SBRISOLONA CAKE (MANTUA)

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Symbol of Mantua pastry making, this sbrisolona cake, ​​also called sbrisolina or sbrisulada, owes its name to its friability, to the large and small crumbs that form when it is broken to be eaten in company. The origin of the dessert would be peasant, as evidenced by the use of corn flour, a fundamental ingredient of the recipe born between the 1500s and 1600s. It seems that it was prepared on special occasions, such as the birth of a child or a promise of marriage, and then kept for a long time. The sbrisolona became ennobled with the arrival at the court of the Gonzagas who enriched it by introducing sugar, spices and almonds.

I owe this recipe to a new food-lover friend, Alessandra, from Mantua, who delighted us with her top-notch breakfasts in her delicious and welcoming Bed and Breakfast “Lo Zucchero sui Baffi“, which we highly recommend if you are near Mantua. Also go to her blog where you will find information about Alessandra, their cats and the B&B: http://zuccherosuibaffi.blogspot.it/

After tasting it she was kind enough to send me the recipe full of useful tips that help make it come out well…

Ingredients (enough for two medium baking trays)

  • 200 grams of 00 white flour
  • 200 grams of sugar
  • 200g good quality butter cut into pieces
  • 200 grams of almonds in their skin, coarsely chopped (keep aside a handful of whole ones for decoration)
  • 175 g of fioretto flour (fine-grained yellow flour)
  • 25 g of yellow polenta-type flour to give crunchiness
  • 1 egg
  • optional: 1 spoonful of Sassolino liqueur (a Mantuan liqueur with an aniseed flavour), I replaced it with a spoonful of calvados

Note: in the Lombard tradition this dessert was called “three cup cake” due to the equal quantity, measured in cups, of its three main ingredients: yellow flour, white flour and sugar. They were already very modern…

Weigh all the ingredients and place them in a large bowl (except the whole almonds which must be randomly arranged on the cake before baking it) and knead quickly using the tips of your hands: you should obtain a crumbly dough (made of large and small crumbs), without heating the butter too much. The less you work it, the crispier the cake will be, which should be low and crumbly.

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It is essential to arrange the dough correctly on the baking tray covered with baking paper. Turn it upside down and always distribute it with your fingertips without compacting it too much until you obtain a thickness of 1-1.5 cm. Do not press/crush with your fingers, even if there is some space left between the crumbs, don’t worry. If you really like sweet/crunchy things you can sprinkle it with an additional spoonful of granulated sugar.

Bake at 180°C for about 20 minutes, based on the color which must be nice golden almost burnished at the edges. If you don’t cook it enough the cake will remain moist in the center. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the pan.

Tradition dictates that this is a convivial cake, to be eaten at the table by placing it in the centre, moistened with a glass of Grappa and breaking it… with a fist! You will get so many irregular pieces to munch on while chatting and strictly using your hands…

So what are you waiting for to make your first sbrisolona cake? Success guaranteed!

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