La Dolce Vita-Italian Desserts
Strawberry & Chocolate Gelato
‘The sweet life’. I can’t think of a better phrase than this to describe the way of life in Italy. Even though their driving, of scooters and cars alike, is at a faster pace than we are used to, everyday life is more laid back, shops and market-owners close shop for a 4-hour resting period each afternoon, and their food is always fresh and comes from the local market just around the corner.
Adding to this sweet way of life are the gorgeous desserts (i dolce) that fill the glass pastry cases and instantly make your eyes widen in delight. Just as simple as the other food offerings in Italy, pastries are studded with colorful local fruit and are prepared using cooking techniques passed down from generation to generation. A few of my favorite desserts so far that we have made in class include Strawberry Gelato, Apple Cakes, and an almond cookie from Florence similar to biscotti, called Cantucci.
The Strawberry Gelato couldn’t get any easier; all you need are the freshest of berries, sugar, cream, and an ice cream maker. The sweetness of the fresh berries paired with cream is a combination to dream about. To create this simple apple cake you cream softened butter and sugar together, add in eggs, vanilla, baking powder, yogurt and milk and voila—a super moist cake that you then top with tart slices of peeled apple. If you love crunchiness of biscotti with your afternoon tea or coffee, the Cantucci cookies are right up your alley. Very similar to biscotti, these almond-filled cookies are baked twice to achieve a perfect crispness and are a nice cookie with your favorite hot beverage, or a classic pairing with a glass of your favorite dessert wine. Whether you are craving the crunch of a cookie, the creamy smoothness of gelato, or the soft texture of cake, these Italian recipes are sure to hit the spot!
La Dolce Vita
- DIFFICULTY: easy
- Strawberry Gelato
- 2 pints of strawberries, hulled and cut into small dice
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Apple Cakes
- 11 oz. butter, softened
- 11 oz. granulated sugar
- 7 eggs, whites and yolks separated
- 7 oz. of marzipan (almond paste)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 17 oz. all-purpose flour
- 1 cup vanilla yogurt
- ½ cup whole milk
- 6 small apples, peeled and sliced
- ½ cup apricot jam
- 2 Tablespooons water
- 35 oz. of bread flour
- 28 oz. granulated sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 lemons, zested
- 2 oranges, zested
- 10 whole eggs
- 17 oz. whole almonds, toasted
- 1 egg, beaten in a small bowl for an egg wash
- Strawberry Gelato
- Combine the above ingredients in a large mixing bowl; toss together with a spatula. Use an immersion blender, or regular blender, to puree all of the ingredients together.
- Place the mixture in the bowl of an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for creating the gelato texture.
- Apple Cakes
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour muffin cups or individual paper dessert cups.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter and sugar with a paddle attachment until creamy and the sugar is completely incorporated.
- Add the egg yolks to the mixture, one at a time, with the mixer running. Add the marzipan to the mixture and mix; scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
- Add the vanilla, flour, and baking powder into the mixture and combine on low speed until the flower is fully incorporated. Next, add in the yogurt and the milk; mixing on low speed to combine.
- Meanwhile, whip the egg whites with a hand mixer until soft peaks are formed. Gently fold the egg whites into the mixture with a spatula.
- Fill each muffin cup about ¾ full and place 2 apples slices in top of each filled cup. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and when tested with a toothpick, the toothpick comes out clean.
- Allow the cooked cakes to cool. In the meantime, combine the apricot jam and 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat, constantly whisking, until a smooth liquid is formed. With a pastry brush, brush the tops of the cooked cakes with the jam glaze. Serve room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the flour on a marble or stainless steel work surface, and make a well in the middle of the flour with your fingers. Add the sugar and baking powder to middle of the well, along with vanilla, zest, and eggs. Work together with a fork in the middle of the well, and then add whole, toasted almonds to well and knead the dough until a smooth ball is formed.
- Cut the dough into thirds and form each into a ‘snake-like’ tube. Place the dough on parchment-lined baking sheets. Brush the egg wash on top of each dough shape and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Cut the dough into biscotti shapes, reduce the heat of the oven to 200 degrees, and bake the cookies again for 35-40 more minutes or until brown and crunchy.
Posted by Anna Scott, a graduate of Culinary Arts at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Atlanta, GA and experienced an incredible 3-month culinary externship in Sorrento, Italy, personal chef, food blogger.