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Duchess stracchino: a chilled dessert from Emilia

Duchess stracchino chilled dessert

Duchess stracchino is a chilled dessert from Emilia.

It has a simple preparation, ingredients that, usually, everyone likes, and a frozen dessert texture. And although the name evokes stracchino, a soft cheese typical of northern Italy, this ingredient is not there.

The origin and name of the dessert are uncertain.

Duchess stracchino chilled dessert

The origin of the dessert

Folklore tells a noblewoman from Emilia who created that dessert.
Some go further by attributing the recipe to Maria Luigia of Austria (1791-1847), wife of Napoleon and Duchess of Parma.

In both cases, it is a legend.
The Duchess of Parma had a chef de cuisine who managed menus and kitchen and left a complete work of recipes where this dessert is not mentioned (I wrote about him in the post dedicated to the stuffed fennel, an ancient recipe from Bologna).

Even attribution to an unknown noblewoman is almost certainly to be role out. At that time, ladies never went into the kitchen.

I did some historical research, and my idea is that the dessert is either not that old or that it originally had a different name and ingredients.
For sure, the flavors of the dessert hark back to a recipe that originated for the Lord’s table. Often duchess stracchino appears as the Emilian version of the Romagna casadello. It is an unfortunately forgotten dessert that seems the peasant but sister version of the former.

The forgotten recipe

Next to the title, I read the name of Maria Antonietta.
Decades have passed, but her image is still sharp in my memory.

We were classmates at the University of Bologna, I was from Romagna, and she was from Parma. We were in our twenties and were more different in appearance.

I was always in jeans, a T-shirt, a sweater, and sneakers. She wore formal ladylike clothes, shoes with half heels, and a little makeup. Maria Antonietta also had a kind of antique face that made her look more grown up. She was as quiet as I was loud. She was sober while I laughed at any facetiousness.

In the group that had formed, we always sat close together. Beyond our different styles, we understood and liked each other.

At that time, I started to cook.

Each time it was a gamble: for me at the stove and for the brave tasters. Sometimes I followed my instincts, others a recipe I found by chance.

Probably, I told Marie Antoinette I was looking for a quick and easy dessert. The next day she handed me a sheet with her homemade recipe for duchess stracchino, which I had never heard of.

Over time, I made this dessert many times, even if I slightly modified the recipe to make it closer to my taste. On another note, you have to know there are a lot of different versions of this dessert.

I prepared it recently on the occasion of lunch with friends.
After hearing the list of dishes on the menu, my mom immediately asked for the recipe for Duchess stracchino, which I hastened to post.

The version I offer is egg-free, and I chose lactose-free ingredients. The sweet must rest in the freezer and has the consistency of a chilled dessert.

Buona cucina, Monica

Can you tell me the menu?

Herb pan brioche accompanied by cream of roasted vegetables; lasagna with seasonal vegetables and pesto; cooked ham (prosciutto cotto) meatloaf with green beans butter and Parmigiano; duchess stracchino chilled dessert.

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Duchess stracchino chilled dessert

Duchess stracchino chilled dessert

serves 8
rectangular mold, 24x10cm

mascarpone cheese, 250 g
heavy cream, 200 g
powdered sugar, 100 g
bitter cocoa, 20 g
ladyfingers, about 20
dry Marsala, 2 g
chocolate chips, dry Marsala, milk to taste

powdered sugar or bitter cocoa to decorate


Place the mascarpone out of the refrigerator for a few hours.

Before whipping the heavy cream, put it in the freezer with metal whips for 10 to 15 minutes.

Whip the heavy cream with electric whips in a large bowl.

Combine mascarpone softened out of the refrigerator and powdered sugar. Using the same whips, make the cream cheese airy.

Combine whipped cream with mascarpone and gently incorporate.

Divide the mixture in half by placing it in two different bowls.

Add to the first cream chocolate chips, Marsala, and mix.

Then add to the second one the sifted bitter cocoa and stir.

Line the mold with foil.

In a deep dish, pour milk and a little liqueur.

Lightly soak one cookie at a time and start lining the bottom and sides of the mold.

Pour in the first cream and then the second. You can follow the order you prefer.

Cover the mold with foil and place in the freezer for a couple of hours or overnight.

Ten minutes before serving, remove the dessert from the freezer, invert the mold onto a serving plate, dust the surface with powdered sugar or unsweetened cocoa, and cut slices about 2 cm wide.

If you prefer, replace the Marsala with rum.

Cover with plastic film some leftover of the dessert and place it in the freezer. Store it for up to a month.

Duchess stracchino chilled dessert

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