Turin (Torino in Italian) is an interesting and often overlooked city in the Piedmont (Piemonte in Italian) region of Italy. It is in the northwest section of the region between the Po River and the foothills of the Alps. The city is famous for the Shroud of Turin, Fiat auto plants, Baroque cafes and architecture and its arcaded shopping promenades and museums. Turin hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics because the nearby mountains and valleys are a huge attraction for winter sports. This hilly region bordering France and Switzerland is, also, ideal for dry farming grapes which are deep-rooted enough to withstand periods of dry weather.
The Piedmont region has some of the best food in Italy. Over 160 types of cheese and famous wines, like Barolo and Barbaresco, come from here, as do truffles, the very expensive mushroom. Turin has some outstanding pastries, especially chocolate ones. Chocolate for eating, as we know it today, (bars and pieces) originated in Turin. The chocolate-hazelnut sauce, gianduja, is a specialty of Turin.
Turin derives its name from the Celtic word tau, meaning mountain, and was founded almost 2400 years ago by a Celtic tribe, the Taurini. The Taurini conquered much of France and part of Spain before heading into what is known today as Italy. In Italian torino means “little bull”. The bull is still part of the city standard (flag) to this day.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Turin, which was always prized for its fertile land and access to the Po River, was conquered by various barbarian tribes including the Goths, Lombards and Franks, who established the city as an earldom in the 8th century A.D.
However, when the Savoy family dynasty conquered the city in the year 1280, the city would finally begin its rise to prominence. The history of Turin for the next 600 years is tied to that of the House of Savoy. The Savoys are also credited with bringing art, culture and architecture to Turin. The Savoys certainly spared no expense to make Turin beautiful. However, despite their best efforts to ‘Italianize’ the city, Turin’s layout is often compared to Paris more than any other Italian city.
The Savoys would reign over Italy until Benito Mussolini’s Fascists took over the country at the beginning of the 20th. century. By this time, Turin had turned its attention to industry and is, still, one of the world’s greatest automobile centers.
Turin has been producing chocolate for over three centuries. The origins of the city’s chocolate-making art can be traced back to the year 1678, when Madame Reale, who was then the Queen of the Savoy state, granted the first ever “license” to Turinese chocolate maker Giò Antonio Ari to make chocolate. Thus began the city’s closest relationship with chocolate, which continues until this day. The chocolate varieties created by Turinese chocolatiers are truly special and include several specialties, like the traditional Gianduiotto, which is shaped like an upturned boat and crafted out of sugar, cocoa and hazelnut paste; the Baci di Cherasco (Cherasco Kisses) which are made with dark chocolate and hazelnuts; the Alpino which contains a liqueur cream and is named after the hat worn by the Italian military regiments; and the Bicerin, which is a truly decadent layered hot chocolate coffee drink.
The chocolate most associated with Turin is gianduia. However, long before they started putting hazelnuts in chocolate, Turin was a major player in the world of European chocolate. Turin chocolatiers began selling chocolate in 1678, almost 200 years before the first Gianduia candy bar entered the chocolate scene in Turin. Gianduia, a blend of milk chocolate and ground hazelnuts, was invented due to the high cacao prices and problems with supply. In order to extend their supply of cacao, chocolatiers added hazelnuts that were, and still are, in abundance from the local Langhe area. One of the most popular combinations of chocolate and hazelnuts, worldwide, is Nutella. Ferrero-Rocher, located in the nearby city of Alba, began producing the popular spread in 1945. First is was called Giandujot, then Supercrema, then Cremalba. In 1964 it became Nutella.
Almost every chocolatier and sweet shop in Turin has a local version of the spread, using just as many variations as its numerous names. These artisanal versions are more likely to actually use Piedmont hazelnuts and less likely to have palm oil or preservatives that come with the mass produced spread in the rest of the world.
Here are just a few types of chocolate candies made in Turin:
Nocciolati – Nocciolati are gianduia chocolate bars with whole roasted hazelnuts throughout. These, along with other chocolate variations, decorate many chocolate storefront windows in Turin. They are sold by weight, usually the etto (100 grams). Nocciolato fondente is a dark chocolate bar with hazelnuts; nocciolato latte is milk chocolate with hazelnuts, and nocciolato bianco is white chocolate. Little bite-size versions are nocciolatini.
Cremino – In 1911 to launch its Fiat 4, the Turin-based auto manufacturer held a contest for Italian chocolatiers to create a chocolate in honor of the new car. “Il Cremino” made by Aldo Majani in Bologna won. For many years it was known as the Cremino Fiat. A square shape, it is layers of chocolate, initially four layers, but now made with three-layer. Two of the layers are gianduia chocolate. The middle layer varies in flavor and can be hazelnut cream, dark chocolate or coffee cream, to name just a few.
Tris di Nocciole – A classic in chocolate shops in Turin, they are simply three roasted hazelnuts covered in chocolate. You can find them in all three chocolate variations; dark, milk and white.
Tartufi (truffles) – Although they are a specialty of Turin, you can find truffles all over the world. Named after the expensive fungus they resemble, these balls of ganache, sometimes with a little liquor added to the ganache, are traditionally rolled in cocoa powder.
Rochers – Ferrero-Rocher (the company that also makes Nutella) introduced these “rocks” to the world in 1982. Many chocolatiers in the city make them. If you love chocolate and hazelnuts, this is a dream combination. Generally, they start with a chocolate-covered hazelnut at the center; gianduia cream encases it. A very thin wafer is wrapped around the gianduia cream, separating it from the final coating of milk chocolate and chopped hazelnuts.
Healthy Chocolate Inspired Recipes From Turin, Italy
Italian Mocha (Bicerin)
Bicerin derives from an older drink, called Bavaresia, which was popular in the XVII century; unlike bicerin, it was stirred. Bicerin made its appearance in the 1840s, and enjoying a bicerin at the caffé in the morning soon became a ritual in Turin. Bicerin, a sinful drink, is prepared from coffee, cocoa, and whipped cream. A little goes a long way — the word bicerin means little glass — and, if you like it, you’ll be joining august company: Alexandre Dumas, Italo Calvino, Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso were all bicerin fans. The caffés of Turin keep their versions secret, but you might try it with this recipe, if you can afford the calories, if not use the second recipe, which is a healthy, tasty adaption:
Ingredients for Hot Chocolate
- 1 cup milk
- 1/3 cup good quality semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1-2 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
- 2 cups very strong coffee
- 1 tablespoon powdered coffee creamer (optional)
1 Heat the milk to boiling.
2 Reduce heat and whisk in chocolate and sugar.
3 Heat mixture to boiling while stirring continuously.
4 Remove from heat and whisk in coffee and creamer (if using, it thickens the drink a bit).
5 Add topping, see below
Ingredients for Bicerin Topping
- 1 part freshly made espresso
- 1 part freshly made hot chocolate, see above
- 1 part heavy cream
Place a cocktail shaker in the freezer until well chilled, at least 10 minutes. Fill a large heatproof glass with very hot tap water and set aside.
To serve: empty glass and dry. Layer ingredients in the glass by placing shot of espresso in the bottom and then, while slightly tilting the glass, slowly pouring in hot chocolate.
Remove shaker from freezer, add cream, and shake vigorously until frothy, at least 20 times. Spoon shaken cream on top of hot chocolate and serve immediately.
Tip: For an alcoholic bicerin, add 1 part coffee-flavored liqueur to the hot chocolate before layering it.
Cioccolata Calda (Hot Chocolate Italian-Style) – Healthy Version
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 cups milk plus 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons frozen fat-free, whipped topping, thawed
1. Mix the cocoa powder and sugar together in a small saucepan. Stir the 1 1/2 cups milk into the saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Place over low heat; slowly bring the mixture to a low simmer.
2. Whisk the 2 tablespoons of milk together with the cornstarch in a small cup; slowly whisk the cornstarch slurry into the cocoa mixture. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the hot chocolate reaches a pudding-like thickness, 2 to 3 minutes. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon of whipped topping.
- 2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut up
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Pound cake, toasted and diced for dipping
- Assorted fruit, for dipping
In a large microwavable bowl, combine chocolate and butter. Microwave on medium (50 percent power) 2 minutes; whisk until smooth.
Meanwhile in a small saucepan, heat water, milk, and honey over medium-high heat just until small bubbles appear around edge of pan. Whisk milk mixture into chocolate mixture until smooth. Serve fondue with cake and fruit.
- 1/4 cup sugar (or 2 tablespoons sugar alternative, such as Truvia)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
- 1/4 cup Frangelico (hazelnut-flavored liqueur)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 cups frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
- 2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts, toasted
Combine the sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, salt, and eggs in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.
Heat milk over medium-high heat in a small, heavy saucepan until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Gradually add hot milk to sugar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk.
Place the milk mixture back in the saucepan and cook over medium heat until very thick and bubbly (about 5 minutes), stirring constantly.
Spoon mixture into a medium bowl, and add liqueur, vanilla, and chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts.
Place bowl in a large ice-filled bowl for 15 minutes or until mixture is cool, stirring occasionally.
Remove bowl from ice. Gently fold in one-third of the whipped topping. Fold in remaining topping. Cover and chill at least 3 hours. Sprinkle with hazelnuts.
Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 2/3 cup mousse and 1 teaspoon hazelnuts)
Chocolate Chip Biscotti
- 2 cups whole-wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons flaxseed
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 large egg whites and 1 large egg or 3/4 cups egg substitute
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips (such as Hershey’s)
- 3/4 cup unsalted sliced almonds
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, flaxseed, soda, and salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Set aside.
Combine sugars, egg in an electric mixer bowl; beat at high speed for 2 minutes. Add vanilla; mix well. Add flour mixture to egg mixture; stir on low speed until combined. Fold in chocolate and almonds with a spatula.
Turn dough out onto a floured board and divide dough into 3 equal portions. (I use a scale to weigh the dough.) Roll each portion into a 6-inch-long roll. Arrange the roll, 3 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Shape each into a 6 by 1-inch log. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until firm. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
3. Remove rolls from the baking sheet; cool 20 minutes on a wire rack. Cut rolls diagonally into 30 (1/2-inch) slices. Return slices, cut sides down, to the baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 325°; bake 10 minutes. Turn cookies over; bake 10 minutes (cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack.
Yield: 2 1/2 dozen (serving size: 1 biscotti)
Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake
- 1 cup amaretti or chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (See brands below.)
- 2 tablespoons butter or trans-free margarine, melted, such as Smart Balance
- 2/3 cups sugar (or 1/3 cup sugar alternative for baking)
- 3 cups bittersweet chocolate chips, divided
- 2 packages (8 ounces each) fat-free cream cheese
- 1 cup light sour cream
- 3 eggs or 3/4 cups egg substitute
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons almond extract
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
- 2 tablespoons fat free half-and-half
- 1 cups fresh raspberries + 1 tablespoon sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9″ springform pan with cooking spray and set aside.
2. Combine the cookie crumbs and margarine in a bowl and mix together. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan and refrigerate until ready to use.
3. Melt 2 cups of the chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler, taking care to keep the water from touching the bottom of the pan containing the chips. Remove from the heat and set aside.
4. Meanwhile, beat together the cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, and remaining 2/3 cup sugar or 1/3 cup sugar alternative with an electric mixer until smooth. Slowly beat in the flour, almond extract, and coffee granules. Add the melted chocolate and beat on high speed until well incorporated.
5. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and run a knife or thin metal spatula around the edge of the sides to loosen the sides but do not remove the cake from the pan. Place pan on a rack and let cool for 45 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.
6. When the cake is chilled, melt the remaining 1 cup chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler and stir in the half-and-half. Cool slightly and pour onto the top of the cake. Spread with a spatula to the edge so that some of the chocolate runs down the side of the cake. Chill until ready to serve.
Toss the raspberries with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Serve with cake.
- Grand Tour, Turin – a taster (alangent.wordpress.com)
- Wine Regions, Festivals and Interesting Sites in Piedmont Italy (vinoconvistablog.me)
- DIY Nutella [Nutella] (lifehacker.com)
As a child, I remember my father taking me with him when he went shopping on a Saturday morning, in what was, “the little Italy” neighborhood in our city. We would visit the Italian deli for cold cuts, Sorrento’s Bakery for bread, Sacco & Sons for sausage and a quick lunch trip to Spirito’s for a slice of pizza. I didn’t mind the excursion during the warm months because my father always bought me a lemon ice from one of the push cart venders. The neighborhood that I remember is no longer there, but eating lemon ice or sorbetto or gelato is timeless. The recipes for frozen ices and other Italian treats will keep you cool in the coming months, but light enough so you do not have to worry about the calories.
Gelato (Italian Ice Cream) has a very low butterfat content, which makes the flavors more intense on the tongue. In addition, less air is introduced into the mixture before it is frozen, creating a much more dense dessert that adds a surprising richness to the flavor. Gelato may be made with or without eggs, cornstarch or cream in its base and, frequently, has other ingredients such as fresh fruit or coffee added for flavor. I prefer to make gelato without raw eggs yolks, so another thickener, such as cornstarch, is needed. There are numerous recipes around but the best recipe, I found for this version, is from Mark Bittman in The New York Times. It is easy, healthy and offers many flavor ideas but does not sacrifice taste.
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- Ice Cream Maker
Put 2 cups milk, the sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. If using a vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and scrape seeds into liquid, then add pod. Cook until mixture begins to steam.
In a bowl, blend cornstarch and remaining milk; there should be no lumps. Remove bean pod from pot and discard. Add cornstarch mixture to pot. Cook, stirring, until it starts to thicken and barely reaches a boil, about 5 minutes. Immediately reduce heat to very low and stir for 5 minutes or so until thick. Stir in vanilla extract, if using.
If mixture has lumps, strain it into a bowl. Chill for 2 hours. When cool or if there are no lumps, pour into an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Yield: 1 generous pint.
- Honey-Jam Variation – Substitute honey for half the sugar. Add 1/2 cup good jam to mixture before freezing.
- Yogurt-Substitute yogurt for half the milk.
- Cherry-Vanilla-Add 1 cup halved, pitted cherries just before freezing.
- Strawberry, Blueberry or Peach-Add 1 cup hulled, sliced strawberries, blueberries, or peeled and chopped peaches before freezing.
- Coffee-Substitute 1/2 cup very strong coffee for 1/2 cup milk.
- Coconut-Substitute 1 cup coconut milk for 1 cup milk; add 1/2 cup toasted dried coconut.
- Mint Chocolate Chip-Add 1/2 cup minced mint and 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate just before freezing.
Fresh Strawberries With Limoncello
Limoncello has long been a staple in the lemon-producing region of the Italian Amalfi Coast, especially in Capri and Sorrento. Authentic Limoncello is made from Sorrento lemons that are grown in that region. Families in Italy have passed down recipes for generations, as every Italian family has their own Limoncello recipe.
When my son and daughter-in-law returned from a trip to Capri several years ago, they brought me back a bottle. Until that time, I had never heard of the product. I find it compliments many fruit desserts or adds another dimension to fruity drinks. Bottles of limoncello should be kept in the freezer until ready to serve.
- 20 whole large fresh strawberries, cut into halves
- 1 tablespoon limoncello
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- fresh ground pepper
Place cut strawberries in a bowl.
Pour over the liqueur, orange juice and sprinkle over with freshly ground pepper. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Serve as is or with biscotti.
Makes a perfect palate cleanser.
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/2 cup lemon juice, fresh
- 1/2 cup orange juice, fresh
- 4 tablespoons lime juice
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- Zest of 1 lime
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- Zest of 1/2 orange
Combine sugar and water in a small pot. Bring to a boil reduce and simmer just until the sugar is dissolved, let cool.
Stir together all the juices, zest and vanilla and add in the sugar syrup.
Chill syrup & juice blend in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.
You may serve the sorbetto right away or store it in the freezer.
Ricotta With Berries
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 1/2 cup raspberries
- 10 strawberries, hulled and chopped ( or sliced)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 6 ounces skim ricotta cheese
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon Amaretto
- Garnish with mint leaves
Combine the berries with lemon juice and sugar. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Mix ricotta ingredients together. This may be done in a food processor, if a finer texture is desired.
Serve berries over a scoop of the ricotta and garnish with mint. Serving it in a martini or other decorative glass makes for a nice presentation.
Strawberry and Ricotta Crepes
The crepes can be prepared in advance and stored in the freezer, so that you can pull this dessert together quickly. This recipe also makes more crepes than you’ll need for the servings below. Allow the extra crepes to cool, place waxed paper between them, stack and place in a ziplock bag in the freezer.
Other fresh seasonal fruits can be used instead of strawberries.
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 ½ teaspoons powdered sugar
- 2 cups (about 10 ounces) cleaned and sliced fresh strawberries
- 2 teaspoons agave syrup
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh mint
- Small pinch of salt
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup nonfat milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons agave syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
Measure all crepe ingredients and place into a blender; blend for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides. Blend for 15 seconds more. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. (This helps the flour absorb more of the liquids.)
Heat a crepe pan (or use a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet). Lightly grease the pan.
Measure about 1/4 cup batter into the pan. Tilt the pan to spread the batter. Once the crepe has lots of little bubbles, loosen the edges with a spatula and turn the crepe over. The second side cooks quickly, so after about 15 seconds, slide the crepe from the pan to a plate. Repeat with remaining batter (yield: about 20 crepes).
Mix ricotta with powdered sugar. Set aside.
Mix strawberries gently with sugar, mint and salt. Set aside.
If the crepes were prepared earlier in the day or frozen and defrosted overnight, reheat them in the microwave for a minute or two until warm.
Spread 1 tablespoon of ricotta mixture on one half of each of 8 warm crepes and fold to cover. Place two crepes on each serving plate.
Top with strawberries, dust with powdered sugar and serve.
Lemon Biscotti With Lemon Drizzle
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup pistachio nuts
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
- 1 tablespoon lemon extract
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- Cooking spray
- 2/3 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl.
Combine zest, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, lemon extract, oil and eggs. Add to the flour mixture, stirring until well-blended.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 7 to 8 times. Divide dough in half. Shape each portion into an 8-inch-long roll.
Place rolls 6 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; flatten each roll to 1-inch thickness. Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the rolls from the baking sheet; cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut each roll diagonally into 15 (1/2-inch) slices.
Place the slices, cut sides down, on the baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F; bake for 10 minutes.
Turn cookies over; bake an additional 10 minutes (the cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool).
Remove from baking sheet and cool completely on wire rack.
Combine 1 tablespoon lemon juice and powdered sugar; drizzle over the biscotti.
If you’re making enough to freeze, store them in the freezer without the drizzle, then make it just before serving.
Tangerine and Prosecco Sorbet
“Italian Champagne” – Prosecco is a sparkling wine made from late-ripening white grapes from the Veneto – Conegliano – Valdobbiadene region of Italy.
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- 2 cups chilled tangerine juice or tangerine orange juice
- 1 cup chilled Prosecco
- 1 tablespoon finely grated tangerine peel
Combine sugar and water in small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to boil.
Transfer syrup to medium bowl and chill until cold, about 2 hours.
Add tangerine juice and Prosecco to syrup; whisk to blend well. Transfer mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Transfer sorbet to a freezer container. Cover tightly with a lid and freeze until firm, at least 8 hours or overnight.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep frozen. Divide sorbet among wine goblets or dessert glasses.
- rewards (in the form of lemon berry ricotta crepes)… (70point3andme.wordpress.com)
- Day 76 – a French word: fraise, a French recipe : fraises au limoncello (onefrenchword.wordpress.com)
- The Spread: Homemade limoncello a zesty apertif (pbpulse.com)
- Recipe: Limoncello Cheesecake Squares (momitforward.com)
- Lemonchello (breakfastsocks.wordpress.com)
- Sweet Tart: Divine Lemon Beauty Goodies (bellasugar.com)
- Crema de Limoncello (callmechef.wordpress.com)
- Homemade Gelato, Vanilla Gelato & Honey Gelato Recipe | Pottery Barn (potterybarn.com)
- Amorino (thesweetuncharted.com)
My husband has a sweet tooth and when we married, I learned a meal wasn’t complete for him without some type of dessert. Thankfully, he was content with a couple of cookies or an occasional fruit pie to satisfy that sweet tooth. When my children came along, they too enjoyed those cookies – made having to eat peas or spinach something they could get through. They seemed to have survived those cookie years and became healthy adults – who still look for mom’s cookies around the holidays or on visits with us. As my husband and I aged, though, we realized healthy choices were better for us.
No need to skip dessert when you are planning healthy meals. Fresh fruit can round out a meal and make you feel satisfied. Sweetened strawberries drizzled with balsamic vinegar or pears baked in a red wine sauce or grilled peaches served with a scoop of frozen yogurt can make you feel you are not missing out on anything.
There are occasions when you want to make a special dessert. My mother made an Italian dessert for birthdays and other celebrations that consisted of a sponge cake with a ricotta filling. This dessert was asked for and enjoyed often in our household. Of course, an occasional over indulgence cannot be harmful.
When I entertain friends at a dinner party, I like to prepare a special dessert to end the meal, but I don’t want to go overboard on calories either. I have developed several light recipes for these occasions and, so far, everyone seems to enjoy them and does not realize that they are lower calorie versions of some of the traditional Italian desserts popular in many Italian restaurants. Italians often eat fruit and cheese for dessert, but some of those classic desserts are cannoli, a pastry filled with sweetened ricotta cheese and tiramisu, a coffee flavored mousse type dessert.
Light Marscapone Panna Cotta
- 3 teaspoons gelatin
- ⅔ cup plus 3 tablespoons nonfat milk
- 2 ½ cups fat free half and half
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 whole vanilla beans, split open
- ½ cup marscapone cheese
- ½ cup lowfat sour cream
- Sprinkle the gelatin over the 3 tablespoons milk and let sit for 15 minutes to soften.
- In a saucepan, stir the ⅔ cup nonfat milk, half and half, sugar, and vanilla beans over medium heat until the mixture just starts to boil. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the marscapone and the sour cream until smooth.
- Stir the gelatin into the heated milk mixture and stir well for at least 2 minutes or until bits of gelatin are no longer visible.
- Pour the mixture through a strainer (to remove any bits of hard gelatin) into the marscapone mixture . Whisk thoroughly.
- Pour the panna cotta into 6 half-cup molds. Stemmed wine glasses could be used instead. Chill, covered, overnight. Serve with raspberries and garnish with mint leaves or chocolate curls.
- 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese, drained overnight
- 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons blanched slivered almonds
- 2 tablespoon mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 teaspoons Amaretto liqueur
- 4 cannoli shells, purchased
- 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
In a large bowl, stir ricotta cheese with 1/3 cup confectioners sugar until combined. Add almonds, chocolate chips and almond liqueur.
Carefully spoon into cannoli shells (or pipe from a pastry bag), filling from the center out.
Sprinkle individual cannoli with powdered sugar and cocoa.
I call this recipe lazy because it is a quick preparation in comparison to traditional Tiramisu. Many authentic recipes use uncooked eggs in preparing the filling and some recipes call for making a pastry cream. I really do not want to eat raw eggs and I cannot taste a difference between a cooked pastry cream and the quick fix filling listed in my recipe. Why do all that work if there isn’t a big difference in taste? The coffee flavoring in this dessert is the taste that dominates and not the cream filling. Anytime I can lower the calorie content of a recipe and still have it taste delicious, is worthwhile to me.
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons instant espresso granules
- 2 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur
- 1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
- 1 (3.5-ounce) carton mascarpone cheese
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur
- 24 ladyfingers (2- 3-ounce packages)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
- 1/2 ounce bittersweet chocolate, grated
To prepare filling, combine cheeses in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons liqueur; beat at medium speed until well blended.
Split ladyfingers in half lengthwise. Arrange 24 ladyfinger halves, cut sides up, in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Drizzle half of espresso liquid over ladyfinger halves. Spread half the filling over ladyfinger halves, and repeat procedure with remaining ladyfinger halves, espresso liquid, and filling. Combine 1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa and chocolate; sprinkle evenly over top of filling. Cover and chill for 2 hours.
Note: Place toothpicks in the center and in each corner of the dish to prevent the plastic wrap from sticking to the tiramisu as it chills.
Schiacciata alla Fiorentina (Florentine Sponge Cake)
Fat Tuesday is the end of Carnevale and a huge celebration in many parts of the world, particularly in Italy. Two very big festivals take place in Italy, one in Venice and the other in Viareggio on the Tuscan coast. In Florence, children dress up in costumes and throw confetti into the air. At home, they are usually treated to a delicious piece of Tuscan sponge cake, otherwise known as Schiacciata alla Fiorentina. This light and airy dessert is eaten throughout the year but is a favorite around Carnevale. Lighter than American sponge cake, it can be eaten in a variety of ways.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
Zest and juice of 1 orange
3 large eggs
1/2 cup warm whole milk
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Powdered sugar, for topping
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray..
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and orange zest in a mixing bowl.
In another bowl mix orange juice, eggs, milk, and oil and pour into bowl with flour.
Beat with a hand mixer until thoroughly mixed together, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes. Test the cake with a toothpick inserted into the center. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.
Let cool for about 30 minutes on the counter, then turn the cake out of the baking pan. Slice and serve sprinkled with powdered sugar.
You can make this more elaborate with fresh strawberries and a few tablespoons of sweetened ricotta cheese with each serving.
- Cannoli Cream Dessert (cheeseandbutter.wordpress.com)
- Italian Dessert: It has to be Tiramisu (kosherblogger.wordpress.com)