Thursday, November 26, 2015

Biscuit tortoni

After a heavy Thanksgiving feast of creamed vegetables, dressing, etc., finishing with a heavy dessert (pumpkin pie, pecan pie) seems like a poor idea. Try this:

Biscuit (pronounced like bisque the soup) Tortoni 

This used to be on the menu of every Italian restaurant in New York City but for some reason has disappeared. An additional reason for making it part of the Thanksgiving table is that it is easy to make and scalable. It takes about the same effort to make biscuit Tortona for 50 as for 4.

My recipe follows that of Colette Black in her “Southern Italian Cook Book.” I learn from the Internet that there are extravagantly complicated versions involving making a custard or using marzipan, or easy versions made with ice cream. But Black’s version has the virtues of ease, simplicity and elegance. Hers does not need to be topped with a maraschino cherry.

For 6 or 8 people:

Whip a cup or so of heavy cream. I use a hand whisk rubbed back and forth between the palms. This is easy, gets your heart pumping and allows more control over how firm the cream gets than using a power mixer.

Blend in powdered sugar, any amount but less is more here.

Separate 1 or 2 eggs, whip whites till silky and very firm.

Toast a handful of almonds. If you start with whole almonds, boil water, pour over almonds, pour off water after 30-45 seconds, then pop off the skins. Toast almonds at 325 degrees for 5 minutes or less, then grind.

Combine cream, egg, almonds and add half teaspoon vanilla and a teaspoon to a tablespoon of sweet Marsala, sherry or Madeira. (Marsala is authentically Italian.)

Put 1 to 2 heaping tablespoons in ramekins or (preferred) paper cupcake cups. Freeze.

Most recipes say to defrost for 20 minutes prior to serving, but I prefer biscuit Tortona frozen almost hard. Defrost just a few minutes.

Frozen biscuit Tortoni goes perfectly with hot coffee, garnished with a cookie (Amaretto or a Chinese almond cookie). Or serve wth a fruit liqueur like framboise or maraschino.

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