Saturday, 27 September 2014

Italian Dolce

Italian food is so popular the world that most people will be able to rattle off the classic dish names like Bruschetta, Pizza, Pasta, Risotto, Insalata Caprese, Spaghetti Bolognaise and the like. However, when quizzed about Italy’s desserts, most people only know of Tiramisu. Which is a shame because Italian cuisine boasts of some truly delightful desserts And the best part about these dolce, as the Italians call their sweet treats, is that most of them can be easily re-created at home.


A simple yet widely preferred dessert is the affogato; in which freshly brewed espresso is poured over a bowl of vanilla ice cream. The heat and cold together create an elegant dish that can be topped up with softly whipped cream, crushed amaretti or nuts. Stock up on one of our real vanilla ice creams to put this together any time a sweet craving hits.


Then there is the Zuppa Inglese. Made from one of the main ingredients in a Tiramisu, the Savoiardi biscuits, the Zuppa Inglese is also a layered pudding. A rich dessert with similarities to the English Trifle, in which the biscuits or cake fingers are soaked in rum, layered alternately with chocolate-cinnamon and vanilla-orange custard and then, finally garnished with chocolate shavings.

Also another cake based dessert is the Zuccotto; a chilled, dome-shaped sweet dish believed to have originated in Florence, inspired by the shape of the Duomo Cathedral. Variations abound, but it is essentially made with sponge cake soaked in a liqueur or brandy, assembled in a dome shaped mould and then filled with whipped cream, toasted nuts like almonds, hazelnuts and covered with chocolate ganache.  Try out this classy, impressive dessert at your next family get-together and watch the compliments flow in.   


The Panna cotta is often termed the perfect dessert; its global popularity is proof of this claim. The name translates to ‘cooked cream” and it is a creamy, velvety smooth pudding, made from milk, cream, sugar and gelatine. The Panna Cotta acts like a canvas against which a whole range of flavours can be explored from the traditional vanilla, chocolate, mango, raspberry to more  unusual ones like honey-lavender, rosewater-pistachio or  orange-star anise to name a few.



However, why stop at the traditional dolci? Get creative with Italian ingredients to create your own sweet treats. Use the tiramisu as a template to play around with flavours. Try using berries instead of coffee or spike the dessert with limoncello and lemon zest for a light, fresh spin on this Italian classic. Another play on tiramisu is to swap out the Savoiardi biscuits for amaretti cookies which will give it a unique new taste and texture. For an unusual Italian dessert that will stand out on any dinner table, serve up a dessert ravioli. Try stuffing the pasta with ricotta and dark chocolate chunks and serve with a light lemon glaze. Or add cocoa powder to the pasta itself and serve it with a passion fruit sauce for a pretty and sweet end to a meal. 

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