As I was running out the door last Sunday evening to drive back to Rome at the conclusion of the Let’s Blog Abruzzo conference, my friend Emiliana dell’Arciprete from Abruzzo4foodies handed me a scrap of paper with a recipe for sbriciolata scrawled on the back and marching orders to try it out when I got home. One of many traditional dolci abruzzesi that we sampled at the conference, la sbriciolata is a crumb cake with a creamy ricotta filling and specks of bittersweet chocolate. Emiliana has given me her blessing to share the recipe, but before I do, I hope you’ll indulge me as I tell you a bit about her and a few of the other talented and dynamic women who convened in the tiny hilltop village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio on June 1st and 2nd to promote their ruggedly beautiful and largely undiscovered region.
Abruzzo and its people are said to be “forte e gentile” – strong and kind (or gentle – true in either case). Allow me to add fierce, motivated, energetic, creative, charming, multi-tasking and passionate, to the slew of adjectives that describe the fabulous Abruzzese women who attended the conference. Some of them have Abruzzo in their blood while others have adopted this region of mare e monti as their new home. However, they all share in common a love for, and commitment to, celebrating Abruzzo’s culture, food and traditions with the world.
Here’s a brief profile of a few of the many amazing donne abruzzesi I had the privilege of meeting at the conference. I look forward to getting to know them better this summer.
Emiliana dell’Arciprete, Abruzzo4Foodies – A native of Orsogna, Emiliana’s private tour company, Abruzzo4Foodies offers small-group, guided culinary tours conducted in English, French and Italian that combine sweeping vistas with local, farm-to-table products. I’m especially eager to participate in her Flavors of Abruzzo walking tour of the quaint, picturesque town of Guardiagrele, one of I Borghi Piu’ Belli d’Italia,which includes a visit to the colorful Sunday market, private wine cellars and local gourmet shops. Emiliana’s corporate travel background and love of her region translate into detail-driven tours of artisanal producers who are as committed to preserving Abruzzo’s rich cultural traditions as she is.
Susanna Iraci and Katy Gorman, Welcome to Sulmona – Although neither Susanna nor Katy is native to Abruzzo, they have launched careers dedicated to promoting and sharing the lovely town of Sulmona, perhaps my favorite place in all of Italy, with the world. I’m confident that the Sulmona “Experience Days” that are on the horizon from this duo will be led with the same knowledge, wit and creativity that characterizes Welcome to Sulmona, their online FB community and the only English language resource for visitors to Sulmona and the Valle Peligna. I’m incredibly excited to experience the Giostra Cavalleresca in Sulmona, a colorful and exuberant Palio-esque horse race among the town’s seven sestieri (neighborhoods), with Susanna and Katy, as well as attend a jubilant after-party hosted by one of these sestieri.
Giulia Scappaticcio, Country House Casale Centurione Manoppello – Abruzzese by marriage, my friend Giulia is a dynamo. Mother of three young children, owner of a country inn and restaurant in Manoppello, accomplished cook and all-around force-to-be-reckoned-with, Giulia and I connected via Facebook and became fast virtual friends. I am incredibly excited to experience her country hospitality and finally cook with her this summer. Hopefully, she’ll share her recipes for Chitarra alla Trappettara, the most famous of Abruzzo’s traditional pastas dressed with olives and tomatoes, and her divine homemade Mandarinetto orange liqueur, which I sampled at LBA.
And of course I must acknowledge and thank the co-founders of blogAway and organizers of Let’s Blog Abruzzo, Sam Dunham and Helen Free, without whom I would have never met these new friends and partners. Sammy is a freelance web marketing and SEO specialist and the author of Life in Abruzzo, the largest English-language site dedicated to travel in Abruzzo. Helen, a teacher, writer and scholar, writes the blog, Hang on to the Vine, dedicated to Abruzzo’s history and culture. Together, they assembled an eclectic and enthusiastic collection of speakers and attendees from around the world. On a personal level, they have been incredibly supportive and generous in sharing their extensive knowledge of Abruzzo and vast network of contacts in the food and blogging worlds with me.
Of course, there were some pretty remarkable men in attendance as well – among them, Alessandro and Fabio DiNisio who helm the wildly popular online photography community, Paesaggi d’Abruzzo, whose FB following surpassed 100,000 while we were at the conference, and Fabrizio Lucci of Italia Sweet Italia – Experience Breaks, whose unique cooking experiences in the seaside town of Vasto I look forward to joining this summer (for a first-hand account of Fabrizio’s cooking courses, please check out my friend and fellow Italian food blogger, Ciao Chow Linda’s account of her day on a trabocco).
There are so many other talented women in Abruzzo who are committed to promoting the wonders and flavors of their native or adopted region and I hope to learn more about their fascinating work this summer – to name a few, Rita Salvatore, Abruzzo Lento; Jacqui Dixon, Kokopelli Camping; Francesca Di Nisio, Cantinarte.
But for the moment, let’s focus on that ricotta crumb cake ….
Sbriciolata (Ricotta-filled crumb cake)
Recipe by Majella Home Cooking © as adapted from Abruzzo4Foodies
For the crust & crumb topping:
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the filling:
- 2 cups whole-milk ricotta
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ cup finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
To make the crust and crumb topping:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter and flour a round 9-inch springform cake pan. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together until evenly combined. Pour the melted butter into the bowl containing the dry ingredients and using a whisk (or your fingers), quickly incorporate the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the beaten egg and vanilla, and again, using a whisk or your fingers, quickly incorporate. Again, the resulting mixture should resemble coarse crumbs.
To make the ricotta filling:
To a medium bowl, add the ricotta and gently fold in the sugar and chocolate until just combined.
To assemble the sbriciolata:
To the prepared springform pan, add three-quarters of the crumb mixture and using your fingers, press down until you have an even, uniform crust that covers the entire base of the pan (not the sides), leaving no gaps or holes. Next, pour the ricotta filling over the crust and with a rubber spatula, gently spread out the filling until smooth and uniform. Finally, scatter the remaining crumb mixture evenly over the ricotta filling.
Bake for 50-55 minutes in the center rack of the oven, turning once during baking, until the crumb topping is golden brown and crunchy. Allow the cake to cool completely on a metal rack (do not unmold the cake until it has cooled entirely or the ricotta will ooze out). Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar prior to serving. Buon appetito!
Extra Two Cents – Using a good-quality artisanal ricotta will only enhance the flavor and texture of this simple cake. You can substitute the chopped chocolate with mini chocolate chips or regular-sized chips that are chopped up a bit. This cake may be made a day ahead and refrigerated.