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Bottles: 4 x 750ml

8 lemons
750 ml 95% alcohol (not 95 proof)
600 g sugar
2 l water
1.  Remove the zest in ribbons being very careful to avoid any white pith
2.   Steep in 750ml of 95% alcohol (not 95 proof, Aussies speak to your friendly chemist) for 4 days in a sealed glass container
3.   Remove the zest (it will crackle as all oils have been leached out by the alcohol)
4.   Dilute with 2 litres of sugar syrup (600gm sugar dissolved in 2 litres of water)
5.   Bottle
6.   After 2-3 days serve chilled from the freezer. Salute!!!

Torta Mantovana

Servings: 8

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1 egg + 4 yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp grated lemon rind
1 2/3 cups cake flour
1/2 cup less two tbsp peeled almonds and pine nuts
1 tsp baking powder

1.  Halve the pine nuts crosswise, and peel and sliver the almonds. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
2.  Melt the butter. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and the sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow. Add the lemon rind, the flour a bit at a time, the butter, and, finally, the baking powder.
3.  Pour the batter into 22 cm (9 inch) cake tin that has been buttered and dusted with flour and powdered sugar; sprinkle the surface of the cake with the nuts. Bake the cake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out dry (it will also begin to pull away from the sides of the pan).
4.  Once the Mantovana has cooled, dust with powdered sugar and serve. It goes quite well with dessert wine.

Cantucci di Prato

500 g bread flour
300 g sugar
250 g almonds, unpeeled
50 g pine nuts
4 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
grated peel of one lemon
a baking or cookie sheet, parchment paper

1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F).
2.  Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl. Add eggs and the rest of the ingredients until the ingredients stay together in a ball of dough.
3.  On a clean surface, turn out the dough and shape it into a 3 cm wide roll as long as your baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper to help keep the cookies from sticking to the sheet (as no butter or oil is used). Place roll on the sheet, lightly flattening the top part of the roll.
4.  Place sheet in oven and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the roll from the oven. The roll should be warm and firm; place it on a cutting board and cut diagonally, making 1 cm wide slices.
5.  Place the slices back on the baking sheet on one of the cut sides, making sure to leave some space between each slice and place the sheet back into the oven, lowering the temperature a bit to 150°C (300°F). Bake for 15 minutes, then take the cookies out and turn them onto the other side and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove and let cool. Store in an air-tight container to keep fresh.

These cookies are traditionally enjoyed together with a good glass of Vin Santo. Any other dessert wine will also go well. And although it is common Tuscan tradition to dip the cookie into the Vin Santo, the creaters of these two products have expressed a desire for this to not occur, saying each product has its own unique tastes which should be enjoyed…. together but not together.

Panforte di Siena (Traditional Sienese Christmas Cake)

Serves: 12

300 g almonds, peeled and chopped (about 10.5 oz)
200 g walnuts, chopped (about 7 oz)
150 g peeled roasted hazelnuts, chopped (about 5 oz)
150 g dried figs, cut into small pieces
150 g each of these candied sweets: citrus peel, pumpkin, grapefruit peel
50 g sweet baking cocoa (about 3 1/2 Tbsp)
15 g ground cinnamon (about 3 tsp)
15 g total of a mix of ground cloves, white pepper, mace and coriander (about 3 tsp total)
150 g good quality honey (about 2/3 cup)
200 g powdered sugar
thin wafers, enough to cover the bottom of the 20 cm (8 inch) cake tin, preferably springform

1.  Preheat oven to 150 °C  (300°F).
2.  In a bowl, combine the almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts. Add the figs and candied fruit, sprinkle the cocoa, half of the cinnamon and spices on top, and mix.
3.  In a thick bottomed saucepan, combine honey with 3/4 of the powdered sugar. Place over medium heat and slowly stir with a spatula until the mixture begins to thicken and when rubbing a bit of the mixture on the spatula, it turns into a ball.
4.  Remove from the heat, add the fruit and nuts, mixing well. Slightly butter the bottom and sides of the cake tin to help keep the wafers in place. Add the mixture to the cake tin, leveling the top with a spatula.
5.  Place the panforte in oven for 30 minutes. Let cool, remove from the tin and sprinkle the remaining powdered sugar and cinnamon over the top of the panforte. Store in a dry place until ready to serve.

Schiacciata alla Fiorentina (Florentine sponge cake)

Makes: 12 Servings


250 g all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (or 50g lard)
1 cup milk
Grated orange peel from 1 orange
1/2 tsp saffron powder
90g sugar
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
powdered sugar to decorate

1.  In a medium bowl, mix all of the ingredients and beat thoroughly until the batter is smooth and thick with no lumps.
2.  Grease a shallow rectangular baking pan and pour in the batter (the schiacciata should be about 2 cm (1 inch) high). Bake at 150°C ( (300°F) for 30 minutes. Sprinkle plenty of powdered sugar on top of the cake.

The cake can eaten “as is” or filled with whipped cream.

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