This weekend I had some friends from out of town visiting and wanted to cook something typically Venetian. I planned to serve the mazzancolle in saor from the last post, a risotto al nero di seppia—more about that in a later post—but what about the dessert? Everyone loves tiramisù it’s true, but I am a little bored making it. So I decided to come up with a completely original dessert. Something within the Venetian tradition and connected with the city’s rich history and culture. And so the Tintoretto was born.
Jacopo (or Jacomo or Iacomo or Giacomo) Robusti (or Comin) known as Tintoretto (or Tentor, Tentoreto, Tintore) was one of the greatest, and most prolific artists Venice has ever seen. Born in 1519, the son of a silk dyer (tentor in Venetian), he is supposed to have studied very, very briefly under Titian, before becoming an artist in his own right. And what an artist! Today there is hardly a church in Venice that doesn’t have a work by him or his son Domenico, and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco and the Doge’s Palace are dominated by his enormous canvases.
One of the most memorable things about Tintoretto’s paintings are the colours and so I decided to create a dessert which echoed those in honour of him. Rich chocolate cake would represent the browns, crema pasticcera, the pinks and extraordinary yellow he used for halos of saints, and amarena cherries the heavy purples so distinctive of his work.
Amarena cherries in syrup, apart from being one of my late father’s favourite things, are an Italian institution and you should be able to find them in a deli near you. For the cocoa, I used the luxury powder sold in Torrefazione Cannaregio, my favourite coffee and hot chocolate supplier in Venice.
Preparation time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 40 mins
Cooling time: 1 hour
Total time: 2hrs 10 minutes
For the chocolate cubes:
112g (1 stick) unsalted butter
200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
112g (1 cup) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
For the crema pasticcera:
1 litre (2 pints) milk
4 egg yolks
200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
100g (3/4 cup) plain flour
1 x 400g jar of amarena cherries in syrup
Make the chocolate cubes:
- Heat the oven to 180° C (355° F).
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and allow to cool but not solidify
- Sift all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and mix them together well.
- Add the butter and eggs and stir to form a batter.
- Grease and line a small baking tray and spoon the mixture into it. The mixture is quite thick.
- Smooth the mixture over with a palette knife until flat.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
- Allow to cool completely (refrigerate if necessary).
- Remove the crusty edges (these make a great treat later).
- Cut the rest into 49 small cubes of about 1cm in diameter.
Make the crema pasticcera:
- Bring the milk gently to the boil in a saucepan.
- Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl with a whisk until they turn pale.
- Sift the flour into the bowl and mix with the eggs and sugar until fully incorporated.
- When the milk has boiled pour about a third of it over the egg, sugar, and flour mixture and whisk until dissolved.
- Add the mixture to the rest of the milk in the saucepan.
- Slowly bring to the boil, whisking all the time, until the cream thickens.
- Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Place half the cream in a piping bag, and put in the fridge to chill.
- Add syrup from the amarena cherries to the other half of the cream until you achieve a dusky, rose colour.
- Place in a piping bag, and put in the fridge to chill.
- Take six glass tumblers.
- Place four chocolate cubes in the bottom of each tumbler.
- Pipe the yellow pastry cream on top of the cubes, making sure that you can partly see the cubes through the sides of the glass.
- Place six amarena cherries, and a little syrup on the top of the pastry cream.
- Place three more chocolate cubes on top of this.
- Now pipe the rose-coloured pastry cream on top.
- Decorate with some crumbs of left over chocolate cubes.
- Add three amarena cherries on top of each glass and serve.