Cookbooks have never topped my reading list. Truth be told, they've never been anywhere on the list. However, having a fully functioning sweet tooth, I was drawn to this repository of tasties by the mouth watering full page full-color pictures. Then, I was intrigued by famed chef Mario Batali's description of the author's ability, "From a nearly criminal situation, with lack of space to store products, lack of burners to cook on, tiny ovens, a room often as warm as 118 degrees, and a walk-in fridge shared with the entire savory kitchen, Gina is miraculously able to produce one tasty treat after another."
Readers of this cookbook will agree that is not all DePalma is able to do for her descriptions of the sweets she loves literally sing, and her written candids of life not only at the acclaimed restaurant, Babbo, but also on the streets of Brooklyn where she lives and the markets she frequents are as tantalizing as any travelogue. DePalma's description of being awakened in the middle of the night by dreams of "dolce past" brings smiles, as does her depiction of an American supermarket where fruit "bears the indignity of a numbered sticker smacked onto it." Her standards are high, yet she appaently continues to raise the bar.
Of special help to this reader was the chapter devoted to Italian ingredients that we should know. Of course, when you read DePalma's definition of mascarpone you want to rush out and buy it. Or, once introduced to Amalfi lemons, none other will do. DePalma is a Scherazade, tempting you with every page.
The recipes included cover the gamut of sweets from cookies to cake to spoon desserts to tarts. Then, DePalma moves on to my personal favorites - ice creams and sorbets.Read more ›
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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Italy Without Leaving Your KitchenOct. 8 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
Last week I got a copy of Dolce Italiano for my birthday. Now you have to know a few things, I love reading cookbooks. I also love cooking from cookbooks, but rare is the book that provides excellent reading material, excellent insight, and excellent recipes. For example, I love the recipes in Ina Gartens' Barefoot Contessa series, but I can read one of her cookbooks in a sitting.
Not true, for Dolce Italiano, Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen. Gina DePalma has crammed so much incredible information, and heartfelt stories into her book, that I've been reading it for five days now and still have several more nights of enjoyment left to look forward too (not to mention months of recipes to try). From the introduction which gives you insight into Gina's background, to the ten Italian ingredients you must know (which section, by the way, I still haven't finished digesting), even if every recipe was a dud, you'd still have gotten your money's worth in entertainment and reference.
Now, in all honesty, I've only made one recipe, the Fresh Fig Tart, (well two if you count the crust and actual tart as two separate recipes), but man is that good, and easy - so I highly doubt there will be any duds in this book.
Tarts (and pies) have always intimidated me, but this crust came together so easily in the food processor. Then rolling it out, well, once I got over my fear of flouring the surface (I put a scant amount down the first time), it rolled out great on the second try. I followed Gina's advice and carpet-rolled it over my rolling pin to transfer it to the tart pan, simple. Also, throughout the book Gina gives practical advice on other things too. So like she suggested, I saved the leftover crust from trimming the excess, wrapped it and put it in the freezer. Gina notes that after you make two tarts, you'll have enough of these left over scraps to do a third (that's good advice as far as I'm concerned). She also gives advice on ingredients, how to choose, and where to buy some of the more obscure items (though there aren't too many of these, things like "00" flour and almond flour, maybe).
The book covers, cookies, cakes, spoon desserts, tarts, ice creams, sorbets and semifreddos, fried desserts, fruit and more (personally, my husband can't wait to try the fried dough as he's been searching for something close to his grandma's lost recipe for years now - we're hopeful) all as authentically Italian as I've ever seen on this side of the Atlantic. Next up though will be the lemony semolina cookies.
So basically, if you love desserts, you need this book. If you love all things Italian you need this book. Or even if you're like me, where dessert has been a second thought to your meal planning (I'm queen of cookies and washday cobblers), you really need this book.
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Close your eyes ------- no, they're too beautiful!Oct. 8 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
The desserts in this book are just incredible; if you close your eyes, you will think you are eating in Italy, but then you will be missing the gorgeous photos in this book.
My little group of friends and I have already made, and eaten, the hazelnut cookies (devoured), the biscotti, and the fig tart! Go, buy this book and try the fig tart while they are in season! 'Cuz that's a clue to this book --- fresh ingredients, wonderfully prepared.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
La dolce vita...April 8 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen collects a treasure trove of desserts and savories from Mario Batali's Babbo restaurant (The Babbo Cookbook) in NYC. There are several forewords, including one by Mario Batali himself and Colum Sheehan, wine director of Babbo. Gina's thorough introduction includes her own earliest memories of her Nonni's kitchen and growing up in a Italian-American family that still revolved around the Italian style of shopping and cooking. She includes a section called Learning Italian that covers various regions, DOP and IGP origins, a recommended reading list, ten Italian ingredients you should know (some will surprise you!), and a brief, effective section on equipment.
The first section is devoted to Italian cookies and includes several almond-based cookies (almond fingers, chocolate kisses, mostaccioli), semolina cookies (lemony semolina cookies), polenta cookies, chestnut brownies, and several biscottis (almond, orange and anise, mosaic, polenta and sesame). Many are light and refreshing rather than the heavy, dense, cloyingly sweet desserts that Americans prefer, and the presence of polenta gives baked goods a rather toothsome crunch that will be unfamiliar to American palates.
Cakes include several gems, including grappa-soaked mini sponge cakes, citrus-glazed polenta cake, chestnut spice cake with mascarpone cream, almond and raisin cake, chocolate and walnut torte from Capri, zucchini-olive oil cake with lemon crunch glaze, yogurt cheesecake with pine nut brittle, obsessive ricotta cheesecake filled with candied orange and lemon rind, and Venetian apple cake rich with honey, spices, and polenta. The Venetian apple cake had just the right touch of sweetness from the shredded apple and honey, and the almond cake from Abruzzo was a delightful blend of toasted almonds, semolina flour, chocolate, and Amaretto.
Spoon Desserts consist of bonets, custards, bavarians, panna cotta, and zabaione, many of them savory additions such as pumpkin, fresh bay leaf custards, yogurt with caramel, aged balsamic, and pine nut brittle, and a lovely cool rhubarb soup with orange and mint fior di latte that is a refreshing start to a spring or summer dinner.
My favorite section was the Tarts, a personal favorite of mine. Unusual choices included a fresh cranberry tart perfect for fall, a sour cherry custard tart very similar to a French clafoutis, a blueberry and coconut tart, the divine honey and pine nut tart (you can't convince me that this isn't what angels eat!), chocolate and polenta tart (obscenely good with a scoop of gelato), and fruit tarts (fig, lemon, apple crumb, hazelnut and grape).
The next section sounded good, but lacking an ice cream maker, I was unable to try out any of the ice creams or sorbets. However, if/when I do purchase one, the fig and ricotta gelato, ginger honey gelato, and espresso cinnamon gelato are tops on my list.
I don't eat fried foods, so I haven't had the chance to sample any of these firsthand. Fried treats include fritters (pumpkin, herbed goat cheese, lemon ricotta, apple), Florentine doughnuts with vanilla custard, Neapolitan doughnuts with warm chocolate sauce, and cream puffs.
Ways with Fruit includes traditional fruit-and-alcohol combinations such as strawberries in Chianti, Balaton cherries with grappa and mascarpone, white peach and prosecco gelatina, honey-baked figs stuffed with walnuts, sweet apple omelet, and marmelades (Meyer lemon and spiced blood orange).
Celebrations includes holiday dishes such as St. Joseph's Day cream puffs (served on the feast day of St. Joseph, March 19), Easter egg bread, sweet grape focaccia (served at the annual grape harvest), chocolate "salami" (relax, vegetarians, it's made out of chocolate and nuts and rolled in powdered sugar to look like casing!), panforte (a traditional fruit-and-nut-stuffed bread from Siena) and pandoro (sweet Christmas breads).
The final chapter, Savory Bites, includes breadsticks, taralli (similar to pretzels), semolina and sesame crackers, calcioni, and cheese puffs (Gina includes notes on her favorite Italian cheeses).
Dolce Italiano is an absolutely gorgeous cookbook that is unparalleled in terms of culinary technique, the quality of Gina's experiences in and out of various kitchens, and the delicious end results, whether sweet or savory. The only potential downside is difficulty in locating specific Italian ingredients such as millifiori honey, decent grappa, Piedmontese hazelnuts, fresh chestnuts and chestnut flour, fresh (not commercial) ricotta and mascarpone cheeses, "OO" flour, aged balsamic (although I've had luck at Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, [...]) and Sicilian pistachios, although Gina includes a "Sources" section at the back of the book (that is, if you don't mind the expense of having your cheese overnighted from NYC!!).
If you're a fan of Italian / Mediterranean cuisine, you owe it to yourself to add this to your collection, presto. This is a beautiful cookbook that will bring you hours of enjoyment as you discover traditional Italian desserts that combine sometimes unlikely pairings that result in taste bud-tickling creations that taste like something your Italian grandmother would have baked.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful!Oct. 8 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
I don't usually buy dessert cookbooks, relying on recipes given me by friends and family. But after eating desserts at Babbo, I had to buy this book and begin cooking from it. What's fabulous about Dolce Italiano is that it makes these interesting, luscious desserts completely approachable and workable for the average home cook. The author's passion for good ingredients, interesting combinations, and good technique is always helpful, never off-putting. There are many traditional Italian sweets, and some that are twists and interpretations that always make sense to the palate. The recipes I tried worked beautifully, and I learned a lot from the little essays on ingredients and regions. I want to cook my way through the book--each chapter has recipes I'm eager to try. Now I need to find a more reasonably priced source for hazelnuts, since I've learned how much I adore them! (Good thing there's a source listing in the book!)
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Desserts that are beautiful to look at, and delicious to eat!Oct. 17 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
I pre-ordered this wonderful dessert cookbook because I have eaten at Babbo and loved it. There are many excellent Italian cookbooks out there, but few include as many authentic and delicious desserts as are in Dolce Italiano. The book reads like an insider's guide to the best of the best! The photographs make you want to try everything. I've already baked the Mosaic Biscotti and they live up to their description. They are chock- full of hazelnuts, pistachios, and chocolate -- among the best biscotti I've ever baked, and I've baked many. I was planning on freezing some, since the recipe is large. Guess what? They were scarfed down in no time!!!