This issue’s recipe comes from Alessandra Rovati, who was born and raised in Venice. An Italian food writer and lecturer, Rovati now lives in New York City with her husband and children. Her articles and recipes have appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Forward, Hadassah, Joy of Kosher, and The Jewish Week. You can find many of Alessandra’s recipes and thoughts on cooking at her website, www.dinnerinvenice.com.
For years, I had been intrigued by this curious cake from Livorno, a dessert that features sweet egg threads on top – a sign that it was introduced by the egg-loving Portuguese Jews who were invited to settle in the city by the Grand-Duke of Tuscany in the 16th Century. With the help of the Jewish merchants, Livorno became one of the most important port cities in Europe (and also a center of the printing press) -- and known as “the city with no ghetto.” I was already familiar with the local cuisine, and decided to try my hand at this tart, which looks like no other.
You can find the entire recipe here as well as below. Enjoy!
1 1/3 cup finely ground almonds (200 gr)
½ cup sugar (100 gr)
pinch of salt
grated zest of 1 medium orange
1 large egg
3 or 4 tbsps candied etrog or lemon peel, finely chopped (optional)
1 cup + 2 tbsps water (250 ml)
2 ¼ cups sugar
8 large egg yolks
1 tbsp lemon or orange juice
1 ½ tbsps orange flower water, if liked (or 1 more tbsp orange juice)
Preheat your oven to 320 F (yes, it’s very low, but if the temperature is higher the “macaroon” will be too crunchy to cut).
Place the sugar and water for the base in a heavy saucepan and simmer until sticky (I have also skipped this step and used plain sugar instead of making the syrup, with an acceptable result). Add the almonds and zest, stirring with a wooden spoon until everything is well combined.
Allow to cool, and when it’s just lukewarm add the egg.
Line the bottom of a 9 to 9” baking pan with wet parchment (squeeze it well) and grease the sides. Pour in the cake mixture and press it down gently with your wet fingertips.
Bake for about 30 minutes and set aside.
For the egg threads, boil the sugar, water and juice in a frying pan (about 10” wide and with tall-ish sides so the syrup doesn’t splatter all over your stovetop), and simmer until the syrup is thick enough to stick to a spoon (coating it).
Slightly beat the yolks in a small bowl and then fill your pastry syringe with as much beaten egg as it can hold.
Now press the yolk out of the syringe and into the simmering syrup, starting at the center and moving the syringe in an outward circular motion so that the egg makes a long spiral thread into the syrup.
When you are done, press the thread down into the syrup with a wooden spoon or a spatula and let cook for a few seconds, until it holds together (but it should still be soft).
Remove with a slotted spoon and dry on a double layer of paper towel.
Repeat the same process with the rest of the yolks.
When all the yolks are cooked and drained, place them in a colander and rinse some of the syrup off with water.
Allow them to dry well.
Invert the almond base into a platter, top it with the candied peel and decorate it with the egg threads. It’s worth it!