Just ‘Desserts’?

December 23, 2013 / Food & Wine
Montesarchio, Campania

If you are a subscriber to ItalianNotebook, you are probably a lover of Italy and its wonderful cuisine. If, on top of that, you have a sweet tooth and an eye for beauty, Stella Ricci’s pasticceria in Montesarchio, near Benevento, is the holy grail of pastry, and a place of sweet, reverent pilgrimage.

At any time of the year, this is a wonderland of sights and smells that will satisfy the most refined palate. Not only are the ingredients of the highest quality, but the creativity and attention to detail, presentation and packaging are an elegant delight. If invited to dinner or tea, one can be sure that bringing a box of Stella’s desserts will light up the expression of the most discerning host.

At the end of November Stella and her helpers are already gearing up for Christmas with delectable seasonal creations. There are chocolate Christmas trees and gingerbread cookies, roccocò and mostaccioli. But on December 1st she starts producing her version of panettoni.

The original 19th century cupola-shaped sweet loaf from Milan, calls for a mixture of flour, water, egg yolks, honey and butter with the addition of candied fruit, orange rind and raisins in equal measure. Stella’s past variations have included peaches and champagne, panettoni laced with almond paste and Strega liquer, while her all-time favourite is baked with figs and walnuts.

So, you ask, what is her recipe? Well, start with 70 lbs. of flour, 110 egg yolks and 5 lbs. of butter…

Auguri to Stella, whose incredible work was rightfully acknowledged on national television a few days ago. Thanks for letting us visit you at your pasticceria!

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Barbara Goldfield

by Barbara Goldfield

Owner of “Savour The Sannio”, www.savourthesannio.com, a travel consultancy for central and southern Italy.

8 Responses to “Just ‘Desserts’?”

  1. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    For many years we have enjoyed these incredible sweets,(yet not too sweet) so perfect with espresso. after a very long slow meal with loved ones,the smiles of delight are present as you taste ,once again, the wonders of the Italian kitchen.

    Thank you ,great note and I also notice the woman did the work yet the men enjoyed !

    Reply
  2. Paul Russo

    I just love Panattoni, my mother made it for us, I sure miss those times.

    Reply
  3. Helen Russo

    Thank you for sharing! I can just smell the dough, mmm. For many years I made panettoni (and Stollen) however the business of life has gotten in the way. This next year I am going to have to make some, maybe even try the variation of almond paste and chocolate (yum).

    Reply
  4. Does anyone have a good Panettone recipe they want to share?
    Grazie mille to everyone for sharing so many wonderful aspects of la bella Italia and wish you all a most glorious Christmas and New Year.
    Maria

    Reply
  5. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    This is what we use, ,panettone requires two other steps that are tricky and often leads to failure

    Pandoro, a close relation to Italy’s most famous holiday bread, panettone, is an egg- and butter-rich bread baked in a traditional star-shaped pan. The biga helps keep it fresh right through the 12 days of Christmas!

    Biga (Starter)
    1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
    1/2 cup (4 ounces) cool water
    1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

    Dough
    1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) unsalted butter
    1/2 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia*
    2 tablespoons (1 ounce) water
    2 large eggs
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) sugar
    2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour; OR 1 cup (3 3/4 ounces) Italian-style flour and 1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
    1 tablespoon instant yeast
    1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) golden raisins
    1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) diced dried apricots

    *Substitute 2 teaspoons vanilla + 1/4 teaspoon lemon oil (or 2 teaspoons lemon zest), if desired.
    Biga: Combine the flour, water and yeast, mix till fairly smooth and VERY stiff, and allow to rest, covered, overnight.

    Dough: Next day, add the dough ingredients (except for the fruit) to the biga, mixing and then kneading–by hand, mixer or bread machine–till you’ve made a soft, very smooth dough. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 1 hour.

    Knead the fruit into the dough, trying to leave most of it inside; any fruit on the surface will tend to burn as the loaf bakes. Round the dough into a ball, and transfer it to a lightly greased pandoro pan. Allow it to rise, covered, for 2 hours; it’ll become noticeably puffy, but won’t fill the pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F towards the end of the rising time.

    Bake the bread for 10 minutes. Tent it lightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 35 to 40 minutes, until its interior temperature measures 190°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove it from the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes, then gently remove it from the pan. When cool, sprinkle bread with confectioners’ sugar or non-melting white sugar, and serve it, sliced, with mascarpone cheese, if desired. Yield: 1 loaf.

    Reply
  6. My mouth literally started watering with the pics of the completed panettone. Great Note. Can almost taste them. Happy Holidays to you, Barbara, and to the brava Stella.

    Reply

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