This edition of Malteser’s Kitchen is a special one for carnival, which is celebrated this weekend in Malta. These traditional carnival sweets adorn plenty of shop windows in Malta around this time of year and almost look too good too eat. Almost. Today’s post is by Miriam, who runs a wonderful food blog here. Photos are by Matthew Farrugia.
The prinjolata has always seemed like a sticky, white mountain of sugarey goo and I somehow managed to avoid tasting it or knowing much about it for the past 30 years. When Davinia asked to me to write this post for her blog, the task seemed somewhat daunting at first, but seeing as I like taking on culinary challenges I decided to turn this into a (rather sticky) event with my friends. There’s safety in numbers, right?
In the days leading to this event, some of them exchanged prinjolata recipes that had been handed down through generations. Further research revealed that, like most traditional recipes, the variations for this recipe were many. In the end we agreed on using the following:
A 6-8 egg sponge, cut into fingers
Butter cream – consisting of 6oz butter and 8oz castor sugar
One egg white
One cup sugar
One teaspoon vanilla essence
Extra butter for greasing the bowl
2 tots of whisky
Toasted pine nuts
Chocolate for melting
To make the sponge you will need the following:
18 oz sugar
12oz flour (sifted)
A pinch of salt
Please note that I made two very large sponges with these amounts, as I was planning to make a very large prinjolata. You could opt for ¼ of these ingredients to make a smaller sponge (e.g. 3 eggs etc.)
Butter or line a baking tin. Heat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Vigorously whisk the eggs and the sugar together until they turn creamy. Then gently add the flour and salt and keep whisking until they combine uniformly.
Pour your mixture into a baking tray and bake for approximately 25 minutes. To test if it’s done, poke a knife into the sponge and if it comes back out dry, then the sponge is ready to be taken out of the oven. Let it cool before cutting into fingers.
Making the frosting:
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
4 egg whites
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Again, for a smaller prinjolata you may halve the amounts. In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, cream of tartar and water on medium to high heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to bubble. In a mixing bowl whisk the eggs and vanilla until soft peaks are formed. Gradually add your egg mixture to the sugar mixture whilst whipping constantly, until stiff peaks form. This will take approximately 7 minutes.
Assembling the prinjolata:
Cut the baked sponge into fingers and put back in the oven for about 5 minutes to toast to a very light brown. Let these to cool and in the meantime prepare the filling. Make the butter cream by mixing the butter and castor sugar together. I did this manually using a fork but if you prefer you could use an electric mixer to avoid a gritty finish. Over a pan of boiling water (i.e. bain-marie), beat one egg white and one cup of sugar with two tablespoons of water till they are creamy and thick. Add a teaspoon of vanilla essence and when the mixture is completely cool beat this mixture into the butter cream.
Take a pudding bowl; grease it lightly with butter and start piling and packing the sponge fingers and cream filling right to the top, making sure to finish off with a flat top. Ideally at this point you should refrigerate overnight to let it set, but you can also chuck it into the freezer for 20 minutes or so and this will do the job.
When this is done, ease out gently with a palette knife. Get someone to cross their fingers for you while you do this. Sprinkle with 2 tots of whisky (I used 2 thick workman fingers to measure out my tots) or any other liquor of your choice.
Decorate with the white frosting, coloured candied cherries and pine nuts. Finally drizzle a small amount of melted chocolate over it.
The prinjolata is ready for consumption at this point, but I would suggest waiting a day or two before tasting it as it does improve immensely given some time.
There are variants that utilize biscuits instead of sponge for the inside of the prinjolata, but I felt that this might make it taste similar to my Christmas log (which is delicious, but keeping in mind that carnival comes soon after Christmas, I didn’t think that would be a good idea). My mum had described the prinjolata as the coming together of eclectic ingredients to mimic the folly of carnival. Needless to say, mum is always right.