Why Does Fiori di Sicilia Make Pro Bakers Swoon?
The next time you're about to reach for vanilla extract, consider using Fiori di Sicilia instead. Translating from Italian as "flowers of Sicily," this less well-known but much adored product has a "floral and sweet aroma that is more than the sum of its parts, adding nuance to recipes that otherwise ask vanilla to do the heavy lifting," says food stylist and recipe developer Jason Schreiber, author of Fruit Cake: Recipes for the Curious Baker. "Adding Fiori di Sicilia to my recipe for Polenta Pound Cake with Spiced Mandarins, for example, completely brings a whole new level of dimension."
What Is It?
While usually sold on the same shelf as your favorite extracts, Fiori di Sicilia is not actually a distilled extract itself. It's a blend of essential oils, which means it's powerfully potent, and explains the reason it's sold in bottles that are smaller than standard. Thanks to this potency, a few drops is all you need—so be sure to exercise a restrained hand. For any recipe where you'd include a teaspoon of vanilla extract, it's best to substitute half that volume of Fiori di Sicilia.
Fiori di Sicilia has an enchanting flavor of bright, fresh citrus, layered with the characteristic musky depth of vanilla. Sniff a little closer, and you might detect hints of bitter orange, lavender, and bergamot—a flavor made famous by Earl Grey tea. We like the Fiori di Sicilia from King Arthur Baking Company, from $9.95 for a one-ounce bottle. (Be sure to refrigerate this delicate ingredient after opening.)
How to Use It
There are many applications for Fiori di Sicilia. In Italy, it's most commonly used in panettone or pandoro, both sweet breads made and served around Christmastime. Because of its shared flavor profile with many teas, a good rule of thumb is that it'd go well in any sweet, cookie, or cake that would pair well with a cup of tea!
But beyond baked goods, its citrusy brightness can pack a punch in rich and creamy desserts like panna cotta or rice pudding. Add a few drops in poaching liquid for fruit, or when macerating berries to dramatically elevate the flavor with virtually no extra effort. Use it in icing for scones, buttercream for cakes and cupcakes, and—after dinner and dessert are done—add a drop into your favorite after-dinner whiskey-based cocktail for a special way to end the evening. Or, if you're feeling bold—as with any extract or oil, feel free to wear it as a perfume! It's sure to be a unique signature scent, and the envy of all your friends.
Fiori di Sicilia can be substituted for pure vanilla extract in recipes—simply use half the amount of Fiori di Scilia; so, for example, if a recipe calls for a teaspoon of vanilla extract, sub in half a teaspoon of Fiori di Sicilia.