Skip to main content

Style Magazine

Dinner Date

Sep 30, 2010 05:00PM ● By Style


Michael Chiarello’s Bottega by Michael Chiarello

(Chronicle Books, 2010, $40)

Limoncello Figs

  • 18 to 24 Black Mission figs
  • 1 cup limoncello
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • Fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into 10 to 12 dime-sized coins
  • 1 empty vanilla bean pod
  • 1/2 cup filtered water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove
  • 4 juniper berries (optional)
  • Pinch of sea salt, preferably gray salt

Semolina-Almond Torte

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, plus 1/4 cup for coating pan
  • 8 ounces almond paste, broken into pieces
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
  • 6 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fine-ground semolina
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the figs: Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Put the figs in a large ovenproof sauté pan or stockpot. Add the limoncello, lemon slices, lemon juice, ginger, vanilla bean pod, water, sugar, cinnamon, clove, optional juniper berries, and a pinch of sea salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cover the pan with aluminum foil and transfer the pan to the oven. Bake until the figs are tender but not too soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the figs to a bowl. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve and return to the pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook to reduce to about 1 cup, about 7 minutes.

For the torte: Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spray a 10-inch cake pan or a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with vegetable-oil spray, then line with a round or rectangle of parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper. Pour the 1/4 cup sugar into the pan and tilt to coat the bottom and sides. Knock out the excess sugar.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the almond paste and the 1 1/4 cups sugar. Beat on medium-low speed until the paste is pulverized and completely mixed with the sugar, about 5 minutes. Don’t shortchange this mixing time, or the almond paste will sink to the bottom of the cake during baking. Add the butter and cream until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl once or twice. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the vanilla extract. Add the eggs one at a time, stopping to scrape down the bowl after every addition. Beat for 2 minutes after the last egg is added.

In a separate bowl, combine the semolina, almond and all-purpose flours, baking powder and salt. Stir with a whisk to blend. With the mixer on low speed, add all the dry ingredients at once and beat until blended. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and with a spatula give it a few turns, scraping the bowl to make sure no dry ingredients are hiding at the bottom. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, scraping out the bowl. Spread the batter evenly in the pan and give the pan a light tap on the counter to coax any air bubbles from the batter. Bake for about 40 minutes (rotating the pan after 25 minutes), or until the cake is golden brown and has pulled slightly away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour.

Mascarpone Crème:

  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the crème: Because of the high fat content of the mascarpone, this whips up faster than whipped cream so have the other ingredients measured and ready before you start. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the mascarpone for 20 to 30 seconds. Remove the paddle, fit the mixer with the whisk attachment, and add the crème fraiche, and cream, Whisk until the mixture has the texture of whipped cream and soft peaks form. Continue to whisk while gradually adding the sugar, and then the vanilla. Set aside.Frosted Almonds1/2 cup sugar1/3 cup water1 1/2 cups sliced almondsPinch of sea salt or kosher salt.

For the almonds: Preheat the oven to 325ºF. In a medium bowl, stir the sugar into the water. Dunk the almonds in the sugar water and then place spread them on a sided baking sheet (jellyroll pan) lined with a silicone baking mat. (Don’t use parchment paper, or the nuts will stick.) Bake, turning the nuts with a spatula every 5 to 7 minutes, until shiny with a light golden color, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan. Sprinkle with salt when they are still warm.

To serve: Center a slice of cake on each dessert plate. On one side, spoon 1 or 2 poached figs; on the other side dollop some mascarpone crème and top the mascarpone crème with a sprinkling of frosted almonds. Drizzle the reduced poaching liquid over the figs. Serves 10 to 12.

Vignalta Alpianae Fior d’Arancio 2006

With autumn approaching, thoughts of celebration and wonderful meals arrive – none being complete without dessert. The Vignalta Winery, located in the Colli Euganei Hills rising out of the Venetian plains in Italy, masterfully produce some wonderful dessert wines. Founded in 1980, this winery benefits from an abundance of differing soil types, allowing for the production of extremely different varietals...Fior d’Arancio (Orange Muscat) being one.

The Vignalta Alpianae Fior d’Arancio 2006 is a “Passito” wine produced from withered grapes and is a variety, which possesses almost double the amount of aromatic compounds (terpenes) than other Muscat varieties. The 2006 vintage of this wine is very special because the fermentation became stuck at 12 percent alcohol rather than the usual 16 percent, leaving more residual sugar than normal – creating a wine with luscious flavor and amazing perfume scent. This dessert wine is best paired with elegant fruit tortes, cheesecake, fine shortbread, or as the perfect finishing touch all by itself.

Rick Mindermann
Rick is Store Director of Corti Brothers in Sacramento, personal assistant to Darrell Corti, and  “The Good Taste Guy” for