Sunday, February 21, 2010

Carmela Soprano's Baci Cake, Anna Sultana's Pudina

All righty. Last week we had Valentine's day a la the Sopranos. No, it wasn't like the Valentine's Day Massacre the gangsters had in Chicago over 80 years ago. We just had a nice, high cholesterol, alcoholic, dinner for 2.

The Shrimp Aragonate was simple and fast, yet special enough for the occasion. Rice and veggies completed the main course.

The real effort went into making dessert, Carmela Soprano's Baci Cake.

I got a laugh at the name. Baci means kiss in Italian. There was a boy I knew in elementary school. His name was Blaise Mesali. He wasn't too thrilled with his name and no one could come up with a decent nickname. He did like to kiss girls so he got a nickname. Baci. Wonder where he is now?

I digress... My usual chocolate cake is a low cholesterol chocolate quickie. Made with cocoa powder and vegetable oil. No eggs. Done in the baking pan. Easy, no?

Carmela's Baci Cake, a chocolate hazelnut torte, took quite a bit more effort. I had to chop and melt a whole box - 8 ounces - of semisweet chocolate. I also had to toast and finely chop enough hazelnuts to fill 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons. A lot of nuts.

Then I had to use a half pound of butter and 6 eggs and dark rum. I don't know which Paul noticed more - the butter and eggs or the dark rum. Let's not forget the icing, which called for melting 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate.

I had to use the double boiler twice and 2 large mixing bowls. My kitchen was a mess. There's an old German saying: That which really tastes oft us trouble makes. Got that right.

It was rich. It was good. I'd make it again... just not on a regular basis.

I have to admit Ma never made anything like Carmela's Baci Cake. Ma wasn't big on baking cakes. As a treat, every week after Mass Pop would stop by the local bakery and pick up a cake with chocolate icing. Ah, Sunday - God and cake.

But Ma did make Pudina tal hobz. Bread pudding. It wasn't anything like what I learned was called bread pudding in America. Not buttery bread covered with creamy custard. Not smooth comfort food eaten with a spoon. Nope.

It may have been called a pudding but Pudina tal hobz was more like a cake. It called for stale bread, water, dried fruit, sugar, eggs, spices and cocoa powder.

We had quite a bit of Pudina when Lily Tulip, the paper cup manufacturer, left College Point. Pop was out of work and, instead of picking up a fresh iced chocolate cake, he'd bring home a few bags of day-old bread for Ma to turn into Pudina tal hobz. Well, we never went hungry.

Ah, Pudina. Like I said about Ma's Timpana, Maltese go beyond simple into downright retarded when it comes to starches. And like Ma's Timpana, Pudina can be eaten warm or cold.

Ah, comfort food.

Another two recipes down. Seventy-seven more to go.

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