March 20, 2010

The Pope's Garden

Lately it feels that I have been doing a lot of waiting- waiting for spring, waiting for opportunities, waiting for changes. But sitting around and waiting for the things you want is not a wise idea. As Nonna’s mother used to tell her, “I want, I want, I want! This tree does not take root even in the Pope’s garden!” (Because, clearly if such a tree existed in a garden, that garden would have to belong to the Pope)

Anyways. A couple of weeks ago, to escape the funk I found myself in, I decided that I needed Crema for breakfast. Crema is the dessert our family makes when a.) People want cannolis but we’ve run out of Nonna’s cannoli shells, b.) The ratio of cannoli stuffers, to cannnoli eaters is 1:40, or c.) We don’t like you enough to feed you cannolis.

This was a go-to dessert for my Great Grandma Tocco who had twelve Sicilian children to feed. I don’t know how Grandma Tocco would feel about my making Crema for breakfast, for two, but the moral of my story is this: You might not always get what you want, but you will get what you need, especially if what you need is Crema.


The nice thing about Crema is that it is super easy to make and it feeds a lot of people, making it the perfect dish for dinner parties. Because the custard is egg-based, you really shouldn’t serve this dish after three days. That would be a bad idea.

1 cup sugar
½ cup flour
4 TBLS cornstarch
2 egg yolks
4 cups whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract (the real stuff)
2 tsp almond extract (again, the real stuff)
2 packages of Sara Lee pound cake (found in the frozen dessert isle)
2 milk chocolate candy bars roughly chopped
A pinch of Italian cinnamon
Marciano cherries, halved (enough to cover the surface so each “piece gets a couple of cherries)
Amaretto Liqueur

Slice the shortbread into roughly 1-inch slices. Cover a baking sheet with the slices. Douse the amaretto liqueur onto the shortbread.

In a decent sized stockpot combine the dry ingredients.

Heat 2 cups of milk in the microwave to warm it through (do not let it boil!).

Beat the egg yolks into the remaining 2 cups of milk and pour into pot. Add the warm milk. Whisk constantly over low heat until the mixture becomes the consistency of pudding.

Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and almond extract.

Pour the warm custard onto to shortbread and spread evenly. Sprinkle the chocolate over the custard and place on the cherries.

Store in fridge with wax paper placed gently on top.

*If enjoying Crema for breakfast, I highly recommend adding a mimosa to the experience.


  1. Oh man. Sounds like the perfect start to any day! :)

  2. The perfect start AND perfect end!

  3. I like the dash of a Rolling Stones song (You Can't Always Get What You Want ...) you added to the story. Can we expect some Bob Dylan? Jimmy Buffet (he even has a food related name!)?

  4. I'm glad someone picked up on the reference. I think I'll be pulling inspiration from Buffet when I blog about my Dad's seafood obsession... Stay tuned.