For the final project for my Italian food and wine class, we were asked to cook a three course meal associated with a particular region of Italy. My friends Justin, Christian and I were assigned the region of Lombardia and were given a menu to whip up. We prepared a risotto with saffron to start, ossobuco for the main course and a sbrisolona cake for desert. Once the meal was completed, we collaborated with another group from our class to have a giant Italian feast in my living room.
I was in charge of making the sbrisolona cake. Sbrisolona is a typical desert originating from Mantua, in the south of Lombardia. It was typically made with flour, lard and nuts in the form of a dry, crunchy cake with no filling. The traditional recipe dates back to the 17th century and was often a sweet made by peasants.
I decided to make a spin-off of the traditional recipe. Lombardia is actually the richest and most populous region of Italy, so I decided to create a decadent version of the peasant pie. I found a bunch of different recipes that included various fruits and nuts, so I decided to make a chocolate strawberry sbrisolona cake.
All of the recipes I could find measured the ingredients by weight, so I had to do a lot of conversions, a lot of guessing, and constantly hoping for the best. But my version of the recipe ended up turning out well! When in doubt, add a little more sugar and lots of chocolate and you’re guaranteed to make something pretty good.
- 1 ½ lb all-purpose flour (about 4 ½ cups)
- 1 ¼ lb butter (about 2 cups)
- 1 lb granulated sugar (about 3½ cups — I used brown sugar)
- 4 oz egg yolks (5 egg yolks)
- ½ oz baking powder (1 tbsp)
- 1 ¾ oz almonds (about 1/2 a cup)
- (1 pack of strawberries)
- (1 pack of chocolate chips)
Mix together the flour, butter, sugar, egg and baking powder in either a large mixing bowl or on a clean flat surface. You can start by mixing with a spoon, but eventually you will need to blend it all together with your hands until it turns into a uniform dough. Add in the some of the chocolate chips (to your preference) and crushed up almonds. I put the almonds in a zip-bloc bag and smashed them to pieces with the bottom of a wine bottle.
Put the majority of the dough in a buttered baking pan. Add fresh, sliced strawberries (or any fruit you want) and then add the rest of the dough on top to cover them up. Bake in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes checking on it continuously.
Once the cake has baked and cooled down for a little bit, add some more fresh strawberries. On your stove top melt down the rest of the chocolate chips with some butter in a sauce pan. Finish off the cake by drizzling the melted chocolate across the top.
The main dish was ossobuco. It is a savory meat dish originating from Milan. The dish features a specialty cut steak of veal shanks that has a cross-section of bone with bone marrow. As a recent vegetarian, this seemed intense but it was actually delicious and incredibly flavorful.
The steaks were lightly pan seared with butter and a little bit of flour. The meat was then slow-roasted over a small flame on the stove-top with vegetables, broth and white wine for several hours. It was paired with a Milanese risotto. The rice was cooked completely with meat broth instead of water. It is cooked with white wine and onions and the most important ingredient, the spice saffron.
Our meal was actually a success. There were moments during preparation where I had little faith. It seemed that something would be lost in translation as we scoured through the grocery story, with our recipes written in Italian in hand.
We pushed away the furniture in our living room, lined up all of our desks like a royal dining table(if the palace was fully furnished by IKEA of course) and set out the feast. The other group from our class brought over hand-made gnocchi in a marinara sauce and eggplant parmesan. We ate all of the delicious food and drank all of the cheap wine, and reveled in good conversation and our grand accomplishments.