After Jacopo’s marriage in July 2018 in Verona, he boarded his wife’s family’s yacht to sail around Italy. What a glorious experience it must have been! When he returned to the States (after a hassle with immigration), he brought back a special gift from one of his many stops along the way: a jar of Crema di Pistacchio (pistachio cream) from Sicily. After one small spoonful, we instantly fell in love.
This particular jar made by I Dolci Sapori dell’Etna (the sweet tastes of Etna), and the cream is made with pistachios grown in Bronte, in the rich, lava soil on the slopes of the volcano. The pistachio of Bronte DOP (Europe’s Protected Designation of Origin) has been famous throughout the world since antiquity for its sweet and delicate flavor, its aromatic scent, and its intense green color. Bronte and its two neighboring towns (Atrano and Biancavilla) produce only about 1% of the world’s pistachios, but they are sought after by chefs worldwide. The nuts (actually, a fruit) are used in many Italian products, ranging from sausage to pasta, from cakes to nougats, from cheeses to biscuits. The Brontese pistachio gelato is one of the most appreciated in the world. (See post, “The Emerald of Sicily” from December 8, 2017.)
The pistachio cream is so velvety smooth and sweet that it is dangerous (just like Nutella can be to other folks)! This spreadable nut cream can be used in so many ways:
- Put a small spoonful in your morning espresso
- Smear it on toasted bread or use it to top crostini
- Spread it on a croissant or any other pastry
- Combine it with pastry cream or whipped cream as a filling for cakes or eclairs
- Use it as a topping for or a base of gelato
- Mix it with yogurt or ricotta cheese
- Use it as a filling to sandwich macarons or cookies
- Eat it right out of the jar
The problem is that it is expensive. Amazon sells the 6.7 oz jar of Crema di Pistacchio by I Dolci Sapori dell’Etnafor more than $36. Amazon lists many other types of pistachio creams (not from Bronte) for as low as $16. I imagine the quality varies widely.
An option is to make it yourself using California pistachios. First you need to buy the raw, unsalted kernels (a 2-pound or 3-pound bag costs around $35 depending on where you purchase it). A 1-pound bag of nuts in the shell will yield about a half pound of kernels. In the end, you can make a batch that costs $.05 per ounce as opposed to buying one for $5 an ounce. Here is a recipe gleaned from several sources:
- 5 oz pistachios, unsalted and shelled
- 5 oz granulated sugar (preferably superfine), or less if you prefer
- 5 oz white chocolate chips
- 1 oz unsalted butter
- 2 oz milk
- Seeds of ¼ vanilla bean (or a couple of drops of extract)
- Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil. Add pistachios and boil for about 2 minutes. You will notice the skin starting to lift off. Remove the skins with your fingers or by rubbing them with a dry dishtowel.
- In a 360 F oven, toast the pistachios on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from oven and let cool.
- Using a food processor, grind the toasted pistachios with the sugar. Add just enough milk to make the mixture creamy. Blend again until quite smooth.
- In a double boiler arrangement, melt the white chocolate with the butter and the rest of the milk. Do not boil. Add the pistachio mixture and the vanilla seeds or extract. Cook a little longer on low heat until a little denser.
- Remove from heat, let cool, and pour into small, clean jars.