Coffee Scented Citrus Cream with a Crumble Topping
One of the first things Vito did as soon as we landed in Venice, was to look for a newspaper stand and buy his daily and weekly magazines, a real addiction for him. Of all the magazines, right now, his favourite is Internazionale, which gathers different articles from papers around the globe and, differently from the main Italian newspapers (way too Italy-centred), offers a lot of insights on what is happening around us. Anyway, when he was picking the magazine up, he noticed it came with a special supplement entirely dedicated to food, so he bought that too and made me a little gift! I have to say I am very grateful, as I read the entire thing the same evening, so good it was, and in today's post I wish to discuss a particular topic with you, which is: hosting dinner parties.
But let's start from the recipe I am sharing: a coffee scented citrus cream with a crumble topping. I made this dessert for two reasons: the first is that I wanted to make something that recalled my two home countries (Italy with the coffee and Ireland with the crumble), while the second is that it is a dessert, the dish that concludes a proper dinner. Yes, because in the last months Vito and I have rediscovered the pleasure of inviting friends over for a lavish meal (typically, Sunday lunch) and, while he prepares starters, sides and main courses, I am the one in charge of the dessert.
Consider that, because neither of us has a sweet tooth, I always test the recipes beforehand (in fact, the ingredients below are for two people) and tend to use small amounts of sugar. My desserts are never overly sweet and, in general, they are really easy to make, ideal for lazy bachelors and busy business women alike!
Anyway, going back to us, inviting people for dinner is a real art and has its own, quite sophisticated, patterns. I fell in love with the articled titled 'The art of the Dinner Party' by Gabrielle Hamilton, published on The New York Time Magazine back in 2017 (do read the article if you have time, it is really brilliant). Mrs Hamilton describes the thrill she used to experience as a child when from their staircase, she could glimpse moments and conversations happening at the dinner parties hosted by her mother. All that intense and strongly felt adult talk, the relative rite of the order of the courses, and the arrival of spirits and drinks. Dinners where the food was important, but not nearly half as important as the people and the conversations taking place. Parties that seemed so exciting to her that, as soon as she grew up, she started re-proposing.
How funny I found the description of her first attempts, with young guests who would often get drunk before the second course, or keep leaving the table to smoke or do something considered 'cool'. But it was the description of the dinners she hosted as an adult, after she had finally bought her first Le Creuset (still a dream for me...), that made me think a lot. Yes, because when she was finally fully adult, had proper pots and pans, cutlery, linens and had mastered the art of cooking... her guests always appeared with objects she describes as monsters: cell phones. Yes, you've heard me, cell phones, mobiles, illuminated screens... so powerful to gradually destroy people's ability to describe emotions, facts and adventures with words.
How true this is, especially nowadays that cell phones have become an extension of our own bodies, objects we desperately need for work and other essential aspects of our life. According to Mrs Hamilton, people would grab their monster to show their friends pictures of the last vacation, of their children and so on. No more metaphors, no more detailed descriptions, no more hyperboles nor allegories. Images had started replacing words... Of course, she didn't give up in front of technology, she just adapted her art of invitation and chose better guests, such as her usual perfect friends and some outliers, like the new neighbours, and some colleagues she never really had the chance to get to know further.
One thing I totally agreed with was the part on the perfect guest, which for her and for me too, is a person that arrives 10 minutes after the established time, bringing a bottle of wine and his/her good company. A guest has to do nothing but enjoy your food and chit chats, no one is meant to help with the dishes or cleaning up and no one would expect such a behaviour from them. Guests are guests and it is the pleasure of the host to take good care of them. In my house, if a friend offers to help, Vito replies that if they want to help they just need to stay seated and enjoy the food! He is very clear about this and I agree, because this is exactly how I'd behave if you ever invite me to your house.
Fortunately enough, in our case, our friends hardly ever take out the phone. In Venice (despite all the hideous and terrible things I read about Italians) people work very very hard (sometimes 12-14 hours per day!), thus as soon as they have the chance to detach... they do so! More than the food, the most important ingredient is a good quality wine, because after one or two glasses, it's just so much easier to forget about our worries and fears, at least for the time spent together. As for us, although our house is tiny, we do our best to make our friends comfortable and it makes us happy to cook for them and see how much they appreciate our recipes. Vito goes to market on Saturday morning very early, to get the freshest fish and veg, which -though- he cooks just before our guests' arrival, while I make the dessert the evening before.
This coffee scented citrus cream with a crumble topping, in fact, will be the conclusive dish this Sunday and I hope our friends will enjoy it as much as we did. I hope you will like it too and I would be happy to receive some feedback both on the dessert and on the art of the dinner party. What type of guest do you prefer? Are there any behaviours you hate? Do you expect people to help you or rather have them seated and relaxed? Let me know... because I'm very very curious!
COFFEE SCENTED CITRUS CREAM WITH A CRUMBLE TOPPING
Allergens: milk, eggs, flour
- For the crumble:
150 gr white flour
50 gr brown sugar
100 gr salted butter (room temperature)
2 tbsp chocolate chips
- For the cream
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons potato flour
the juice of half an orange and half a lemon
200 ml whole milk
- For the filling
4 savoiardi biscuits or similar
a cup of cold coffee
- For the Crumble:
1. Pre-heat oven at 180 degrees.
2. With a fork, soften the butter
3. In a bowl, combine flour and sugar. Add the butter, cut into small squares, and mix with your hands, until you obtain a crumbly mixture. Add the chocolate chips, grease a shallow pan and bake for about 25/30 minutes, depending on your oven.
4. When ready, set aside and let cool.
- For the cream:
1. Squeeze half an orange and half a lemon and keep the liquid aside. Grate some lemon zests.
2. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, add the milk, the potato flour, the lemon zests and pour the mixture into a small pot. Cook at a low heat, continuously stirring, until the cream starts becoming dense. At that point, remove from heat and keep stirring for another couple of minutes.
3. Add the citrus juice, stir, pour into a bowl and let cool.
- For the filling:
1. Prepare a mocha of coffee for two and let cool.
2. In a shallow dish, place the Savoiardi biscuits (or similar cookies) and pour over a good amount of coffee.
1. Start filling your glass with cream, then add the soaked biscuits, another layer of cream, another layer of biscuits, and the final layer of cream.
2. Top with a little bit of crumble and serve.