Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sbrisolona- Italian Crumbly Cake



Sometimes, I choose recipes because I know exactly where to find the ingredients. When I read some grumpy comments regarding Gina DePalma's use of "specialty ingredients" like almond flour, chestnut flour and "00" flour, I thought haha! "00" flour and chestnut flour are on a shelf near the pasta at Penn Mac.

Pittsburgh is a great city for bakers. In California, I drive three or four places before I have everything I need. Here, I can walk two blocks to the Indian mini-mart and choose from several types of shredded coconut. I can take a quick bus to the Strip District and pick up chestnut cream, salt cod, lavender, dulce de leche, or twenty kinds of fish sauce.

I try to restrain myself and avoid buying things I don't need, but I do keep an eye out for ingredients. I ogle the baking aisles at Whole Foods and the East End Food Co-op. I wander into random Asian or Eastern European grocery stores and make a mental note of what they have. It's relaxing, in a way.

I picked this recipe because I was curious about the flour. "00" flour is very finely milled flour with as much of the germ and bran removed as possible. It was interesting; the batter was extremely thick and the finished cake was dense and chewy with a fine crumb.

I'd say this cake was worth buying the extra ingredients. After it cooled, I sat down and had a large piece with a cup of coffee. The flavors were clean and simple: vanilla and almond with a hint of cinnamon. The crunchy, toasted almond topping was nice too. I broiled it a little for color. I thought it tasted very Italian, if that means anything. It also reminded me a little of sugar cookie dough, which seems like a weird association.

Italian Crumbly Cake
from Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano
makes one 10-inch cake, approximately 10 servings

For the cake
1 1/4 cups "00" flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg
4 large egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick/4oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the topping
1 1/2 cups sliced blanched almonds
1 large egg white
3 tbsp granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 325F and position a rack in the center. Lightly grease a 10-inch springform pan* with nonstick cooking spray or butter, dust it with flour, and tap to knock out the excess.

To make the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together the "00" flour, almond flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon and set aside.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg, egg yolks, and sugar on medium speed until they are thick and pale yellow, about three minutes. On low speed, add the dry ingredients and beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla extract, followed by the melted butter. Switch to medium speed and beat for 30 seconds.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

To make the topping: Put the sliced almonds in a medium bowl. Lightly beat the egg white in a small bowl with a fork until it is foamy and light, then pour half of it over the almonds, stirring to coat them evenly (discard the rest of the egg white). Sprinkle the almonds with the sugar and toss to coat them. Spread the almond topping evenly over the surface of the batter.

Bake the cake for 25-30 minutes, or until it is springy to the touch and golden brown on top and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove the sides and allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack.

To serve, carefully remove the bottom of the springform pan with an offset spatula and transfer the cake to a serving plate. Any leftover cake can be wrapped in plastic and served the next day.

*I used a plain 10 inch cake pan lined with foil. I inverted it onto a rack, then placed another rack on top of the cake and turned it right-side up.


Jennifer said...

Looks delicious! You're very lucky to have access to specialty ingredients.

amanda said...

You are absolutely right about driving around to 3 diff spots to find the ingredients in California. It can be a little frustrating, especially when you live in a big city that is still set up like suburbia. I like the variety of recipes that you try because it's not the same ole boring stuff.

Aran said...

clean and simple sound great to me right now, with a cup of coffee, just like you had it. You really do bake a lot, don't you Lisa? Two posts in one day?! I'm impressed. Once again, photos, amazing. Great lighting you have!
Thanks for the kind words you left on my blog yesterday. I say things that I mean and they are thoughtful because your posts make them be. You are talented!

Julie said...

Those grumpy people may simply not live near a specialty store or lack the time to drive around in search of ingredients not in a normal store. You should feel fortunate to have access to these things. The cake looks good!

michelle @ TNS said...

i have that book, and this isn't one of the recipes that jumped out at me - but now i'll have to reconsider.

Clumbsy Cookie said...

I love Sbrisolona! Yours look great, just like the ones we can eat in Italy!