Dolce Italiano: Desserts From The Babbo Kitchen Hardcover – Oct 30 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. DePalma, pastry chef at upscale Italian restaurant Babbo in New York City (owner Mario Batali contributes a foreword), approaches Italian-American desserts from three directions: traditional Italian (Polenta Cookies from the Veneto); Italian-American, learned at the elbow of her Calabrese grandmother (in a charming introduction, DePalma recalls how her grandmother used to visit her family in Virginia, stepping off the plane from New York bearing hunks of cheese, cans of olive oil and DePalma's favorite taralli); and what are best described as American-Italian. The latter are true hybrid desserts, such as a crustless Yogurt Cheesecake with Pine Nut Brittle, which combines mascarpone and the Greek-style yogurt now widely available in U.S. grocery stores. This concoction has probably never appeared on any menu in Italy, but it successfully marries ingredients and techniques from both places, without losing sight of the genuine quality that is the hallmark of Italian food. DePalma's tone is genuine, too, whether she's recalling how she woke up in the middle of the night in her Brooklyn apartment to obsess over a lemon tart or patiently explaining why real balsamic vinegar is costly, but worth it. (Oct.)
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About the Author
Mario Batali is a chef, restaurateur, and award-winning author. In addition he is a former star of Food Network's Molto Mario and Iron Chef America programs. Batali currently co-owns and operates restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Singapore.
Top Customer Reviews
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 ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.