Monday, March 16, 2009

Cassatella di Sant'Agata


When ever I walk into a pasticceria I always admire all the beautiful sweets behind the glass counter... At home, I then enjoy creating my own sweet treasures. Profiterol, Torta di ricotta, Lo sfoglio Polizzano, Cuddura cu l'ova, and Hazelnut Biscotti are just a few delicacies that I found the inspiration from one of the many pasticceria siciliana. One dolce, that has been taking my fancy lately, is the Cassatella di Sant'Agata (cassatedda di sant'Àgata in dialect). The Cassatella is a traditional sweet from Catania that can be found in almost every bar during the festival of St. Agatha. The cassatella is in fact a small sicilian cassata (in catanese dialect, minnuzzi ri Sant'Àjita) in the form of a breast, to symbolize the martyred saint of Catania, St.Agatha, as her breasts were amputated. She is therefore often depicted iconographically carrying her excised breasts on a platter.
(Last year we attended the Festival of St. Agatha. Check out the amazing devotion the towns people of Catania have for her.)

The original Cassata captured many of the traditional Sicilian ingredients; the intense green pistacchio of Bronte, the perfumed almonds of Noto, and the many citrus fruits of the island. It has been an ongoing joke between me and my friends to find the perfect Cassatella, and this past weekend I decided to dive in and attempt just that, with the help of Mandi and Diana!

One very important ingredient is the Marzipan, pasta di mandorle. I made sure not to make it too sweet, often times I do not enjoy marzipan because of it's sweetness. I used more almonds and the taste of mandorle filled your mouth with flavor.

Pan di Spagne, a type of sponge cake, is the next ingredient that is layered into the mold after the marzipan. To achieve a light and fluffy cake, the egg and sugar mixture should be mixed no less than 20 minutes to create a nice frothy texture before adding the flour.

The principle ingredient in the Cassatella is the ricotta di pecora, fresh sheep's milk ricotta. Our nearby pastore, shepherd, passed by the night before and delivered a kilo for me. I added less sugar to the ricotta than when I make the Torta di Ricotta because of the sweet marzipan wrapped sound the filling.

The molds were then inverted and ready for the glasse di zucchero...

We then got a bit creative and made one VERY big one...

However, we added a few extra cherries...
What a day! We were so thrilled with the results, and so were all the lucky recipients who got a taste... Thank you ladies for the wonderful afternoon and the memories!


Hello!  Ok, better late then never, right... ;)

I have so many people ask me how to make these little beauties, so here we go! Once all the parts are finished, follow the pictures with their step by step assembly.


Pan di Spagna (Spong cake)

6 eggs, 180 grams sugar, 180 grams flour

Just mix the eggs and sugar for at least 15 minutes, until they write. (Very important!) They, little by little, sift in the flour.  Pour into a large buttered and flowered cake pan, and place into a preheated oven 180°C for 30 minutes. Once cooled, slice into thin pieces and set aside.

Marzapan

400 grams almonds, skinned. Sliced almonds will give you the result much faster.

400 grams powdered sugar (plus extra for kneading)

Grind the almonds until they have a very fine consistency. Add the powdered sugar and a touch of water. Very small amounts of water at a time. If you add too much at the beginning, you will have to add more powdered sugar. Like making a pie crust, fold and knead until you reach a compact texture. (see picture)

At this point, when I wrote this post I added a few drops of green food color. Nothing fancy unfortunately. However now, I prefer to stay away from colors. You can completely create this sweet omitting the color and you are left with a beautiful, delicate alternative.

Roll out thin like you were making cut out cookies, cut, and line a baking form that was already covered with plastic wrap.

Ricotta

The flavor is all about the fresh sheep’s ricotta. Let it sit in the fridge for a least a day to drain all the excess liquid. Then add 120 grams of sugar to 500 grams of ricotta and mix.

Glasse di zucchero

I choose to simply use 250 grams of powdered sugar and water. Again, add very small amounts of water at a time, one tablespoon, two tablespoons at a time, until the glasse is nice and runny.

 Sorry it has taken me so long, Enjoy! 

18 comments:

South of Rome said...

I am very impressed! Brava!!

Jill said...

Grazie!! I was very proud of the results...

Sara, Ms Adventures in Italy said...

I love the step-by-step photos! Great job! Recipes???? :)

Jill said...

I'll get on that...

KC said...

I love cassata, but I've never had one of the little cassatine. They look beautiful, and delicious.

Lost in Sicily said...

That is just amazing! I love that you made them less sweet than a traditional cassata as I have never been a fan. What beautiful and I am sure delicious results!

Jill said...

I, too, was never a huge fan... But, these were delicious!!

mandi said...

oh my gosh!! they were to die for!
thanks jill for such a fantastic day! i'm learning so much from you!

Jill said...

Thanks Mandi!! It was a great weekend... :)

Claudia said...

Beautiful. Delicious. You are inpiring my Easter baking ... when I find a recipe.

Rowena said...

I am beyond speechless by all this. You made your own pasta di mandorle?!! Ok I'll be waiting for a recipe because I just gotta try this. I imagine that it requires green food coloring....hmmmm...haven't seen that around these parts but I'll start hunting again.

Jill said...

I will sit down and write it out this week! Yeah, I found green food coloring at a nearby bakery supply shop... Thanks!!

Saretta said...

Wow, you are industrious! I'm impressed!

Snooky doodle said...

I just discovered your blog while searching for Casatella . I really like it . Glad I found it :)this looks dlecious

Anonymous said...

Ciao tutti !
I love this recipe :) but my question is : how do you make de green pasta ??? Marzipan (buy to in a supermarket it's good or not???) and for the green color? you add a few pistacchio? How much ?
Can you explain me how you makes this "green pasta" please :) ? step by step :)

Grazie mille ed buona giornata :)

Ciao, un bacio

Jill said...

If you are still interested, I just updated the recipe! :)

If you are interesed in making a light green tone naturally, soak pistachios in water and then grind them to make a paste. Mix this in with the almonds and sugar...

Susanne said...

Thanks for this recipe, i have been looking for it forever!!
I first tried this dessert in Malta, and again in Sicily, so good!!!

Miriam Morris said...

Well I have loved these little green cakes, since I was in Malta in the Seventies. I have returned to Malta twice since then, the first thing I do is ask to be dropped of at a cake shop, to buy one of the little green, cakes I love so much. I have asked and searched for a recipe and finally I found one.
Thank you so much for the recipe, I will be making them for Christmas lunch, if I don't eat them all before.😄
Miriam