Saturday 1 March 2014

LA DOLCI VITA – Italian dessert recipes from Luca Ciano for the food dept's Italian dessert feature

This month we collaborate once again, with our friend, Italian chef, Luca Ciano. Whilst, we may not have a vespa, ducati (like Luca!) or drive a fast car, we can all eat like Italians with these delightful, classic desserts. Make an expresso and take a seat in the food dept's cafe.

A little message from Luca:

"Dolci, I, like most Italians love desserts, in my case it’s quite a scary story…if at the end of any meal I don’t have any dessert I fall into a small depression. It doesn’t matter if I’m full or not, I must have something sweet at the end of any meal of the day. Desserts through out Italy vary quite a lot depending on the region that you’re in. So from North to South, with different tradition and different local ingredients, comes different styles and flavoured desserts. Here are 4 of my favourite."
Luca Ciano

Zabaglione or Zabaione, is such a popular dessert back home, It’s easily found in restaurant menus but most Italians have it at home because it’s an energetic, tasty and a simple dessert to make. This is my espresso flavoured version.

• 4 free range egg yolks
• ¼ cup caster sugar
• ¼ cup Marsala
• 1 shot of espresso coffee
• 20g dark chocolate (min 70%), optional

1. Place eggs and sugar in a large stainless steel or heat proof bowl and whisk.
2. Place the bowl over a simmering pot of water; making sure that the base doesn’t touch the water.
3. After a few minutes of whisking the eggs and becoming foamy add the Marsala and coffee. Keep whisking till the mix almost doubles in size.
4. Remove from the heat and serve into a martini glass or any other glass cup.
5. Serve hot with a couple of Cantucci biscuit or any other biscuit or with fresh fruit.
6. Garnish with shaved dark chocolate, if desired. It can also be served cold.

Cantucci with almonds and Vin Santo
A great way to get tipsy without realizing it… The fun begins when you dip the biscuit into the Vin Santo to soften the Cantucci, by the time you eat 2, 3, 4 of them, you’ll be smiling for no reason!

• 250g whole raw almonds
• 3 free range eggs
• 1 free range egg yolk
• 370g caster sugar
• 1 vanilla pod, halved and scraped
• 50g unsalted butter, room temperature
• 500g 00 flour or plain flour
• 1½ tablespoons baking powder
• 250ml Vin Santo

1. Toast the almonds in a preheated oven at 100C for 30 minutes.
2. Increase the oven to 170C fan forced.
3. In a bowl mix the eggs with sugar and vanilla, then add flour and baking powder and finally add butter and almonds.
4. Continue to mix until the ingredients all combine together.
5. Roll the dough into 2 x 30cm long x 3cm wide x 1 cm high pieces, place it onto a tray and bake it for 20-25 minutes.
6. Cut the cooked dough into 1cm stripes and set aside to cool. Place strips into the oven again and bake at 120C for a further 5 minutes.
7. Remove from oven and set aside to cool before serving. Serve with a small glass of Vin Santo.
8. Dip the biscuit into the sweet wine and eat!!

TIP: make 1 day in advance so the biscuits becomes dry and hard

Cannoli with pistachio
Serves 6 Prep time 45min Cooking time 4-5min

Cannoli dough
• 250g 00 flour
• 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder
• 1 teaspoon of ground coffee
• 30g unsalted butter, room temperature
• 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
• 1 whole egg
• 1 litre frying oil
• 250g fresh ricotta cheese
• 50g caster sugar
• 100g candied fruit, roughly chopped
• 100g whole pistachios, finely chopped, to serve
• 100g icing sugar, to serve

1. Sift and mix flour, cocoa powder and ground coffee in a bowl.
2. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the butter, vinegar and egg. Using your hands gradually mix the wet ingredient around, bringing in the dry ingredients until you create a smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and rest for 20 minutes in the fridge.
3. Roll the dough through a pasta machine until thin, 2mm or use a rolling pin.
4. Cut with a round cutter into a round shape of 8-10 cm and wrap around the special cannoli metal tubes.
5. Bring oil to 180C and deep fry for 4-5 min. Set aside to cool and repeat.
6. Cannoli are now ready to be filled with ricotta filling.

1. Mix the ricotta with candied fruit until smooth and creamy.
2. Place the mix into a piping bag and fill the cannoli cases.
3. Dip both ends of the cannoli into the chopped pistachio to garnish and dust with icing sugar before serving.

TIP: Freeze any remaining dough for 3 months.

Crostata di frutta
Serves 6 Prep time 1hr, plus 2 hours to rest pastry Cook time 30min

Creama Pasticcera - Custard
• 500ml fresh milk
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
zest of 1 lemon
4 free range egg yolks
50g plain flour
110g caster sugar

200g caster sugar
200g unsalted butter
3 free range eggs
500g 00 flour
zest of 1 lemon

½ punnet of strawberries, halved
½ punnet of blueberries
½ punnet of raspberries
½ mango, thinly sliced

½ cup water
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 gelatin leaf, soaked in cold water
1 vanilla pod, seeds scrapped

Creama Pasticcera - custard
1. In a heavy based saucepan bring milk to a simmer, with vanilla pod, seeds and lemon zest
2. Meanwhile in a large bowl mix eggs with flour and sugar, add a little cold milk to help mixing if needed.
3. When milk is hot, almost boiling, add and mix a little at the time into the egg mix and stir to combine.
4. Return to the heat and cook for up to 5 minutes on a gentle heat constantly stirring.
5. Allow cooling then cover and refrigerate.

1. Cream the sugar and butter together, add flour, eggs and lemon zest, mix into a soft dough. Roll into a ball and wrap in cling film, rest in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours (making it a day in advance is even better).
2. Pre heat oven at 170C.
3. Roll the pastry to a ½ cm thickness to fit a 26-28cm wide and 1-1 ½cm high round flan pan.
4. Prick the pastry with a fork to make a few little holes and then bake for 15-20 minutes till cooked and golden in color, remove from the oven and allow to cool.
5. To make the glaze, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Squeeze the excess water from the gelatin leaves and add to the sugar syrup with the vanilla seeds. Stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Allow to cool until thick and glossy.
6. Fill the pastry shell with Creama Pasticcera and the garnish with fruit, brush over the vanilla glaze and serve.

Recipes: Luca Ciano, Food prep: Sally Courtney.


  1. AHHH.. you guys!! its been ages since your last post... and sigghhhh.. trust you appease the sweet tooth first!! this is fantastico!! I'll have the cantucci and the zabaglione..and then some cannoli..what the hell.. I might have a slice of the pie as well!!

    1. My thoughts exactly! There's nothing quite like an Italian donut. and with custard! I'm Polish, so I'm a little biased to a Polish vanilla slice filled with exactly that - vanila custard and plum jam donut, so these combine my too once in a blue moon indulgences. Love following you on Instagram too. Gorgeous!

  2. Hey,
    I am loving this specially Crostata di frutta,I am gonna try it for sure..I love strawberry desserts.
    Thanks for sharing:)