Zuccotto

Toscana

This delicious pudding is meant to look like the traditional helmet of a Tuscan mercenary going into battle, which in turn was named after a small, rounded pumpkin!  The most difficult bit is doing the stencilling.  If you prefer, just dust with icing sugar, then lightly dust with cocoa powder on top.  This is a great dessert to keep as a standby in the freezer.  You can make two smaller bowls if you wish.

SERVES 8

75 g (3 oz) shelled hazelnuts

1 x 25 cm (l0 in) basic sponge cake

6 tablespoons brandy

4 tablespoons amaretto or other sweet liqueur

I litre (1 3/4 pints) whipping cream

75 g (3 oz) blanched almonds, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons plain chocolate drops or chips

2 tablespoons chopped mixed candied peel or glace fruits

150 g (5 oz) icing sugar, sifted

100 g (4 oz) good-quality plain chocolate, melted and cooled

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

  1. Toast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet under the grill until dark brown, then rub off the skin and chop the nuts.
  2. Cut off the top crust and sides of the cake and use for another dish.  Slice the cake in half horizontally and slice into strips.  Line a large, round bowl (in Tuscany they have special tins) with foil.  Press the strips of cake against the sides of the bowl, using the brandy and liqueur to make them stick.  Set aside.
  3. In a second bowl, whip the cream until stiff, fold in the hazelnuts, almonds, chocolate drops, candied peel and 100 g (4 oz) of the sugar, folding it in carefully.
  4. Line the bottom and sides of the cake-lined bowl with half the cream, and make a hollow in the centre. Stir the melted chocolate into the remaining cream and use the chocolate cream to fill the hollow in the centre. Level the top with a spatula. Place the bowl in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
  5. Meanwhile, draw a circle slightly larger than the bowl on a sheet of stiff paper, draw diameter lines to divide the circle into eight.  Number the wedges I to 8 and cut out the wedge numbers 2, 4, 6 and 8, leaving the paper joined at the centre.
  1. Turn the dessert out on to a flat platter.  Remove the foil and dust with the remaining icing sugar. Hold the cut paper on the top and dust the cake again with the cocoa powder. Remove the paper. You should have alternate segments of brown and white on the surface.
  2. Either chill very well or freeze for 2 hours, then chill until required.

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