Thursday 10 January 2008
A Mystery Ingredient...
Fiori di Sicilia. This is a heavily-concentrated flavouring essence that I first came across in the States about ten years or so ago. I can't now remember where it was that I originally became aware of it - maybe somebody recommended it to me? - since it wasn't in a shop anywhere, and the only place I've ever found it available for purchase is online at The Bakers Catalogue. This stuff is quite simply wonderful! Impossible to know exactly what's in it, and the label on the bottle gives nothing away; for sure the base notes are a very good vanilla, combined with one or more citrus flavours........but there are other things in there as well, tantalisingly familiar, but just out of reach at the same time.
In the marketing blurb, the makers confidently assert that this is what Italians use to make Panettone - and it's true that the smell is headily reminiscent both of Panettone and of Panforte di Siena .........and when we lived in Via Vernagalli, the smell emanating from the back door of the pasticceria on Piazza de Pozzetto which stopped me in my tracks every time I passed that way en route to Borgo Stretto was exactly the aroma of Fiori di Sicilia. But have I ever been able to find anybody in Italy who's ever heard of it? Nope.....I quizzed Sergio and Simonetta about it on one occasion, even taking along a bottle of the real thing for comparison purposes, and we opened bottles of arome di arancia, and mandorle, and rosa, and millefiori (which they were convinced must be the one......) none of which came anywhere even close. Which means that when I want some more, I'll have to resort to the usual complicated expedient of getting somebody in the States to order me some, and then forward it to me on receipt, since this is yet another american business that thinks sending anything overseas must involve contravening every fiscal, pest-control, and anti-terrorist law that's ever been invented, and so they just won't do it!
It is, however, worth the effort. A few drops of this stuff added to pastry or to a simple cake mixture, and the end result is transformed. The smell while it cooks gets the nostrils twitching uncontrollably, and the flavour in the finished product is superb - an additional accent that is subtle and rich and beguiling. You'll understand exactly what I mean, the first time you open the bottle......If only there were a scratch and sniff function on this screen!
Artichokes, with Truffle & Lemon Mayonnaise
Duck à l'Orange; Celeriac roast in Duck Fat.
Tartes aux Pommes.