Friday, December 18, 2009

Italian Almond Sbrisolona

In the grand and fairly populated Pantheon of Incredibly Stupendous Cookies, Sbrisolona surely has a very prominent place. Crunchy, chewy, crumbly, nutty and perfect for sharing, this is a recipe you absolutely can’t refuse. The endless crumbliness of it is half the fun and each morsel is irresistible.

Sbrisolona originates from the Lombardy region of Northern Italy. Italian pastries are most often distinguished by their texture, lower sugar content and rustic simplicity and Sbrisolona is no exception. With lots of almonds, a perfect blend of simple ingredients and a slow even toasting in the oven, you have a crunch to end all crunches. It has just the right amount of sweetness balanced by a good pinch of salt. The butter adds flavor without lending any greasiness or fat saturation and the indispensable inclusion of orange zest makes it absolutely perfecto.

Sometimes called a tart, this wonderful collection of crumbs comes together in just a few minutes. It’s baked in a pan like shortbread, so there is no rolling or slicing or chilling. You simply combine the ingredients, gently coax them into a rough crumb and then pour into a buttered pan and bake. The tradition is to break it apart with friends. If you wanted to make a gift of it you could probably carefully cut it into slices, but my guess is it won’t make it out the door.

Bench notes:
- I’ve also seen recipes that use semolina and orange blossom water, but this recipe from Suzanne Goin is perfection.
- Although the recipe says 4 oz or 3/4 cup of almonds, my 4 oz came to just shy of 1 cup.
- In Italy, Sbrisolona is often enjoyed with Vin Santo, but would go with just about any beverage you favor.
- Sbrisolona can be stored in an airtight container for 2 days.

adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin

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.


Bryan said...

happy holidays!
i love sbrisolona. it's all about the cornmeal, for me.
recently made Niloufer King's cardamom version-- it includes semolina flour and could possibly benefit from the egg yolk you include here.

a pinenut version might be nice...

pastry studio said...

It's funny that you say that because for me it's all about the cornmeal, too! It really adds that extra crunch, chewiness and flavor.

Happy holidays to you!

vanillasugarblog said...

I've seen this made before and I have to say your topping is way better. No I don't know what it tastes like, but it's obvious there is texture going on in the crust.

Victoria said...

I live in the city and weekend in the country. Last week I made your Walnut Brandy Cake. It was delicious - not too sweet, with a beautiful crumb. Mine looked just like your picture. The only thing wrong with it is how easy it is to nibble all day long.

I have everything in the house to make THIS recipe, so I am going to make it tomorrow. It looks too good to be true!

Victoria said...

P.S. I really like Vin Santo, but I don't have any here. I wonder how it would be with Madeira? Probably lovely.

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pastry studio said...

Victoria, I think it would be delicious with Madeira. I've even had it with a nice Carmenere and another friend served it with beer! Coffee, tea, milk - as I say, whatever your beverage.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Your sbrisolona takes me back to Italy. It's a specialty of the town where my relatives live and I never leave there without buying a couple for the road. I am eager to try making it myself. Yours looks perfect!

Sharon G said...

can someone plz tell me what does the T stands for?
1C+2T flour
i guess the C is for cup
is the T for tbsp?

pastry studio said...


C = cup
T = Tablespoon
t = teaspoon

cedar chest said...

Happy Holidays! I like sbrisolona! I am glad that I know how to make a simple recipe of this.

Diana H said...

Orange Zest in a cookie would be divine. I like where you break it apart with friends too.

Pity said...

this looks absolutely divine, cant wait to try it, your blog is fantastic, will be back, happy xmas, cheers from london

recipes said...

nice recipe.

Anonymous said...
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Julie said...

Almond Sbrisolona a wonderful cookie and the taste was really etheral... But butter did play good role so I put some Patan ghee instead of butter. I got improved taste and fragrance....

Beth said...

wow..looks so good..i must try this recipe!

Elly McCausland said...

I made this tonight! But used hazelnuts instead of almonds. It was the best crumble topping ever! I only wish it was more transportable so I could take some to work tomorrow...

pastry studio said...

Elly, my colleagues practically inhaled a whole batch in minutes. It's really crazy good.

Elly McCausland said...

Oh and I also forgot to mention - I served it for dessert with some fresh pears to an Italian who's currently living with us, and immediately he was like "They make something very similar to this in Mantova!" I was so thrilled that it tasted authentic!