Rachel Roddy’s recipe for zuccotto – an alcoholic cream and sponge pudding | Food


Jhere, of course, are legends about courgette, the domed sponge pudding filled with ricotta. The first is that Bernardo Buontalenti, the architect who designed the ice houses for the Medici family, also designed a semifreddo pudding for them using a metal artillery helmet, or zuccotto, as the shape. Another is that because its shape and sponge (stained with alchermes liquor) resemble an ecclesiastical zuccotto (scarlet skullcap), it was named after that. Or is it a terry homage to the Duomo in Florence?

It doesn’t matter, even if no one really believes it – the narrative is so seductive that it satisfies anyway. I do like the legend of Buontalenti, though: architect, theater designer, military engineer, and the man credited with inventing Italian gelato. Where was he when he had the stroke of genius to use a metal helmet as a mold for an ice cream pudding?

While looking for a suitable mold at home, I wondered about using my son’s plastic helmet, but only briefly, before landing on a small metal bowl of one and a half liters. Unfortunately no copper, as Giovanni Righi Parenti suggests in his detailed book on Tuscan cuisine. He gives two recipes for zuccotto – two sponge-lined domes with toasted nuts and candied fruit; one filled with cream, the other with ricotta. To soak the sponge, he offers seven alcoholic options: strega, Bénédictine, rhum, Grand Marnier, crème de cacao, cherry brandy or alchermes – the only one we have at home; a bottle bought four years ago and gathering dust at the back of a bookcase.

According to Darra Goldstein in the Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, the first recorded recipe for alcherms comes from ancient Baghdad, and it called for apple juice, gold leaf, cinnamon, musk, pearls, rose water, sugar, aloe and dear (AKA cochineal – a blood-red dye expertly extracted from a small parasitic insect of the same name). This precious tonic was prescribed for heart palpitations, and as a treatment for melancholy and madness. The recipe then traveled to Europe, where it was adapted, notably by the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica of the Florentine renaissance, in its alchermes confectionery, an infusion of cochineal, spices, rose and honey in alcohol, which became a precious rebirth remedy of prodigious strength. In his scandalous 18th-century memoirs, librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte recounts how, after being dragged more dead than alive from a car after an accident, three glasses of alcherms makes him a new man.

Cochineal was and remains an important ingredient and industry in Peru and the Canary Islands. Since 2009 it must be clearly labeled as a food coloring because it is an allergen for a small number of people. For your zuccotto, of course, you don’t have to use alcherms; you have a mini bar of options for your sponge dome, a slice of which not only calms and reassures, but also brings joy.

Zuccotto (Domed Tuscan sponge pudding filled with ricotta, cream, candied fruit and nuts)

Preparation 10 minutes
To cook 50 minutes
Freeze 8h+
Serves 8

6 eggsseparate
g icing sugar
g plain flour
grams of ricotta
ml of whipped cream
g peeled almondscoarsely chopped
g candied orange, coarsely chopped
g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
chermes, strega, Grand Marnier or Bénédictine
Cocoa powder
to dust off

Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan)/375F/Gas 5. For the sponge cake, use a balloon or electric whisk to beat the yolks and 150g icing sugar until pale and fluffy . In another bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff, then combine them with the egg yolk mixture. Pour into a lined pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until firm and golden, then remove and let cool completely.

Whip half the cream until stiff peaks form, then stir in the ricotta, remaining 50g icing sugar and all the coarsely chopped almonds, orange and chocolate.

Cut the whole cake into long slices 1 cm thick. Line a 1.5 liter bowl 20cm wide, laying the longest slices in the middle and working outward, patching if necessary. Sprinkle the sponge with the alcohol of your choice. Fill the hollow with the mixture of ricotta and cream, then cover with other strips of biscuit.

Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for at least eight hours or overnight. Take out of the freezer 45 minutes before serving and invert the zuccotto onto a plate. Whip the rest of the whipped cream, use it to cover the dome, then sprinkle with cocoa and serve in thick slices.


About Author

Comments are closed.