April 23, 2009

Pionono–Argentinean Cake Roll


The first time I had pionono, I had a hard time even pronouncing it, let alone figuring out how to make it.  We were at a typical Argentinean-style gathering; meaning people arrive sometime in the early afternoon (the invite said 12 o'clock) and stay until around 10 or 11pm, with food being served in continuous rolling rotations.  It's an amazing, tiring marathon of talking and eating and kids playing, and more eating and talking.

The piononoserved at the party was filled with salmon, cheese, hard-boiled egg, and sliced green olives, and I kept asking "But what's IN it? " (It seemed every bite was a new taste sensation!)  And then I would ask  "But how do you MAKE it?"  (Curious, curious–I had to know all about it!)

Alas, no one wanted to have an gastro-anthropological discussion with me about pionono.  (Maybe they were thinking "You know, Guillermo's wife may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer…")  It takes patience to introduce all those little cultural details to someone with voracious curiosity, like myself.  Such is the life of a cross-cultural matrimonio.

But (and it's been a few years since that party) I've  finally gotten to the bottom of the mystery of pionono!

It seems that pionono (besides just being really fun to say) has its origins in Spain–their version is a sweet, syrupy column, whereas the South American version is a cakey roll filled with all sorts of things.   An Argentinean pionono starts with a base that is very similar to a jelly roll–sweet and cake-like.  It can then be filled with either sweet or savory things.  Sweet fillings:  a generous layer of dulce de leche (of course) or crema chantilly (whipped cream) and chopped fresh fruit–strawberries, peaches, kiwi, banana… you get the idea.

But with the savory pionono filling, a whole new world of possibilities opens up!  It can be anything you dream of putting on a sandwich.  The roll part is still sweet, so there's a sweet/savory thing going on–in Argentina they call it agri-dulce.  You could fill the pionono with tuna, salmon, (smoked salmon would be good, too) turkey, ham, or cheese (my sister-in-law, Marisol, does a rockin' version with cream cheese and Roquefort). 

For this version, I chose a completely classic Argentinean filling, and layered on ham, cheese, roasted red pepper slices, hard-boiled egg slices, and sliced green olives.  But you could really get creative and fill it with just about anything.  (In fact, do that, and then send me your ideas, so I can try them, too!) 

Pionono is surprisingly easy, once you do it.  It takes 10 minutes of mixing and 6 minutes of baking, then a few minutes to fill, slice, and put on a plate.  Kids will love putting in their own filling (but will need some assistence with the rolling and cutting), and it's perfect as an appetizer a party, a picnic or school lunch, or as a quick mid-week meal.  I can't say enough good things, I'm hooked–and I think you you will be, too!

Step-By-Step Photos (plus a few more) posted on my flickr photostream, From Argentina With Love.

Twitter:  RebeccaCaro, (there's also a Fans of From Argentina With Love page on facebook–join us, please!)


Pionono (Jelly Roll)

5 eggs

5 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon honey

5 tablespoons flour

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a stand mixer, put the eggs, sugar, and honey, and beat on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper and grease with butter or spray with cooking spray.

After 8 minutes, you should have a fluffy batter.  Add the flour in all at once and beat for one minute more, until incorporated.  Pour the batter onto the cookie sheet and spread gently with a spatula (you don't want to de-fluff the batter!)  Make an even layer covering the cookie sheet.  Place in the oven for 6 minutes.

Wet a cotton (not terry-cloth) towel and put it flat on the counter.  Sprinkle it lightly with sugar.  Lift the parchment paper off of the cookie sheet, and lay the pionono face down on the wet towel, paper-side up.  Carefully peel the corner of the paper off, and continue, careful not to rip the pionono, until the paper has been removed.  Fill as below or as desired.  Roll carefully (too long on the wet towel is not good) and slice.  Arrange on a plate to serve.


2 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and sliced

1/4 lb sliced ham (whichever kind you like best)

1/4 lb sliced mozzarella cheese

several green olives, sliced

2 roasted red peppers, sliced

Lay slices of ham across pionono.  Layer cheese on the top.  Layer red peppers, hard-boiled egg slices, and green olive slices.  Starting at one end, carefully start rolling the pionono up, until you get a large roll.  Slice cross-wise, and arrange on a plate to serve.

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9 Responses to “Pionono–Argentinean Cake Roll”

  1. How curious! I stared at the photo for several seconds when I first saw it, having a little cognitive dissonance on what exactly it was. I saw the word “cake” and yet it immediately looked like a levant sandwich. And yes, it is sort of like that. The sweet-savory combination must be very interesting indeed. I know a number of people who are adverse to mixing their sweets and savories, but I am not among them.

  2. delisioso!!!!!

  3. I don’t think I have ever tried pionono! It looks so good – I think I’ll try making it this weekend :)

  4. Looks good! I’d like a bite, please!

  5. Hola Rebecca!
    What a strange name is pionono, this word in Italian actually means Pio IX (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Pius_IX), a famous Pope who lived in the late XIX century.
    Just a coincidence?
    It looks excellent.
    In southern Italy, especially in the area of Naples, you can find a recipe called “casatiello”, a sort of cake made filled with boiled eggs, salami and cheese, although the shape is different.

  6. I’ve never even heard of this. Is it just in Mendoza? My husband is from Cordoba so maybe they don’t eat it there.

  7. I sweet cake with a savoury filling rolled in sounds really good!

  8. hola Rebecca
    si, es interesante la historia de Pio Nono (IX), no se sabe si es real, pero es una linda leyenda.
    Me encantan tus historias, paseos y recetas, muy lindo blog!
    And this is not a Mendoza’s recipe… we eat it all over the country… there is always some savory pionono (or arrollado) for christmas… but the most popular or classic is the one with dulce de leche.

  9. Thank You, Thank You! For you post. I was the American in charge of Christmas Dinner this year in Argentina. So I ordered in and it cost a ton and was just a mess! I knew I could make it better. But how? I found myself asking everyone too and no one wanted to take the time to teach me. So I’m off to the Market get the supplies needed to brush up before Christmas 2010

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