Scarpaccia viareggina (sweet and custardy courgette cake from Viareggio, in Tuscany)

Update May 2022: it is that time of the year again – courgette bonanza. Time to make scarpaccia, both as a dessert and as a savoury tart.
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It took a leap of faith and my avid curiosity to try this cake: could a basic sweet batter and some grated courgettes make a good cake? No nuts, no sultanas, no spices…really? A resolute “yes!” is the answer.
This is a most unusual and excellent cake come dessert: delicate, plain and light, but not at all boring, with a delicious custardy quality. Burnished golden outside, yellow with specks of green inside, it is also pretty.
Scarpaccia  means “nasty/old shoe” and no one really knows why such an uninspiring name; it is possibly something to do with the appearance of this dessert: a genuine scarpaccia should be a fairly thin and crusty affair – like an old, over-worn shoe. It is the contrast between the sugary and crusty exterior (due to a good drizzle of olive oil) and the custardy, vanilla scented interior that make this unposessing looking dessert sing.

It is a Tuscan speciality and you will not find anywhere else in Italy – Continue reading “Scarpaccia viareggina (sweet and custardy courgette cake from Viareggio, in Tuscany)”

Scorze di agrumi candite – my candied citrus peels

This is a method for candying citrus peels that works FOR ME. It is not a professional method, it has flaws, it is not “the perfect”, BUT it works for ME (hence that “my”). It delivers the type of candied peels that I like: still juicy and fruity, with a faint bitterness in the background, not overly sweet.
The following are to be regarded as working notes, drawn from experience and other cooks’ versions.
I do not have any “culinary scientific evidence” for some of the things I say – you decide, if they make sense to you or not.

Continue reading “Scorze di agrumi candite – my candied citrus peels”

Pan di mort (All Souls spiced chocolate biscuits from Lombardy)

Italian spiced chocolate biscuits
Italian spiced chocolate biscuits

Here’s another traditional recipe from Lombardy that honours I morti, All Souls. Pan di mort (literally “dead people’s bread”) are quintessential Lombardy biscuits that are sold in bakeries between the end of October and the first week in November. They are diamond-shaped, chocolatey, spicy biscuits, full of nuts and candied citrus peels, quite chewy but not crunchy. Continue reading “Pan di mort (All Souls spiced chocolate biscuits from Lombardy)”

Pesche ripiene (Roasted peaches Piedmontese style)

One of the most classic and classiest desserts of the Italian repertoire, from Piemonte: peaches, stuffed with amaretti biscuits mixed with liqueur, then roasted. I prefer not to include the customary cocoa powder in the filling, because I feel it overpowers the delicate peach flavour, but if you like the idea, just add a tablespoon to the mix. I also prefer to roast the peaches before stuffing them – this makes them creamy tender, the way I like it. Eat it warm.
This lovely dessert works well also with the lustreless peaches we often get here in the UK and it is the loveliest farewell to summer.

Continue reading “Pesche ripiene (Roasted peaches Piedmontese style)”