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Tom’s Cookbook Library: Uncovering the sweet side of Italian cooking

"Authentic Italian Desserts" is a new cookbook by food blogger Rosemary Molloy.
"Authentic Italian Desserts" is a new cookbook by food blogger Rosemary Molloy.

Italy is well known for pasta, pizza and regional wines. Legions of food lovers swear by its lasagna.

But the country also has proved itself knowledgeable when it comes to dessert making – an area that’s immensely popular.

“Authentic Italian Desserts” (Page Street), a recently published cookbook by food blogger Rosemary Molloy, shares easy-to-follow recipes for 75 traditional favorites that one can serve for a special occasion or to appease a sweet tooth.

She highlights regional favorites such as Torta della Nonna (Grandmother’s Cake) [recipe follows] from Tuscany, and Fried Cannoli from Palermo, Sicily.

Readers will encounter staples such as Almond Biscotti, Chocolate Tiramisu and Apple Crumb Cake. Consider a Chocolate Bundt Cake at breakfast; Ciambelle (Doughnuts) as an afternoon snack with espresso; and a homemade Coffee Cream Liqueur as a perfect after-dinner drink to accompany dessert.

Raised in Toronto, Molloy has lived in Rome with her husband for the past 25 years. Her blog, aimed at home cooks, is “An Italian in My Kitchen.”

Journalist Tom Witom, who lives in Elgin, has written extensively for years about food and the food industry. Feedback on the column can be sent to

Torta Della Nonna

Makes one 8- or 9-inch cake


2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

Zest of one lemon

2 large eggs

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter


3 large egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups plus 3½ tablespoons 2% milk, divided

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peel of one lemon (with as little pith as possible)


Milk, as needed

Sliced almonds or pine nuts, as needed

Powdered sugar, for dusting

To make the dough, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, and add the eggs and butter. Mix the ingredients together with a fork until the dough is almost combined. Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead it gently until it is soft. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, make the filling. In a medium pot, whisk together the egg yolks and granulated sugar, then add the flour and 3 1/2 tablespoons of the milk. Whisk until smooth, then add the remaining 2 cups of milk, vanilla and lemon peel.

Place the pot over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens, 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove and discard the lemon peel and pour the pastry cream into a medium bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic, making sure the plastic touches the top of the cream. Let the filling cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then grease and flour an 8- or 9-inch pie plate or spring-form pan. Remove the dough from the fridge, then cut it into two equal pieces. Roll one piece at a time into a circle large enough to cover the size of the pan.

Place one circle on the bottom of the pie plate. Prick the dough with a fork, pour the filling evenly on top of the dough, place the second dough circle on top, pinch the edges closed, and remove any extra dough.

To make the topping, brush the top of the dough with the milk and sprinkle it with the sliced almonds.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Let the cake cool completely, then refrigerate it for two hours. Dust it with powdered sugar before serving.

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