Wednesday, March 3, 2010

La Sbrisolona and Galaverna

March 2010 022

Think of a sbrisolona as a buttery, crumbly almond cookie on steroids. It’s a specialty of Mantova and I saw it in many shops there on our recent trip to Italy.  But the best ones I’ve ever eaten (sorry Mantova) are from a bakery called “La Casa Del Pane” in Castell’Arquato, a  medieval village near my mother’s hometown. They’re sold in small individual portions as well as the more traditional larger size. A stop at “La Casa Del Pane” is required whenever I’m in Castell’Arquato.

Jan-Feb 2010 Italy 089

This year as we approached the town, it looked even more enchanting than ever, cloaked in a mantle of white hoar frost, something I’d never seen in my life. I also learned hoarfrost is called “galaverna” in Italian.

Jan-Feb 2010 Italy 092 It really looked like someone had cast a magic spell over everything – including the trees and shrubs and even the chain link fences. This isn’t snow, it’s the hoarfrost:

Jan-Feb 2010 Italy 070 It was as ephemeral as a snowflake, and was gone as soon as the sun came out:

Castell'Arquato amid galaverna

But I digress – back to the sbrisolona – that buttery, addictive treat. There are lots of different versions of the recipe and I saw this particular one on  The Sassy Radish’s blog, but it’s originally from Suzanne Goin’s cookbook, “Sunday Suppers at Lucques” and it’s a winner.

March 2010 046 Just bring it to the table, break it open and dig in with your fingers. It’s great with a cup of coffee but even better with a glass of moscato or other sweet wine.

March 2010 087 Sbrisolona
adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin

Printable Recipe Here

3/4 C natural almonds (4 ounces) (I used a scant cup)
1 large egg yolk
1 T finely grated orange zest (I used 1 large orange)
1/4 t pure almond extract
1/4 t pure vanilla extract
1 C + 2 T flour
6 T cornmeal
1/2 t salt
3 1/2 oz (7 T) cold butter cut into 1/2” pieces
1/3 C granulated sugar
3 T brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter an 8” springform pan.
Toast the almonds for about 10 minutes until golden. Coarsely chop into bite-sized pieces.
Combine the egg yolk, orange zest and the extracts.
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or rub it in with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Stir in both sugars and the chopped toasted almonds.
Pour the egg yolk mixture on top and work it in gently with your hands. Be careful not to over mix; the dough should be very crumbly and look like streusel.
Pour the crumbs into the prepared pan and very gently and loosely press the crumbs mostly around the edges and just very lightly across the top; the surface should be uneven and dimpled.
Bake for about 40 minutes or until it is a deep golden brown. Transfer to a rack and cool completely before unmolding. Place on a platter and dig in.


  1. What gorgeous winter pictures! That "cookie" is so delicious looking! What an interesting recipe...



  2. che torta deliziosa e le foto... da copertina! ciao Ely

  3. This looks fabulous...
    The frost is magical looking!

  4. this looks and sounds wonderful. I've added it to my baking list

  5. I have never heard of this beautiful hoarfrost. GORGEOUS! as is the Sbrisolona from my favorite cookbook.

  6. What gorgeous photos - the frost is just amazing. The sbrisolona looks like it would be addictive -buttery, sweet, and with almonds - can't miss delicious!

  7. You know I'm going to try that. Anything with almonds... anything crumbly. A hoar frost is truly a work of art by Mother Nature - to experience it where you did must have taken you back through time. I mourn the hoar frost when it's gone. But when your cookie-tart is gone, I can always make more!

  8. Oh how I love your description of this cookie...and the suggestion to have it with a moscato! ;)

  9. I love cornmeal in pastry. Have you ever tried freezing some of this dough unbaked to bake off later? I would love to double the recipe and have some frozen for baking another time. The hoarfrost is gorgeous and magical too. Another beautiful and interesting post!

  10. The pictures with the frost are so gorgeous! And I love the giant almond cookie, my daughter will demand I make it for her the second she sees it!

  11. I love this cookie. I think I'll have mine with a latte.
    Amazing pictures Linda!

  12. Oh wow Linda. This is all so beautiful. I wonder if I can find a bit of cornmeal tonight and make these.

  13. I think I first saw Lydia introduce this on her show. I thought immediately of dunking these in a cup of hot chocolate.

  14. La sbrisolosona e buonissima, e le tue foto meravigliose.
    Ciao Daniela.

  15. Or "vin santo", even better!
    Every time I go to Castell'Arquato it's like being trapped in a fairy tale.....and it brings back sweet memories....first time I had a date with the one who's my husband now, we went there!

  16. Linda, I learned a new word today, hoarfrost! beautiful photos, you're right it looks magical. You had the best trip! I've been wanting to make this sbrisolona for a while now, but I'm afraid I wouldn't share it, crunchy and nutty my absolute weakness! Love the packaging too.

  17. I've seen recipes for this and have wanted to try it for some time but I had a hard time visualizing what it would look like-thanks for the pictures-it looks scrumptious!

  18. Thank you so much Linda!

    You inspire me to try to do pastries. No one but you ever has ever intrigued me about trying to bake. I never learned the slightest bit about baking anything, so I am saving your recipes. I know all are FABULOUS! I can do some of the non baking ones...grin. Thank you so much for your wonderful recipes, inspiration and blog.

    I think I figured out how to post on your blog correctly.....?

    Sheryll & Critters.

  19. OMG, i've never had a sbrisolona, but now I want one. And I love your photos! Especially that one of the fence. I want to move to Italy, too!

  20. I just love how cookies and pastries are wrapped like fine gifts in Italy. Such much attention is given to detail.

    Sbrisolonas sound delicious!

    The hoar frost was so beautiful!

  21. Oh dear, how could I resist this sable. I am bookmarking this one Linda. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    Beautiful photographs too.

    Have a wonderful weekend,

  22. I love finding the local specialties in little village bakeries. It always amazes me when somthing so popular in one place is almost unheard of 20 miles aways.

  23. I saw Lidia make something similar to this, Linda. It looks so luscious, I will have to give it a try. I love your hoar-frost photos, too; what a treat to see. You live a magical life, I must say. Thanks for sharing. :)

  24. I have never heard of a sbrisolona but I can see it is something I would love. I have printed to recipe to make it. Thanks! BTW I so love your photos!

  25. I finally made the sbrisolana last weekend, and it is (er, make that was) delicious. Thank you!