The strawberry season here is almost over, which is a shame! As I did last year, I have been making the strawberry confiture hanging on until the last minute!
This year, I made shortbread which goes beautifully well with the confiture. I was not sure if it should be called ‘strawberry shortcake’ or ‘Victoria sandwich shortbread’ – it’s not raspberry jam though, so mixed them up: Shortbread Sandwich Cake.
(makes about 8 )
for the shortbread
180 g white rice flour, plus for dusting *
20 g ground almond
½ tbsp baking powder
60 g caster sugar (I used extra fine caster sugar)
⅛ tsp salt (I used finely powdered salt)
110 g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
2 – 3 tbsp whole fat milk, to adjust
½ tsp vanilla extract
for the topping
fresh strawberries, hulled
double cream, whipped with sugar
*If you try Japanese rice flour, buy komeko or rice flour for baking, not joshinko, mochiko or shirotamako for sticky rice cake.
** Japanese strawberries are sweeter, which is the reason I made the fruit/sugar ratio 5:1. Add more sugar according to taste.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking sheet.
Sift the flour, ground almond, baking powder, sugar and salt together into a bowl. Put in the butter and rub in until smooth. Combine the 2 tbsp milk and vanilla extract, stir in the flour mixture, then together to form a dough. Add more milk little by little as needed, but not sticky.
Roll out to the thickness of 6 mm on a lightly floured surface, then stamp out using a 5 cm diameter round cutter. Carefully transfer using a serving knife or something to the baking tray and bake for about 8 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. When done, leave on the tray to cool completely.
Sandwich the shortbread together with the confiture, and top with a strawberry and whipped cream.
I’m in good health; however, I’m afraid I have taken too much gluten and sugar because of my baking experiments…. You know, I don’t want to throw them away…, so now I am trying to cut down on some.
(for about 10 servings/5 cm diameter cups)
[for the cake]
80 g white rice flour
30 g chickpea flour
20 g buckwheat flour
20 g ground almond
1½ tsp gluten free baking powder
⅛ tsp gluten free bicarbonate of soda
a smidgen of salt (I used finely powdered salt)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground mace
½ tsp ground allspice
¼ ground ginger powder
¼ tsp ground coriander powder
a pinch of clove
4 tbsp rice bran oil (or sunflower oil)
4 tbsp date syrup
4 tbsp maple syrup (I used Grade A: amber/rich flavour)
1 tbsp Cointreau
½ tsp vanilla extract
200 g coarsely grated carrot
40 g raisin, finely chopped
30 g walnut, chopped
[for the frosting]
140 g cream cheese
30 g sour cream
2 tbsp maple syrup
⅛ tsp vanilla extract
a little cinnamon
a little salt (possibly finely powdered salt)
[for the topping, optional]
chervil or chopped pistachio
candied orange peel or marmalade
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix the dry ingredients and set aside.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs. Add in the oil, syrups, Cointreau and vanilla, and beat well. Spoon in the flour mixture, then stir in the carrot, raisins and walnuts. Mix until well combined.
Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases. Bake for 25 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Sit at least 24 hours at room temperature but don’t let them dry.
For the frosting, beat the cheese, soured cream, syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and salt until smooth, then chill until required. Spread the cream on top of the cakes with a cutlery knife or pipe swirls. Decorate with the orange and chervil or pistachio.
I’m a big fan of pistachio, but I don’t mean any. I fell in love with Sicilian pistachio when I travelled to the island for the first time in 2012. Pistachio gelato, biscuit, cake, pistachio cream filled pastry, etc…. I cannot help trying whenever in the island, and bringing back as many the nuts and the products as possible!
Above all, the nuts from Bronte, a small town on the west flank of the active volcano Mt Etna, is the best. Bronte pistachio, so called ‘green gold of Sicily’ or ’emerald of Sicily’, is characterised by its bright green colour and its marked aroma and flavour. Once I baked a loaf with Bronte pistachios and the flour along with some lemons from my parents’ garden, which was absolutely beautiful!
As for crema di pistacchio, or pistachio cream, I was no idea how to use it other than top over vanilla ice cream or spread on pieces of bread, pancakes etc. It could be used for cake filling, but one jar was insufficient in quantity…. The breakfast I was served at a B&B in Enna this March, however, gave me an idea: chickpea flour biscuit with pistachio cream filling.
And also, a recipe booklet the host gave me two years earlier inspired me. The booklet is a collection of sweets recipes for religious festivities around Enna, and a lovely handmade piece!
I added ground almond to make it more Sicilian – like pasticcini di mandorle, Sicilian almond dough biscuit, which is crispy and slightly chewy, but soft and moist inside. The first experiment turned out to be perfect except that the dough was dry and not sticky enough to wrap the cream up. Of course, it’s totally gluten free!! I wanted to follow the traditional Sicilian style and keep ingredients simple, so I made it ‘pinwheel’ as the solution!
Oh, I need to mention the black spiral one with sweetened black sesame paste. The dough was going to go with only pistachio cream at first, but the experiment with black sesame paste unexpectedly resulted in a good outcome! As I didn’t have sufficient cream, I attempted with several substitutes: peanut cream or paste (but not butter) was also nice, but chestnut cream wasn’t at all. I guess hazelnut cream would work.
To be honest, however, the pistachio cream ones are not photogenic at all – the colour becomes dull when together with the dough, so this is the main reason I added black spirals 😀
100 g chickpea flour
100 g ground almond/almond meal
80 g caster sugar
80 g lard or shortening (trans free palm shortening)
40g whisked egg
100 g pistachio cream (or sweetened black sesame/peanut paste as such but not runny)
Preheat oven to 140° C.
In a bowl, cream the lard or shortening and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the whisked egg a third at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour and almonds until evenly combined. Divide half.
Using your hands, spread half of the dough evenly on a sheet of waxed or baking parchment paper (20 cm x 20 cm square). Trim the edges. Spread half of the cream or the paste over the dough.
Lift the end of the sheet, and roll up using the sheet like a sushi roll but pressing tightly. Wrap with the sheet when it comes to the end. Repeat with the remaining. Refrigerate the two rolls for at least 30 minutes.
Remove from refrigerator and unwrap, then cut into 1.5 cm slices. Put the slices apart on greased baking sheet. Bake at 140° C for 12-15 minutes. Cool completely.
note: If the baking time is not enough, the chickpea dough tastes a little bit grassy. If longer, they turn to crispy like ordinary biscuits. This baking might be a bit tricky. Please adjust the temperature and time.
MUST SHOPS in PALERMO
If you’d like to purchase Sicilian coffee, then go to Ideal Caffè Stagnitta, a roasting company, just off Plazzo Pretorio. Cannot find the way? No worries, the beautiful roasting aroma will lead you to the place. You can also try a cup first at its cafe, Casa Stagnitta adjacent to the shop.
Orland, which I mentioned on my Lemon Spaghetti post, is a good place to buy Bronte pistachios, but I found a new one near Teatro Massiomo. Genuino is a fantastic deli with good quality Sicilian food products, and Enrico will give you a warm welcome when you step into the shop. I recommend the foodstuff from his village: olives, cheeses, cured sausages, breads, sweets, nuts etc. The olives I tried were larger than normal ones, and more plump and juicy!
I don’t remember the name, but the cheese Enrico’s friend makes – he said it ‘invented’ – was superb! You must try it!!
My first stay at Bianko & Bianko was so pleasant that I went back again. The host helped me a lot to plan the visit during the Holy Week – sent me the programme of the processions with useful tips. Her restaurant recommendations are always superb!