Chocolate Chip Cookie Icebox Cake

In the hot months of summer I tend to opt for any dessert that is cooler or lighter than your average dessert recipe. This means I put aside my recipes for cheesecake, cupcakes, and brownies, focusing instead on ice cream, shortcakes, and fruit cobblers and pies. I think however that the best summer dessert actually comes from my mom, whose go to dessert is quite possibly the best thing you will make all season: the seemingly humble but incredibly delicious icebox cake. If you’re not American you may not know what icebox cake is, so let me explain: the icebox cake is a cake that strangely enough requires no cooking or baking. You simply layer any kind of crisp cookie with whipped cream, and leave it in the refrigerator overnight (hence the “icebox” part). The genius of the icebox cake is that in the refrigerator, the cookies magically soften just enough to become tender, and mix with the cream, thus becoming what you would swear are slices of tender cake layers, filled with fluffy whipped cream. In other words, a perfect summer dessert for days when you don’t want to turn on the oven but still want to make something indulgent.

A few summers back my mom mentioned that my late grandmother used to make icebox cake for her family all the time in the 1960s, a decade in which icebox cake was all the rage. My grandmother made her icebox cake with sweetened whipped cream and chocolate wafer cookies, which is the most traditional version of this dessert. After making her recipe a few times my mom decided to take this dessert to a whole new level and change up the cookie/cream combination, making an icebox cake with chocolate chip cookies and a mascarpone chocolate whipped cream. The results were outstanding – after all, how can you go wrong with chocolate chip cookies and chocolate whipped cream?! This dessert is always a huge hit for everyone we make it for, and in addition to being ridiculously delicious, it can be made ahead, is extremely simple to  make, and bake free – what more could you want in a dessert?!

Guest post: Kanelbullar

Though I’ve spoken a lot about my time living in Bologna (where I met Gloria) and my current life here in Rome, I haven’t really explained exactly how I got here in the first place. After all, picking up and moving to a different continent is not an easy decision, nor is it easy to always find the means and opportunities to do so – most who come to live or work abroad do not end up staying as long as I have, for whatever reason. In reality, the fact that I ended up in Rome was quite by chance – I had applied for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Italy after graduating from college, which would allow me to teach English in two public high schools somewhere in Italy. All Fulbright scholars are assigned a city in the country they apply to – you have no choice in the matter -- and I was lucky enough to be assigned to Rome. As the lettrice for the English language classes I taught at Liceo Augusto Righi and Liceo Farnesina, I used my skills as a native speaker in the classroom, helping students with conversation and pronunciation, teaching grammar, and holding lessons on American culture and history. It was my first real job after college, and was what gave me the opportunity to get to know and love Rome as I did, as well as introduce me to the wonderful teachers and students I worked with that year – including today’s guest poster!

Basil Pesto

As you can probably all gather by now, I derive great joy from cooking. Almost nothing gets in the way of my reveling in the preparation a good meal, whether it be an unusually small kitchen, a dinner for picky eaters (I like the challenge!) or limited ingredients. Note however that I used the word almost. This is because I find on a yearly basis that my desire to cook begins to wane with the arrival of summer, or rather, the unbearably hot weather in Rome.

My apartment has no air conditioning (most apartments here in Rome do not have it all, actually.) While at home in the summer I tend to spend most of my time parked in front of my trusty electric fan, which unfortunately is little comfort in the sometimes 90 plus degree heat. In these conditions, whipping up a cake does not seem quite so inviting; stirring risotto over a hot stove for a half an hour seems impossible; and roasting anything in the oven seems just plain unbearable. I always reach a point where I think that subsisting on gelato – preferably purchased and consumed in a gelateria with air conditioning – is the only way to survive the season.

This recipe for basil pesto, however, is one that seems to save me every summer. For those of you unfamiliar, pesto – from the Italian verb pestare, which means to crush – is an uncooked sauce made of basil, parmesan, olive oil, and pine nuts, from Genoa, in the Liguria region of Italy (you might have actually already read about pesto in Gloria’s on Le Cinque Terre. It perfectly showcases ever abundant summer basil, is extremely flavorful and quick to make, and best of all, requires just a whirl or two in the food processor – no heat needed! Pesto is traditionally served over pasta (just a few minutes of boil time to cook the pasta – avoid standing over the pasta pot as much as possible to stay cool!) It is good over cold pasta as well, and is delicious served with grilled chicken or fish, or spread on toasted bread as an appetizer. Despite its Italian origins, pesto also is synonymous with summer in Rhode Island for me – it is also my mom’s go to recipe in the hotter months, and she sometimes even uses it to make a pesto lasagna, one of her signature dishes (I hope to get the recipe for that to you as well!)

Raspberry and Blueberry Shortcakes

In my time living in Italy, I’ve noticed that many American desserts have slowly but surely made their way across the ocean to Italy, finding a home here amongst the more classic tiramisu and cannoli. Cheesecake has become ever more present on Italian dessert menus, quite a few cupcake bakeries have opened in Rome, and many caf├ęs now offer muffins as a breakfast option to enjoy alongside your cappuccino. In short, Italians have welcomed many of our buttery, frosting laden sweets, which are richer and somewhat over the top compared to their own. Shortcake, however, is an American dessert that has yet to break through in Italy, and actually, most Italians I describe it to have never heard of it – strange, because shortcake (more specifically, Strawberry Shortcake) is one of the most classic American desserts, in the same category as apple pie and chocolate chip cookies. So until shortcake makes its way to Italy, I will take the opportunity to educate our non-American readers with this post, and give everyone a great recipe to add to their repertoire this summer.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, shortcake is a dessert that consists of two biscuits, filled with whipped cream and fruit, traditionally strawberries. I’d like to point out that the concept of the “biscuit” is one that is generally new to most non Americans, and is not to be confused with the English meaning of “biscuit,” as it is quite different from a cookie. An American biscuit is made with lots of butter, which makes it crumbly (hence the name “shortcake”-- from the addition of shortening or butter to a dough) and either buttermilk or heavy cream, along with flour and baking powder. They can be savory and served as a side with soup or stew, with gravy as a classic Southern dish, or even with breakfast. With the addition of a little sugar, you can also make sweet biscuits, as I do here. All in all biscuits are very versatile and a good dish to have in your repertoire.

I’m pleased to report that the Italians I have prepared this dessert for have gone crazy for it (Gloria included). Despite its simplicity, it is a surprisingly complex dessert in terms of flavor -- a perfect combination of juicy tart berries, sweet billowy whipped cream, and crumbly buttery biscuits, where each bite is slightly different.

Shortcake is a great way to finish any summer meal, but given its very American roots, I decided that it would be the perfect dessert to make on the 4th of July. Though shortcake is traditionally made with strawberries, I decided to use raspberries (just to try something different) and blueberries to create a red, white, and blue effect – a very patriotic dessert! You can use any kind of fruit you want, however -- peach shortcakes, plum shortcakes, blackberry shortcakes, and even cherry shortcakes would be great. Use your imagination, and enjoy!



2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, very cold, cut in to cubes
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled

For the egg wash:
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water or milk, for egg wash

For the filling:
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pint blueberries
1 pint raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Using electric beaters, incorporate the butter at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is the size of peas. Combine the eggs and heavy cream in a separate bowl and quickly add to the flour and butter mixture, mixing until just blended.

Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Flour your hands and pat the dough out 3/4-inch thick. You might notice at this point that you need to knead a bit more flour if it seems too sticky.

Cut 6 or so biscuits with a 2 3/4-inch fluted cutter and place on a greased baking sheet. Gather up the scraps of biscuit dough.*

Brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake the biscuits for 20 to 25 minutes, until the outsides are crisp and the insides are fully baked. Let cool completely.

To assemble, whip the cream and sugar with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla and continue to beat until the peaks are stiff. Combine the blueberries and raspberries in a bowl.

Take one biscuit and place it on a plate. Spoon whipped cream on top, then place some blueberries and raspberries on the first shortcake, top with a bit more cream, and then another biscuit. Continue until all shortcakes have been assembled. Serves 6. 

*If you are making these shortcakes when it is very hot out and you are in a house without air conditioning (like I was) it is better to cut out the biscuits, and then refrigerate them for an hour or so to keep the butter in the biscuits from melting before the biscuits even begin to bake.

*Recipe adapted from the Ina Garten’s Peach and Raspberry Shortcakes (the Barefoot Contessa Parties, 2002).

Guest post: Krelana

This week I am sharing yet another guest post from around the world with you all, this time from Kosovo. This recipe comes from the lovely Dafina and Venera, who, like Sergey and Ot, were also part of the PROLAW class.

Any PROLAW student will tell you that the road to becoming part of the program is lengthy. There is first the application process itself, which demands a transcript evaluation, official copies of transcripts, and a TOEFL exam, among other things. Once the students have finished the application process and are offered admission, there is also the visa application process to be dealt with, not to mention enrolling in classes, booking a flight to Rome, and finding housing pre arrival. In short, there is much to be done, and naturally many questions arise in the months leading up to the September start date. In light of this, I correspond with the incoming class via email quite frequently, answering any questions or concerns they have and helping as much as I can. As a result, I often feel like I already know the class before I’ve even met them!