Monday, October 5, 2009

Napolitaines via Twitter

Sugar Cane Harvest by Hannes Grobe, AWI
Most Mauritians have a sweet tooth. We love anything sweet and we put sugar in everything. I have to believe that this has to be because sugar goes back a long time in our history. When the French took over control of the island in the 18th century, they developed a very succesful sugar economy. And later, when the British won over the island during the Napoleonic Wars, they allowed the landowners to stay, keep the French language and even some French laws. And so sugar remained as the main source of income for the country until very recently.

I will never forget our trips to the beach when we were kids. My dad would stop the car by the side of a cane field and we would help him cut some cane using a machette. Then, after a day of swimming and a great homemade meal from my mom, we would snack on the sugar cane. My dad would cut the "knobby" part off and we would peel the skin off with our teeth and chew it. Nothing like the taste of sugar cane! It was great!
So I decided to make one of our many sweet snacks, Napolitaines. You can buy them anywhere - from a street vendor, a tabagie or a patisserie. I have no idea where the name came from. Could it have something to do with Napoleon? I don't think so. Can you find it anywhere else? Not that I that heard. Would a self respecting French pastry chef make something with pink icing? Highly unlikely! I think it's a Mauritian invention.

So what is a Napolitaine? It is a very simple shortbread sandwich with rasberry jam between two shortbread rounds and topped with a simple pink icing.

To make my Napolitaine, I used the recipe from Madeleine Philipe. She has one of the best, if not the best, set of Mauritian recipes on the web. I, of course, twittered it to work out the timeline. My goal is to show anyone wanting to make this recipe how long it actually takes. This is good for beginner or average cooks, like myself, who tend to underestimate how long each step in a recipe takes.

Ingredients (twitter, twitpic)

250g white flour, sifted
175g salted butter at room temperature
at least 50g of rasberry jam
125g of icing sugar
2 drops of red food coloring
50ml water at room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons milk

T=0 (twitter)
  • Mix the flour and butter in a bowl until you have a soft dough.
T+5minutes (twitter)
  • Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put in fridge
T+37 minutes (twitter)
  • Set the oven to 350 F.
  • Put the rack in the middle position.
  • Lightly grease a baking sheet
  • Take dough out of fridge.
  • Roll it on a lightly floured surface until it is about a quarter of an inch thick.
  • Make small rounds approximately 2 inches in diameter - I used a small cup that was diameter.
  • Place the rounds on baking sheet
  • Keep making rounds out of remaining dough
T+45 minutes (twitter, twitpic)
  • Put the baking sheet in the oven
T+60 minutes (twitter, twitpic)
  • Remove the baking sheet when the rounds are starting to darken but are not brown yet. DO not keep in oven too long or they won't be flaky.
  • Let the rounds cool down.
T+90 minutes (twitter)
  • Spread some jam on one round and place another on it to make a little sandwich. Don't skimp on the jam. Too little jam and the Napolitaine will taste too dry. But don't put so much that it oozes out.
  • Place the rounds on a cooling rack so that when you pour the icing, it does not puddle around the Napolitaines.
T+95 minutes (twitter)
  • Put the sugar in a flat saucepan and add the water.
  • Bring to the boil and cook until syrup is thick.
T+115 minutes (twitter)
  • Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes
  • Add 2 drops of food coloring
  • Add the lemon juice and whisk it
  • After the milk and keep whisking
  • Pour over the rounds. Do it once. If you pour more icing over icing already on, it will not have a smooth surface.
  • Using a flat spatula, lift the Napolitaines and place on wax paper to cool.
T+140 mintes (twitter, twitpic)
  • DONE!
After doing this recipe, I was not happy with the icing. Mrs. Martian knows a lot more about icing so with her help, I experimented with different icing recipes. I found another napolitaine icing recipe in a Mauritian cooking book and with some testing adapted it to do the following.

  • 2 1/2 cups of icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
  • 2 drops of red food coloring
  • a pinch of salt
  • Cook the sugar and water until syrupy - about the same time as above
  • Take off the stove and whisk in the lemon juice, food coloring and salt
  • Pour over the napolitaine rounds
Once again, here's what it looks like. Yum!Yum!



  1. Good stuff!

    I like your twitter idea (read your previous post about it too).

    How do I use the twitter approach real time? I.e. how do I receive my tweets according to my own T=0?


  2. Peter,

    That's a great idea. I am actually looking into using Twitter to send instructions to the cook. I was thinking about "social cooking" where multiple cooks at different locations cook simultaneously. Your suggestion is more practical.

    Watch your tweets for more ...

  3. Wonderful, these look absolutely lovely!

  4. These look lovely! The raspberry jam sounds great with the shortbread, and I love the pink icing.

  5. I just wanted to comment on your question regarding the origin of the name. I expect this is derived from (or at least related to) "Neapolitan", which literally means "from Naples". There are lots of layered sweets called Neapolitans--usually some kind of pink and white or pink-white-and-chocolate concoction:

    Who knows what the original snack was that inspired all these names, but I bet your cookies are related.

  6. Jenny,

    I never thought of Naples. With our French heritage, I only thought of Napoleon. Pink is definitely the common link. I will have to test that with some foodie friends back home.


  7. Thank you for the recipe. I will definitively try it. Im a mauritian living in South Africa, love food and im studying hospitality management. Bon Appetit!!!

  8. @Gilbert you are welcome. Let me know how it works out.