Alessio’s Saffron Zuccoto, An Illustrated Recipe

Making Zuccotto: Enjoy!

Making Zuccotto: Enjoy!

A zuccotto is a tasty summer dessert, a well-chilled cream surrounded by sponge cake that gains zest from a hint of liqueur, and though it looks impressive it’s easy to make.

Chef Alessio Pesucci of the Locanda del Gallo in Chiochio (outside Florence) used a saffron cream in this zuccotto, in part because saffron is, like wine, a traditional Tuscan crop.

The use of saffron does require additional time: to extract its flavor Alessio soaked the pistils for 24 hours in cream.

A zuccotto is even easier if you start with commercially prepared sponge cake. However, Alessio, being a fine chef, makes his own.

The ingredients, for 10 servings:

The Cake:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/8 cup (75 g) sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup (80 g) flour
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) clarified butter (you could, if you had to, use unclarified), melted
  • 1 teaspoon butter to grease the pan
  • 2 teaspoons flour to flour the pan

The Filling:

  • 1 pint (500 ml) heavy cream
  • A pinch of saffron pistils (.5 grams)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar

The Syrup:

  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • 3/5 cup (150 ml) water
  • A shot (30 ml, or 2 tablespoons) of amaretto liqueur

Alessio began by pouring about a half cup of cream into a jar, adding the saffron pistils, covering the jar, giving it a good shake to sink the pistils, and putting it in the fridge.

Making Zuccotto: Preparing Torta Genovese

Making Zuccotto: Preparing Torta Genovese

He next made the sponge cake — a Genovese — by beating the eggs and sugar over a double boiler, beating constantly until the mixture reached a temperature of 50 C (about 120 F).

He then cooled the mixture by putting the top half of the double boiler in a pot of cold water, whipping constantly, and then added the flour in one fell swoop and continued to whisk the mixture for several minutes, until it looked right. At this point he gently folded in the butter, and turned the batter out into a 10-inch (25 cm) ring pan lined with oven parchment, and buttered and floured.

He baked the cake in a preheated 380 F (190 C) oven for 20 minutes, and turned it out on a rack to cool. Because the saffron had to soak, everything else happened the next day.

Making Zuccotto: Slicing The Torta Genovese

Making Zuccotto: Slicing The Torta Genovese

Come time to assemble the zuccotto — in this case the next day, when the saffron had released its essence into the cream, turning it a pretty charged yellow — one begins by lining the bowl, which should be about 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter and hemispherical.

Cut the cake into two layers and set one aside. Cut the other into thin strips.

Making Zuccotto: Lining the Bowl

Making Zuccotto: Lining the Bowl

Line the bowl with the strips, using smaller pieces to fill in voids. If you want, you can lay the strips in a decorative pattern, but we didn’t.

Making Zuccotto: Filling the Bowl

Making Zuccotto: Filling the Bowl

When the bowl is lined, see to the filling: Chef Stefan combined the cream and powdered sugar and beat them until soft and fluffy. He then spooned the mixture into the bowl, smoothed it with a spatula, and covered it with a round of cake cut from the layer that had been set aside.

And set it into the fridge to chill for 2 hours.

Making Zuccotto: Brushing the Pan di Spagna with Syrup

Making Zuccotto: Brushing the Pan di Spagna with Syrup

Before unmolding the zuccotto, Stephan made a syrup by heating the sugar and water together, stirring gently until the sugar had completely dissolved.

He stirred in the amaretto liqueur and brushed the base of the zuccotto with the syrup (lightly, the cake shouldn’t be soaked). He next put a serving plate over the bowl, flipped both, and removed the bowl to free the zuccotto. At this point he brushed the top as well.

Stephan used a long knife to cut the zuccotto into sections. Since it’s a rich dessert the sections are small.

Making Zuccotto: Remving the Slice

Making Zuccotto: Remving the Slice

Some cocoa powder for decoration (see above), and enjoy!

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Categories: Illustrated Recipes And More, Puddings and Spoon Desserts

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.

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