The Sbrisolona is a cake typical of Mantua area, it’s hard, friable and rich (of calories 😀 ), it’s a rustic recipe with a poor origin (from the old peasant culture, as often) and with a history that dates back several centuries (it seems the first recipes are from the XVI/XVII century), and some sources say that it was usually prepared in feast days, for example for a new born baby or for a wedding. Other sources report that it was also often made in November, after the harvest, when the new wines were ready and the neighbors gathered to compare their products 🙂
Its name derives from the local dialect word “brisa”, which means “crumb”.
But traditionally this cake was also called “the cake of the 3 cups”, because there are flours, sugar and fat in the same amount of quantity.
Of course during the centuries the recipe changed a little bit: in the very past there was more cornmeal, the fat used was exclusively the rendered lard (and probably, several centuries ago, also fats of other animals, anything was going to be wasted then) and hazelnuts were used (at the time more easily available in that area and cheaper than almonds).
Then with the time something has changed, when the recipe arrived to the Gonzaga court the rendered lard (“strutto” in Italian) has been partly or completely substituted by the butter, and their chefs added sugar, spices and almonds (especially Bartolomeo Stefani, who wrote one of the oldest recipes, and he is also credited as one of the most probable creators of the modern Zabaione, at least he wrote the oldest recipe with a certain author…that cream fits also well with this cake) .
As we are going to see, it’s a very particular and unique cake: the dough has not to be compact but it must be lumpy, completely lumpy.
It’s a perfect cake to enjoy with the afternoon tea/coffee, but the best pairing is maybe with a sweet wine, especially straw wines.
The only widely accepted alternative to substitute the lard is with butter, but not with vegetable fats: in that case it’s no more a “Sbrisolona”, moreover butter and lard help to obtain the typical and characteristic friability, and its specific taste.
Let’s see how to make it!
INGREDIENTS (for a 30 cm cake shape):
- 200 g of cornmeal (I used “farina gialla di Storo“, ground with a millstone)
- 200 g of white flour (an all purpose flour it’s ok, but this time I used an italian “tipo 1” Bio flour, ground with a millstone, so a bit less refined than an all purpose flour, to have the cake even more rustic).
- 200 g of sugar
- 200 g of almonds (I used Sicilian almonds, not peeled)
- 130 g butter
- 70 g rendered lard
- 2 yolks (3 in the case they are small)
- the zest of one lemon or orange (not treated)
- a teaspoon of soda bicarbonate
- a pinch of salt
- 1 vanilla bean (optional, I don’t use it in this recipe)
- First cut the almonds into smaller pieces, but not too small, you can use also a robot to do it. But keep some to decorate the cake on the top.
- Then in a bowl mix the two flours together, with the sugar, the almonds, the lemon zest and the salt.
- Now add also the lard and the butter (soft, at room temperature), and start to mix well all together. Then add also the yolks.
- You don’t have to work it for long, but be sure the all the flour has been mixed well to the fats. Place on a tray, flatten it and put it in the freezer until compact.
- Take a baking pan and spread some butter on the bottom and on the sides (also some little flour, especially for this use I prefer durum wheat semolina).
- Now break the dough into irregular crumbs, for example by pushing it through a grate with large holes, and pour it in the baking pan, without making it too compact.
- Add the remaining almonds on the top, some sugar and bake it at 170/175 °C, static mode, for about 40 minutes.
- When it’s ready let it cool down completely before eating it.
- As I said, the perfect pairing is with a sweet wine, and one important thing: don’t cut it! The tradition wants this cake to be broken only with hands 🙂
I hope you’ll enjoy it! 🙂
PS: someone add also some leavening agents as baking powder or ammonium bicarbonate, to make it more friable. And someone suggest to prepare the dough the day before, refrigerate it overnight and then break it into crumbles and bake the day after.
Cornmeal: Farina Gialla di Storo
Flour: Farina Biologica di grani antichi Tipo 1, from “Azienda Agricola Floriddia”