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Author Notes: Sbrisolona is from Mantua, Italy, and it dates back to about the year 600. In its local dialect, brisa means (give up?) "crumb." In 600, basic ingredients were used: corn flour, lard and hazelnuts. (Almonds were a luxury item.) If you make your own GF blend, I recommend using superfine brown rice and superfine white rice flours. This recipe was published by David Lebovitz. His wasn't gluten-free. I've adapted it for the gluten free baker. If you love crumb "anything", you'll go nuts for Sbrisolona.
Still in its youth, gluten-free baking and flours have begun to grow up. Superfine flours have eliminated that mouthful of sand quality to baked goods. Balancing rice dominance with softer flours and varied starches are producing flour blends that are finally merging taste with texture.
The only dairy I include in my diet is butter, and this recipe screams butter. If you are vegan, use the finest butter substitute you can find. I haven’t made this dairy-free, but there are excellent quality non-dairy butters available. If yours has sodium (I haven't seen any "sweet" or "salt-free" non-dairy butters, have you?), omit the salt in the recipe. If you use coconut oil (I haven't), use "refined" and the taste and smell of 'coconut' won't dominate. —Jane G.
Makes 1/4 sheet pan or one 8" or 9" square cake pan
- 1 1/2 cups Almonds (170g)
- 1 1/4 cups Gluten-free flour blend (175g) (if Xanthan gum is included in your blend, omit Xanthan gum)
- 3/4 teaspoon Xanthan gum (Please add ONLY if your gluten-free flour blend doesn't have Xanthan gum)
- 3/4 cup Stone ground cornmeal (110g)
- 1/2 cup Sugar (100g)
- 1/4 cup Light brown sugar (45g)
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces Unsalted butter (225g), chilled, cut into small cubes
- 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon Almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon (Optional, but I LOVE Fiori Di Sicilia) Fiori Di Sicilia extract OR Anisette liquor or Anise extract
- 1 teaspoon Anise seed, ground - Also optional, but if you love anise flavor, it works very well with Sbrisolona!
- Preheat oven to 350º F. Butter a 1/4 sheet pan, or an 8" or 9" square cake pan.
- On a separate sheet pan, toast almonds until lightly toasted, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
- Cut butter into small cubes and return to fridge. It's critical that the butter is very cold.
- Remove 1 c./110 grams of the almonds and ¼ cup/35 g. of the GF flour blend and put in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until almonds are in small pieces, but are still recognizable as almonds. Transfer to a very large mixing bowl.
- Place the remainder of the almonds in the bowl of the food processor and pulse several times until they are in large(r) pieces. For now, leave them in the bowl.
- Add the remainder of the dry ingredients to the large bowl that has the first batch of chopped almonds that you pulsed with the flour, mixing well (with a whisk or with your hands.)
- In a small bowl, whisk together the orange zest, egg yolks and extracts. Set aside. (If you do this in advance, cover with plastic wrap to keep the mixture nice and moist.
- Add the cold, cubed butter, and with your hands (or with a pastry blender), cut in the butter or rub with your hands into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles small peas. Again, irregular pieces are fine. What is important is that the butter doesn’t soften too much from the warmth of your hands (like making a a flaky pie crust, you want to see pieces of butter and work quickly. Work with your fingers and not the ‘warm’ part of your hand.)
- Dump in the larger almond pieces that are in the bowl of the food processor and the orange zest/egg yolk/extract mixture (and if adding ground anise seed, add it now). Use a spatula to get all of the wet ingredients into the dry/butter mixture. With your hands, mix together, squeezing gently, until dough comes together in clumps.
- Transfer to prepared sheet or square. It's critical that you don't pat, press or compact the crumb batter. Leave it in clumps. It’s okay if there’s space between the clumps .. like a crumb topping.
- Bake in preheated oven until golden-brown, approximately 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before breaking up into uneven pieces.
- Store in an air-tight tin/container for about 5-7 days at a cool room temperature. Freeze Sriboslona for up to two months.