Zuppa Inglese literally translates to ‘English Soup’, but there is nothing soupy about this dessert and it’s not English! So why is it named so? No idea! Perhaps it refers to ‘layers’ of ‘flavour’ one would find in a soup! Nonetheless, there are ‘layers’ and there are ‘flavours’, and the only dessert you will need this Christmas!
The traditional recipe for Zuppa Inglese (with it’s roots from central Italy, namely Emilia-Romagna) includes layers of savoiardi (ladyfinger) biscuits or sponge cake which are dipped into Alchermes (herbal) liqueur, and with pastry & chocolate cream.
There are of course many variations to this dessert throughout Italy (like most traditional Italian recipes), and I have added one more to that list! In my own recipe, I do include the original handmade savoiardi biscuits, with authentic crema pasticceria (pastry cream), however, I omit the use of the herbal liqueur and the chocolate cream. Instead I add chunks of fresh seasonal fruit – usually set in a drunken jelly! In this case, Prosecco peach jelly!!! I too add whipped cream to decorate the top.
There is some work to be done in preparing each layer, but once they are complete, it is easy to assemble!
Now with every recipe, you can substitute ingredients to your preference! I have at times used a store bought panettone in place of the savoiardi biscuits. I have changed the peaches for raspberries! You really are limitless! Or then again, you may wish to return to it’s original form of Emilia-Romagna! Either way, this dessert will surely impress all on Christmas Day!
Photos taken by Cortney Apro of Powderpuff Photography.
1.5 litres prosecco (or sparkling wine)
200g or 1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean, split
8-10 peaches, bases scored
10 titanium-strength gelatine leaves, softened in cold water for 5 minutes
5 eggs, free range, separated, room temperature
120g or ¾ cup castor sugar
2 drops white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
125g or 1 cup all-purpose plain flour, unbleached, sifted
40g or 1/3 cup corn flour, sifted
Pinch sea salt, fine
Pure icing sugar for icing
Optional: Marsala for soaking
Makes about 30 biscuits
600ml milk, full-cream
80g plain flour, sifted
125g or ½ cup castor sugar
vanilla bean seeds of 1 pod or 5g vanilla bean paste
3 egg yolks
- For prosecco and peach jelly, bring prosecco, castor sugar and vanilla to the simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add peaches, cover with a piece of baking paper and weight with a small plate, then poach until peaches are just tender (5-10 minutes). Drain the peaches with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate to cool slightly, then peel, cut into half and refrigerate until required. Bring poaching liquid to the simmer over medium-high heat for a few minutes, then take off heat. Meanwhile, squeeze excess moisture/water from gelatine leaves (gelatine leaves need to soak in a bowl covered with cold water for about 5 minutes), and then add to the poaching liquid and stir to dissolve. Strain through a fine sieve, set aside to cool slightly, transfer to a 1.5-litre glass bowl, refrigerate until set (6 hours or overnight).
- Preheat the oven to 190°C on convention oven setting. Lightly grease two to three baking trays with butter and line with baking paper which you will dust with pure icing sugar.
- In an electric mixing bowl with a whisk attachment (or can be whisked by hand), whisk together the 5 egg yolks with half of the castor sugar (60g) and the vanilla bean paste until light in colour and thick (on high speed for about 7 mins).
- In another large bowl, whisk the 5 egg whites with pinch of sea salt at high speed (can be done by hand or in a cleaned electric mixing bowl with whisk attachment) until stiff peaks form. Gradually add in the remaining castor sugar (60g) at high speed until the peaks are glossy/shiny and stiff again. Whisk in the white vinegar (adding an acid such as the vinegar, will stabilise the form of the egg whites (meringue)).
- Fold through 1/3 of the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites till just combined, then add in the remaining egg yolk mixture. Sift (again) the flours over the egg mixture and gently incorporate – to ensure the capture of those air bubbles.
- Spoon the batter with a metal spoon into a pastry bag fitted with a 2cm round piping nozzle. Pipe 8cm long strips of batter, leaving about 2cm space between each biscuit (they will spread when baking in oven). Sift very generously over the tops with pure icing sugar.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden in colour. Leave to cool slightly before removing from trays onto cooling racks to cool completely before using or storing. Can drizzle savoiardi with Marsala as adding to trifle.
- Savoiardi will keep for 2 to 3 weeks in an airtight container.
- Put all the ingredients into a medium sized pot (stainless steel preferably) and heat at medium heat on the stove top, stirring constantly with a whisk.
- Stir and stir until the custard has a thick consistency (might take anywhere from 10-20 minutes depending on heat you have pot sitting on). Look for the following; when you pull the whisk through the custard, it should have a trail behind it that levels out again very slowly. The custard should be almost thick enough to pick up with the whisk.
- Pour the custard in a medium sized bowl and cover the top with clingwrap (so that the custard does not develop a skin). Set aside (can be placed in fridge) and allow to cool down completely before using.
- Remove glass bowl with prosecco peach jelly from fridge and commence building trifle. Place lightly soaked Marsala savoiardi biscuits onto of jelly. Now top with a layer of the poached peaches. Pour over the crema pasticceria and then top with another layer of lightly soaked Marsala savoiardi biscuits and poached peaches. You could now cover and leave this in fridge until you’re ready to serve (can leave for up to 2 days).
- To serve, spoon over the top of trifle with the soft whipped cream. Arrange with fresh ripe peach wedges.
- Serve with a large scoop spoon.