To be perfectly honest, the first time I saw a sbrisolona, it didn’t do too much for me. It wasn’t interesting looking and in fact, to continue with my honesty, actually sort of boring. Originating in Mantova, sbrisolona is a dessert meant to be broken in pieces and eaten with wine, grappa or espresso and I still didn’t see the allure. But when I had my first taste in Salò at Vassalli Pasticceria …aaahhhhh…that small bite was so incredibly buttery, almond scented, the perfect amount of sweetness, all with the right amount of delicate crunch. I was completely hooked! So I bought six from Signorina Vassalli, ate two that day with my niece Sam and tucked the rest away carefully in my carry on. And since they’re supposed to be eaten in pieces, I was a step ahead when I arrived home in the U.S.
Although Salò, on the western shore of Lake Garda is only 60 miles from Mantova, it’s not Mantova, so on a subsequent trip, I went in search of true Mantovan sbrisolona to see if there was a difference and recruited my friends for a taste test. Lesley, Ingrid and I bought seven sbrisolone all from different bakeries and shops in Mantova in various shapes and sizes – large, small, round and rectangular and brought them back to our apartment to taste.
It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it. Three American women, one Italian man (our friend Paolo), lots of sugar (and a fair amount of wine) and we all agreed on our blind taste test winner…Vassalli Pasticceria.
So the next time you’re in Salò, stop by at Vassalli Pasticceria, say bongiorno to Signorina Vassalli, buy some sbrisolone (and all the other beautiful chocolates and confections you won’t be able to resist). But in the meantime, here’s my favorite – and let me know how you like it.
- 1 ½ c./300 g. almonds
- 1 ½ c./180 g. flour
- 1 c./160 g. corn meal
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 c./227 g. unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 c./240 g. sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Butter and parchment a 10" springform pan or cake pan.
- Chop the almonds finely in a food processor. They shouldn’t be like a powder, more like sand consistency.
- Combine the flour, corn flour and salt into a medium bowl.
- In the bowl of the mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Add the egg yolks, lemon zest and vanilla and mix well, another minute.
- Add the flour mixture and almonds and mix on low until just blended.
- Put the batter pieces in the spring form pan and press very gently making sure all the space is covered but it’s chunky, not smooth.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes until pale golden with slightly brown edges.
- Let cool and remove from pan.
- Sbrisolona is served broken in pieces, not cut and will keep for several days wrapped in foil or parchment paper. DO NOT keep it in an airtight container because it will get soft and you want it crunchy.