Tag Archives: Italian sweets

A Sunday Savoiardi extravaganza

My godmother (or comare in Italian), who I adore, is a fabulous cook.  Like Mamma Rosa and others who grew up in Italy in the decades following the second world war, they took simple ingredients, often home grown, and figured out firstly how to make them go as far as possible, and secondly how to make them as flavoursome as possible.  Once in Australia they adapted and learnt new things and new ingredients – comare’s spinach and ricotta cannelloni crepes are to die for –  but may of the traditions and recipes remain true.

Also like Mamma Rosa, comare is a damn good biscuit maker, both of them can whip up amaretti and crostoli like nobody’s business.

A while back my comare bought me a particular plate of biscuits that I loved and I wanted to learn how to make them.  She called them savoiardi but was quick to point out that they aren’t “savoiardi della nonna”, the traditional variety.  So this morning comare and I met half way in Mamma Rosa’s kitchen for a Sunday baking session. Laughs were had, stories were told, hugs were given.

In typical Italian handed down fashion, there isn’t a strict flour measure.  It’s the good old phrase you’ll find even now in many an Italian cookbook: the flour should be “quanto basta” or “quanto se ne prende” (literally “however much is enough” or “however much it takes”, both extremely useful measures). You need a piping bag for these, the mixture is sticky and difficult to handle – if it is easy to manage with your hands then you know you’ve gone too far on the flour.

My comare’s savoiardi

These use only yolks, so you’ll have a dozen whites to use – so often after making a batch of these she makes almond bread.

Ingredients
12 egg yolks from large eggs, at room temperature
1 slightly heaped cup of caster sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 cup Grand Marnier liquor
2 teaspoons baking powder
Approx. 450-500g self raising flour, sifted

Making them

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees fan forced and line a tray with baking paper
  2. Using an electric mixer, whisk the yolks, then add the caster sugar and whisk until thick.  Then add the canola oil and the liquor and continue to whisk until combined
  3. Finally add the sifted flour and the baking powder and combine.  The mixture should be reasonably thick but quite stickysavoiardi (2)
  4. Put the mixture into a piping bag with a large attachment for biscuits (ie not one for pastry decorating).  Comare had a bad ass version, have to get me one of these. You can go for either ridged or smooth, but the ridges largely disappear as they rise. savoiardi (1)
  5. Pipe the biscuits to the desired length and then put in the over for 10-15 minutes until golden.

savoiardi (4)savoiardi (5)savoiardi (6)

So so good.

After we whipped these ones up, comare says “let’s make the other ones too”.  Who am I to argue?

Savoiardi della Nonna

These follow largely the same method, just a slightly different mix of ingredients.

Ingredients
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 slightly heaped cup of caster sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons baking powder
Approx. 500g self raising flour, sifted

Making them

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees fan forced and line a tray with baking paper
  2. Using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs, then add the caster sugar and whisk until thick.  Then add the canola oil, vanilla extract and lemon and  continue to whisk until combined
  3. Finally add the sifted flour and the baking powder and combine.  The mixture should be reasonably thick but quite sticky
  4. Put the mixture into a piping bag with a large attachment for biscuits and pipe the biscuits to the desired length and then put in the over for 10-15 minutes until golden.

savoiardi (7)savoiardi (8)

Thank you comare xxxx

The hunt for Sydney’s best cannoli – part I

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When I did my write up on Sydney’s best cake, cannoli – a traditional Sicilian sweet – should have featured. But my favourite cannoli were from Sulfaro in Haberfield, which unfortunately closed down (Update 2015: I hear Sulfaro has now re-opened but it is different owners and not the original cannoli!). So I thought I’d compare those from a few other Italian pasticcerie around town. Cannoli are a fried pastry filled with either ricotta, a vanilla crème patissiere or a chocolate custard. Traditionally the ricotta ones (my favourite and usually the only ones I will eat, whereas the husband goes for vanilla and the kids the chocolate) will contain chopped nuts or candied peel, and there’s also often a touch of alcohol. For a mere couple of dollars, these are a great little treat. Most places will make mini and larger size ones, and most don’t fill the casings until you order them, to prevent the pastry from going soggy. They are best eaten as soon as you can after the casings are filled with your desired flavour.

On my little trip to the Inner West, where I go regularly to the Italian delicatessans, I tried those from Blue Star, Marineve, Dolcetti, and Tamborrino. Blue Star has been around for as long as I can remember. The wave of Italian migrants to Australia in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, among them my parents, would eventually change the face of dining in Australia. But back then, they struggled to find the food and products they were used to eating at home.

Blue Star was one of the early ones, bringing a piece of the familiar to a little corner in Five Dock; their “continental cake” was a standard order in our family growing up – it was there for every birthday, christening, communion, anniversary and any other special occasion. When we became teenagers we moved away from it, wanting to try things that were modern and more “trendy”. But recently we’ve gone back to the continental cake, and it fills us with a wave of childhood nostalgia. Marineve is very similar to Blue Star, the sweet Italian nonna behind the counter, and beautiful traditional sweets in the counters are just waiting to be eaten (I also recommend Blue Star’s conchiglie biscuits). They are old school, you won’t find a website, their customers are those they’ve had for 30 years, and their children and grandchildren.Tamborrino and Dolcetti are two of the ‘newer’ ones, though still with plenty of longevity – they serve a mixture of the traditional and the new.

So onto the taste test

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The verdict? Well, frankly, they were all pretty damn good. I think they could be put into two groups in terms of style – Blue Star and Marineve in one, Dolcetti and Tamborrino in the other.

Blue Star and Marineve were more similar, and more traditional in style with a thicker ricotta filling, and chopped nuts, though Blue Star’s filling was a little sweeter. And Dolcetti and Tamborrino were similar, with the ricotta filling being thinner, probably combined with cream. Tamborrino had no nuts or peel for texture, but it did have slightly more alcohol giving it a lovely flavour. Tamborrino also had the thinnest pastry casing and Blue Star the thickest. The pastry of all of them had a good crunch, as you’d want and hope with good cannoli. So I think it depends on how you like your filling and if you like texture. Out of Blue Star and Marineve I prefer Marineve, and out of Tamborrino and Dolcetti I prefer Tamborrino. My husband and I also compared the vanilla fillings and our preference on that one was Blue Star (I also adore Blue Star’s conchiglie biscuits). But hey, you won’t go too far wrong with any of these places, and many of their other sweets.

See part II here

Blue Star Cakes, 267 Lyons Road, Russell Lea, Ph (02) 9713 9940
Marineve Pasticceria, 71 Ramsay Road, Five Dock, Ph (02) 9712 2293
Dolcetti Pasticceria, 294 Great North Road, Wareemba Ph (02) 9713 8880
Pasticceria Tamborrino, 75 Great North Road, Five Dock, Ph (02) 9712 1461

Blue Star Cakes on Urbanspoon

Marineve Pasticceria on Urbanspoon

Dolcetti Pasticceria on Urbanspoon