Tag Archives: Torrone

STUFFED DATES (With marzipan or nougat)

Believe it or not but some people can do without dessert and I am one of them. This could be a reflection of the way I was bought up –as an Italian child there was always fresh fruit after any meal and very special desserts were saved for special occasions. I think that they were appreciated more because of this.

I generally prefer to eat savoury food. However I do like something small and sweet at the end of a meal, especially if I have been drinking.

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I had some left over marzipan in the fridge, some left over torrone (nougat) and I saw some fresh, Medjool dates and hence this recipe for the stuffed dates. Easy to make too.

I knew that orange flower water and/or cinnamon are traditionally included in the marzipan mixture in Morocco where stuffed dates are popular (I have eaten them in Tunis and Turkey as well). My marzipan was left over from making a cassata so I added more almond meal and some orange flower water to the mixture, and presto the stuffing was ready. Grated peel from 1 orange can also enhance the flavour. In these other countries the marzipan is often coloured but I prefer natural colours and flavours. This time I did not use cinnamon, but maybe next time.

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There were four of us and I thought that twelve dates would be enough. Six were stuffed with almond paste and I stuffed the other six with a piece of nougat/ torrone (no instructions needed – it is self explanatory).

INGREDIENTS
blanched almonds to decorate.
fresh Medjool dates
marzipan

This amount of marzipan will easily stuff 24 dates. Either halve the ingredients or store the left over marzipan in the fridge till next time. Wrap it in plastic film and it will keep for a couple of weeks.

To make marzipan:
1 cup of ground almonds (blanched) and 1 cups of pure icing sugar combined with ¼ cup of caster sugar – this adds the crunchy texture that compliments the ground almonds.
Mix the sugars and almond meal with fingers and add 1 tablespoon of orange water slowly. If the mixture is too wet add more almonds. Knead it and if it needs more water add a little tap water to make the mixture pliable.

PROCESSES
Cut each date vertically on one side and remove the stone.
Make small cylinders of almond paste the same length as the dates and place one inside each date. Squeeze the sides of each date around the paste and leave some exposed.
Decorate each with a blanched almond (or walnut or pistachio).
Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Take them out of the fridge about an hour before serving.

Marzipan: Also see previous posts:

SICILIAN CASSATA and MARZIPAN AT EASTER

CASSATA DECONSTRUCTED – a postmodernist take on Sicilian Cassata

PASTA DI MANDORLA (Marzipan, the traditional recipe)

MARZAPANE also called PASTA REALE (Marzipan)

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CHRISTMAS DOLCI and DOLCETTI and Pistachio Shortbread Biscuits 2013

It is Christmas at Dolcetti; these photos speak for themselves (see link at the end of this post).

Marianna from Dolcetti is making so many traditional sweets for Christmas. There are too many to mention in this post but here are a few photos of what you can purchase from her Pasticceria (Italian for Patisserie) in Melbourne.

 

There are torroni ( plural of torrone) in various colours and flavours: almond chocolate, vanilla rosepetal, strawberries and white chocolate, chocolate baci, vanilla, roast almond and orange blossom, pistachio and almond……Marianna is famous for her hand made sweet things. f Some of you who live in Australia may have seen her on TV, Italian Food Safari (SBS) making her torrone (nougat). There is also a book of the series published by Hardie Grant.

Giuggiulena (also called Cubbaita) is also classed as a torrone. Click on link to see earlier post for description and recipe:

GIUGGIULENA (also CUBBAITA) – a brittle Sicilian toffee of sugar and honey with sesame seeds and almonds.

Also particularly Sicilian is the Buccellato (in dialect “cucciddatu”); This is made in the shape of ring and is  stuffed with nuts and dried fruit. Photo of Giuggiulena and Buccellato above.

Panforte is one of the oldest sweets in Italy; it is very popular in Siena and Pisa but is now found in most places in Italy and overseas .This is heavily scented and flavoured with medieval spices. Marianna makes both the dark and light version
(different ingredients) in various shapes and sizes. It’s served in thin slices like torrone and keeps very well.

One of my favourites are the dried figs filled with nougat and dipped in dark chocolate; a version of these are also a popular Christmas sweet in Calabria and usually stuffed with almonds or walnuts and candied orange peel.

There are also Italian Christmas cakes – moist, light in colour and laden with rum and marsala. (No images)

Pignolata is a typical sweet of Sicily and Calabria that is popular at Christmas and during Carnival festivities. These are balls of fried dough (they look like large chickpeas) and covered with warmed honey.

She is also highly respected for her different almond biscuits (she is of Sicilian heritage after all) and of these you will find many varieties, however she also makes similar ones with pistachio; one these are the Pistachio Shortbread Biscuits. This is Marianna’s recipe.

 

Pistachio Shortbread Biscuits

INGREDIENTS
250g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
160g pure icing sugar, sifted
2 tbs fine rice flour
2 tbs corn flour
90g almond meal
225g plain flour
1/3 cup unsalted pistachio nuts, very finely ground (like the almond meal)

PROCESSES
Combine butter and icing sugar. If using an electric mixer it is important that you do not over beat the butter and sugar as this will add too much air to the mixture. Another way to view this is that the butter must remain yellow and not the pale colour that results when butter and sugar is beaten for a considerable amount of time.
Add ground nuts, and then the flours last of all and mix until mixture comes together. Once again, do not overwork it; being short breads using your fingers to rub in the flours may work best.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface and with a sharp knife or biscuit cutter cut into preferred shapes; Marianna has cut hers into Christmas trees.
Place the biscuits on oven trays lined with baking paper. Space them about 2cm apart.
Bake in 180°C oven for 10 -15 mins or until lightly golden (but being short breads they must still be pale in colour).
When they are still warm sprinkle with crushed pistachio nuts.
Cool and store in a tin.

 

There are other pastries and sweets that can be made to order in various sizes. Some ideal ones for Christmas are:
Fresh Fruit tart – think of Australian summer fruit!
Tronco di Natale is a Christmas log (Bûche de Noël), a popular Christmas dessert in many countries of Northern Europe.
Millefoglie, (the French call Mille-Feuille – flaky puff pastry interlayered with a rich chocolate crema in the bottom half and chantilly cream on top.

There are fruit mince tarts for those who wish to stick to the Anglo tradition.

Marianna and her pastry chefs are having a good time and inventing some sweets with whimsical names, i.e: Rudolph’s Karolina.

 

Tartufo tortina, is not particularly tied to Christmas, but who can resist these?

 

And there are so many more, too many to mention in this post.

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