‘It has been too long!’ said my friend as she walked into my kitchen and lightly placed a jar of Sicilian pistachio cream in my hand. My friend’s voice faded into a haze as I realized what she had handed me. OMG. My mouth watered instantly. Sicilian pistachio cream. This stuff is green gold. My eyes focused back on her face but I inched closer to the silverware drawer. At the first break in conversation, I dove into the drawer for two spoons, handed one to her and smiled. She nodded. We ripped open the top and like two little school girls, dipped our spoons into this heavenly cream.
Sicilian pistachio cream is a gift from God. In Sicily, it was everywhere and we would slather this nutty cream on slices of toasty bread or buy pastries filled with its delicious green goodness. We would sit on the beach and dip our fingers in little jars of the stuff, smiling from ear to ear. The pistachio cream of Sicily is made from the famous pistachios of Bronte, a little village that sits on the flanks of Mount Etna. The nuts, infused from the rich lava soil, have a slightly mineral flavor and their flesh is a bright green as if to echo the brightness of the lava that occasionally flows from Etna. Their taste is of the sun – an intense flavor that pairs well with both sweet and savory.
So what to do with this special treat? After much deliberation, I decided to use my special treat to make a pistachio tiramisu for a dinner party. The pistachio cream elevates this classic Italian desert. I used a Cognac in place of the more classic Amaretto and dusted the top with a sprinkle of dark cocoa and more pistachios. Be sure to only let the ladyfingers rest for a few seconds in the Cognac so as to not overpower the flavor of the pistachio. You can also use espresso in place of the Cognac. This very simple dessert is elevated to an entirely new level with the addition of the pistachio cream.
If you can find a jar of this stuff (check your local Italian market or online), the cost can be a bit high (only 1% of the world’s production comes from Bronte) but my, oh my, this decadent splurge is worth its price tag.
Decadent pistachio cream turns tiramisu into green gold in this easy Italian dessert recipe.
- Yield: 6
- 4 egg yolks
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 ½ cups mascarpone cheese
- 3 tablespoons pistachio cream
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- Lady fingers
- Crushed pistachios
- Dark cocoa powder
Using a whisk or electric mixer, beat together the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until thick and light yellow, about 3 minutes. Add in the mascarpone and pistachio cream until just combined. (NOTE: The eggs are not cooked in this recipe, which may be of a concern. If concerned, whisk the yolks and sugar in the top of a double boiler until light and thermometer reads 170 degrees F.)
In another large bowl, beat the whipped cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the cream into the pistachio mixture until incorporated. Pour about ½ cup Cognac into a shallow bowl. Dip 1 ladyfinger into the Cognac, soaking it for a few seconds on each side. Arrange the ladyfingers in an 8-inch glass baking dish or 4 individual serving dishes. Repeat until the bottom of the dish or the bottoms of the individual dishes are covered, trimming the ladyfingers so they fit snugly. Spread about 1/3 of the pistachio custard mixture over the ladyfingers and sprinkle with pistachios. Repeat with another layer ladyfingers, custard and pistachios. Spread the remaining pistachio custard on top and sprinkle with crushed pistachios. Chill, covered, for at least 4 hours.
When ready to serve, dust with cocoa powder and additional crushed pistachios.