For the best summer desserts of 2021 look no further than Letitia Clark's new book, La Vita è Dolce (Life Is Sweet). Letitia wrote the book during the Covid lockdown as a sort of sweet pick-me-up recipe book project because as she says “sweet things make us feel happy”.
I read the book front to cover and love every single recipe: her recipes are unique and fresh and tantalizing. Today Letitia and I chatted about the book and lots of its luscious recipes.
About Letitia Clark
In a past episode Letitia and I talked about her first book, Bitter Honey, a Sardinian inspired collection of fabulous recipes.
Listen to the episode and read about our chat here, what led her to become a chef and all about Letitia’s delightful drawings and artwork. You can find Letitia on Instagram, or through her website. You can also contact Letitia by email.
About her new book, La Vita è Dolce
Letitia says the book is a celebration of Italian inspired sweet things. It's not a summer dessert recipe book per se but in much of Italy, particularly Sardegna, it's almost always summer, or summer-like so her book is the perfect place to head for the best summer dessert recipes.
The book dedication
Letitia dedicated her dessert recipes book to her grandmother and like her first book it's written in memoir style and recounts stories of the three generations of women from Letitia to her mom and her grandmother.
The sweet stroll
Italy is most famous for its savory recipes like all the wonderful pasta dishes we know and love. But as Letitia points out Italians also love the passeggiata, or the sweet stroll as she calls it. This starts first thing in the morning with the breakfast cappuccino at the bar which is always accompanied by something delicious and sweet. Then the aperitivo in the late afternoon, the afternoon gelato, and then once again in the evening gelato following dinner.
A few of the ingredient themes in Letitia’s summer dessert recipes
Almonds feature throughout Letitia's summer dessert recipes from slivered almonds as a dessert topping to ground almonds (almond meal) she uses in place of flour.
Almond flour is a perfect nutritional alternative to traditional flour as it's gluten-free and a great source of calcium in the diet. And it's a delicious alternative to traditional all purpose or “00” flour.
Sardinia is famous for its fabulous sheep's ricotta cheese, and it's used in most parts of Italy for both savory and sweet recipes. When Italians talk about fresh ricotta it refers to cheese made just hours before you taste it.
Alternatively, Letitia says store bought ricotta will also work in her recipes and in the book she explains how to drain and prepare it before you use it in recipes.
Dessert recipe chapters
The book is divided into seven chapters: Biscuits, Tarts, Cakes, Sweets by the Spoon, Yeasted and Fried, Gelato, Dessert Gifts. All of the chapters are loaded with delectable summer dessert recipes.
A few of my favorite summer dessert recipes from La Vita è Dolce
Chocolate and Mascarpone Tart with Blackberries and Sage: I love the combination of blackberries and sage plus the optional topping of crystallized sage leaves.
Crystallized Herbs and Leaves
Letitia uses this technique frequently in her recipes and it's a lovely addition from both a flavor and aesthetic standpoint.
Sylvia's Double Crusted Cheesecake: normally you think of cheesecake with a crust on the bottom and then perhaps a topping like fresh fruit. Instead this recipe has a crust on both the top and bottom, almost like an ice cream sandwich. This recipe is featured by the renowned Italian culinary magazine, La Cucina Italiana.
Citrus Campari and Yogurt Upside Down Cake: Italians love a slight bitterness to their food, including cocktails and desserts like this one.
Quince, Bay, Marsala and Hazelnut Trifle: a sort of Zuppa Inglese that Letitia calls “a gentle mattress balance of moist cake, the irresistible coupling of cream and custard - a pudding to rival tiramisù." Although trifle has never been one of my favorites this trifle tempts me and promises to be delectable. A lovely way to use quince which imparts its beautiful ruby red color that emerges when cooked.
Campari Spritz Jelly is a delicious way to enjoy a refreshing spritz in dessert form. Topped with a dollop of whipped cream, or even ice cream, makes for a fabulous summer dessert.
You can prepare all of Letitia's gelato without a machine; perfect if you are vacationing somewhere and feel like some homemade gelato. Lots of delicious and unusual gelato and sorbet in her book, like the Green Lemon, Honey and Yogurt Sorbet with Olive Oil.
In the final chapter, Dessert Gifts, there are wonderful gifts for special occasions, holidays or just because you feel like gifting something sweet - even to yourself. Definitely try the Salted Caramel Truffles!
Some of my own summer dessert recipes
Miso Caramel Sauce for Gelato
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