Zuppa Inglese: not just a small trifle (recipe)

zuppa inglese
Zuppa inglese

 

This weekend I was invited for barbecue at my friend’s house to celebrate the finishing of some extension work. I wanted to take a dessert, and so still influenced by my trip to Modena, I decided to take the most Modenese of desserts, a zuppa inglese.

 

swimming pool
The Chestnut Barn’s amazing pool. Imagine when its sunny!

 

Zuppa inglese, the name of which means ‘English soup’ is thought to be related to the English trifle, although the modern version is a little different. There are many theories as to how the trifle found its way to Italy, but my favourite is that it is connected to Maria D’Este, daughter of the Duke of Modena, who in the 1670s became Duchess of York and later Queen of England. You can read about it here.

 

corridoor
Inside the Chestnut Barn.

 

My friend, Catherine Carabine, is the author of two popular books A Chestnut Barn in Tuscany and Back to Tuscany and the Barn. These tell the story of a trip to Italy which led to a shock discovery of Italian heritage, a marriage, and the beginning of a new life abroad.

 

Catherine Carabine
Catherine Carabine, author of A Chestnut Barn in Tuscany.

 

The eponymous chestnut barn itself is one of my favourite houses in the area, high up on the top of one of the hills, surrounded by nature. Even on a disappointingly cloudy day like Sunday it is a delight to visit, although we decided to stay out of the pool. If you fancy visiting Caprese Michelangelo, the Chestnut Barn can be rented in the summer months. You can find more information here.

 

living room
The Chestnut Barn’s living room.

 

Zuppa inglese is quite a simple dessert with a consistency rather like a tiramisù. It’s made with crema pasticcera (pastry cream) either plain vanilla or chocolate. For this version, I decided to go for both. Hey, it was a party after all. Like tiramisù, it also uses savoiardi biscuits which are dipped in a syrup made from a bright red liqueur called Alchermes.

 

zuppa inglese
Assembling the zuppa inglese.

 

Alchermes (or Alkermes) was traditionally made (and is still sold) by the monks of the monastery of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. The name derives from the arabic word for cochineal, which was how it originally got its red colour, although now other colorants are used. It tastes lightly of cinnammon and cloves, two of the of the main ingredients. Today it’s mostly employed to give colour to pastries and cakes.

 

Zuppa inglese
Served!

 

When served, the zuppa inglese is a riot of colour: red, yellow, brown and is just as tasty as it looks. If you can’t find Alchermes where you are you could use your own favourite liqueur such as kirsch or cointreau and add some red food colouring. Maizena® is a brand name for a type of cornflour widely available in Europe. It can be substituted with cornflour or plain flour if necessary.

catherine carabine

 

 

All in all a lovely afternoon and thank you Catherine for your amazing hospitality and food. You are an excellent barbecue chef.

 

What’s your favourite Italian dessert?

 

 

Zuppa inglese

Serves: 12
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes + resting overnight

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Ingredients
For the vanilla crema pasticcera:
500ml (2 cups) milk
2 eggs
120g (4 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 tablespoon plain flour
40g (1 1/2 ounces) Maizena®
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

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For the chocolate crema pasticcera:
500ml (2 cups) milk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 tablespoon chocolate powder
40g (1 1/2 ounces) Maizena®

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For the Alchermes syrup:
200ml (4/5 cup) water
200ml (4/5 cup) Alchermes
50g ( 1 2/5 ounces) sugar

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about 40 savoiardi biscuits
100g ( 3 ounces) dark chocolate (70%)

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Method:
Make the vanilla crema pasticcera:
  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan.
  2. In a separate bowl beat the sugar and eggs together until they turn pale.
  3. Add the flour and Maizena® and stir until combined. Add the vanilla extract.
  4. When the milk has boiled, pour half of it into the bowl and whisk together.
  5. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk and bring slowly to the boil, whisking all the time until it thickens, about 2 minutes.
  6. Pour the cream into the bottom of a the serving dish, cover with clingfilm so that is touches the surface of the cream and put in the fridge to cool.
Make the chocolate crema pasticcera:
  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan.
  2. In a separate bowl beat the sugar and eggs together until they turn pale.
  3. Add the flour, chocolate powder and Maizena® and stir until combined.
  4. When the milk has boiled, pour half of it into the bowl and whisk together.
  5. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk and bring slowly to the boil, whisking all the time until it thickens, about 2 minutes.
  6. Pour the cream into a bowl, cover with clingfilm so that is touches the surface of the cream and put in the fridge to cool.
Make the Alchermes syrup:
  1. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and gently bring to the boil until the sugar melts.
  2. Allow to cool.
To assemble:
  1. Remove the dish from the fridge and carefully remove the cling film from the top of the vanilla crema pasticcera.
  2. Carefully dip about half the savoiardi biscuits in the Alchermes syrup until they turn red and then place in a layer on top of the vanilla crema pasticcera.
  3. Cover with the chocolate crema pasticcera.
  4. Repeat step two with the remaining savoiardi biscuits and place in a layer on top of the chocolate crema pasticcera.
  5. Place the whole thing in the fridge overnight.
  6. Just before serving cover the top with the grated dark chocolate.

 

4 thoughts on “Zuppa Inglese: not just a small trifle (recipe)

    1. I should say it does: in these parts they call it sorbetto and they do serve it as a dessert.

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