Prinjolata | Malta's Traditional Carnival Dessert
WATCH: Prinjolata | Malta's Traditional Carnival Dessert
It’s February and that means that it’s time for Carnival in Malta! Carnival is a celebration where the whole island gets in on the fun. Huge parades and wild costumes and celebrations for days, this can only have one true signature dessert to pair with something so outlandish and that is the Prinjolata. This dessert matches the intense and explosive wildness of the parade in food form. Chances are, you are probably seeing it in every grocery store and café right about now. This beautiful treat only comes around for about two weeks out of the year and we are here for it!
What goes inside this glorious dome-shaped mountain of chocolate drizzled meringue goodness? The first to know is that the word prinjolata means pine nuts, so pine nuts are used in this treat on the inside and the outside.
We went to The Happy Baker located in San Gwann to watch how this delicious treat is made and it is now one of my favourite treats to get! Sue Sultana, the owner of this lovely bakery that serves delicious sweet treats and savoury dishes for take away allowed us behind the scenes into their dessert kitchen to watch chef Gabriel make their famous traditional Prinjolata.
The first thing I learned is that every family recipe does it just a pinch differently even though the outside looks quite the same no matter who makes it. I’ve read from some bakers that they use orange blossom syrup or liqueurs such as almond or hazelnut but what I learned from Sue is that when it comes to the first part of the recipe, mums the word. It’s a secret of goodness that makes their Prinjolata taste mighty scrumptious!
The recipe breaks down into three distinct sections to follow. As we began the process of watching Gabe make the treat, he began with the first part of the recipe already made and sitting in the bowl. It looked creamy and inviting from the start. The second part of the mixture is adding the pine nuts and biscuits into the creamy mixture. Followed by a bowl of dried fruits that make the inside. The biscuits (as an American, I call them cookies) are also made fresh daily from in-house. The biscuits are broken into smaller pieces. The biscuits make up the majority of the inside itself. I always thought it was a baked cake underneath the white exterior, but it turns out it’s the biscuits themselves and it is not baked at all other than the original biscuits! It is, however, refrigerated overnight as the creamy mixture, biscuits, pine nuts and dried fruit forms and firms. After the creamy mixture is put together and becomes a much thicker texture with all the goodies added together to make up the inside, it is placed in a dome-shaped bowl with clear wrap lining the bowl for easy removal and to maintain the shape when time to come out of the fridge and be covered and topped with the third part of this recipe.
The third part of the recipe is to take the meringue mixture (also one of Sue’s secret recipes) and use your hands to spread a thick layer of the white meringue all the way around the cake. This layer needs to be thick enough that you cannot see the inside of the cake at all. Gabriel layered it several times with the meringue so that the white topping was thick and made the cake look like a snow-capped mountain. And finally, he took tempered real chocolate and drizzled from a piping bag all over. For the finishing touch, he threw in a few extra pine nuts and dried fruits to complete the treat. It looks as wild as it tastes. It’s like a firework of sweetness on the very first bite.
The Prinjolata was so spectacular and sweet and felt like a true party happening in my mouth all at once! It’s creamy, it’s sweet, it’s easy to eat and quite a power-packed little treat of indulgence. This is why the Prinjolata is served around Carnival just before the Lenten season begins when locals make the switch from eating dessert treats so wildly sweet and sugary to their next best treat, the Kwareżimal Bars also served at The Happy Baker. These little treats are also spectacular but let’s save those for another day and another celebration!