Long before the Italian food and cooking craze spread to the south of Italy, Rosetta Costantino had delved into the culinary traditions of Calabria bringing the rich history back to many of us with roots originated from the toe of the boot. Her two cookbooks, My Calabria and Southern Italian Desserts have been cherished by many family members and friends. Naturally, I was delighted when a dear friend and business associate with grandparents born in Cosenza asked me about inviting Rosetta to Enoteca La Storia to present a program on Calabrian food.
Edwin, chef extraordinaire, was delighted to foray into Calabria’s rich history through Rosetta’s books; he carefully selected menu items to illustrate the range of dishes found in the local cuisine. My many trips to Calabria, as Borgia Catanzaro is our ancestral homeland, made me want to support Edwin’s efforts in any way possible, so I offered to prepare a dessert or two from Rosetta’s book, Southern Italian Desserts.
Ciambella of one sort or another is found in every region of Italy, the single commonality – ciambella is ring shaped. Typically a homey sort of cake made at home by La Mamma or La Nonna, Ciambella is a satisfying confection generally composed of staple ingredients such as flour, butter, sugar and perhaps a simple flavoring of lemon peel. The ideal breakfast, treat or snack at any time of day.
Ciambella all’Arancia or Orange Scented Olive Oil Cake reflects beautifully the rustic elegance of the Calabrian kitchen. Olive trees adorn the hillsides alongside groves of citrus, basic local ingredients which come together to create a moist and flavorful, yet not to sweet cake.
Rosetta’s instructions brought back memories of my grandmother preparing cookies and similar types of cakes in her kitchen with only wooden spoons and a large ceramic bowl.
Moist, with the fragrance of an orange grove Ciambella all’ Arancia is comforting at any time of the day. Grazie Rosetta, for sharing you passion with you readers bringing us a taste of La Bella Calabria.
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Used with permission from Southern Italian Desserts: Rediscovering the Sweet Traditions of Calabria, Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, and Sicily by Rosetta Costantino with Jennie Schacht (Ten Speed Press, © 2013).
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 Tbs baking powder
- ½ tsp. kosher salt plus a pinch for the egg whites
- 4 large eggs at room temperature, separated
- 1¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
- ¾ mild flavored (buttery) extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbs. freshly grated orange peel, from fresh oranges
- 2 cups fresh orange juice
- 2 tsp. pure orange extract - optional
- ⅓ cup packed finely chopped candied orange peel, if you do not candy the peel at home, select a good quality product
- Preheat the oven to 375º and place the rack in the center position. Butter and flour a 10”, 12 cup bundt style pan, tapping out any excess flour.
- Stir together the flour, baking powder and ½ teaspoon of salt with a wire whisk until well combined. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 1¼ cup of sugar until thick. Add the olive oil, orange zest, 1½ cup of the orange juice and the extract if you are using it; whisk together until combined. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet mixing until just combined, but be certain there are no lumps remaining.
- Beat the egg whites in the work bowl of a standing mixer with a pinch of salt at medium-high speed until medium-firm peaks are formed; do not let the whites become dry. Using a large spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter, followed by the candied orange peel. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and place it into the oven.
- Combine the remaining orange juice with the 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, stir well to dissolve the sugar and set aside.
- Bake until the top of the cake splits, turns golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean - about 40 minutes.
- Allow the cake to cool to a point at which you are able to handle it, generally about 20 minutes after it is removed from the oven. Run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen any area which may have adhered to the pan. Umtold the cake, turning it back to split side up. Place on a wire rack set over a lined baking pan, cool.
- Once the cake has cooled, slowly pour the orange juice mixture over the top of the cake allowing it so soak in as you pour. Use a pastry brush to brush the remaining orange syrup over the sides and center of the cake
- Serve the cake by cutting it into slices using a thin sharp or serrated knife. Store leftovers at room temperature well wrapped for up to 2 days or freeze for up to one month.