August 26, 2013

Italian Table Talk #15: Peach & Amaretti Pops



My father loves talking about his childhood. He nurtures fond memories of the years he spent at casa vecchia, the old house, in the middle of the Venetian country. The house wasn't a farm, but it was still surrounded by fruit trees, a vegetable garden, a small vineyard; it had a few courtyard animals, and a creek next to it where small freshwater fishes would go back and forth. It was a country house like many others you would find in that part of the world.


Most of my father's memories of those years have food at their core. Sometimes it would be food that was missing; others, food that was repetitive – pasta e fagioli every day, or polenta with figs every morning, or apples as the only fruit for months. Others again, it would be about the satisfaction and the feeling of victory in fishing some frogs in the ditch, or some catfish in the canal, using his rudimentary equipment. One of the best stories he would tell is about ice-cream, gelato. As a kid growing up in the middle of nowhere during post-war times, he experienced modernity slowly, and later than other kids living in the northern industrial cities. Modernity meaning TV, a refrigerator, a freezer, a washing machine, as well as certain foods – gelato was one of those.

Gelato made its appearance in my father's life in the form of a little truck, driving through fields and unpaved roads, announcing its presence with a bell. 'Ortodox' people wouldn't even call it gelato, yet that was the name used to call the frozen creamy sweet thing in a cup or a stick that was sold from the van window. The kinds of ice-creams it would sell were coppette (cups with half cream and half chocolate), ghiaccioli (fruit popsicles), or moretti (vanilla ice-cream on a stick, covered in a iced chocolate glaze). The best part of the whole story was that, at times, my father would be able to buy his ice-cream in change for eggs; others, he would have to pull 10 liras out of his pocket, which he would earn working at the Saturday cine forum at the church. For years, probably until the late 1970s, this is the only form of gelato people living in those areas had access to.



Gelato is among the first foods tourists think they should experience once landed in Italy. Italy is indeed the land of gelato: it is were it has been invented, back in 1565, in Florence; and where the art has been brought to perfection by excellent artisans making a great product using only the best ingredients. However, artisan gelato has become 'popular' and widespread only in recent times. Before then, it was a luxury item available only to the upper classes which had physical and financial access to it. As for the rest of the people, the normal people like my father, who lived far from the cultural and economical centres of the country – Milan, Turin, Florence, Venice, Rome, Naples – gelato remained something obscure until after the war, and even then, it wasn't the kind of gelato we all know about: creamy, luscious, in all its inflections of flavours, scooped out and gently unloaded on a colourful paper cup or a crunchy cone. No, it was the frozen cream, pressed in the little cup, or molded on a stick.

The subject of gelato is vast, somehow controversial, and yet deeply ingrained in Italian food culture. There is history mingled with technology, culture, language and sociology. We felt is was worth discussing; we felt we should dedicate an episode of Italian Table Talk to it. Each of us will narrate a little bit of the whole picture, without the presumption of covering it all, but at least trying to bring a better insight to the traditions and the culture linked to this beloved food so popular among locals as much as among tourists. In this episode, Giulia will share the recipe of a traditional gelato flavour, crema fiorentina; Emiko, the art of making affogato; and Jasmine, the recipe for a truly vintage classic, pinguino.



As for me, I wanted to share a recipe for pops - gelato on a stick like my father would have had. And in doing so, I got inspired by seasonal stone fruits, and by a traditional summer dessert from Piedmont, pesche e amaretti, or pesche ripiene. Peaches and amaretti (bitter almond cookies) are a true classic - they go heavenly together in their original form as well as in the form of frozen pops. In sticking to tradition, I thought to use mainly Piedmontese ingredients: Volpedo peaches, a heirloom variety typical from that part of Italy; and Piedmontese amaretti.

I am at a loss for words when it comes to describe these pops. It would be easier for me to use images rather that adjectives. To me, they taste of old, faded photos, of a summer of many years ago, of memories that don't belong to me, but that I lived through the eyes of the storyteller.



Peach and Amaretti Pops
makes 6 small pops

This recipe doesn't include any sweetener as I used perfectly sweet peaches - I highly suggest you do too, as this is the key to flavourful pops.

3 large ripe peaches, sliced
1/2 cup (125ml) double cream
1 cup amaretti (bitter almond cookies), roughly crushed

In a food processor, puree the peach slices until you'll have a smooth texture but with some small chunks of peach flesh still intact. Add the cream and blend until smooth. Finally, add the amaretti give the mixture a couple more pulses so that it comes together.

Pour the peach cream into the pop molds and freeze until solid, at least 6 hours.
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14 comments:

  1. Delicious! I know something about Italians...I am half Sicilian. I have been to Venice, I love it!

    www.hungrycaramella.blogspot.com

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    1. Happy to hear you enjoyed it! Thanks for passing by! :)

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  2. Ahhh, I love these popsicles, what pretty colour! And as you know, I love pesche ripiene (thanks for the link!), so this beautiful combination sounds just perfect (I agree, no need for sugar when you have that flavour). I loved the story of your father's food memories too. It reminds me of my mother in law recounting her experience with gelato in a Tuscan town in the 1950s when she was a little girl - her father would take her for a gelato every Sunday to the local gelateria, where there was a choice of just two flavours, crema or chocolate! Times have changed and the flavours have expanded but what surprised me when researching gelato over the years was that somewhere between the war and recent times, the gelato available in Italy was mostly industrialised gelato. Luckily the artisan process has regained popularity and it has grown as there is a market for it - do we have tourists to thank for that, I wonder? ;)

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    1. Yes, absolutely, industrial gelato was what common people living far from town centres would have access to, and their first and only encounter with such delicacy for years. Nowadays you find (thank goodness) a lot of good, great artisan gelaterie, but you find a lot of bad ones as well, and I wonder if that is because most people just don't have a palate for good artisan gelato. Anyway, we definitely have to thank modernity (and tourism) for this new renaissance we are seeing in the would of artisan gelato making - I am truly happy to have access to good Italian style gelato here in London as well! :)

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    2. This is what impressed me much... I am the next generation, but if I try to remember my childhood gelato, well, it would be 50% artisanal and 50% industrial, the pressed frozen cream into paper cups was so so so common, more than the freshly scooped gelato into a crunchy cone.
      And, my father used to drive that van with ice cream when he was very young with my uncle, it was his first job! :)

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    3. For me is was the same, 50-50. Mmm, maybe 60-40, just because I wouldn't call some gelaterie all that 'artisan' :) Anyway, really? The ice-cream van? With the bell, the songs and all? Idolo!

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  3. Ciao Valeria, che belle queste foto, arrivo da giulia e non sai quanto mi piaccia leggervi una dopo l'altra!:-) mi piace l'abbinamento pesche e amaretti, mi hai dato una buona idea!

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    1. Grazie mille, Laura! Pesche e amaretti non sonon fatti per stare insieme forever? Troppo buoni. :)

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  4. And living through the eyes of story teller is enough to give these a try. Thanks for sharing. Gelato is my favorite of all in anything Italian. When we went to Rome, I thought I would eat tiramisu everyday but I forgot about it as soon as I tasted the first gelato. Then three times a day every day for five days. :)

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    1. Well, gelato is supposed to be kinda healthy - good nutrients! - compared to tiramisu, so...Good choice! :) I would eat only gelato and fruit in the summer - so refreshing, so good, especially sorbet. Yum.

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  5. I love these popsicles so much! I'm a big fan of homemade popsicles and I made a lot of them last summer. What about this summer... you could ask?! Well, we have a small fridge with a tiny freezer drawer and it's full of breastmilk now! :) Haha! So no space to freeze homemade popsicles this summer!

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  6. Ha! I have a tiny freezer too, believe me, and I am constantly negotiating what to keep in there - I currently have ice for my Friday cocktail treat and, some beans and some ice cream XD that's all I can fit! Now breastmilk sounds kind of crucial alongside frozen peas for accidents and bruises :) Next year maybe you'll be able to share these pops with your little one :)

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