Fiadone can be described as the Corsican cheesecake. Crustless and no more than an inch in thickness, it is prepared with one of the most famous specialties from l'Ile de Beauté, a fresh cheese called brocciu (I am told that this is pronounced "brooch", not "bro-choo"), made with sheep's milk and/or goat's milk. Like all fresh cheeses, good artisanal specimens are instantly recognizable by their faint aromas of barn and hay, and brocciu in particular has a slightly curdled texture that makes it most pleasing.
Some cheese shops in Paris sell brocciu (sometimes labeled as brousse), but as these things go, I am sure the cream of the crop stays on the island. I shall have to go there and see for myself: Corsica is very high on my list of dream destinations, but the list gets longer by the year (I don't understand: shouldn't it get shorter, as I tick places off of it?).
Most of the fiadone recipes I've seen call for citrus zest and eau-de-vie (a spirit distilled from fruit juices) as a flavoring, but I have recently acquired a teeny bottle of violet essence from Christine Ferber's shop -- I was disillusioned to find out that this was the secret to her spectacular raspberry and violet jam, but laying my hands on the stuff made up for it -- and I used it in the fiadone I made yesterday: we were celebrating my neighbor Patricia's birthday, who loves cheesecakes and violets. This essence is astoundingly concentrated, and three drops were plenty to give the cake the flowery, acidulated tingle I wanted it to have, without drawing too much attention from the rounded cheese flavor.
I have seen some online debate about whether the egg whites should be beaten or simply added with the yolks to the batter, but I like the lightly moussy texture that beaten egg whites add to the cake, so this is the option I chose. Besides, my stand mixer gets upset if I don't take it for a ride from time to time.
And if you don't have access to Corsican brocciu, fret not: I have discussed the matter with my friend Estérelle, and we've reached the conclusion that you can substitute good ricotta, good cottage cheese, or a mix of the two. Just don't call it a fiadone in front of a Corsican or it might get ugly.
Unrelated note: Not to brag or anything, but I thought I should let you know that I am leaving this weekend for Barcelona, to spend a few days in the city and have dinner at El Bulli. I hope I survive the gastronomic shock, the nitrogen lamb's brain sorbet, and the taxi drive back down the mountain -- wish me luck.
125 grams (6 tablespoons) sugar
500 grams (17.5 ounces) brocciu (substitute ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, or a mix of the two)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon eau-de-vie (I used 3 drops of violet essence)
A pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F). Grease a 25-cm (9-inch) round cake pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Whisk the yolks with the sugar, add the cheese, and whisk until smooth. Add the zest and eau-de-vie, and whisk again.
Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form soft peaks. Fold a third of the egg whites into the batter with a spatula, lifting the batter gently up and over the egg whites until incorporated. Repeat with the remaining egg whites.
Pour into the pan, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden and brown at the edges, and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer on a rack, run a knife around to loosen, and let cool completely on the counter. Chill for at least an hour. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving, and serve directly from the pan.
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