Thursday, 21 May 2015

Salame di cioccolato

Salame di cioccolato

Salame di cioccolato is one of those dishes that, even if not properly belonging to the Italian traditional cuisine, are very popular all across the country and can even be found in some bakeries to take home or served in trattoria or rustic restaurants as dessert.
I don't know the origin of the recipe, and it's probably unknown, but it's really popular among Italian families where it is usually prepared as a merenda (snack) for children but much appreciated also by adults, with a good cup of coffee.

Salame di cioccolato

To be honest I am one of the very few Italian people not used to this treat when a child; the reason is that my mom didn't make it; salame di cioccolato was not in her repertoire which included instead ciambellone (a sort of light pound cake, that she makes following my grandmother's recipe with extra virgin olive oil instead of butter), yogurt cake and crostata, in different variants (with jam, ricotta and chocolate, custard, ricotta and amaretti). And if I had the chance to taste it in some occasions during my childhood, for sure it didn't impress me, considering that the first memories I have of salame di cioccolato date back to the high school and university period when it was very popular among all students (probably because it's super easy and quick to make, doesn't require any particular tool or ability and it's uncooked).

And to be even more honest, salame di cioccolato has never been one of my favorite sweets, even if I am, and always have been, a chocolate addict. I couldn't say the exact reason though!
Salame di cioccolato

Things changed when I met my husband- to-be and, after a period of always dining out at restaurants, we started to eat at home more often and I wanted to cook for him.
I had no problems or doubt with appetizers, pasta, main courses, as he likes almost everything and enjoys trying new and different dishes. But with dessert it was really difficult to decide what to make as he doesn't like sweets and chocolate: he never orders a dessert at restaurants and, if obliged or forced to taste something sweet, he's often disappointed. 
On the contrary I love to make and eat desserts, in particular in special occasions (and tête-à-tête dinners are special occasions to me).
For a while I alternated dinners without dessert to others with cakes eaten almost all by myself, until I finally got to know that, actually, there are few desserts that he likes.
And - what an unpredictable coincidence- I discovered that salame di cioccolato is one of them (along with tiramisu and very few other things).
Even if, to be totally honest, I would have preferred to make chocolate mousse or cake or whatever else, I finally decided to try making salame di cioccolato.

But unfortunately I didn't have any family recipe to refer to, so I had to search one.
As this is not a traditional pastry recipe, I could find it in any of my cookbooks (even if I've recently come across versions of salame di cioccolato by popular pastry chefs) and I had to browse the web where, easy to believe, there are thousands different recipes: some call for melted chocolate while others for cocoa powder, some add nuts, some white or milk chocolate chunks. and most recipes include eggs.
Salame di cioccolato

To make the story short, I tried some of the many recipes (the most inspiring to me), made my usual adjustments until came up with my personal version of salame di cioccolato whose main features are: cocoa powder to have a lighter texture (and calories count too) and omission of eggs, as I am not so keen to use raw eggs (and I have also tested that one additional tablespoon of milk or other liquid work well to keep everything together). And I have to admit that when I make it - not very often though as I still prefer to make other kinds of desserts and treats, and above all I love to make always something new and different - it never lasts long. as it tastes really good.

Actually this is a basic recipe that can be enriched by adding chopped dark chocolate (my favorite addition) or milk or white chocolate, nuts (I love pistachios or hazelnuts), flavors, citrus zests and more. I also like to use some liquor or coffee as liquid ingredient instead of milk (but if it's for children, better go with milk only).
For a very indulgent version, I would recommend to try to cover the log in melted chocolate... It will make a good impression also served as a dessert at the end of a meal or will be perfect for a buffet dinner.

The salame di cioccolato has also the advantage that has to be made in advance, as it needs time to set, so it's a good option for parties, buffets or even informal meals with friends when you do not want to do everything on the same day. Also it keeps well in the freezer for months, and can be an ace in the sleeve if you have unplanned guests for dinner, lunch or afternoon tea but also a solution for a last minute dessert (just consider a couple of hours at room temperature for defrosting).

Salame di cioccolato

Salame di cioccolato
makes 2 logs
150 g tea biscuits (like Petite Beurre)
80 g caster sugar
80 g unsalted butter, softened
50 g unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp milk or coffee or liquor (or a combination of these liquids)
cocoa powder and icing sugar, to dust
Break the biscuits in small pieces (I usually place them in a food bag and break with a meat pounder - do not use a food processor as crumbles would be to fine) and transfer into a large bowl.
In another bowl, using a whisk or an electric mixer, beat butter  and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Add the cocoa, sifted, and combine.
Pour the cocoa mixture into the bowl with chopped biscuits, add the milk (or coffee or liquor) and stir until the mixture comes together.
Divide the dough in two even parts and shape them into logs with a 4 cm diameter.
Roll each up tightly in plastic film, twisting the ends to seal. Refrigerate for at least 4 to 6 hours, until firm.
To serve, unwrap, dust with a mix of cocoa powder and icing sugar sifted together and slice.
It  keeps in the fridge for up to 1 week, in a airtight container or well wrapped in cling film.
·         It is possible to add to the dough chopped nuts (hazelnut, pistachios and almonds work well with chocolate), chunks of chocolate, dried fruits.  
·         For a richer version you can substitute the cocoa powder for  melted chocolate (about 100 g). In this case you will probably need to reduce the amount of sugar to 50 g.
·         The dough can also be flavored, according to your liking, with vanilla, orange zests , almond extract.

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