by introducing her to a new pastry every time she visits her. What is it about the sweets that the pastry shop at the Convento di Santa Lucia del Mela makes that is so enticing to Rosalia? Do you believe they were instrumental in helping her to heal?
2.
Rosalia is devastated to learn that her family has moved when she returns home. How do you think you would have reacted if you were Rosalia? Would you have been more angry than hurt or vice versa? Would you have kept longing for your family the way Rosalia does? Do you feel that her family had no other choice but to leave because of their circumstances, or could her father have made a different decision?
3.
Although Rosalia is afraid of Antonio when she first meets him and for some time afterward, why do you think she eventually lowers her guard and decides to trust him? What is it about him that makes her realize he is different from Marco and would never hurt her?
4.
How have the nuns and the lay pastry workers at the convent become a surrogate family for Rosalia? How do they fill her need to have a sense of belonging? Why is it impossible for them to take the place of her biological family? Discuss the similarities and differences between biological families and adopted families.
5.
Do you feel the sisterhood among the nuns and workers is because of the sense of pride they take in their work? Or is it also because many of the women are in a sense “orphans” like Rosalia with no other families to turn to?
6.
Is it fair of Antonio to ask Rosalia to go to Paris with him—even if it is only temporary as he says—in light of all that's happened to her? Was it too soon to ask her to make such a huge decision, and do you believe she would have gone with him if he had asked her at a later date? Do you think Rosalia overreacted when she learned he and Madre Carmela had not told her he had applied to culinary school in Paris?
7.
Why does Sorella Agata feel so compelled to help the homeless women she meets in the alleyway? Do you agree with Madre Carmela when she tells her that it is impossible to save every woman and that it isn't her responsibility to save everyone? How has helping other women in need given Sorella Agata a new purpose and aided in her own healing?
8.
Discuss all that Sorella Agata had to give up when she became a nun. What has she gained by her vocation? Do you feel she struggles at times between her identity before she was a nun and her new identity once she has taken her vows? Discuss how her life would have been different if she had not decided to take her vows.
9.
After Claudia meets Antonio and hears him talking about Sorella Agata when she was young, before she took her vows, she realizes he never stopped loving her, although now it's more a love comprised of friendship and deep respect and admiration. How is the relationship between Antonio and Sorella Agata mutually beneficial, both when they were young and now in their older age?
10.
When Claudia first arrives at the convent, she senses a spiritual, almost mystical, quality there. Do you believe there was something magical about the Convento di Santa Lucia? And do you believe that it was Sorella Agata's tears that made her pastries taste far better than those made by the other workers?

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