August 15, 2015

Dolce Vita in Rome and Pistachio Macarons

It all started with my husband coming back from a trip in Rome with Granella di Pistacchio di Bronte. Oh! Just the sound of Granella di Pistacchio di Bronte is delicious. But wait until you try out those pistachios from Bronte, Sicily into macarons!

It was not the first time I was baking Pistachio Macarons. I had tried different variations for the filling, with cardamom or not, with flavoring essence or not. But this time, Wow! Those two pretty macaron shells filled with a pistachio custard cream tasted nothing like we had tried before. The flavor of the pistachio was so powerful that no essence or spice could have done the trick.

So for the three days in a row, that lasted those pistachio macarons made with Granella di Pistacchio di Bronte, Nati and I were eating them in an almost religious silence and following a monomaniacal protocol: Clear and clean table. The plate with its precious treasure would be put on the table. No distraction around. We would sit comfortably on the sofa. Both would take one. We would look at each other with a knowing smile meaning “all green light” to savor the first bite. Silence of contentment. Then would come this mute agreement signed with a large smile and a nod: yes, let’s have another one! Another silence of contentment… That is how good those were.

So when came the Orthodox Greek Easter holidays in Cyprus with the opportunity of a long weekend, I sent myself off on a mission to Rome to bring back more Granella di Pistacchio di Bronte.
Not an easy mission as it seems. Nati could not remember exactly where he found those precious green diamonds. “It was somewhere in a pastry shop on a corner of a street, next to Piazza Navona. Inside, they had ice cream. And in another part of the shop they were selling local products…”
I investigated the case prior my departure and contacted Italian online shops for an address in Rome. But no luck. If you want the real thing you need to go to the right place: Bronte in Sicily, only!

So I thought I would figure this out once on the field. The lady at my Bed & Breakfast suggested the Campo de’ Fiori market for local products but I only found multicolored pasta and olive oil, very popular among tourists.

Campo de’ Fiori market

Emanuela from a live chat I had contacted suggested Salumeria Roscioli on via dei Giubbanari, but they only had wine, cheese, ham and other mouth-watering delicatessen. Still no Granella di Pistacchio di Bronte.

Rosciolo Delicatessen

Eventually I found the pastry shop, where my husband had bought the pistachios: I dolci di Nonna Vincenza. This Sicilian pastry shop was just next door my Bed & Breakfast and I had been passing by several times since I was in Rome. I entered the shop with excitement. Amazing traditional Sicilian pastries on display. Everything looks so good and tempting but no Granella di Pistacchio di Bronte. Disappointed, I was so disappointed that I eventually gave up on my mission and decided to only enjoy Rome and la Dolce Vita.
Sicilian pastries at  I dolci di Nonna Vincenza

I sat down, ordered a couple of creamy and puffy pastries with wild berries along with my tea and enjoyed watching people coming in and out, mouth-watering at the pastries. I thought of my trip to Sicily a couple years back when I attended a Food Photography Workshop with Beatrice Peltre at the Casa Vecchie. They had the same pastries on the Saint Joseph’s altars… Oh food memories!

And so now, my next days in Rome would start at this Sicilian pastry shop with homemade brioches that taste like in France and fresh squeezed blood orange juice like I had in Sicily…
Then, forget about following any recommended itinerary on a map. Rome is the kind of city that is appreciated at its best when oneself gets lost… from an ice-cream shop to another ice-cream shop: Pistacchio gelato piccolo, per favore… is what I was ordering the most… this is one scoop of Pistachio ice-cream, always in a crunchy waffle cone… still that pistachio obsession! I tried as well the Garden sage & Raspberry ice-cream at the Gelateria del Teatro. Very unique flavor.

Venchi ice cream shop

Next I would turn left on a corner to avoid the crowd of tourists at the Pantheon and would end up on a much quiet Piazza, time to chill out at the terrace of a trendy lounge bar for a cocktail and a cheese plateau. What a treat! In Cyprus, they mostly have feta, halloumi and anari cheese, which are good; don’t get me wrong. But I am French and I need something stinkier with more character and flavor.

Never go wrong with old style taverns

So that was how my days were slipping… I was wandering, opting for the narrowest and less busy streets. Here I was discovering a tiny farmers market frequented by locals. And there was another delicatessen store call Delizie, food delights… again there were wine, pasta, olive oil… still I asked about the Granella di Pistacchio di Bronte.
Oh! I was so happy when the gentleman smiled and showed me the small wooden shelf with all the products he had made of pistachio: pistachio powder, chopped pistachio, pistachio liqueur, pistachio nougat, pistachio pesto, pistachio spread… I was so excited that I bought all of his chopped pistachio and pistachio powder. I get some pistachio nougat for the way and one small bottle of pistachio liqueur to lift the filling of my next pistachio macarons. Grazie mile senior!

This was what I would call a very pistachio oriented weekend and I had a delicious time! What a shame though that I missed Michelangelo’s painting at the Sistine Chapel… I save the visit for next time!

Pistachio Macarons
Serves 12 to 20

Ingredients for the shells:
  • 70 g aged egg whites (about 2 medium sized eggs)
  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 105 g icing sugar
  • 70 g powdered almonds
  • 20 g powdered pistachios
  • 1/8 teaspoon of powdered food coloring
Ingredients for the filling:
  • 10 cl dairy cream
  • 25 g granulated sugar
  • 25 g powdered pistachios
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 10 g unsalted butter
  • 2 vanilla sugar bags

  1. Whip the egg whites to a light foam. Add gradually the granulated sugar. Whisk until thick and glossy meringue. Set aside.
  2. Combine the icing sugar, pistachios and almonds. Sift the powdered ingredients. Add the powdered food coloring.
  3. Add a third of the sifted ingredients to the meringue. Give a few quick strokes. Add another third of the meringue. Another few quick strokes. Add the rest and stir again but not too much. The batter should not be too soft. It is perfect consistency when the batter falls from the spoon as a soft ribbon.
  4. Pipe the macaron shells onto parchment paper baking sheets. Smack the baking trail a couple of times on the countertop to release the air bubbles and to level the meringue. Preheat the oven to 280° F. Let rest out for half an hour before baking.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes. If the inside is overly moist, leave the shells in the oven a few minutes longer. Let the macarons cool completely on the baking sheet.
  6. In a saucepan bring to a boil the dairy cream with the pistachios, granulated sugar and one vanilla sugar bag. Remove from the heat. Add the yolks and last vanilla sugar bag. Back on the stove over low heat. Stir until custard cream consistency. Add the butter. Stir until fully combined. Let cool down.
  7. Assemble the macaron with a spoon. Keep in the fridge in an airtight container for a day before enjoying them.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t manage at the first time, macarons require practice, practice and practice.

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