If there is one thing I'm not good at, that's making desserts! Pastry is more than an art, it's chemistry, precision, passion and dedication, something I am happy to leave in the hands of professionals and talented home bakers. This, though, doesn't mean I don't enjoy a good pastry every once in a while, and when the cravings begins one of my reference points in Venice is the historical cafe Rosa Salva.
Rosa Salva was started in 1879 by Antonio Salva, called Rosa, when he inherited the so-called traveling trattoria. Some years before that, Antonio had made a lot of success organising the first home food delivery services. He was so in demand that apparently at one point a whole day wasn't enough to reach all the houses located along the Riviera del Brenta, so when he had a proper space, he started a bigger business, which still continues today. Rosa Salva counts three cafes in Venice and one in Mestre and has always been known for its traditional pastries and for the exquisite tramezzini.
I have to say I'm a frequent client. I started going to Rosa Salva when I was a child with my mother, we would go almost every Saturday morning and our treats consisted of a tramezzino (usually asparagus and eggs, spinach and eggs or ham and eggs) and a bignè al cioccolato (chocolate cream puff) for me. At the time we would either go to the one in Calle Fiubera (which is still open) and the one in campo San Luca (now closed, replaced by another nice pastry shop). The one in Calle Fiubera is where the laboratory is and, differently from the other two, at lunch time (from 12 to 2 pm) it's also possible to have a warm dish or a salad with about 7/10 euros (there is no table service, thus no extra costs).
At the weekend, my husband and I like to take it easy and relax reading the papers or whatever other magazine, seated and served. So, on Sundays we often go to the historical Rosa Salva in Campo San Giovanni e Paolo. I find this cafe particularly beautiful. The marble signs with the elegant letterings, the wooden furniture, the small marble tables and the Thonet chairs in the side room, it is really lovely. In summer we enjoy sitting outdoors, in the campo, under the shade offered by the white umbrellas, keeping an eye on Bartolomeo Colleoni (the bronze statue by Andrea del Verrocchio). Depending on the mood and the time, our usuals are an apricot jam croissants and a coffee/cappuccino or -only after 11 am.- a pizzetta (with bread dough and anchovy for Vito, with puff pastry and artichokes for me) with a spritz. During the week, instead, we go more often to the one in Calle Fiubera.
Now, in addition to the traditional pastries, the chefs in the lab started adding their own personal touch, so every week there is a little something different and new to savour! The last time, we tried an absolutely mouthwatering strawberry tartlet, so fresh, so flavoursome and so delicious I dared ask for the recipe. Obviously -not being practical with the art of pastry- I had imagined it wasn't going to be easy, so rather than experimenting at random, I decided to transcribe the chef's words. The version below is made slightly easier for the home cooks. By the way, the -extremely patient- pastry chef is called Daniele Mascia, originally from Piedmont, and I'm a big fan!
RECIPE: MINI STRAWBERRY TARTLETS
Prep. time: 30/40 minutes
Cook time: 25/30 minutes
Level: Medium/Difficult Yield: 1 big tart or about 20/22 small tartlets
For the base:
125 gr. butter
95 gr. icing sugar
35 gr. almond flour
250 gr 00 flour (flour for biscuits)
2,5 gr. salt
55 gr. egg (1 egg)
+ apricot jam
For the frangipane cream:
100 gr. butter
100 gr. icing sugar
100 gr. egg (a little less than 2 eggs)
100 gr. almond flour
For the Chantilly:
50 gr. mascarpone
125 gr. fresh cream
15/17 gr. icing sugar
+ a basket of fresh strawberries to top
Rinse your hands under cold water. Sieve flour from a height (00 flour and almond flour) on a clean work surface and then do the same with the icing sugar. Using your hands, start working the butter into the dry ingredients until you obtain a crumbly mixture. Add a pinch of salt, the egg and knead, when the dough is ready form a ball. Wrap it in clingfilm and let sit in the fridge overnight. (Tip: try not to knead it too much, to avoid the heat of your hands spoiling your hard work!). When ready, on a floured surface, roll the dough and with a round pastry cutter prepare your tartlets and place them in your (previously greased or paper) baking cups.
In a standing mixer, add butter, sugar, vanilla and egg and whisk until creamy. Finally add the almond flour and keep whisking until all the ingredients are well combined. (Medium speed)
Spread a layer of apricot jam on the small tartlets, then add the frangipane cream (possibly with a piping bag) and bake at 175° for 23/24 minutes (in a fan-assisted/convection oven).
Use a cold steel bowl. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and remove seeds. Add them to the fresh cream and sugar and whisk. Add the mascarpone and the orange zests and whisk all together until you get a cream with a fluffy and light texture.
When the tartlets are ready, let cool and top the with the Chantilly cream and the thinly sliced strawberries. Excellent served with a glass of sparkling white wine.