Back in October 2013 in Dina’s Guide to NYC Italian Bakeries on my blog, I declared that Pasticceria Rocco on Bleecker Street in the West Village had the best New York-style cheesecake in the city. Four years later, do they still? I decided to compare theirs to Veniero’s for a West Village/East Village cheesecake challenge.
On a recent trip to Rocco’s, I got a slice as well as some taralli for the road. I love the creaminess of this cheesecake. In my book, it has the perfect consistency that I look for in cheesecake. In addition, it has the right amount of sweetness, which is not too much.
For the first time, I tried Veniero’s cheesecake. Veniero’s is located on E. 11th Street in the East Village. A nice creamy texture and good flavor, not too sweet. A serious contender, but for me, Rocco’s has a little something extra that makes it keep top spot on my list.
Of course, you can do your own cheesecake taste test and see which old world Italian bakery makes the best cheesecake to you.
Posted in Bakery, Cake, Cheese, Italian, New York
Tagged cheesecake, East Village, New York cheesecake, New York-style cheesecake, NY cheesecake, NY-style cheesecake, Pasticceria Rocco, Rocco, Veniero, Veniero's, West Village
New York is continually hosting new immigrants. Due to high unemployment and negative economic forces in Italy, many Italians are seeking work and opportunity elsewhere, much like their cousins did 100 years ago. These new immigrants/expats are moving to other parts of Europe and the United States, particularly New York. Some are opening food-related businesses in areas that used to be predominantly Italian, like Little Italy, the West Village or Soho.
Unico looks to be one such business. A café in Soho across from the predominantly Italian Roman Catholic church of St. Anthony of Padua, Unico specializes in Sicilian cuisine. It is a small, hole-in-the-wall spot, but it serves contemporary Italian breakfast items like coffee and pastries, as well as snack foods like arancini (rice balls) and sandwiches to traditional Sicilian desserts like cassata and cannoli. Some of it could be classified as Sicilian street food like the panelle (chick pea fritter) sandwich and the arancini with various fillings like eggplant or mushroom and fontina.
On my visit, a hot day, I got some gelato, lemon and cassata. Both were yummy. I was able to try a sample of cannoli, unfortunately it had been sitting out in the sun, so it’s not the best example. The food looks very good here, and I’d like to go back and try something more substantial besides gelato.
In general, I wouldn’t say Unico (which means “unique” in Italian) is unique because Italian and Sicilian-style cafes have been in the city for over 100 years. But I would say the cornetti, pastries with sweet or savory fillings, are the unique item that you wouldn’t find elsewhere, especially the savory variety. “Cornetto” or plural “cornetti” is the Italian word for croissant. Usually, in the United States, these are served plain or as a sandwich, not with fillings. So that is something unique to try.
Posted in Bakery, Cake, Cannoli, Dessert, Gelato, Italian, New York
Tagged cannoli, cassata, chick pea fritters, cornetti, cornetto, gelato, panelle, Sicilian, Sicilian street food, Sicily, Soho, St. Anthony of Padua, street food, Unico
Pane degli Angeli, or Bread of the Angels
Pane degli Angeli is an Italian sponge cake. Despite its angelic name, it is not an angel food cake because it uses egg yolks and whites. This recipe comes from the friend of my cousin in Italy, Elisa. It uses Italian ingredients that may be hard to find here. The following ingredients should be available at an Italian grocery store and liquor store or you can order them online from places like Amazon.
These Italian ingredients are
- 00 flour, doppio zero or double zero flour–This is a finely ground, soft flour. Here, I have pictured farina di grano tenero, which is a soft flour used in pastries and cakes. A substitute in the U.S. would be pastry flour but you can also use all-purpose flour.
- Paneangeli is the brand name of an Italian line of baking products. The Vanillina is a vanilla flavoring.
- The lievito pane degli angeli is a leavening agent like baking powder.
- The Strega liqueur is a liqueur from Benevento, Italy, that is a blend of 70 herbs and spices, some from the local area like mint that grows along the riverside. Created in 1860, it evokes the legends of witchcraft in the region. In Italian, “strega” means witch.
Recipe for Pane degli Angeli
Grease a springform or cake pan and line it with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper.
In a bowl, mix
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 small (airplane) bottle of Strega liqueur
1 cup corn, safflower, or canola oil
grated peel of one large lemon (My cousin uses Sorrento lemons. Meyer lemons would be the closest thing here in the U.S. Or a regular lemon if you can’t find Meyer lemons.)
grated peel of one large orange
1 small packet of Vanillina
When mixed, slowly add 3 cups of sifted 00 flour. Then add a packet of pane degli angeli sifted. Finally, add the juice of 1 large lemon and 1 large orange.
Put in prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, checking for doneness with a toothpick. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top and serve. The Italians eat this for breakfast or dessert, but it can be eaten any time.
Posted in Cake, Italian
Tagged 00 flour, Benevento, cake, doppio zero, farina di grano tenero, Italian sponge cake, lievito pane degli angeli, pane degli angeli, Paneangeli, recipe, Strega, vanillina, witch
If you read my blog, you know how much I love real, full-fat buttermilk made with no gums. It’s hard to find these days, but when I do, I make some kind of buttermilk treat. So I recently found it and made this Buttermilk Pound Cake with Buttermilk Custard Sauce from Southern Living’s Southern Cake Book.
This recipe makes a lovely pound cake. I liked the buttermilk custard sauce, but some of my friends are not partial to the sour taste of buttermilk and didn’t enjoy it as much as I did. You can also top with fresh berries.
I got lovely blueberries at the farmer’s market. They were small with deep blue color and a concentrated blueberry flavor, reminiscent of huckleberries. I thought they would be great for this Cherokee Wild Huckleberry Cake from A World of Cake by Krystina Castella. I love international foods, especially cakes and pastries, so I really like this cookbook. I’ve been wanting to bake a cake from it. Now that autumn is upon us, this cake is the perfect way to say goodbye to summer.
Castella writes that after European colonization, a Native American-European fusion cuisine emerged. This particular cake uses masa harina, honey, huckleberries and walnuts. I omitted the walnuts, and I didn’t make the glaze. I also baked it in a 9-inch square pan instead of a dome pan.
As a recent birthday gift, I ordered a crumb cake from Hahn’s Old Fashioned Cake Company in Farmingdale, Long Island, New York. I was very excited that it took only two days to get to its destination. It arrived fresh and loaded with big, fat crumbs!
I just love this pick of the crumbs.