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.
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.
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.
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.