Do you know how the recipe for gluten-free Carnival Fried Tortelli came about? By pure chance, while experimenting with doughs for the Cicerchiata cooked live with the Rieti and Viterbo Chamber of Commerce! Among various combinations of flour, egg and sugar, having obtained a beautiful smooth and firm dough, I thought I would try making Tortelli with plum jam.

The result? Delicious fried Carnival Tortelli! And it’s a good thing I had written down all the weights of the ingredients, otherwise I would have missed out on the doses for an ideal dough for a traditional recipe that has always been prepared in my family (usually in a version with gluten) for Mardi Gras.

Here are other recipes you can prepare for Carnival: Cicerchiata, Fried cream e Krapfen with jam.

Gluten-free Carnival Fried Tortelli

54g carbohydrates per 100g

Ingredients for 10 Tortelli

  • 150g plum jam*, very firm
  • 100g gluten-free flour mix for bread, brand BiAglut**
  • 100g gluten-free bread flour, brand Mix B Schär**
  • 2 eggs
  • 20-30g milk (add it gradually)
  • 25g sugar
  • 15g butter
  • lemon rind
  • sunflower seed oil for deep frying

Preparation

  1. Pour the eggs into a bowl, beat them with a fork together with the sugar, add the soft butter and lemon zest. Gradually incorporate the flour, stirring with a fork until the mixture is firm enough to knead with your hands. Add enough milk to obtain a firm mixture, then transfer to a cutting board and knead with your hands until you obtain a smooth, homogeneous and non-sticky dough.
  2. Cover it with cling film and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 5mm, place a teaspoon of very firm plum jam on top of the pastry, cover with another layer and cut out the Tortelli with the mould provided. Continue until everything is used up.
  4. Heat the seed oil to a temperature of 170-180°C and deep-fry a few Tortelli at a time, using a skimmer to flip them so that they brown evenly. Drain them well on paper towels.

tortelli-dolci-di-carnevale

Version with gluten of Carnival Fried Tortelli

Replace the BiAglut and Schär flours with equal amounts of 00 wheat flour and adjust the amount of milk added.

This idea for gluten-free carnival sweets came to me from my friends at the Rieti and Viterbo Chamber of Commerce, who, keeping alive an initiative conceived during the Covid-19 pandemic, organised FB lives from theOsteria Le Tre Porte in Rieti to publicise the products of the area by sending to bloggers and journalists throughout Italy the ingredients to prepare various dishes including Cicerchiata.

When I received the information about the recipes we would prepare together, I had not imagined that Cicerchiata would be a dessert. Instead, in the province of Rieti, it is the traditional Carnival dessert inspired by Campania’s ‘Struffoli‘. The traditional form is that of a garland, which is obtained by pouring the sweets into a doughnut mould, while I’m proposing a mini-serving version so as not to be tempted to eat too much of it.

Given the fundamental role of honey in this recipe, it seems that the spread of Cicerchiata is linked to the development of bee-keeping in this area of Italy, while the name is presumed to derive from the legume grass peas of which the sweet balls of dough reproduce the shape and colour, so Cicerchiata would be a nice ‘stack of grass peas’.

Like many Carnival sweets, Circerchiata symbolises regeneration through its circular shape, the frying that turns a cold dough into a delicacy, and the vitality of honey and colourful decorations.

A tip for those of us who have to be careful with both fried food and simple sugars? Form very small balls, just like dried chickpeas, and reduce the amount of honey to the minimum necessary to hold the precious compositions together.

Here are a few more ideas for Carnival: Krapfen with jam e Fried cream.

cicerchiata

Cicerchiata

60g carbohydrates per 100g without candied fruit and coloured sprinkles

Ingredients

  • 160g flour mix for bread, brand BiAglut**
  • 2 eggs + 15g egg white
  • 100g honey
  • 40g brown rice flour*
  • 25g sugar
  • 20g butter
  • lemon rind
  • slivered almonds*
  • candied fruit*
  • coloured sprinkles*

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Pour the eggs into a bowl, beat them with a fork together with the sugar, add the soft butter and lemon zest. Gradually incorporate the flour, stirring with a fork until the mixture is firm enough to knead with your hands. Transfer everything onto the work surface and continue kneading with your hands until you obtain a smooth and homogeneous dough, similar to fresh pasta.
  2. Divide the dough into small portions, form them into sticks of dough having a diameter of about 8mm as for making Gnocchi, then cut them into chunks no more than 8mm-1cm long. Round the pieces of dough with your fingers to form small balls.
  3. Heat the seed oil to a temperature of 170-180°C and deep fry a few balls at a time. When they are golden brown, drain them well and let them cool on kitchen paper.
  4. Meanwhile, pour the honey into a large pan and heat it gently for a few minutes. When it has browned slightly, turn off the heat and add the fried balls, stirring to coat them evenly. Finally, add the almonds and sprinkles, taking care to keep some aside for decoration. Mix again, pour the mixture into the desired moulds, garnish with the almonds and sprinkles kept aside and serve.

Cicerchiata

Version with gluten of Cicerchiata

Replace BiAglut flour and rice flour with 250g wheat flour 00 and add 30g sugar instead of 25g.

I have already introduced you to the black cherry liqueur Ratafià by the artisan company Scuppoz so today you will discover the second liqueur I love to use in the kitchen, namely the liquorice liqueur which I propose in this Almond panna cotta with liquorice reduction, which is also lactose-free.

Liquorice is Abruzzo’s black gold. In the past, this root was given to children instead of candies because it was just as sweet and available in nature along the paths from the mountains down to the sea.

Scuppoz Liquorice Liqueur is produced in a completely artisan way by infusing liquorice roots, which give the liqueur an unmistakable and harmonious flavour (here you can find the AIC rules for choosing gluten-free liqueurs). The ideal temperature for enjoying this liqueur is the refrigerator temperature, as is also the case in my recipe in which, however, we no longer have alcohol in order to serve it to children too!

Follow Scuppoz’s news on social media (https://www.instagram.com/scuppoz_spirits/ ): you won’t regret it!

panna cotta alle mandorle

Almond panna cotta with liquorice reduction

41.35g carbohydrates per 100g of Panna cotta without liquorice reduction

Ingredients for 4-5 servings

  • 200g vegetable cream*
  • 150g almond milk*
  • 70g sugar
  • 8g gelatine sheets*

Ingredients for the liquorice reduction

  • Scuppoz liquorice liqueur*

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

 Preparation

  1. Soak the gelatine in cold water.
  2. Put almond milk, vegetable cream and sugar on the stove to heat.
  3. Wring the gelatine and add it to the mixture over the heat so that it melts, then stir well and remove from the heat.
  4. Fill moulds of the desired shape, then place them in the refrigerator for a few hours so that the mixture solidifies.
  5. Prepare the liquorice liquor reduction. Put the desired amount in a small pan and when it comes to the boil, let it reduce for a few minutes, then allow it to cool completely. You can decide to put it in the refrigerator until the momento of serving.
  6. Remove the Panna cotta from the moulds and place it directly on the serving plate, then douse it with the liquorice liqueur.

panna cotta alle mandorle

Version with gluten of Almond panna cotta with liquorice reduction

The recipe contains only naturally gluten free ingredients, so no adaptation is necessary for its version with gluten.

The best part of an Easter egg is definitely opening it to find out what surprise it contains, so I didn’t want to miss out on this pleasure by proposing a mouth-watering dessert that is perfect for a picnic on the first days of spring: my Little truffles with surprise.

Thinking of the perfect dessert for an Easter Monday lunch, perhaps by the sea or surrounded by nature, a bite-sized treat to be eaten without cutlery is definitely the perfect solution. And do you know how my Little truffles with surprise were born? By pure chance with ingredients found in the fridge after my online cooking course on Fantastic Tarts. I recommend not underestimating the surprise effect by putting whatever you like in the centre of the soft mascarpone cream: in addition to my suggestions, give free rein to your imagination to make each bite unique.

Another added value of Little truffles with surprise is that you can prepare the dough even a week in advance by storing it in the freezer! Simply take it out of the freezer a few hours before completing the preparation… in short, a dessert for busy mums.

And if you want to know what my Easter lunch menu is going to be, here it is: Tuna and pepper quiche, Herb-marinated chicken salad and Little truffles with surprise.

Little truffles with surprise

33.15g carbohydrates per 100g of truffles without filling

Ingredients for about 20 little truffles

  • 250g Mascarpone
  • 180g shortbread biscuits**
  • 45g icing sugar*
  • 30g espresso coffee
  • filling to taste: jam*, berries, chocolate cream*, hazelnut cream*, almonds, hazelnuts, dried fruit
  • bitter cocoa powder*

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Blend the shortbread biscuits in a mixer, then mix them with Mascarpone, icing sugar and espresso coffee to obtain a homogeneous mixture. Place the mixture in the freezer to harden and make it workable.
  2. When the mixture is firm, weigh out 25g spoonfuls, flatten them on the palm of one hand and place the filling of your choice in the centre, closing to form a ball.
  3. Place the cocoa powder in a soup dish or small bowl and roll the truffles in it so that they are well coated with cocoa.
  4. Place the truffles in paper cups and keep them in the fridge, taking care to remove them about 30 minutes before serving.

N.B.: to use them for a picnic, keep them in the freezer until the last moment, then store them in a cooler until ready to eat.

Tartufini-close-up

Version with gluten of Little truffles with surprise

Replace gluten-free shortbread biscuits with conventional biscuits; all other ingredients are naturally gluten-free, so no adaptations are necessary.

 

My passion for cheese stems from my roots and is ignited whenever cheese is the protagonist of an initiative. For this reason, also this year I enthusiastically accepted to participate in the “Choose your taste, sweet or spicy, only from Europe” project in collaboration with the European Commission and the Italian Food Blogger Association to promote knowledge and consumption of Provolone Valpadana PDO.

Spicy Provolone Valpadana PDO in my Valentine’s Day dessert

provolone valpadana DOP

I told you how Provolone Valpadana PDO is produced when I prepared my Savoury Muffinsbut this time I used the spicy version of this cheese to prepare a fantastic dessert that left all my guests literally speechless. For those who do not have time to read about the production process of Provolone Valpadana PDOit is really interesting to know that the sharpness of this cheese is only determined by the use of kidrennet instead of calf rennet: every tiny detail opens up a world of differences in cheese with Designations of Origin!

Why this recipe? Because I wanted to propose a perfect idea for Valentine’s Day, namely a spicy dessert, just like love! And also because I love cheese eaten with pears and walnuts, two very classic pairings that reconfirm time and again that sweet and savoury can give us great taste pleasures.

So I prepared a custard using coconut milk so that this dessert could be eaten not only by those who are gluten intolerant, but also by those who are lactose intolerant because Provolone Valpadana is naturally lactose-free! The other star is pears in red wine, a fragrant winter pampering, the ideal partner for cheese. Finally, I created crunchiness with toasted breadcrumbs and walnuts, which are the most neutral part of the recipe, essential to bind all the elements together in a warm and affectionate hug.

Have I convinced you? Run to buy the ingredients and surprise your loved ones… with just the right amount of sweet spiciness.

Coconut Cream with spicy red wine pears

21.23 g carbohydrates per 100g

Ingredients for the coconut cream for 4 servings

  • 225g coconut milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 40g sugar
  • vanilla from the pod

Ingredients for the spicy red wine pears

  • 4 Kaiser pears of about 140g each
  • 250g red wine
  • 50g sugar
  • 1/2 star anise berry
  • 2 cardamom berries
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Ingredients to complete

  • 40g breadcrumbs**
  • 30g shelled walnuts
  • 10g butter
  • spicy Provolone Valpadana PDO

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Heat up the coconut milk on the stove and in the meantime whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and a dash of vanilla. When the milk is about to come to the boil, remove it from the heat and pour it over the beaten egg yolks, stirring with a whisk; put the cream back on the heat and let it thicken for a few minutes. Put it aside to cool, then store it in the refrigerator.
  2. Prepare the pears: peel them, leaving the stalks, and place them in a saucepan large enough to hold the pears close together. Pour the wine, sugar and spices into the saucepan, then put the lid on, bring everything to the boil, then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer for 30 minutes. Let the pears cool in their cooking liquid, then remove them and allow the liquid to reduce to a caramel-like thickness.
  3. Put the knob of butter in a non-stick pan, melt it and add the breadcrumbs to toast them. When the bread is almost ready, add the walnuts after breaking them up lightly with your hands. Toast for a few minutes.
  4. Assemble the cake at the time of serving. In a deep dish, pour a small ladle of custard and place one pear in the centre of the dish. Using a large hole grater, grate slivers of Provolone Valpadana cheese over the cream and pear; top with the toasted bread and walnuts and the reduced wine sauce. Serve the dessert cold, possibly paired with a small glass of Barolo Chinato or Port wine.

crema al cocco con pere speziate al vino rosso

Version with gluten of Coconut cream with spicy red wine pears

With the exception of the breadcrumbs, the recipe contains only naturally gluten-free ingredients, so replace the gluten-free breadcrumbs with conventional breadcrumbs.

What could be more satisfying than a dessert prepared without the addition of sugar and with two of the most delicious ingredients par excellence, chocolate and cherries? The answer is: this Chocolate and cherry ganache, the pleasure of a dessert without the (or perhaps it is better to say ‘with very little’) guilt!!!

Yes, because while this fantastic recipe does not include added sugar and cream, it does not mean that it is calorie-free because it is made with avocado and chocolate, but at the same time, it is calories from nutritionally valuable foods.

Avocado is in fact rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids (therefore good for our organism), antioxidants (it is no coincidence that it is used in many cosmetic products), vitamins, fibres and mineral salts, so much so that it has an anti-inflammatory function on our body: a true natural supplement. Moreover, for some years now, its cultivation has been spreading to Sicily and Sardinia, making its consumption much more environmentally sustainable for us Italians.

As far as chocolate is concerned, the choice you have at your disposal is very wide, so buy your favourite chocolate considering a cocoa percentage of no more than 55-60% (otherwise you will feel the need to add some sugar to the preparation) and perhaps lactose-free for those who are lactose intolerant: in short, Chocolate and Cherry Ganache is really the dessert for everyone, considering that with the right chocolate it is also suitable for vegans.

Also, since the cherry season is, alas, always too short for such a delicious fruit, indulge yourself with any other fruit to make the accompanying sauce, perhaps following the recipe for Panna cotta with berries.

Chocolate and cherry ganache with no added sugar

 18.83g carbohydrates per 100g

Ingredients for chocolate ganache for 4 servings

  • 200g avocado pulp (approx. 1 avocado)
  • 120g chocolate with no added sugar*
  • 25g bitter cocoa*
  • water, if needed
  • edible flowers for decoration (optional)

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Ingredients for the cherry sauce

  • 400g cherries
  • the juice of 1/ 2 lemon
  • water

Preparation 

  1. Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie or microwave, then let it cool down.
  2. Put the avocado pulp in the blender with the cocoa powder and melted chocolate: blend to obtain a smooth and fluffy cream adding a few tablespoons of cold water if it is too hard.
  3. Stone the cherries and place them in a non-stick pan with the lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of water over high heat so that the cherries release some of their juice: this will take about 5 minutes.
  4. Assemble the cups by placing a portion of chocolate ganache and the cherries with their cooking liquid as a complement: you can serve them cold or warm as you like.

ganache di cioccolato e ciliegie

Version with gluten of Chocolate and cherry ganache with no added sugar

This recipe contains only naturally gluten-free ingredients, so no adaptations are necessary.

What is your favourite cake? How many times have you been asked that! And I never know how to answer, but on second thought, the Fresh Fruit Tart with naturally gluten-free flours could take the podium.

So this year I decided to publish the recipe on the occasion of my birthday, because, as it is often happens to who cook, we end up making our own birthday cake! For a garden party, you can also opt for Tartlets with strawberries.

Here’s how to cook it and two different finishes that have delighted the family on different occasions.

Fresh fruit tart with naturally gluten-free flours

50.31g carbohydrates per 100g of tart

Ingredients for the shortbread

  • 150g wholemeal rice flour*
  • 100g almonds, peeled
  • 100g sugar
  • 80 g butter
  • 60g corn starch*
  • 40g potato starch*
  • 2 eggs
  • 8g baking powder*
  • grated lemon rind
  • 1 pinch of salt

Ingredients for the pastry cream

  • 500g semi-skimmed milk
  • 150g sugar
  • 40g corn starch*
  • 5 egg yolks
  • a bit of vanilla from the pod
  • rind of 1 lemon (optional)

Ingredients to complete

  • 400g mixed fruit
  • jelly spray for tarts*

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Blend the almonds to obtain a flour, then place it in a bowl or planetary mixer with all the other shortcrust pastry ingredients. Mix quickly and when you have obtained a homogeneous dough, place it in the refrigerator to rest for about 30 minutes wrapped in cling film.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the custard. Put the milk in a small saucepan on the stove with the lemon peel (if you like) and bring it almost to the boil. In another container, lightly beat the egg yolks and the sugar with a whisk and when they start to whip up, add the cornflour, making care not to let lumps form, and the vanilla bean tip.
  3. Very slowly and always stirring with the whisk, start pouring the boiling milk over the mixture and, once it has all been poured in, return it to the heat until the cream starts to thicken. It is important that you remove the cream from the heat as soon as it starts to thicken, otherwise it will be too hard once it has cooled. Let cool and remove the lemon peel.
  4. Take the shortcrust pastry out of the refrigerator, roll it out on a sheet of baking paper to line a baking tin 24cm in diameter or larger (depending on the thickness you like for the tart, you might have some shortcrust pastry left over that you can use to make breakfast biscuits – delicious!). To blind bake the tart, place a sheet of baking paper filled with beans or rice on top of the shortcrust base and bake for about 15 minutes in a static oven preheated to 180°C. Then remove the baking paper with the beans or rice and finish baking the shortcrust base.
  5. Now compose the cake. Pour the custard over the base, decorate with the washed and cut fruit and sprinkle the jelly over the fruit so that it does not turn brown. Keep the tart in the fridge until it is ready to be eaten and… enjoy the celebrations!

crostata di frutta fresca

Version with gluten of Fresh Fruit Tart with natural flours

The recipe contains only naturally gluten free ingredients, so no adaptation is necessary for its version with gluten.

Easter is approaching and with it the traditions of Easter sweet and savoury recipes with which we celebrate it. This year I thought I would share with you the recipe for a biscuit that I love and that was the star of the course dedicated to Italian Biscuits: I am talking about the gluten-free and traditional  Canestrelli  recipe that you can give to your loved ones with the certainty of making them happy, a perfect gift also for Father’s Day.

The Canestrelli recipe between legends and truths

Canestrelli biscruits are so famous and popular that they need no introduction, yet not many people know their history and preparation techniques.

Their origin dates back to the Middle Ages and even then they were so popular to be depicted on Genovini, i.e. the coins minted from 1252 onwards by the Genoese Republic. The value of this biscuit was linked not only to its taste, but also to the ingredients used, namely white flour and butter, which in the hinterland of Genoa, in the Val di Trebbia, were true rarities, so much so that Canestrelli were used for centuries as currency.

And the name Canestrello is also linked to notoriety as it first appeared in an official document in 1576 that reported on a hapless muleteer stabbed and robbed of a ‘basket’ of biscuits (basket being ‘canestro’ in Italian, hence the name of the biscuits), confirming the value that was attributed to this product.

Precious ingredients and… magical mistakes

While it was considered scandalous to ‘waste’ white flour and butter on a biscuit, there is no shortage of legends to explain why hard-boiled egg yolks are used in the Canestrelli dough instead of fresh eggs (in fact, shortcrust pastry made with hard-boiled egg yolks is a specific type of dough that results in cakes with a crumbly, silky texture).

One such story tells of a woman baker who, on the very day she had a large order of biscuits to prepare, did not wake up as usual. Her husband, in an attempt to help her, had hard-boiled all the eggs to have them ready for breakfast the following days. Having no time to buy more eggs, the baker decided to use the hard-boiled yolks to prepare the biscuit dough: these biscuits were so successful that they became famous throughout the region.

As is often the case in Italy, typical recipes have countless local and even family variants, and Canestrelli are no exception, so although they are recognised as Traditional Food Products (PAT) of Liguria, ingredients and preparation may vary slightly from area to area.

But what are their main characteristics?

Definitely the daisy shape that goes from a diameter of about 10cm with scalloped edges to smaller diameters to be eaten in one bite. The central hole is proportionate to the diameter, while the thickness is always quite high, at least 7 millimetres. The colour is barely golden, made even lighter by the icing sugar with which the surface is dusted.

So, are you now feeling like turning on the oven and baking some biscuits? Do you have some paper bags ready to wrap them for daddy or as a gift for Easter? Have fun with my gluten free Canestrelli!

Canestrelli senza glutine

The typical flower shape of Canestrelli

Gluten free and traditional Canestrelli

carbohydrates 64.31g per 100g canestrelli without icing sugar on the surface

Ingredients for 23 biscuits

  • 120g butter
  • 100g gluten free flour mix for bread, brand BiAglut** (wheat flour for a version with gluten)
  • 100g potato starch or corn starch*
  • 50g icing sugar*
  • 2 yolks of hard-boiled eggs
  • grated rind of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 egg white for brushing
  • icing sugar* to complete

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Put the eggs in boiling water and boil them for 8 minutes; shell them and extract the hard-boiled yolks.
  2. Place the flour, icing sugar, soft butter, starch and sifted egg yolks in a bowl or planetary mixer and start mixing, add the pinch of salt and grated lemon zest, then knead until smooth and firm. Initially the dough will seem dry, but once the butter is mixed in, it will be soft and smooth. Cover the mixture with cling film and put in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  3. Roll out the shortcrust pastry to a thickness of approx. 7mm-1cm, then cut the biscuits using the flower-shaped cookie mould with the hole in the centre. Brush them with egg white.
  4. Put Canestrelli on a baking tin covered with parchment paper and bake them in a static oven preheated to 170°C for about 15-20 minutes without allowing them to get brow: it is important not to bake them too much!
  5. Let them cool down, then dust with icing sugar.

The mould for cutting Canestrelli 

Version with gluten of Canestrelli

Replace the gluten-free flour with an equal amount of wheat flour.

Naturally gluten-free chocolate sweets with candied violets for Valentine’s Day: the candied flower from Parma to give a sweet scent to the palate.

Violette

Violets

Candied flowers and chocolate

Violets are the symbol of spring when their unmistakable colour begins to paint the still cold earth with purple and white brush strokes. This little flower, delicate in form and colour, bursts forth with its powerful scent to announce the magic of nature’s reawakening, which repeats itself every year like a rebirth.

Violets arrived in Parma thanks to Marie Louise of Austria, the second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was Duchess of the Duchy of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla between 1814 and 1847. The Duchess’s passion for this flower meant that many violet cultivations were planted in the area , which the monks of the Convento dell’Annunciata used to obtain the essence through steam distillation of flowers and leaves for the Duchess’s exclusive use. The fragrance created using the precious essential oil soon became famous throughout Europe under the name of Parma Violet.

Even today, at Marie Louise’s behest, her tomb in Vienna is always adorned with violets.

If the use of the violet in perfumery is no surprise, its use in cooking is certainly less well known, especially in the form of a candied sweet, made with painstaking care, artistry and charm by a few skilled hands.

Candying

The production of candied violets is closely linked to nature because, as we all know if we like to pick these fragrant flowers, their appearance along the paths and in the meadows varies according to the temperature, so the few companies dedicated to their processing have their binoculars aimed at spotting the mauve-coloured dots popping up on the horizon.

To be candied, the flowers must be quite large – as the process will reduce their size – and perfectly intact. Once carefully gathered into bunches, the violets are sprayed with fresh water to gently wash them, the stems are removed one by one, then the petals are brushed by hand with glucose syrup before being coated with caster sugar. Covered with sugar, violets are placed in tanks containing glucose and sugar, called Brillantiere, where they crystallise, taking on the appearance that characterises the finished product.

The most striking thing when eating a violet is the scent: a truly unusual experience. Personally, I only discovered in adulthood that these sweets on sale in Parma’s traditional pastry shops were real flowers treated with such passion and not sugar souvenirs for tourists!

Le violette candite sul dolcetto

The candied violets on the cake

In the month of love, a flower to eat.

I wanted to take the opportunity of Valentine’s Day, which I love celebrating in the Anglo-Saxon way (i.e. celebrating love in all its forms and not just between married couples or fiancés), to share with you this traditional preparation from my hometown because I thought you might find it nice to give a ‘bouquet’ of violets to use to make deliciously beautiful and fragrant, mouth-watering treats, to be consumed sparingly when approaching rich and precious things… like a chocolate treat! If you prefer to bake a cake, use candied violets to decorate the Lovers’ Sacher.

Where to find candied violets

In most confectioner’s shops in Parma, especially during the first months of the year, pretty packages of candied violets will pop up, ideal for having a little piece of tradition in a sweet. To be on the safe side, you can enter the realm of confectionery enthusiasts (both physical and online), the shop Dalla A allo Zucchero in the city centre, where you will find any ingredient or equipment to make your cakes, including these beautiful violets.

Chocolate sweets with candied violets

carbohydrates of shortbread bases 53.38g per 100g

carbohydrates of chocolate mousse 22.12g per 100g

Ingredients for the shortbread for 12 sweets

  • 110g wholemeal rice flour*
  • 65g butter
  • 65g brown or coconut sugar
  • 35g almond flour*
  • 25g potato starch*
  • 25g tapioca starch*
  • 10g bitter cocoa powder*
  • 1 egg
  • grated orange peel or orange paste*
  • 1 pinch of salt

Ingredients for the chocolate mousse

  • 200g fresh cream
  • 100g dark chocolate*
  • 50g milk
  • 30g egg white (about 1)
  • 30g sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice;
  • grated coconut*
  • candied violets*

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation of shortbread and mousse

  1. Prepare the shortbread by putting all the ingredients in the bowl of the planetary mixer; mix for a few minutes until the mixture is blended. Form a ball, cover it with cling film and place it in the refrigerator for the time needed to prepare the chocolate mousse
  2. Chop the dark chocolate finely; bring the milk to the boil and pour it over the dark chocolate, stirring with a whisk so that the chocolate melts completely.
  3. Whip the egg whites until stiff and add the sugar, mixing it in. Add this meringue to the melted chocolate, which will still be warm.
  4. Whip the cream until it has the texture of a Greek yoghurt (semi-whipped), then add this to the chocolate and egg white mixture. Place the mixture in the bowl of the planetary mixer and whip it for about 2 minutes with the whisk so that it is creamy, but soft. Allow to rest in the refrigerator for the time needed to prepare the shortbread bases.

Assembly of chocolate sweets

  1. Roll out the shortbread to a thickness of about 5mm with a rolling pin and cut out discs of the diameter corresponding to the tartlet mould (I use the non-stick mould for 12 muffins by Le Creusetit is very convenient because it doesn’t need to be greased), make them fit well in the hole, pierce the bottom with a fork and bake in a static oven preheated to 180°C for 10-13 minutes.
  2. If you have some shortbread left, cut some heart-shaped biscuits that you can use to decorate the sweets.
  3. Take the tartlets out of the oven and allow them to cool completely.
  4. Take a pastry bag and choose the tip you want: I chose the smooth 1.5cm diameter tip. Remove the mousse from the refrigerator, fill a pastry bag and top the tartlets as desired. Sprinkle with grated coconut and complete with a candied violet and a small biscuit.

Dolcetti per san valentino

Version with gluten of Chocolate sweets with candied violets

The recipe contains only naturally gluten free ingredients, so no adaptation is necessary for its version with gluten. If you want to use wheat flour, replace rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch with equal amounts of wheat flour.

Krapfens with jam are one of my absolute favourite Carnival sweets, so much so that every year I force myself to make them only at Carnival, a resolution I never manage to keep!

In my family tradition, Krapfen are always prepared with potatoes and strictly with homemade plum jam, another preparation that is a must when the plums ripen on the numerous trees that colour our farm.

However, if you prefer to fill Krapfen with custard, you can do this using a pastry syringe once you have fried a single disc, perhaps left slightly thicker than in the recipe below.

So along with Chiacchiere and  Fried Creamit is a joy for me to share these irresistible Krapfens that you will enjoy at every bite… maybe even licking your fingers.

Krapfens with jam

carbohydrates 37.91g per 100g of krapfen without sugar on the surface

Ingredients

  • 500g potatoes
  • 280g plum jam*
  • 250g gluten-free cake flour mix, brand Molino Dallagiovanna**
  • 250g gluten-free bread flour mix, brand BiAglut**
  • 120g milk
  • 65g butter
  • 50g sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 30g brewer’s yeast
  • grated rind of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • frying oil and caster sugar for the surface

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Knead all ingredients together until you have a smooth dough with a fairly firm texture. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1cm and cut disks of about 8cm in diameter. Place the plum jam on half of the discs, then close them with the remaining discs, taking care to seal the edges well, perhaps wetting them lightly with a finger moistened with water to make the dough ‘stick’.
  2. Let the Krapfen rest for 1.5 hours, then deep-fry them in plenty of oil and roll in caster sugar before serving.
La frittura dei krapfen

The frying of Krapfen

 

I krapfen pronti per essere gustati

Krapfens ready to be enjoyed

Version with gluten of Krapfens with jam

Replace the gluten-free flour (500g) with an equal amount of wheat flour and mix with just 100g milk and 2 whole eggs and 1 yolk.