My first trip to Tuscany was so eventful, I'm amazed I ever wanted to go back! Amidst the stress of manoeuvring through the tiny Italian side streets and almost getting locked outside the city walls and having to hitch a lift back in, added to the holidays' charm!
People are often surprised that I haven't spent more time in Italy, and Italy is deep-rooted in my soul but France always seemed to capture my heart. But I think that may be about to change.
The rolling hill landscapes of Tuscany, stunning architecture, churches and piazzas of places like Siena and Lucca are what I recall of my time in Tuscany. But now there is somewhere else I want to visit!
Roughly midway between Siena and Pisa, there is a small town called Volterra. There you will find the oldest shop in town which specializes in perfectly crafted pastries of the region. Lucky for me, I was able to witness their traditional Italian cake being made a couple of weeks by Giancarlo the 2nd generation patissier from the Giovannini family when they visited the UK.
He and his wife Fabiola who set up the shop almost 25 years ago having joined his father in his pastry business when he was 14. Decades of skill displayed before me, I was mesmerised watching Giancarlo. With dexterity, he assembled his handmade mille-feuille style pastry filled with pastry cream, fresh berries and topped with cream.
Tempting beyond belief....and tasted out of this world!
Dario, his son and daughter in law, Vera work in the family business and demonstrated their skill too as they made their family recipe for Tiramisu. A classic fuss-free Italian dessert that I have made twice since meeting them!
This has unleashed my desire to return to Tuscany and visit the Giovannini family and their stunning villa and land where they also produce their own olive oil too. It turns out they are only 25 miles from the beautiful pinewood coastal town of Cecina which we also came across 15 years ago and will be great for family beach time!
So now I'm off to call Jo from award-winning Bookings for You (turns out we know each other form 20 years ago as it is!) to find us a villa with a pool so we can bring this vision to reality. All being well for this year too!
Jo founded the company 7 years ago and has over 350 properties in 8 regions of Italy (and has a small portfolio in France now too), so I'm confident our paths crossing again will be the intersection to new holiday adventures!
This is super simple and fuss free, just follow my top tips along the way! This is easily doubled to make enough for 12.
60g caster sugar
250g mascarpone cheese
250g ladyfingers/boudoir biscuits
5 tsp. coffee
300ml hot water
Dish approx. 20cm by 15 in size with a depth of approx 6cm
1.Separate the eggs into two separate bowls. Making sure that you have as little egg white as possible in with the egg yolk
2. Using a hand mixer, start to whisk the egg whites until it becomes meringue-like. Gradually add 30g of the caster sugar slowly to the mixture whilst whisking until it forms stiff peaks
3. Clean the whisk and start whisking the egg yolks until the yolks go lighter in colour. Then gradually start to add the remaining 30g of sugar to the egg yolks whilst whisking until it grows a little in volume.
4. Add the mascarpone cheese to the egg yolk mixture and continue to whisk until it is smooth
5. Add a spoonful of egg white to the egg yolk mixture, to loosen the mix. Fold in SUPER GENTLY. Add two more spoonfuls and fold in SUPER GENTLY! A figure of 8 folding here is good. Continue until all the egg white is incorporated
6. Add the coffee granules to the hot water. Take a boudoir biscuit and dip it in the coffee, spinning it round in the coffee for about 8 seconds or less if your fingers are burning! Place it on the bottom of the bowl and repeat until you have a complete layer of biscuits on the bottom of the dish
7. Pour over half of the mascarpone/egg mixture over the biscuits. Repeat the dipping in coffee and place on top of the mascarpone mixture to make another layer. This time as the coffee has cooled spin for up to 10 seconds!
8. Once you have another full layer of biscuits, if you have any coffee leftover gently drizzle it over this layer of biscuits until it is all gone
9. Add the final half of the cream over the boudoir biscuits and make a level top without losing the volume of the mixture
10. Leave to set in the fridge overnight and sieve over cocoa powder before serving
If your mixture is loose, don't worry. With my first attempt, this happened, and it just meant it didn't hold its shape as well, but certainly didn't impair the delicious flavour!
If you are concerned about giving raw egg to children, pregnant women or the elderly please read the new advice released last year by the Food Standards Agency.
I look forward to sharing more recipes from my day with the Giovannini family and Bookings for You in the future and want to thank them for hosting me on a such a wonderful day.