For my Recipe-of-the-Month, I have chosen Torta Rigojanci (Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Filling) in honor of Valentine’s Day. This decadent mousse-filled cake was named after the Hungarian gypsy violinist Jancsi Rigó (or Rigó Jancsi, as Hungarian names are written surname first ). It was the late 19th century, and he was playing at a Parisian hotel, where Baron Chimay and his American wife, Klara, a millionaire’s daughter, were in the audience. The beautiful baroness was so captivated by the gypsy that she seductively slipped her own diamond ring onto his finger. It was not long before Klara left her husband and children for her new sweetheart. During the height of this worldwide scandal, a Budapest pastry chef named his newest sinful dessert after the infamous violinist. Sadly, the love affair didn’t last, but Jancsi’s passionate fling has been forever immortalized in chocolate. For my recipe, visit Flavors-of-Friuli.com.
Posts Tagged ‘dessert’
Posted in Travel in Friuli, tagged bakery, Cividale, cjalsons, cookbooks, dessert, food, Friuli, Friuli Venezia Giulia, gubana, Italian food, Italy, travel, Udine on January 29, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
When traveling, there is almost no feeling worse than that of waking up sick. This was my fate one chilly winter morning in Udine. Always being prepared for the worst, I was well stocked with cold meds. I grabbed a lozenge for my sore throat, rolled over in my hotel bed, and went back to sleep. When I awoke several hours later, I determined that I didn’t have the flu, just a cold, and so decided to venture out anyway. I chose the easiest, quickest day trip from Udine: Cividale del Friuli, a delightful medieval town on the banks of the Natisone River.
I took the 10:30 train and arrived within 20 minutes. A short walk from the station brought me to Piazza Alberto Picco and the town’s most revered bakery, Pasticceria Ducale. The display counters were brimming with chocolate-glazed, fruit-filled, and sugar-dusted pastries, but I chose instead to buy the town’s signature dessert, gubana—a large, spiral cake filled with dried fruit, nuts, and spices. (I should say, to be more accurate, “gubana delle Valli del Natisone,” since there are two types of gubana, the other being “gubana Cividalese.”) While much gubana is nowadays mass-produced, such as the popular Vogrig brand, Pasticceria Ducale is one of the few bakeries still baking it the old-fashioned way.
While making my purchase, I explained my project to the signora and asked one of my most nagging questions: Is there any difference between gubana and the similar-looking pastries from Trieste, putizza and presnitz, or are they simply regional names for the same dessert? She explained that Trieste’s putizza contains chocolate, while gubana delle Valli del Natisone does not; otherwise they are very much the same. She also believed that gubana Cividalese and presnitz were identical, being made with puff pastry instead of yeast dough. (Since then I have learned that, while this may be true for modern versions of the pastries, historically there is one important difference. Because Trieste’s wealth during the Hapsburg era brought an increased availability of exotic imports such as spices, nuts, and liqueurs, presnitz was considered a more refined pastry and typically comprised a significantly longer ingredient list than gubana.)
When I timidly made my standard request for a recipe, she stepped into the back room and brought out a beautiful cookbook that featured their bakery’s version of gubana. Called Dulcis in Fundo (a play on words that means literally “sweet at the bottom” and figuratively “to save the best for last”), the book was a compilation of recipes from Friuli’s most prestigious bakeries. Divided into four sections corresponding to the region’s four provinces, it was filled with gorgeous color photos and thorough information on the culinary history of Friuli’s desserts. To my surprise, she proceeded to give me the book as a gift! So far, this was one of the nicest gestures anyone had shown me and truly demonstrates the inherent kindness of the Friulian people. To this day, I treasure this cookbook as one of my favorites.
Since I had previously been to many of the town’s main sights—Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Tempietto Longobardo, Duomo di Santa Maria Assunta, Ipogeo Celtico—this visit I was more interested in the town’s bakeries. I next strolled to Panificio Cattarossi, located near the entrance to the Ponte del Diavolo. There I sampled a tiny gubanetta Cividalese, a palm-sized spiral of puff pastry prepared with the same ingredients as the larger, snake-like gubana Cividalese.
The sky was overcast and threatened snow. I shivered inside my down-filled jacket, longing for something to warm me up—perhaps a hearty stew. Just as the clock struck noon, I turned into Ristorante Al Monastero. Instantly, I was warmed by the fire in the fogolâr (fireplace) in one of the cozy back rooms. A chubby Bacchus peered down from a fresco set amid wooden panels in the ceiling. Grape-motif plates and yellow tablecloths completed the elegantly rustic picture.
To start, I ordered cjalsòns, which had become a must-have for me in any restaurant. I was determined to try as many varieties as possible. These were three rather large half-moons, made with potato-based dough and stuffed with spinach, raisins, and pinenuts. Instead of the usual butter, these were served in a cream sauce, but did come with the typical topping of cinnamon and ricotta affumicata (smoked ricotta cheese). Overall, they were a bit heavy and not as flavorful as the cjalsòns that had enchanted me several years earlier. I was learning that I prefer a lighter pasta dough to this doughy, gnocchi-like version.
Next, I satisfied my craving for stew with a generous plate of goulasch. Tender chunks of beef were simmered in a rich, spicy sauce redolent of red wine and paprika and served with grilled polenta, roasted potatoes, and veggies. Although goulasch, or “gulyas,” is Hungarian by origin, it has become a staple in restaurants throughout Friuli-Venezia Giulia, since the region was once a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
After my leisurely lunch, the weather had turned even nippier. Seeing as all the shops were closed for the afternoon, I took the train back to Udine right away. Once there, I embarked on a two-hour passeggiata that circled past Udine’s main sights in the Venetian-styled Piazza della Libertà, over the hill to the vast, round Piazza Primo Maggio, along the murky canal on Via Zanon, and winding up in Piazza XX Settembre to see the stately Casa Veneziana. Originally built several blocks away on Via Rialto, this immense, stone palazzo was reconstructed here in 1929 to make way for a new municipal building. Its dull, grayish-pink façade is marked by arched Gothic-style windows, Udine’s coat of arms, and a crest of the winged lion. (Having served as a parking lot for many years, Piazza XX Settembre was renovated in 2010 as a pedestrian area with farmers’ markets, free Wi-Fi, and a book-exchange program.)
By this time, my cold was progressing, and I couldn’t face the thought of braving the elements later that evening. So instead of planning a dinner out, I stopped by a market on Via Roma for some prosciutto di Sauris, Montasio cheese and grilled zucchini. After a light picnic in my room—and a slice of that gubana for dessert—I was fast asleep by 8:30pm. Dulcis in fundo!
It was a blustery February morning, and I had returned to Pasticceria Penso, one of Trieste’s oldest bakeries, to inquire about some local dessert recipes. Several days prior, I had peeked in the shop, but it had quickly grown too busy for me to disturb the clerk, Silvana, with my questions. This time, perhaps the weather had deterred the crowds, for I was greeted graciously by Rosanna, the matriarch of the family. She offered me a freshly baked napoletana (puff pastry filled with pastry cream) and whisked me behind the counter and into the kitchen, where her husband (and the bakery’s owner), Italo Stoppar, and his two sons, Antonello and Lorenzo, had just pulled a couple dozen chocolate cakes out of the oven.
Italo explained that they were making torta Sacher (called sachertorte in German). Like dobostorte, kugelhupf, and apple strudel, sachertorte is one of the fancy Viennese desserts to find its way into Friuli, by way of the region’s Austrian heritage. The cake was created in 1832 by Franz Sacher, cook and pastry chef for the Austrian prince Klemens von Metternich. In 1876, the chef’s son Eduard founded Vienna’s elegant Hotel Sacher and has ensured that the family recipe be kept a guarded secret.
When the cakes had cooled sufficiently, Italo proceeded to slice them into two layers and trim off the rough edges. A huge bucket caught all the chocolate trimmings, and it was all I could do to keep myself from sneaking a handful. The next step was to douse the cakes with Maraschino liqueur (a trick that I later found not only gave the cake extra flavor but kept it nice and moist) and slather on the apricot jam. Finally, Antonello assembled the layers and glazed the cakes with a rich chocolate ganache, while Italo decorated the sides with chocolate sprinkles and piped the word “Sacher” on top. I was in chocolate heaven!
Before I said good-bye, the Stoppars lavished me with all sorts of treats: a whole presnitz (dried fruit and nut puff pastry spiral), pinza (sweet, round, brioche-like loaf), a slice of torta Sacher, and a promise to send me all the recipes that I had requested. Here is their version of torta Sacher:
1/3 cup hazelnuts, skinned and toasted (see toasting instructions below)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
5 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup cake or pastry flour, sifted
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
• • •
1/4 cup Maraschino liqueur
2/3 cup apricot jam
• • •
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
• • •
Chocolate sprinkles (optional)
Toasting the Hazelnuts:
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil over high heat. Add 1/3 cup hazelnuts and 1 tablespoon baking soda; cook for 5 minutes. Remove the hazelnuts and place in a colander under cold running water; rub off and discard the skins. Transfer the skinned hazelnuts to a baking dish; toast until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool completely before using.
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Finely grind the toasted hazelnuts in a food processor.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, adding the vanilla extract with the last yolk; beat the mixture until thick and pale in color, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, cocoa powder, and ground hazelnuts. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks. Soften the batter by stirring in a little egg white; fold in the remaining egg whites.
Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8-inch round cake pan. Bake until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool 15 minutes before removing from the pan; cool completely before glazing.
For the glaze:
Slice the cake in half horizontally; shave a thin slice off the top layer to create a smooth surface. (Any air pockets may be filled in with the shaved-off pieces of cake.) Brush the Maraschino liqueur over the top and sides of both cake layers; repeat with the apricot jam. Stack the two cake layers on a wire rack.
For the ganache:
Melt the chocolate with the cream in a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Pour the ganache over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate the sides of the cake with sprinkles, if desired. Using a large spatula, transfer the cake to a serving plate; refrigerate until the ganache has set.
I had arrived in Trieste to begin the research for my book Flavors of Friuli. Being particularly interested in the city’s local foods, I set out first thing in the morning for the waterfront, to what was labeled on my map as the Pescheria, or “fish market.” What the guidebook had failed to mention, however, was that the immense, brick structure had long ago been converted into an exhibition hall. The side of the building nearest its clock tower also contained the city’s aquarium.
Having previously visited aquariums in Milan and on the island of Elba, I felt compelled to see what Trieste’s had to offer. I should mention first that I live in San Francisco, just a couple hours from the world-class Monterey Bay Aquarium—so I was clearly destined for disappointment. The first floor held a pair of lonely penguins, a coral reef tank with two brightly colored fish, and an octagonal tank with some sharks and rays. Upstairs housed the reptiles and amphibians, but it seemed that all the snakes and lizards were asleep. The only active creature was a snapping turtle that had been confiscated as an illegal pet—its shell had sadly been deformed from malnutrition.
When I left the aquarium, the sun had finally come out, and although the air was still frosty, I felt invigorated sitting in the vast Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia. For the first time, I was able to admire the sun reflecting off the brilliant gold mosaics on the Palazzo del Governo. It was still too early for lunch, but I decided to do some “recon” work, scoping out the countless restaurants on my list. Most were still closed, but I studied the menus that they typically post outside the door. Around 11:30 I came across one spot that was already open, Buffet Da Gildo. The menu outside listed gnocchi di susine (plum-filled gnocchi) and goulasch (Hungarian-style beef stew)—two of the dishes on my “to try” list. Unfortunately, there was no menu inside. The waitress quickly rattled off a couple choices: one soup and one pasta. I ordered jota, a soup prepared with beans, potatoes, and sauerkraut that is considered one of Trieste’s native dishes.
Later, I stopped by Pasticceria Bomboniera, one of Trieste’s oldest bakeries (Pasticceria Penso, which I had visited the previous day, and Pasticceria Pirona are the others). I was still curious to taste the city’s three signature desserts—presnitz, putizza, and pinza—but I soon gathered that they are not typically sold by the slice. So in the spirit of research, I bought one of each and returned to my hotel room for a decadent midafternoon tasting. The presnitz was a puff pastry spiral filled with dried fruit and nuts, practically indistinguishable from gubana Cividalese. The pinza was a plain, sweet, round loaf, rather like brioche or challah, with a decoratively scored top. The putizza turned out to be my favorite—similar to the dried fruit and nut spiral cake called gubana delle Valli del Natisone but with two distinct differences: a much greater filling-to-dough ratio and, most importantly, it also contained chunks of dark chocolate. On a subsequent trip, I was able to acquire the bakery’s recipe, which was the inspiration for my version in Flavors of Friuli.
For dinner that evening, I chose Ristorante Al Granzo. As their personalized tableware affirmed, the restaurant has been in business since 1923. For my appetizer, I ordered granzievola alla Triestina (crabmeat cooked with garlic, parsley, and olive oil). Granzievola translates as “spiny spider crab,” and it is typically served in its shell. Anticipating that I would eventually need to shoot photos of all my recipes, I asked the waiter if he would wrap up the shell for me to take home. At first he was reluctant (I think the restaurant preferred to reuse their shells), but he agreed after I explained about my project. Was it my imagination or did I see the kitchen staff peer out at me and snicker?
The meal concluded with an uninspiring portion of homemade panzerotti al salmone (salmon-stuffed pasta in cream sauce) and a side of boiled spinach. The complimentary glass of prosecco was a welcome touch, but overall I found Al Granzo to be a bit stuffy. It didn’t help that I was the only guest in the dining room for my entire meal.
That evening, back in my hotel room, it was a nice surprise to discover the Valentine’s Day card my boyfriend (now husband) had hidden in the bottom of my suitcase!
There was a chill in the air as I left Hotel Principe the next morning and crossed the street once again to the train station. Fortunately, this time, there were no strikes, and I was able to take the train to Cividale del Friuli. Located about ten miles northeast of Udine, Cividale is a delightful town straddling the banks of the Natisone River.
The train ride was only about 20 minutes, and so I arrived in Cividale by 9:00am. The town center was just a short walk from the train station, and I headed first to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale. Cividale was founded by Julius Caesar in 50 BC and was one of the region’s principal towns during several centuries of Roman rule. During the 6th century AD, the town was occupied by the Lombards, who had arrived from across central Europe on a fierce conquering spree. The museum contains relics from both Roman and Lombard civilizations, including a coin collection, eating utensils, swords and other weaponry, ivory ornaments, gold brooches, jeweled necklaces, and most famously, the sarcophagus of Cividale’s first duke, Gisulfo.
Next I visited the 8th-century Duomo di Santa Maria Assunta. This stark church houses the Museo Cristiano, whose most notable treasures are the altar of the Lombard duke Ratchis and the octagonal baptistery built for Patriarch Callisto.
My next destination was the Ipogeo Celtico, an underground series of caves that may once have been used for burial purposes. My guidebook had instructed to request the key at the nearby Bar All’Ipogeo. The key would then unlock an unmarked door around the corner. It was pitch black inside, and the light switch was not working. I returned to the bar for help, and the owner came with me to flip the breaker switch back on. The lights came on to reveal a set of steep stairs leading down into a dark cavern. As I descended, the sound of dripping water echoed against the rough, stone walls.
Back above ground, I took some time to wander through Cividale’s narrow cobblestone streets before proceeding to the next sights on my agenda. The sky was gray and cloudy, and the smell of burning wood hung in the air. Following the street signs (which were written in both Italian and Furlan, Friuli’s native language), I made my way along ancient winding alleys until I reached the Tempietto Longobardo. Perched on a cliff above the emerald green Natisone River, this temple is Cividale’s most significant Lombard monument. Inside the tiny church were faded frescoes, intricately carved wooden choir stalls, and six female saints in high relief poised above a grapevine-motif arch.
From the Tempietto, I walked to the Ponte del Diavolo. This “Devil’s Bridge” was named after a popular legend in which the townspeople of Cividale made a pact with the Devil. The Devil agreed to build the bridge overnight in exchange for the first soul to cross it. The next day, however, the townspeople outwitted the Devil by sending across a cat instead of a human.
The narrow bridge allowed only one lane of traffic, and pedestrians had to squeeze through on the side. To the immediate left after crossing the bridge was the Belvedere Panoramico with scenic views of the town’s church towers across the river. A set of dilapidated, mossy steps led down to a sandy bank along the water.
I accomplished all this in 3-1/2 hours, and it was time for lunch. I crossed back over the bridge and found myself at Osteria Alla Terrazza. With my glass of Tocai wine, the waitress served a complimentary slice of bruschetta topped with prosciutto and gorgonzola. I ordered the cjarsons alle erbe, tiny pasta half-moons that were filled with aromatic herbs, biscotti, apples, cinnamon, and cherry preserves, and then topped with melted butter, fresh sage, and smoked ricotta cheese. A ring of prosciutto encircled the plate as garnish. For dessert, I enjoyed a plate of struki (rectangular, bite-size turnovers filled with dried fruit and nuts) accompanied by a glass of honey-colored Picolit, the region’s widely acclaimed—though unfortunately low-yielding—dessert wine.
On my way back to the train station, I stopped at a bakery to buy a gubana, Friuli’s signature pastry. There are two types of gubana, and this one was the yeast dough variety, filled with dried fruit, nuts, and spices—it would make a nice treat back in my hotel room! Here is my version of the recipe:
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup grappa or rum
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
3/4 cup finely crushed biscotti or amaretti cookies
1/2 cup diced candied orange peel
1/4 cup pine nuts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1. Place the raisins in a large bowl; add the grappa and let soak for 30 minutes.
2. Finely grind the walnuts and almonds in a food processor; add to the bowl of raisins. Stir in the crushed biscotti, candied orange peel, pine nuts, melted butter, sugar, cinnamon, and egg.
3-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast, divided
1/3 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup warm water (100° to 110°F), divided
2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 egg yolk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced and softened
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• • •
1 teaspoon sugar
1. In a small bowl, dissolve 2 teaspoons yeast and a pinch of sugar in 1/4 cup warm water. Let rest until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup flour. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
2. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Stir in 1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, the egg, and egg yolk. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
3. In a small bowl, dissolve the remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons yeast and a pinch of sugar in the remaining 1/4 cup warm water. Let rest until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add to the bowl of risen dough, along with the remaining flour and sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla extract; mix well. Using a mixer with a dough hook attachment, knead for 10 minutes. (It may be necessary to occasionally scrape the ball of dough off the hook.) Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface; knead briefly by hand. (The dough should be smooth and elastic.) Form the dough into a ball; cover loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise for 1-1/2 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F, placing a pan filled with water on the bottom rack to create steam. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a 14- by 20-inch rectangle. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border on all but one short side. (The filling will be sparse in places; just cover the dough as evenly as possible.) Starting with one long side, roll up jelly roll style. Place the roll seam-side down on a sheet of parchment paper. Beginning with the end that has the filling spread to the edge, form the roll into a spiral. Transfer the spiral, along with the parchment paper, to a baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
5. Sprinkle the top of the spiral with 1 teaspoon sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes.