I've recently had an inexplicable yearning for cassata. I do typically get geared up for icecream in Spring but cassata doesn't hold any special significance for me... I'd barely even eaten it before my calendar had me making one two years ago. And it involves glace fruit, which I've long hated. Yet it seems I might be developing a taste for those sickly sweet, gaudily coloured 'fruits'.
I impatiently prepared this vegan, gluten-free version on a quiet night at home by myself. You can see that the layers aren't as neatly formed as they should be. I still think it looks pretty festive, if misshapen.
The vegan, gluten-free cookies at the supermarket didn't take my fancy so I skipped them and doubled the almonds instead. No regrets. If the dairy-free angle on this dessert bothers you, let me say that I've been pleasantly surprised by So Good Vanilla Bliss. It's no gourmet blend but it's a convincing substitute for your average Peter or Paul. Once the chocolate, fruit and nuts are mixed through it's rather good indeed.
Cassata for gleegans
(adapted from this recipe)
1/4 cup glace fruit, chopped
1 tablespoon brandy
150mL coconut milk
1 teaspoon castor sugar
1 L vegan vanilla icecream (I used So Good Vanilla Bliss)
60g dark chocolate
2 teaspoons margarine
1 teaspoon cocoa
60g slivered almonds
In a small bowl, stir together the fruit and brandy and let them stand for 10 minutes. Line a loaf tin with baking paper. Beat together the coconut milk and sugar by hand, then fold in the brandied fruit. Pour them into the loaf tin, checking that the fruit is evenly distributed and it's reasonably smooth on top. Put the tin in the freezer to firm up that first layer.
Allow half of the vanilla icecream to soften at room temperature. In a medium-sized saucepan, gently melt the chocolate and margarine together, then allow the mixture to cool. When the icecream's softened stir it, along with the sifted cocoa, into the chocolate - the chocolate should harden up and create a choc-chip effect. Retreive the loaf tin from the freezer, spread this chocolate layer over the first one, and return the cake tin to the freezer for about 15 minutes. Take the remaining half-litre of vanilla icecream out to soften.
When the second layer of icecream in the loaf tin has begun to firm up, spread over the remaining softened vanilla icecream and return the cake tin to the freezer.
Toast the almond slivers gently in a dry pan (I found a little spray oil helped). Press the almonds into the top layer of the cassata and freeze it until firm, at least 4 hours.
To serve, gently but firmly slice the cassata using a wet knife.