A lost Italian recipe is rediscovered. Pizza Cioccolato was my Italian mother’s favorite Christmas pie. After years of searching for the recipe by this name amongst Italians with no luck, I got the idea to work backwards from the ingredients. I remember the cake was dense (likely flourless), flat and round like a torte (no leavening), and the chocolate was bittersweet mixed with nuts (almonds or hazelnuts) and candied fruits. I concluded her cake was a combination of the traditional Italian Panforte Cioccolato and a flourless chocolate torte. Recently I made my own candied citron and tested this recipe on my brother. He agreed it was indeed the Christmas Pizza Cioccolato of our childhood. Its revival creates a tender connection to our heritage of the Siciliano family from Camposano in the province of Naples, Italy.
I love artisan foods and craft because of their authentic record of bygone methods passed down from generation to generation. Heritage foods and the slow method of small-batch crafting have seen a huge resurgence. Chef Sean Brock of HUSK restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, shares a few manifesto gems.
“Be proud of your roots… your home… your family and its culture.”
“Cook as if every day you were cooking for your grandmother.”
Foraging for our history through food is a birthright, akin to being a “heritage food forensic scientist” that unearths hidden stories of generations past.
- ½ cup water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup granulated sugar (add ½ cup sugar if you prefer sweeter)
- 10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 6 eggs
- ½ cup blanched and lightly toasted almonds
- ½ cup blanched and lightly toasted hazelnuts, chopped
- 1 cup candied citron
- ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 TBSP cinnamon
- 1½ teaspoons powdered instant espresso or coffee
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- Confectioner’s sugar for dusting cake top
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Grease one 10 inch round springform cake pan.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, salt and sugar. Stir until dissolved and set aside.
- Using a double boiler or the microwave, melt the bittersweet chocolate and pour into the bowl of an electric mixer.
- Cut the butter into pieces and beat into the chocolate while it’s still hot, one piece at a time.
- Add the hot sugar-water.
- Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time.
- Meanwhile, place the candied citron in a large mixing bowl. Sift together over the fruit: the cocoa, cinnamon, allspice, and coffee/espresso powder. With your hands, mix the fruits with the dry ingredients to help separate and coat all the fruit pieces.
- Add the almonds and hazelnuts. Mix again.
- Add nut-fruit mixture to warm chocolate-egg mixture. Mix by hand.
- Pour batter into prepared pan. Have a pan larger than the cake pan ready. Put the cake pan in the larger pan and fill the pan with boiling water halfway up the sides of the cake pan.
- Bake cake in this water bath at 300 degrees F for 45 minutes. The center will still look wet. Chill the cake overnight in the pan. Unclip the springform cake pan and invert while pressed to a serving plate. Decorate the top with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar and thinly sliced small citrus fruits.