Thursday, July 19, 2012

Nut-Free Chicago Style Spumoni

Growing up, I was lucky enough not to be allergic to the nuts in spumoni (no one knew about cross-contamination issues back then, though looking back, I probably got my share of reactions from almonds that were picked out of a bowl containing cashews. Seriously, it amazes me I'm still alive). God, I loved spumoni. I wasn't crazy about Italian food generally speaking, but I'd suffer through a plate of spaghetti if I knew there would be an ice cream payoff. I loved the whole presentation-the cone shape, the bits of candied fruit, the never-enough pieces of chocolate.

When I moved to Boston as a young woman, I assumed (yeah well, you shouldn't do that) good spumoni could be found in my largely Italian neighbourhood. No spumoni, but the corner store sold these funny sherbet cones that had a gumball in the point of the cone. Screwballs, yes, spumoni no. The situation wasn't much better in the North End. I tried a few local versions, but they weren't the right shape, and they had layers like Neapolitan. Who does that? I gave up on spumoni, and would have forgotten it entirely had I not come across a recipe for "Chicago" spumoni in Dolce Memories, A Rediscovery of Italian desserts by Irene Ritter. Oh dear god, she nailed it perfectly. The problem of course, is the nuts.

Knowing what we now understand about cross contamination between nuts, I wouldn't be willing to risk it. With Danny having both tree nut and ground nut allergies, the chances for a reaction are too great to consider it, unless I ever start growing my own pistachios (unlikely, as I live in Nebraska). Because of his almond allergies, Amaretto was out as well, but I think I cobbled together a pretty good nut-free version with some workable substitutes. I made mine in a freezer tray without any lumping issues, but if you use an ice cream maker, it needs to churn quite a long time-consider yourself warned.

I used Styrofoam cups to pack the spumoni into, and it can be peeled away before serving. I used large cups so I can serve it in slices, but small ones are fine as well. You can of course Skip the cup entirely, but then I will deny knowing you. That's OK, you've probably denied knowing me for years.

You Will Need:

1 16 ounce jar of maraschino cherries, drained and chopped
3 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon brandy
2 tablespoons orange zest (I used strips of dried orange peel that I used to infuse the cream)
7 large egg yolks (yes, you'll be making an angel food cake with the whites)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used mini)
1/4 cup chopped candied citron (I had homemade, but you can skip it as the store-bought tend to be made on nut-equipment-you can use a bit of lemon zest instead)
1/4 cup other candies fruit, peel, or whatever you have (I had candied apricots)

In a large saucepan, heat the cream, zest, and brandy to steaming over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar into the egg yolks in a heat-proof bowl until light. Slowly add cream to eggs, whisking. Return to pan and cook to 170 degrees F.

Strain into a bowl, and place in an ice bath. Chill. When cool, stir in cherries, fruit, etc. Place in a freezing tray and stir with a fork every 30 minutes until mostly firm. Pack into cups, cover with cling film and permit to ripen several hours or overnight. To serve, peel away the foam, and slice.

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