Delizia al Limoncello . . . a cake fit for celebrations!

In three days I will be flying to Italy and I cannot tell you how excited I am, however, I could not leave without sharing with you another moment of excitement in my adventure as a blogger.

I am celebrating 10,000 views on my blog . . . I am ecstatic!

Coincidentally, I hit the 10,000 mark exactly 9 months after my very first post which I thought was pretty cool.

Early Saturday morning I realized that I was close to the magic number so I decided that this time I would celebrate in style – Italian style of course – with a cake.

Back in July, I visited Fante Kitchen Shop in Philadelphia’s Italian Market. The store is like candy land for cooks. I only needed a Fusilli iron but I came out with much more, including a hemisphere cake pan.

As soon as I saw this dome shaped pan I knew what I wanted to bake: A Delizia al Limoncello!

Since July, however, I hadn’t had a chance to bake my Delizia, among other reasons I had to wait for my homemade Limoncello to be ready – for my Limoncello recipe click here.

What better occasion than my 10,000 views to inaugurate my new pan and experiment with a new recipe?!

The original name of this dessert is Delizie al limone (delizie is plural of delizia); it’s the youngest dessert of the Campania region. The dessert has quickly become the symbol of the Amalfi coast, where in 1978, chef Carmine Marzuillo presented this delicacy for the first time.

Generally, the delizie are prepared as individual servings, in the shape of a small dome and they are often arranged in a cluster to allow for a large, more dramatic presentation. I decided to utilize my large hemisphere cake pan to create one big Delizia. Also, I call my dessert Delizia al Limoncello, because, unlike the original recipe, I use Limoncello in every element of the cakes.

So, I celebrate another milestone of my adventure sharing this recipe with all of you.

It’s my way to say THANK YOU to all of you for following me, leaving kind comments, and showing your support.

Please keep visiting and sharing with the world my little piece of Italy.

NOTES:

  • You can bake as individual serving using half sphere baking pan – I just found a silicone mold that seems great on Amazon – or muffins pan.
  • For a more kids friendly version, you can substitute the limoncello with equal amount of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  • You can substitute the potato starch with cornstarch. In this case use only 2 tablespoon of cornstarch and increase the flour by 2 tablespoons.

Ricetta

DELIZIA AL LIMONCELLO

Cosa serve (What you need)

For the Pan di Spagna (Italian sponge cake)

5 eggs (yolk and white separated)

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup all purpose flour

¼ cup potato starch (you can substitute with cornstarch – see note above)

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 pinch of salt

1 teaspoon limoncello

For the pastry cream filling

¾ cup flour (sifted)

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

2 cups whole milk

Grated zest from 2 lemons (best quality and organic)

1 cup heavy whipping cream

¼ cup limoncello

For the pastry cream to cover the cake

2 cups whole milk

¾ cup sugar

3 teaspoons cornstarch

Grated zest from 2 lemons (best quality and organic)

1/3 cup limoncello

1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

For the syrup

1-1/2 cup sugar

½ cup water

zest of 1 lemon

¼ cup limoncello

Cosa fare (What to do)

Step 1: making the cake

  • Pre heat oven at 350 degrees. Butter and floured the cake pan.
  • Sift together the flour, potato starch and ¼ teaspoon salt.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer, with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites and a pinch of salt and beat until stiff peaks form.

  • Transfer to another bowl.
  • Rinse and dry the bowl of the standing mixer, switch to the paddle attachment and add the egg yolks and sugar. Beat until light, fluffy and creamy at least15 minutes.
  • Add the grated lemon zest and limoncello and blend into the mixture.
  • Slowly add the egg whites meringue. Make sure you are working on low speed during this step.
  • When the egg whites are blended into the mixture start adding the sifted flour. Blend the ingredients always working on low speed.
  • Pour the mixture into the cake pan.

  • Bake for 40 minutes. Test: a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean when the cake is done.
  • Turn the oven off but leave the cake inside for 5 minutes.
  • Remove from oven, let stand in the pan for additional 5 minutes.
  • Carefully remove from pan (upside down) and cool completely on a cooling rack.

Step 2: making the filling and topping creams

In a pan add all the milk (4 cups) and the grated lemon zest of the 4 lemons. When is about to boil turn the heat off, cover with a lid and let rest for 30 minutes. Then filter through a sieve and divide the milk into two equal parts (you will use each half for each cream).

For the Limoncello cream filling:

  • In a pan add the eggs and the sugar and with a hand held mixer beat until light, fluffy and creamy.
  • Add the sifted flour and mix well with the aid of a whisker.
  • Slowly add the one half of the filtered milk (2 cups). Mix well to blend.
  • Move the pan on the stove and on low heat – while stirring – cook until cream is dense.
  • Remove from heat, cover with plastic wrap and let cool completely. TIP: place the plastic wrap directly on the cream to avoid forming the skin.

  • In the bowl of the standing mixer, with the whisk attachment, whip the entire heavy whipping cream (2-1/2 cups total).
  • When the cream is cold, stir until smooth, add ¼ cup of limoncello and fold in 1/3 of the previously whipped cream.

For the Limoncello topping cream:

  • In a pan add the sugar and cornstarch. Slowly add the second half of the filtered milk (2 cups) and mix well with a whisk.
  • Move the pan on the stove and on low heat – while stirring – cook until cream starts to become dense.

  • Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  • When the cream is cold add 1/3 cup of limoncello and fold in the remaining whipped cream. This cream should result fluid and not very dense.

Step 3: making the Limoncello syrup:

  • In a small pan add the water, sugar and zest of 1 lemon. Bring to boil and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  • When cold add the limoncello.

Step 4: Assembling the cake:

  • When the cake is completely cool you can cut the base. Do not discard the base; you will use it later. Tip: To avoid flattening the dome top, I set my cake over a small bowl.

  • Leaving a ½ inch edge, (I used a small bowl as template), using a spoon, carve out the inside of the cake.

  • Splash the interior and top edge with the syrup.

  • Pour the filling cream into the carved cake.

  • Top with the base that you had previously. Splash the base with syrup.

  • Place your serving dish over the base of the cake and carefully turn upside down.

  • Splash the dome with the syrup and then cover with the topping cream. Make sure you are using a large serving plate. Remember, the cream should be fluid and will run all around the base of the cake.

  • Let set for 5 minutes and then decorate the base with whipped cream.

  • You can decorate the top with candied lemon or, as I did, with thin lemon zest ribbons.

Step 5:

HAVE A BIG SLICE AND ENJOY!!!

NOTES:

  • You might have some extra filling cream, use it to make a thin layer into each individual serving plates . . . a little bed for you wonderful slice of cake.
  • If you bake small individual cakes, you can arrange them in a large dish and cover with the topping cream. You will then spoon out into individual serving plates.

This recipe has many steps and requires some time but it is a wonderful treat for a special occasion.

I will be in Sorrento in two weeks and I will sure enjoy a delizia there, but in a meanwhile my family and I have been enjoying My Delizia al Limoncello very much!

Which is your favorite cake for a special occasion?

The recipe for Pan di Spagna is adapted from my old cookbook, Il libro dei dolci.

The recipes of the creams are adapted for gennarino.org

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Struffoli and Mostaccioli My favorite Christmas desserts

Yesterday was December 21, the shortest day of the year. That means brighter days are ahead and Christmas is only 4 days away.

Time to start My holiday desserts and to share two of My favorite Christmas recipes .

You probably all know about the Panettone from Milano and the Pandoro from Verona, both delicious holiday cakes and today easily available in many gourmet grocery stores.

But, how many of you know about two delicious specialties of the Neapolitan region, the Struffoli and the Mostaccioli?

The Struffoli and the Mostaccioli are nowhere to be found in the States (or at least around my area) so I had no choice that to make My own.

The Struffoli are a true Neapolitan dolce (dessert). It appears that the Greeks brought this specialty to Naples. From there it has widespread throughout Central and Southern Italy; however, with some variations from region to region.

The Struffoli are little balls of dough fried and then coated in honey. Their flavor improves after a couple of days. That’s why it is important to prepare them a few days before the event.  I use a traditional recipe without baking powder because I like My Struffoli a little crunchy. If you prefer a softer consistency add 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder and let the dough rest for 60 minutes. Also, the original recipe includes the Italian liqueur Strega or Anisette but, since just few weeks ago I bottled My Limoncello (you should know this if you have been following My blog!), I am using that in my recipe.

The Mostaccioli, also called Mustaccioli are sort of large biscotti (cookies) shaped like a diamond and covered with a chocolate glaze or ganache. The name Mostaccioli comes from the peasant’s habit to use the wine must in order to develop a more  intense and sweet flavor. 

The list of traditional Christmas desserts from the Neapolitan area also include other delicacies like the Susamielli, honey based biscotti shaped like the letter S. The Roccoco`, very hard biscotti, shaped like donuts with an intense flavor of almond and citrus. The Divinoamore, prepared for the first time by the nuns of the convent Divino Amore. The almonds and lemons along with the light pink glaze give these small bites a unique Mediterranean flavor.

I have yet to experiment with these recipes, may be next Christmas I will but for now, I hope you will enjoy My Struffloli and Mostaccioli.

My Mostaccioli

Ingredients

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nut meg

2 finely crushed cloves

the zest from 1 orange and 1 tangerine

juice from 1 orange and 1 tangerine

2 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon Grand Marnier (optional)

1 pinch of salt

Warm water as necessary

For the glaze

1/4 pound semisweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup heavy cram

Directions

In a bowl of a food processor sift together the flower, the salt, the baking powder, the baking soda and the cocoa powder. Add the sugar and combine the ingredients at slow speed.

Add the orange and tangerine zest and the spices and process until combined.

In a measuring cup pour the required amount of  honey , add the orange juice and tangerine juice and then add to the dry ingredients (do not rinse the cup, add  ¼ cup of warm water and keep it aside).  Mix the dough at medium speed allowing all the ingredients to come together.

Add the Grand Marnier and keep processing the dough. Add the warm water as necessary to obtain a compact dough.

Mix the dough until it detaches from the side of the bowl. It should be smooth with no lumps.

Damp the dough on a surface slightly dusted with flour and shape into a ball.

Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven at 360 degree F.

Remove the dough form the refrigerator and on a surface well dusted with flour roll out the dough to a ½ inch thick. Move the dough around and check underneath to make sure it is not sticking.

Cut the dough into diamond shape, large and/or small and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer on wire rack to completely cool.

Prepare the chocolate ganache.

In a pan combine chocolate chips and the heavy cram in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate melts.

With a brush cover the bottom of the Mostaccioli with a thin layer of chocolate and let them dry completely. Once they are dry, flip the Mostaccioli and pour the chocolate over the top. Work on a wire rack with a pan underneath because you will have to allow the chocolate to drizzle down the sides. The Mostaccioli need several hours to dry completely.

My Struffoli

Ingredients

4 – ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoon granulated sugar

4 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk

5- 2/3 tablespoon unsalted butter

zest from ½ lemon

1 pinch of salt

2 tablespoon of Limoncello (options are Strega liqueur or Anisette or Rum)

Vegetable oil for frying (I use Peanut oil)

1 cup of honey

Multicolor nonpareils

Mixed candied fruit chopped into small pieces.

Directions

In a bowl of a food processor sift the flower, add the salt, the sugar, the lemon zest and the butter and combine the ingredients at slow speed.

Slowly add the eggs and lastly the liqueur and process the dough until it detaches from the side of the bowl (add a little bit of cold water if necessary).

The dough should be smooth.

Damp the dough on a surface slightly dusted with flour and shape into a ball.

Wrap the dough in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.

On a surface well dusted with flour knead the dough for few minutes and then divide into small balls, the size of oranges.

Working with one ball of dough at the time, roll the dough into ½ inch diameter dowels and cut dowels into ½ inch long pieces. As you cut the pieces placed them on a surface dusted with flour.

Right before frying transfer  the pieces of dough (one batch at the time) into a sieve and shake to remove excess flour.

In a deep frying pan, heat the oil to 175 degree and fry the pieces of dough in batches. Do not overcrowd the pan.

As soon as they became light gold, remove from the oil, drain and transfer into a plate lined with absorbent kitchen paper.

Place a large pan on top of a pot with simmering water. Pour the honey in the pan and let melt. Remove from heat and add the fried Struffoli, add the candied fruit and stir until all the Struffoli are completely coated with honey.

To plate the Struffoli, place a glass or a round jar in the center of a serving plate and then place the Struffoli all around to form a ring. Sprinkle with nonpareils and let sit few hours before removing the glass/jar.

You still have time to make these two wonderful desserts, follow the recipes and remember I will be around if you have questions.

Don’t forget to check My blog tomorrow for My Christmas Eve Menu`!

My Limoncello Biscotti . . . Perfect for tea!

Perfect for tea!

As promised, here it  is the  follow up on my previous post on Limoncello.

Last Saturday, during the bottling step of the Limoncello making, I kept thinking that I could surely find a good use for this flavorful liqueur infused lemon’s zest. So, rather than discarding it, I decided to save it in a Tupperware. Once my client was gone, I proceeded in decking up my bottles and then it finally hit me . . . ” I was going to make Limoncello Biscotti (cookies)!”

I used an old cookie’s recipe to which I added my wonderful zest and of course some Limoncello. Two hours later My Limoncello biscotti were already cooling on the wire racks! My son would not wait for them to completely cool and kept stealing them every time I would turn my eyes away. My husband after tasting few of them said they were buonissimi (very very good), my neighbor and  friend Lori, who later in the day was pet sitting my two dogs, said they were delicious. However, she was cornered by Luna and Vera (my 10 years old Golden Retriever and my 15 months old Golden Doodle) that didn’t agree with her eating our cookies!

What did I think about the cookies? I thought they were good, yet, I wanted the flavor to be a little more pronounced so I quickly jot down a note on my recipe jurnal to add more zest and Limoncello next time. Ok . . . they were not perfect this first time around, still, they were a perfect companion to my afternoon tea.

I am sure Santa would enjoy these cookies too!

Twenty four hours later my biscotti are gone . . . good thing I had frozen some of my precious zest!

I thought of other ways to use the Limoncello infused lemon’s zest and, although I have not experimented yet, I bet that a Limoncello Pound Cake with bits of zest would be just wonderful! So would be a Limoncello Sorbet or a Limoncello Custard to serve warm with sugar cookies . . . che delizia! (how deliciuos!)

Can you think of other ways to use the zest? Let me know.

Without further ado I give you My recipe.

My Limoncello Biscotti

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 – 1/4 cup granulated sugar

7 oz cold unsalted butter (My preference is European butter)

1 large whole egg

2 egg yolks

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup of Limoncello infused lemon’s zest

1/4 cup of Limoncello

Before you start, in a bowl sift together the flour, the salt and the baking powder.  Also, cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and keep it chill.

In a bowl of a food processor combine the sugar and the lemon zest, pulse until the zest is reduced into tiny bits.

Add the butter, the whole egg and the yolks and process until all the ingredients are combined.

Slowly add the Limoncello then the sifted flour.

Mix on low speed until the dough starts coming together.

Damp the dough on a surface dusted with flour and shape into  two balls.

Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.

You now have two options to shape your  cookies. Work with one ball of dough at the time, keeping the other refrigerated.

Option 1:

Pinch off the dough to form 1 inch balls. Slightly flatten the balls between your hands and placed them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Use your floured index finger to create a slight depression in the center of each cookie.

Bake the cookies for 15-20 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes then, transfer on wire rack to cool completely. Now that I think about it, once the cookies are cool, you could  fill the little depression with a small dollop of Nutella!

Option 2:

On a surface well dusted with flour roll out the dough to a 1/4 inch thick (make sure your rolling pin is also dusted with flour). Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking. Also, work fast so the dough doesn’t get warm.  Cut into desired shape, place on baking sheet lined with parchment, or silicone baking mat.

Refrigerate the cookies for 10 minutes before baking.

Remove from refrigerator and bake for 9 to 10 minutes or until they are just beginning to turn brown around the edges (I accidentally cooked mine few extra minutes. Make sure you use a timer!). Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer on wire rack until completely cool.

Enjoy your biscotti with tea, or coffee.

Related Post: Limoncello 

Limoncello

Today I will diverge from my Holiday theme because I was able to taste my homemade Limoncello.

Il Limoncello di Capri

It is still up for debate where this lemon liqueur originated between Sorrento, Amalfi and Capri. The liqueur first appeared in 1900, but only in 1988 Massimo Canale registered the first trademark “Limoncello”.  Still, at that time only a few restaurateurs on the Amalfi coast, Sorrento and Capri were producing it. However, it was often only reserved for special guests (ospiti).

The first time I tried the lemon liqueur was in 1986. I was with my recently married husband in a little family owned osteria in Tramonti, a small town in the Amalfi coast area sitting at the foot of the Lattari Mountains. At the end of what I recall as a delicious lunch (pranzo), the host, feeling cheerful  in the presence of this happily newlywed couple, offered a taste of his precious homemade lemon liqueur. Oh . . . it was special! The aroma of the lemon alone was exhilarating!

A few years went by before I saw this liqueur Limoncello, on the shelves of restaurants and markets. Today the Limoncello is everywhere in Italy and abroad. Does it all taste good? I don’t believe so. At first, the recipes were passed on from mother to daughter, but now they are all over the internet. There are many variations, such as the use of grain alcohol or Vodka, how long the peels have to steep in the liquid, and so on.

I personally only trust my Zia (aunt) Anna’s recipe. She makes the best homemade Limoncello! However, there is a catch! She tells me ”the only lemons you can use are the ones handpicked from Sorrento” It’s easy for her to say, she lives ten minutes from Sorrento!

Well . . . I live on the other side of the Ocean. So I had to give up the idea of making my own Limoncello and, I did. Until two months ago, when one of my clients from my cooking classes asked me if I would teach her how to make Limoncello. I couldn’t say no.

Four weeks ago Mary Anne and I met to start the long process of making Limoncello.     Earlier that morning I had been to the local organic market in search of the perfect lemons (limoni). And, lucky me! I found these beautiful lemons, medium size and with still a tiny hint of green, just what I needed! Most of all  they had a wonderful aroma, I was all set!

Mary Anne and I peeled the lemons to perfection with no trace of the bitter pith on the rinds.

We transferred the rinds into two glass jugs, added the alcohol, sealed the jugs and wrapped them in kitchen towels.

For four weeks the jugs  sat in my kitchen (cucina) cabinet. Finally, yesterday I added the water-sugar solution and let it rest overnight. This morning Mary Anne and I finally strained and bottled the liqueur. 

The bottled Limoncello should have rested in the refrigerator for at least four hours before the first taste, needless to say . . . we couldn’t wait!

Here it was, the moment of truth! And then Mary Anne said “Oh my . . . it smells so good! and . . . it is yummy!”

This Limoncello surely will be under someone’s Christmas Tree!

Dear Zia Anna, thank you for the recipe. The lemons are not from Sorrento, but I think you would be proud. Cin cin!

And you . . . have you ever had Limoncello? Do you like it? Where did you have the best one? Do you make your own?  Tell me!

I know what you are thinking . . . and here it is, Zia Anna’s Limoncello recipe (ricetta).

Limoncello di Zia Anna

 Ingredients:

10 medium organic lemons

5 cups granulated sugar

1 qt filtered water

1 qt Everclear (190-prof) grain alcohol

Make sure you use organic lemons. DO NOT WASH THE LEMONS,  just rub them with a clean damp kitchen towel.

If you cannot find organic lemons, wash them in warm water and brush them, then dry them completely.

Using a vegetable peeler (Y peeler works best), remove the peel from the lemons in long strips.

My suggestion: reserve the lemons for another use such as scaloppine al limone or tagliolini al limone.

Using a small sharp knife, trim away any residual white pith from the lemon peels; discard the pith.

Place the lemon rind in a glass jar (3-qt jar with wide opening and with lid).

Pour the alcohol over the rind and seal the jar.

Cover the jar with a large kitchen towel and let the lemon rind steep, in a dark place for one month.

After one month, stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over low heat until the sugar completely dissolves, about 10 minutes.

Cool completely. Pour the syrup over the alcohol/ rind mixture.

Seal the jar and allow to rest overnight.

The next day, strain the limoncello into a large pouring bowl,  by lining a strainer with heavy-duty cheesecloth  to make sure that no rinds or residuals get into the limoncello. You might have to do this in batches.

My suggestion: save the rinds in a Tupperware in the refrigerator and wait for my next blog!

You are now ready to bottle. Use sterilized bottles. Line a funnel with cheesecloth and fill the bottles, seal and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours.

Transfer the bottles in the freezer.

Alway serve ice-cold. Enjoy!