Swirl Wine Bar & Market

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pistaccio di Bronte Cake, A Sicilian Delight!

One of the highlights of our wine and culinary trip to Sicilia was the cooking classes we participated in as we moved from region to region. Putting on our aprons and rolling up our sleeves we were taught how to prepare wonderful Sicilian recipes using products that were specific to the area we were visiting. As we learned new cooking techniques using fresh local ingredients we had a blast interacting with the local chefs who proudly taught us family recipes passed down for generations. And in true Sicilian style, after a few hours together in the kitchen we then sat down at the table and ate what we cooked, enjoying every delicious bite!

During the first part of our journey we stayed at the Scilio Agriturismo in Linguaglossa on the north eastern slope of Mount Etna. This beautiful property has been in the Scilio family for four generations and the current owners are Giovanni and Elisabeth Scilio. In the cucina, our gracious hostess Elisabeth and chef Carmella, gave us our first taste of the most sought after pistachio in the world from the tiny town of Bronte. Bronte is perched at the top of slope of volcanic rock, located about half a mile northeast of Etna.

The Arabs, who once controlled the region, are responsible for bringing pistachio trees to Sicily from the Middle East. Sicily is the only place in Italy where pistachios are grown, and have become quite expensive due to their limited production. Pistachio cultivation in Sicily is laborious work. The trees only bear fruit every two years and the steep volcanic slopes prevent the use of machines to harvest the fruit. The intense, full flavor and grassy aroma of Bronte pistachios comes from the mineral rich soil and the Sicilian sun and air. Bronte pistachios are an essential ingredient in many Sicilian cakes and cookies but also find their way into just about everything from pasta to meat dishes and of course the infamous gelato.

This pistachio cake was the simplest dish we prepared on the trip and is amazingly rich and sinful. Elisabeth Scilio was kind enough to share her house made walnut liqueur with us that evening and the pairing was heavenly. I had to convert grams to ounces and Celsius to Fahrenheit so hopefully everything will come together!

8 large organic eggs whites
14 ounces (400 grams) of sugar
1.5 t. pure vanilla extract
14 ounces (400 grams) of ground pistachio, shelled, skins removed
3.5 ounces (100 grams) of cake flour ("00")

Preheat the oven at 325°. Mix all ingredients together to form a moist paste. Pour the mixture into a well greased spring form pan. Bake for about 30 minutes until an inserted knife comes out clean but moist. Dust with powdered sugar and drizzle with chocolate sauce if desired.

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