This has to be one of the easiest and fun desserts that I have made in a long time.
This post was written in 2012. I was in Mantua recently (May 2019) and although I did not see Massimo Bottura, I did see Sbrisolona everywhere – on menus, shop windows, stalls, bakeries, pasticcerie……you name it.
Sbrigolona comes from Sbriciola , the Italian word from the verb sbriciolare, to crumb and Sbisolona is a friable large biscuit. It is eaten like a biscuit and the is broken into pieces and eaten with the hands.
It is so incredibly simple and you can make it with your fingers if you want to. It reminds me of making shortbread, simply and gently combining the basic ingredients of flour, butter and sugar and gently pressing it into shape. Sbrisolona has polenta in it as well, and it was once made with lard instead of butter. Modern recipes like this one, include egg yolk, lemon peel and coarsely chopped almonds.
I am liking the new season’s Victorian walnuts and used these instead.
When you hear or see the word polenta you know that this means Northern Italy and in fact we are talking about peasant food of Montova (Mantua) and Cremona.
What I like about it is that it is not cut, it is made in the shape of a large biscuit. It not cut like a cake, break it into serving pieces or guests can break it into pieces themselves.
Sbrisolona, Sbrisolosa or Sbrisolina is all the same thing, just different names and written in the dialect from that part of Italy..
Sbriciola is the Italian word and it comes from sbriciolare, to crumb.
A similar more modern pastry, also from Northern Italy and around Treviso is Fregolotta – from “fregole”, the Venetian word for crumbs. It is also known as Rosegota, from the Venetian word “rosegar”, which means to chew or gnaw.
finely ground polenta/ cornmeal, 1 cup
plain flour, 2 cups
sugar, 1 cup
butter, 225 g
almonds are traditional, I used walnuts , coarsley chopped, 1 cup
egg yolks, 2 large
grated lemon zest from 1 large lemon
salt, ½ teaspoon (if using unsalted butter)
pure vanilla extract, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Butter a 28 cm springform pan or line it with baking paper – the paper will make it easier to remove from the tin and help it not to break.
Combine flour, cornmeal and salt.
Rub in butter, either by hand or in a food processor/ with pastry hook.
Add sugar and mix through.
Mix the egg yolk, lemon zest and vanilla together and add it to the dry mixture. Combine it gently; it will resemble coarse meal. Do not to over mix.
Add the chopped nuts.
Place the crumbs loosely into the baking tin and help it to stick together mostly around the edges by pressing it very gently.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until it is golden brown on top.
Transfer to a rack and cool completely before taking it out of the tin. Handle carefully, but if it breaks just reshape it.
It’s pretty good served with a glass of liqueur or sweet wine, but grappa would be even better, and more authentic. (Grappa is very much appreciated in Northern Italy).