Migliaccio is one of my all time favourite desserts. Honestly, I could eat the whole thing and it is ALWAYS even more delicious the next day. It is a typical Neapolitan cake made for Carnevale (aka Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day/Carnival/Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras).
I love it. It is sweet, but not too much so, dense, a bit chewy and very moist. The fragrance of orange and lemons fills the house while you prepare this cake and that is just the best.
Here is a bit of history. As the word implies, its main ingredient is miglio, which in English, translates to millet, a highly nutritious and wonderful grain. In 18th century Napoli, millet was a grain that was used by the poorer classes, thus, making it part of cucina povera. Today, millet is considered a rarified, fancy thing, but really it is not.
The suffix -accio, is a pejorative in Italian. Why would one ascribe a pejorative to a perfectly delicious food? The richer classes dismissed miglio and anything made of it because, well, poor folks ate it. But eat millet the populace did, luckily for us!
Let’s not forget why people prepared rich, nutritious and fattening dishes before the start of the Lenten period and, particularly, on Carnevale, the last hurrah before the 40 days of privation: during Lent people were meant to eat according to a prescribed set of rules with regularly occurring bread and water fasts. Priests would come ’round and check that you were doing just that. If one did not, one would be in trouble with the priest, and, presumably, with God.
Back to our contemporary kitchens. If you can find millet flour, then great. If not, semolina is the next best thing (and if neither millet nor semolina are available, then just use finely ground cornmeal). Semolina, is “the coarse, purified wheat middlings of durum wheat used in making pasta” (Wikipedia). The primary aromas are lemon and oranges, which are in season during Winter. You cannot get more Mediterranean than this.
This recipe (after photo) is based upon the one my Mum gave me and that I have been using for years. Serves six to eight, at least. And for a variation, see this recipe for Migliaccio alla Mela (apple migliaccio).
- 1L of your favourite non-dairy milk
- 200g semolina (you will find it in most shops, even corner shops in larger cities) (to make gluten free, use millet flour instead – you will find that at any good Asian/Indian grocer and it will be called bajri)
- 300g (or one packet) of firm, silken tofu, drained and mashed with back of fork (optional – it adds moisture and density)
- 250g sugar
- 9 Tablespoons aquafaba or 3 Tablespoons flax meal whisked with 9 Tablespoons water, then refrigerated for a minimum of 15 minutes and up to an hour (flax egg)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 orange peel grated
- 1 lemon peel grated (adding both orange and lemon peel is my addition and I love it. My Mum does not use both types)
Preheat oven at 200C and lightly grease a rectangular baking dish. I use a rectangular 11×9 inch (28x23cm) glass pan, but you can use a slightly smaller size if that is what you have and it will make thicker slices. Do not line it because if you do, you will not get the light crust underneath that is very nice.
Whisk the aquafaba or flax egg (after you have followed the instructions above for the flax meal), sugar and vanilla until very frothy – set aside.
In a large saucepan, warm the milk, silken tofu and grated rinds until boiling.
When it is boiling, take the saucepan off the burner. Quickly pour in the semolina and whisk. Then place the saucepan back onto the burner for a few minutes (3-5 and sometimes even less) until the mixture has thickened significantly. Keep whisking/stirring to eliminate lumps as much as possible. Take the saucepan off the burner.
Now, my Mum passes the mixture through a food mill. That is a bit too much trouble for me and I do not mind lumps here and there. Instead, immediately after you take the semolina, tofu and soy milk mixture off the burner, use either an immersion blender, a hand mixer or your whisk and some elbow grease to get rid of most of the lumps. Just a quick buzzing should do it. Or, use a food processor and make the mixture as smooth as you like.
Next, mix in the creamed sugar and vanilla mixture. Once again, use the hand mixer/immersion blender to get texture right.
Pour the mixture into the baking dish.
Place in oven for approximately 30-40 minutes if using the silken tofu or 20-30 minutes if you are not, approximately 40-50 minutes if you are using millet flour, and/or in any event, until the sides and top are golden. Cooking time will depend on your oven.
Take it out of the oven, let it cool thoroughly and serve. Keeps well for several days and can even be served cold right out of the fridge… that is, if you don’t eat it all before!
It is hypocritical to have positive reactions to cute animal stories or negative reactions to stories about animal abuse, extinction, and slaughter and to go on using them for reasons that are purely frivolous – pleasure and convenience. We do not need to use animals to thrive, or look great or eat delicious things. Please give this some thought. We all can go vegan http://www.howdoigovegan.com
First published 7 February 2015