I'm not English, I've only ever been to the UK once (7 years ago!) and I definitely have no title to my name (unless Unofficial Baker for the FAO Trade & Markets Division counts?) Nevertheless, in the Spring of 2011, my sister and our roommate Kelly and I were feverishly following the hectic lead-up to that year defining event known as The Royal Wedding. You know which wedding I'm talking about -- it was the one that would forever take Prince William off the market (no hard feelings, the three of us preferred Prince Harry anyways) and make Kate Middleton, (a "commoner"!) royalty (!!!). We were swept away in the current of Royal Wedding magazine features, news segments, and TV specials that promised to answer all our burning questions, like: Who would design Kate's dress?! Would she wear her hair up or down?! Would Prince William wear a wedding band?! Would Harry bring a date?! Was Harry dating Pippa?! Had everyone set their alarms so we could be up at 5am sharp on April 29th to watch the ceremony live?! And then there were the questions that only I asked, foodie that I am: What did a post Royal Wedding lunch for an enormous group consisting of royals, celebrities, and millionaires look like?! How many courses would there be? How luxurious would the food be?! And never mind the tiara -- what would the cake look like?!
There wasn't much leaked about the wedding menu (boo!) but it was revealed that William had requested something called a Chocolate Biscuit Cake to be served for dessert at the reception, alongside the towering, traditional wedding cake. It was his childhood favorite, I read, a no-bake cake made with melted chocolate and crushed up biscuits (in American: cookies). A cake so simple, that did not even require an oven, yet was apparently fit for royalty, and obviously approved by Queen Elizabeth herself? I was intrigued.
A little further investigation (translation: a search or two on Google) showed me that Prince Will's Chocolate Biscuit Cake was something quite familiar to me already, not so different from a sweet that I had encountered two years before in Bologna, Italy. The royal Biscuit Cake was, for all intents and purposes, a larger, circular version of salame di cioccolato, its British second cousin who had moved out of Italy and settled in London many, many years ago, I thought. A little further digging showed me that the same concept had even spread to Germany (salame di cioccolato was quite the traveler!) under the name Kalter Hund, a loaf-like version of the same dessert. Chocolate and cookies mixed together is apparently powerful enough to cut across various cultures.
But back to Italy! As you might have already figured out, salame di cioccolato does indeed translate in English as "salami of chocolate." Don't worry, don't worry! There is no meat involved here (phew!) but there is no denying that the shape of the dessert does give it the look of a roll of salami, with the cookie bits resembling the characteristic fatty polka dots. Delightful presentation aside, the dessert itself isn't half bad either, no, not at all -- just a slice of this packs a deeply chocolate-y punch thanks to the combined forces of cocoa powder and melted chocolate, with a smooth fudginess interrupted only by crunchy pieces of cookie, sweetened slightly by a snowy dusting of powdered sugar over the top. It is deliciously addictive, yet another one of those desserts that lures you back for another sliver, then another, then another, until you're reasoning with yourself that really, a bunch of slivers must equal just one piece, right?! I like your logic.
I'm sure I had you at "cookies mixed with melted chocolate," but in case you need any more convincing: this recipe is beyond easy to prepare, assuming of course that you're capable of breaking up cookies into a bowl and stirring ingredients (you are? good, I thought so). It is a dessert that you can make ahead of time, and would make a superb contribution to one of the many Christmas parties you'll be invited to this year, or an excellent homemade gift. I arrived in the office with it at 8:45 in the morning, and by 9:52, it was gone. Word spreads fast in the Trade & Markets division, apparently, or at least when there is chocolate involved.
A couple of notes: This tends to get a bit melt-y if left at room temperature for a while -- this is not necessarily a bad thing, but just be sure to have napkins on hand if you're not serving it straight out of the fridge. The hazelnuts below are optional -- I didn't use them this time around, but they do add a nice crunch. If you'd like, you could also use pistachios instead of hazelnuts to add some crunch and some color. I used Pavesi brand cookies -- the same ones I use to substitute Graham crackers in s'mores -- but any dry, plain vanilla-y cookie will do here. I'd also be interested to make this with chocolate cookies, too, though it might lose its salame-like appearance. My apologies for not putting in any step by step photos for forming the actual salame log, but it's really hard to photograph with chocolate/cookie covered hands! Photos to be added shortly (as I'll be making this again, obviously).
Want some other ideas for edible Christmas gifts? I have this Homemade Hot Chocolate mix, this Gingerbread, and this Pistachio, Chocolate, and Cranberry Fudge. Looking to bake up some Christmas cookies? I wouldn't say no to a tin full of these Dark Chocolate Coconut Macaroons, these Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies, this Shortbread, these Chocolate Chip Cookies, these Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies, these Dark Chocolate Gingerbread Bars, or these Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies. Want another chocolate-y dessert idea fit for the 25th? I love this Peppermint Chocolate Tart.
SALAME DI CIOCCOLATO
8 ounces (220 grams) cookies
A scant cup (3 ounces or 80 grams) of dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (35 grams) of cocoa powder
80 grams of sugar
1 stick (4 ounces, 120 grams) of unsalted butter, cut in to cubes, room temperature
70 grams of hazelnuts, husks and skin removed (optional)
3-4 tablespoons milk, or more as needed
Powdered sugar, for serving
Set out all your ingredients and get started. Break the cookies up into fairly large pieces and place them in a bowl along with the hazelnuts, if using. Melt the chocolate in a small pan (or better, over a double boiler if you have one) and set aside.
Next, add the cocoa powder to the cookies and then stir. Pour in the sugar and stir again. Add the butter cubes and melted chocolate and stir everything to combine, using the spoon to crush the cookies a little bit and mash all the ingredients together as you go.
Next, add a little milk (about a tablespoon at a time) to moisten the mixture until it starts to come together and seem soft and pliable.
Turn the chocolate salame "dough" out onto a piece of parchment paper or aluminum dusted with powdered sugar. Pat the mixture into a log, then wrap it in the aluminum foil or parchment paper. Give it a few rolls to make the log a bit rounder. Refrigerate the foil/parchment paper wrapped salame al cioccolato for at least 2 hours. Remove from the fridge, unwrap, and dust with extra powdered sugar, if desired. Slice and serve. Serves 10-12.