In a real-life fairytale, American author Sheryl Ness shares how she fell in love with Vincenzo, a chef in a quaint Tuscan kitchen, over his decadent hot chocolate cake.
The enchanting memoir, Love in a Tuscan Kitchen, transports readers to cobblestone streets, lush hillsides dotted with grapevines and olive trees, as well as unique characters that create the backdrop for this Italian love story. The book is sprinkled with traditional recipes collected during Sheryl’s time in San Gusmè, northeast of Siena, and is flavored with rich accounts of dreams fulfilled many times over while living in the picturesque village. Here, Sheryl and Vincenzo share two springtime recipes.
by Vincenzo Giangiordano
The lemon cream pairs well with fresh berries and lemon, almond and pistachio biscotti (see recipe below). A food thermometer is needed for this recipe.
3 fresh medium lemons
30 ounces (850 g) heavy cream (around 1 quart)
3/4 cup (150 gr) sugar
Place the heavy cream and sugar in a medium saucepan and slowly warm over low to medium heat until the cream reaches a temperature of 167°F (75°C). Take off the heat and let cool slightly until the mixture reaches a temperature of 149°F (65°C).
While the mixture is cooling, zest the lemons and squeeze the juice into a small bowl. When zesting the lemon, take off all of the outer yellow peel, down to the white pith.
Once the cream reaches 149°F (65°C), stir in the lemon juice and lemon zest.
Pour the lemon cream into individual glass parfait dishes (the cream should fit in about 8-10 parfait dishes that are at least 4 ounces each). Let cool slightly, about 20 minutes. Place parfait glasses covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator.
The cream will set up and be ready to eat in 4-6 hours. This is best prepared the day before you plan to serve it. It can be stored in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
Lemon, almond and pistachio biscotti
by Sheryl Ness
½ cup (114 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup (150 g) sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
Zest of 1 lemon
¾ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp sea salt
1¾ cups (220 g) all-purpose flour
½ cup (70 g) roasted almonds (whole)
½ cup (70 g) roasted pistachios (whole)
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
Cream together the butter and sugar. The mixture should be light yellow and smooth. Add the egg and beat well. Next add the vanilla and lemon extract, baking powder and salt. Mix well.
Zest the lemon and add to the dough.
Add in the almonds and pistachios, mix well.
Add the flour 1 cup at a time, mixing well. You may need more or less flour depending on the humidity. The dough should not be too sticky. You should be able to handle it with your hands without sticking.
Separate the dough into three equal parts and form three logs of dough that are about 1½ inches wide and 10-12 inches long. Place on a baking sheet that is covered with parchment paper.
Bake at 375°F (190°C) for 12-14 minutes. The cookies should be light golden brown.
Let cool for about 20 minutes.
Reduce oven heat to 350°F (175°C).
Place the cookie logs on a cutting board and cut into individual slices about ½ inch wide (like slicing bread, except don’t use a sawing motion when cutting, use a sharp knife and cut in one motion down through the cookies).
Place the cookies back on the baking sheet with one side down.
Bake again for 8-10 minutes until they are just slightly brown.
Let cool and enjoy! Store in an airtight container or canister.
The recipes feature in Sheryl Ness’ book Love in a Tuscan Kitchen: Savoring Life Through the Romance, Recipes, and Traditions of Italy.
This article was published in Issue 277 of The Florentine.