Showing posts with label Italian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian. Show all posts

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Book Review-Cucina Povera-and a Book Giveaway!



Ribollita
Perfect time for a bowl of earthy soup, especially when the soup is Ribollita, the very tasty cannellini and kale soup from Tuscany.  When I was asked by the publicist to review the book Cucina Povera, or Peasant Cuisine, by Pamela Sheldon Johns I was immediately intrigued.  "This book features more than 60 authentic, budget-conscious dishes from the heart of Tuscany.  Each dish is based on a philosophy of not wasting anything edible, while also making every bite as tasty as possible."


Not only I know the food of Tuscany well, but I love its simplicity so I wanted to try the recipes asap.  Tuscany is the region I know best outside of the Veneto, having spent a week in Siena at the end of each summer for years, visiting my mom's middle sister and my cousin Manuela.  My sister lived near Siena for years, and another cousin went to medical school in Siena and is now an emergency medicine resident there.  Should I mention a boyfriend who used to take me around on his Vespa?  I was lucky to later spend many other times there, more recently this summer, traveling with friends from the States. 

Detail near the columns in 
Piazza Del Campo, Siena
Tuscan food is very different from the cuisines of other regions in Italy, the culinary tradition draws from the wild animals living in the extensive woods, the rich olive oil, and the fact that for years people lived off the land.  Siena has an amazing history,  it was at one point more potent than Florence but a serious of horrible plagues in the middle ages killed most of the population and the city never quite recovered.


The Tuscan country side is one of the most beautiful places in the world, rolling hills, ancient farm houses and tiny medieval town perched on the hill tops make this region unique and enchanted.  The rich and simple food contributes to its fame and draws many people to visit this region.  Many well known Italian dishes heel from Tuscany, Ribollita soup, Panzanella, Sciacciata all'uva, and Cantucci (otherwise known as Biscotti in the States).

Pamela Sheldon Johns grew up in a family where everything was used, and when she move to Tuscany she felt at home with the no waste mentality.  In the introduction she talks at length about the traditions of  Tuscany, its cuisine, and the people whose memory she narrates so well. She also give a wonderful overview of some of the different cities and their culinary traditions.


The book is beautiful, small but well designed, the pages are thick, with rough edges.  The book is filled with photos of the dishes and of the people cooking them, which is something I loved.  The instructions are clear, the ingredients all easy to find.  There are few dishes that I know most Americans won't try since they are not part of this country culinary tradition and are still considered weird, like tripe, rabbit, or liver (I am speaking in general terms here, I know plenty of people who would eat them).  There are few recipes I wouldn't try either, like Piccione Farcito allo Spiedo, or squab  simply because in Venice we don't have a good relationship with pigeons, but Pamela suggests to use Cornish Hens instead.


I made few things from this book:  The Ribollita, the Gnudi, (spinach dumplings), the Polpettone or meat loaf,  the Stewed Chickpeas,  the Ricciarelli, all outstanding.  The only recipe that didn't work was the one of the Cantucci and I just run out of steam to try it again. I suspect I over-beat the eggs, the texture was totally off.  The Ribollita was out of this world tasty (I suspect the home made beef broth had to do with it).  The Ricciarelli cookies were really good but they were different than the ones I ate in Siena, less sweet, and lighter, less dense, very good nonetheless.

Ricciarelli
In summary, the book is a great read about Tuscany, the  cuisine, and its people. The recipes are really original and delicious!  I truly recommend it.


The publisher is giving away a copy of the book, so for a chance to win it please leave a comment, and if you have experienced Tuscany and/or its cuisine let us know what you loved.  A name will be picked randomly and the winner will be revealed next Wednesday.

Disclaimer:  I didn't receive any compensation for this review, besides a free copy of the book.

Two recipes follow, directly from the book.  I made the Ribollita with the beef stock I made for the meat loaf, so it was ever more earthy.


Ribollita
 
The restaurant Da Delfina in Artimino, just west of Florence, is a reference point for cucina povera. Chef Carlo Cioni understands intimately the relationship between the land and the table. In his hands, a sturdy vegetable soup is transformed into a second dish by layering leftover soup with bread, then into a third dish by baking the leftover layered soup and bread. The fourth and final transformation is ribollita, the remaining vegetable stew cooked in a skillet, a dish that exemplifies the resourcefulness of Tuscan cooks.

Carlo insists it must be made on top of the stove, not in the oven, a version often seen in restaurants. Oil is used sparingly for this is a peasant dish. The ingredients vary according to what is available, but Carlo explains, “There must be a balance between the dolce (sweet), aromatica (aromatic), and amaro (bitter).” The sweet is found in herbs, such as parsley, celery, and purslane; the aromatic is in thyme, borage, and fennel; and the bitter essences come from mustard greens and chicory. A leafy green is always present; in the winter, cavolo nero, and in the summer, cabbage.

Carlo admonishes cooks to handle the beans tenderly and cook them slowly, and “dolcemente,” gently, so they are not broken or crushed. He soaks them overnight with aromatics: whole cloves of garlic, a bay leaf, and a sprig of sage. Use any seasonal vegetables in this soup, and cook them in the order of hardness; start with vegetables such as potatoes that take longer to cook, and finish with the tender herbs.


Ribollita
Classic Tuscan Vegetable-Bread Soup

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 onion, finely chopped, plus 1/2 cup more chopped onion for Day 3
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 cups vegetable stock
1 or 2 boiling potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 zucchini, coarsely chopped
4 cups shredded cavolo nero (dinosaur or lacinato kale) or regular kale
1 cup shredded assorted leafy greens (such as Swiss chard, nettles, and spinach)
1 cup coarsely chopped aromatic greens (such as borage, fennel, and mustard)
2 cups cooked cannellini beans
1/4 cup minced mixed aromatic herbs (such as fresh flat-leaf parsley, rosemary, and sage)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound day-old country bread, thinly sliced

Day 1: Minestra di Verdura (Vegetable Soup)
In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the onion, carrots, and celery for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the onion is golden. Add the garlic and stock, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the potatoes and zucchini. Cook for 10 minutes, then add the cavolo nero and leafy greens. Decrease the temperature to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Add the beans and aromatic herbs. Simmer for 10 minutes to heat the beans through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in warmed soup bowls.
Serves 8

Day 2: Minestra di Pane (Bread Soup)
In a saucepan, warm the leftover soup over medium-low heat. Place very thin slices of country-style bread in the bottom of a lightly oiled baking dish. Spoon one-third of the hot soup over the bread, and repeat with two more layers of bread and soup. Cover and let stand or 15 minutes to 1 hour in a warm place before serving.

Day 3: Minestra di Pane al Forno (Baked Bread Soup)
In a preheated 375°F oven, heat the leftover Bread Soup in its baking dish. Sprinkle with chopped onion and drizzle with olive oil. Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the onions are lightly browned.

Day 4: Ribollita (Recooked Vegetable Stew)
Lightly brush a medium skillet with olive oil. Spoon the remaining Baked Bread Soup into the pan and brown over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes, or until crisp on the bottom. Turn and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes to crisp the second side. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground black
pepper. The ribollita should be firm enough to eat with a fork. Serve at once.

—From Cucina Povera by Pamela Sheldon John 



Ricciarelli
Sienese Almond Cookies

When I think of Siena, I think of these cookies. They are too rich to have been part of the daily diet in hard times, but they could have been a special treat for farms with an almond tree. The original recipe is quite lengthy, taking days to prepare, but I think my simplified version is reasonable.

1 cup (6 ounces) blanched almonds
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
4 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted, for coating

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a food processor, place the almonds, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and flour; process to a fine powder. Add the baking powder and orange zest. Pulse to blend well.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, gradually adding the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until glossy peaks form. Add the almond extract.

Remove the almond mixture from the food processor and place in a large bowl. Stir one-third of the egg white mixture into the almond mixture to lighten it, then carefully fold in the rest of the egg white mixture with a rubber spatula.

Drop tablespoonfuls of batter 2 inches apart onto the prepared pan and dust liberally with the powdered sugar. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Let cool on the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 weeks.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pizza with Kale and Ricotta Salata


This post is dedicated to my cousin Manuela, who found a new passion for bread and pizza, could it be that she is nesting?

Italians breathe pizza, this simple dish is so integral to our culture that we can't live without it. The best pizza I ever tasted was made in Naples, in a tiny hole in the wall, no wonder pizza napoletana is so well known. When I moved to the States I pretty much gave up on the idea of eating pizza since the versions I tried were a sad counterpart to the thin and crispy original. They were loaded with cheese and vegetables, the crust too thick and soggy. I started making pizza at home, but couldn't find a recipe that worked until I did an internship at the renown restaurant Chez Panisse. The pizza there was phenomenal, I wanted the recipe! Since I started using the following recipe I never looked back, it is delicious. Sadly, I can't eat pizza any longer since going gluten free, but I still make it at least once a month because of the joy it gives me to see people eat it.



Pizza Dough
from Chez Panisse Café Cookbook

Sponge:
2 tsp dry yeast (10 gr)
3/4 cup lukewarm water (180 ml)
2/3 cup bread flour (100 gr)

Dry ingredients:
4 cups all purpose flour (560gr)
1/4 cup rye flour (35 gr)
1 tsp salt (1o gr)

1/3 Cup EVOO (75 ml)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, dissolve the yeast in 3/4 cup of water and stir in the 2/3 cup of bread flour. Cover with 1 cup of the dry ingredients and let sit for 30 minutes. After the sponge is nice and bubbly, add 1 cup of lukewarm water (225 ml), and mix well. Cover with the rest of the dry ingredients and let sit for another 30 minutes.

The sponge is ready!

Add the olive oil and mix for 5 minutes, or until the dough passes the window pane test. The dough should feel soft, slightly sticky. A soft and moist dough makes the best pizza.

Window pane test, gluten has developed.

Let the dough rise, covered, in a warm place for 2 hours. To develop a better flavor, the dough can be left to rise in the refrigerator overnight. Punch down the dough and divide it in portions of 7 ounces for medium pizzas. Shape each piece in a tight round. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for an hour before shaping and baking. Individual rounds can be frozen and thawed overnight. Makes enough for 5 medium pizzas. Bake at 450F.

I normally make Pizza Margherita with tomato sauce (chopped tomatoes from a can, pureed and reduced on the stove), mozzarella, drizzled olive oil, some basil or oregano, super simple. The latest version I was inspired to make is a pizza bianca with kale and ricotta salata, in which I halved the mozzarella and added ricotta salata and some sauteed kale, delicious! To make it spicy add some chili flakes.

Buon Appetito!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Daring Bakers-Tiramisu'


It is that time of the month already, can you believe it? I can't, life is so busy, I can't seem to catch up and I am not even working right now. This time I am prepared though, done with the challenge on time. Pictures are really bad, I waited until now to take them and there is no light left, all obscured by a dark cloud. One day I will have a good camera! For now, the i-phone has to do.

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

I love this dessert, I named the blog after it because of the sinfulness and the simplicity. Tiramisu' means pick me up in Italian, a name that fits this rich dessert containing espresso, cheese, eggs and sugar. What I liked about the challenge was the thought of making mascarpone (something I have always wanted to try), and the biscotti Savoiardi, what we call lady fingers in Italian. I had only seen recipes for homemade mascarpone using tartaric acid, not lemon juice, so I was intrigued as tartaric acid is not something you can easily find. And the cookies turned out easier that I thought, so fear you not, if you have the time, these recipes are really fool proof.

I started making Tiramisu' soon after moving to the States since I grew up eating it and the ones I tried in restaurants were always disappointing. I didn't start with a recipe as I knew the ingredients, the method, and how it was supposed to taste. It took me three trials until I found the perfect combination. I normally make Tiramisu' with fresh eggs, and I love making it because it is one of the easiest dessert to make, if you use store bought ingredients it can be ready in 15 minutes, yes 15. Not to mention the effect it has on people! I normally use imported mascarpone since the domestic ones are not quite right, if you had tasted the real thing you would know what I am talking about. Yes, you can call me a snob, which is kind of true in many things Italian. Two blocks from my Venetian home there used to be a cheese store, or latteria Plip, knows as La Plip, and they used to make their own mascarpone. It was stored in little plastic tubs, nested in waxed white paper. It was so creamy and sweet, you could eat it by the spoonfuls. During the summer they wouldn't make it as it spoils really easily. Sadly, like many other small stores that couldn't survive the slow death Venice is suffering, the latteria is now defunct, and in its space there is a snack bar. RIP.

Mascarpone is pronounced with the "e" at the end, not like mascarpon, and the "e" is pronounced like in red not like in reed. Every letter is pronounced in Italian, and if you want to actually "hear" how it is pronounced check this post at Briciole, go to the bottom and click on the audio file to hear Simona's voice. The post has also wonderful instructions on how to make mascarpone.

This comes from the original post by Deeba and Aparna, to illustrate the history of this dessert:

So when, where and how was tiramisu born? Tiramisu is said to have its origins in Treviso (Italy), and there are quite a few stories about how it came to be created. One story traces the tiramisu as far back as the Renaissance claiming that it was first made in honour of the visit of Grand Duke Cosimo di Medici to Tuscany. Yet another one points to the tiramisu being an adaptation of the "Zuppa Inglese" referring to the sponge cake and cream layered English Trifle. However, experts in this area generally agree that the tiramisu as we know it today, was born in the ‘70s. Some believe that the Tiramisu was created in the the Le Beccherie (a restaurant in Treviso). Others suggest that Tiramisu was first made in 1971 by an Italian baker named Carminantonio Iannaccone in a small bakery in Treviso, Italy.

I am not sure where this dessert originated, the common version is that it comes from the Veneto region of Italy, where Venice is located. Tiramisu' is a staple in Italian restaurants, probably because it is so easily made and everyone loves it.

You can find the complete recipe and admire other bakers' creations here.

My notes:
* The gently heating the recipe calls for didn't work. My cream never reached 190F in the double boiler even with the little bubbles raising to the top. I had to heat it directly in a pot. Like the recipe says, the cream was really liquid and when I poured it in the sieve, half went right through, raising concerns that I would not have enough the next day. I then consulted the daring kitchen forum and it turned out that the cheesecloth was the problem, I used a napkin instead and the problem was solved. The cream thickened in the fridge and tasted amazing. I will never look back again and will only make my own mascarpone from now on.

* The recipe for ladyfingers is really easy, don't be scared, they look beautiful and are really light. I thought they needed a little bit more sugar, but for this purpose it wouldn't matter as they are soaked in coffee anyway.


* I decided to skip the pastry cream and the zabaglione since they are not traditional in the recipe and we were not required to make them. I just used my method of separating the eggs, whipping the yolks with half the sugar, adding the mascarpone, whipping the whites with the rest of the sugar, and folding all together. This version is light, not too sweet and oh so creamy. I normally use 3-4 eggs per 500 gr of mascarpone, and sugar to taste. I add only enough whites to create a creamy light texture, and whip the mascarpone with the yolks to make it stiffer. The savoiardi are dipped in cold espresso coffee to which I might add some brandy, or cognac, depending who is going to eat it.


* I ended up making few things with the cream: a traditional Tiramisu' that will be served for dinner tonight, and then I folded ground espresso powder in the cream and froze it to create a semifreddo, then I sandwiched the disk in between round ladyfingers.


Tiramisu' semifreddo sandwich

Thank you Aparna and Deeba for this month's challenge and to Lisa of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, the creators of the Daring Bakers' challenge.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bread Baking Buddy-Italian Knot Bread


The talented Ilva of Lucullian Delights chose the recipe this month and I loved it!

The recipe comes from the book Pane: Il Piacere di Preparare il Pane in Casa by Anna Gennari. Ilva chose to make pane di pasta tenera condita which she re-named Italian Knot Bread, which in Italian means flavored soft dough bread.


I adapted Ilva's notes and used Lien's ingredient list, since they were already written with instant yeast, which I used, and she halved the recipe.

Pane di Pasta Tenera Condita

Biga
200 g normal bread flour
5 g fresh yeast or 1/4 tsp dry instant yeast
170 ml water

- Dissolve the yeast in a little water and quickly work the dough together.
- Put it in a container, cover it with a half closed lid or kitchen towel and leave it for 15-24 hrs.

Dough
250 g biga
500 g flour (type 00)
200-260 ml water, lukewarm
15 g fresh yeast or 1 1/2 tsp dry instant yeast
25 g extra-virgin olive oil
30 g lard (or butter)
12 g honey
12 g salt
- Put the flour either in a big bowl or on a baking board, add the lard and mix it with your fingers until it has 'crumbled' and is completely mixed with the flour.
- Dissolve the yeast in little tepid water and add it to the flour. Mix as well as you can.
- Mix salt, olive oil and honey with the like-warm water and add it to the flour. Mix the dough until it holds together and then add the biga.
- Work the dough until it is smooth and doesn't stick either by hand or with a mixer.
- Put it into a bowl, cover it and leave to rise until it has doubled.
- After the dough has doubled, divide it into smaller parts, about 100 g/3,5 oz each.

To see how to shape each piece of dough please check Ilva's or Lien's websites.

1. Roll out each portion into 20" long stands and lay them out on a flat surface.
2. Make a semi-circle with the dough stand.
3. Twist the two end together.
4. Bring the two ends towards the upper part of the circle.
5. Lift/fold the top part over the twisted part.
6. Take the two end and join them together under the actual knot, this will make the knot part come out more and it hides the ends.

- Put the knots on baking sheets and let to rise until they have doubled in size.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven (200°C/390°F) for 30-35 minutes.

My notes:
I absolutely loved this bread! It reminds me of the little panini I used to eat in Italy, which are always present at each child's birthday party, stuffed with butter and prosciutto. I will make it again in smaller size and keep it in the freezer for quick snacks.

The biga fermented for 15 hours only.

I decided to be lazy, and used all purpose flour for the bread. I also used butter instead of lard (both for a yuck factor, and because I have no idea where to find it). The a/p flour gave it a tender crust, and I believe that the OO flour will make this bread even more tender.

The strands were difficult to roll more than 16 inches, but I was able to form the knots as well. The shaped bread didn't look smooth at first, but once properly proofed it looked beautiful.

Baking was straightforward, the bread colored nicely.

The taste was wonderful, the crust soft, and tasty from the honey, the butter and the oil.


The bread passed the butter and jam test so it is a keeper indeed.

Thanks to Ilva and the other BBBabes! To see some of their creations check out their sites: Bake My Day (Karen), I Like to Cook (Sara), Living on Bread and Water (Monique), My Kitchen in Half Cups (Tanna), Grain Doe (Gorel), Notitie van Lien (Lien), The Sour Dough (Mary aka Breadchick), Cookie Baker Lynn (Lynn), Living In The Kitchen With Puppies (Natashya)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bresaola-Italian Cured Beef


Bresaola is a wonderful dry cured meat from Valtellina, an area north-east of Milan, in the Lombardia region of northern Italy. The meat comes from beef, it is salted, spiced, and cured for 2-3 months. Bresaola is made from eye of round, and is lean and tender with a sweet, musty smell.



Bresaola is normally eaten raw, like prosciutto, thinly sliced, and simply served.

It is not easy to find this delicacy around town, but yesterday I was lucky enough to walk in DeLessio market on 302 Broderick Street in San Francisco, and when I spotted it in their display case I had to buy some. I have to go back there when I have more time, De Lessio shares the space with Falletti which has an incredible meat and fish display I didn't have time to savor entirely because of a time crunch.

I had Bresaola for lunch today, prepared like we normally do, dressed with some olive oil and vinegar, topped with some arugula salad, and shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano. So simple and oh so good.

Buon Appetito!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Colomba Pasquale-Easter Dove


A great group of accomplished bakers had the wonderful idea to bake a Colomba, a traditional Italian Easter bread. Natalia, Cinzia, Cinzia, Elra, Lien, Rosa, and Zorra then invited the blogsphere to join in to bake this challenging yet worth all the efforts bread. Cinzia of cindystar is hosting the event so check her site if you want to participate, the deadline is April 18th. The recipe belongs to a family of yeast breads found throughout Europe dating back to medieval times, studded with nuts, candied citrus peel and spices in some cases. Panettone, Stollen, Gubana, to name just a few, are all versions of this very rich dough, containing eggs, butter and sometimes milk. Reading all the mistakes, mishaps, and changes made by the bakers in the original group helped me decide what I wanted to do. Few bakers complained that the dough made from the original recipe was slow to rise on accounts of a sourdough starter. I have a starter in the fridge, so I could have tried it to be true to the bread, but I wanted to make sure I had a freshly baked Colomba on Easter Sunday, hence I used a recipe that used dry active yeast instead of a starter. I don't remember how I found this site but I used their recipe. The recipe is very well written, the dough behaved exactly as it said, and the aroma of the dough was amazing. The second to the last rise is an 8 to 10 hour process, so I refrigerated the dough with the intent of taking it out after our dinner with friends, and let it rise overnight. Do you guess what happened, right? Yes, I forgot to take it out when I got home at almost 11pm, but my brain must have been thinking about it thought because I woke up at 1am, jumped out of bed and saved the Colomba. I left it in the oven with the light on and went back to sleep. At 6 the dough had risen beautifully, was full of bubbles, nice long strands of gluten and all so sexy (yes, brioche dough is sexy). It felt amazingly soft and buttery and full of promises. It was easy to shape and it fit the molds perfectly. If you can't find the molds, you can bake it in a spring form pan, or visit Lien's site and check out her tutorial on how to make a mold from things you can easily find at you local store, pretty ingenious.

I checked the dough at 8 and it looked like it was not moving, so much to my desire to eat it for breakfast. The recipe says that it takes more than 3 hours. Patience.....At 10 it was almost there, it was going to be ready for lunch at that point.

At 11:30 I decided to call it, the dough was almost at the rim and looked nicely proofed. After thirty minutes I had to turn down the oven temperature to 350, and later to 330 because the top was getting too dark and the center of the dough was still really wet. The top came out a little too dark for my taste, I would lower the temperature earlier next time.


We never ate it at lunch because we went to visit some friends who were celebrating Passover so yeast was out of the question. The bread tasted perfect at dinner time, rich, moist, super delicious with the orange peel and the crunchy topping. It was denser than the commercial dove, but the traditional taste was all there. I would keep this recipe, and make it again, it was well worth the effort.


Thanks to all the wonderful bakers who came up with the idea of baking this bread and gave me the much needed push to try it again. Do you feel all the energy and passion coming out of your computer? Go make a Colomba now.




Colomba Pasquale

Easter Dove

These traditional holiday loaves are made in several easy steps over about 18 hours. We recommend doing steps one through four on the first day, since step four includes an eight- to ten-hour rising that, ideally, could be done overnight. Then finish the next day.

Yield: 2 loaves

Step 1 (Starter)
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cool water
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
7 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour

Step 2
2/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
4 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cool water
2 teaspoons sugar

Step 3
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (very soft), cut into 6 pieces
5 tablespoons sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons lukewarm whole milk
1 tablespoon honey

2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour

Step 4
1/2 cup cool water
1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (very soft), cut into 12 pieces
6 tablespoons sugar
4 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons lukewarm whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups (about 10 oz.) chopped candied orange peel ( can be found in some specialty foods stores)

Step 5
1/2 cup (about) all purpose flour
2 dove-shaped paper baking molds or two buttered and floured ten-inch-diameter cheesecake pans

Step 6 (Glaze and baking)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup whole unblanched almonds
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/3 cups sliced almonds
Powdered sugar

For step 1 (Making starter):
Combine water and sugar in bowl of a heavy duty mixer. Stir in yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 10 minutes. Using rubber spatula, mix in flour (dough will be firm). Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let starter rise until puffy, about 45 minutes. (Initially, the starter is firm and compact, but it softens and becomes puffy and spongy after rising.)

For step 2:
Attach dough hook to mixer. Add all ingredients in step 2 to starter. Beat until blended, scraping down sides of bowl often, about 5 minutes (dough will be soft and thick). Scrape dough off hook; remove hook. Cover bowl with plastic. Let dough rise at room temperature until puffy and bubbly on top, about 1 hour. The dough will look thick, shiny, and slightly puffed.

For step 3:
Reattach clean dough hook. Add first 5 ingredients in step 3 to dough; beat until blended. Add flour. Beat at low speed until smooth, scraping down bowl and hook often, about 5 minutes (dough will be firm and compact). Scrape dough off hook; remove hook. Cover bowl with plastic; let dough rise at room temperature until lighter in texture and slightly puffed, about 3 1/2 hours. The dough will double in volume and become lighter in texture but less glossy.

For step 4:
Reattach clean dough hook. Mix water and yeast in small cup. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 10 minutes; add to dough. Add 1 1/3 cups flour, half of butter, sugar, and 2 yolks; beat until dough is smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down dough hook and sides of bowl. Add remaining 2 yolks, milk, vanilla extract, and salt. Beat at low speed until blended, about 3 minutes. Scrape down hook. Add remaining 2/3 cup flour, remaining butter, and orange peel. Beat dough until well blended, about 5 minutes. Scrape dough into very large (at least 4-quart) buttered bowl. Cover with plastic. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled and indentation remains when 2 fingers are pressed about 1/4 inch into dough, 8 to 10 hours.

For step 5:
Sprinkle 1/2 cup flour onto work surface. Scrape dough out onto floured work surface (dough will be soft and sticky). Gently toss dough in flour until easy to handle. Brush away excess flour. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Divide 1 piece in half; shape each half into 10-inch-long log. Arrange 1 log crosswise in each paper baking mold, curving ends to fit. Roll each remaining dough piece into 11-inch-long log, slightly tapered at ends. Place 1 log across dough in each mold. (If using 2 cheesecake pans, divide dough in half; place half in each prepared pan). Cover molds (or pans) with plastic. Let stand at room temperature until dough rises to top of each mold and indentation remains when 2 fingers are pressed about 1/4 inch into dough, about 3 1/4 hours.

For step 6 (Glaze and baking):
Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 375 F. Finely grind sugar and whole almonds in a food processon. Add egg whites and almond extract; blend 10 seconds. Peel plastic off dough in molds. Spoon half of almond glaze over top of each. Sprinkle each with sliced almonds. Sift powdered sugar over. Slide rimless baking sheet under molds; slide molds directly onto oven rack.

Bake breads until brown on top and slender wooden skewer inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool breads completely on rack. (Can be made ahead. Wrap; let stand at room temperature up to 2 days or freeze up to 1 week.


Buona Pasqua!


PS I submitted this post to the amazing weekly event organized by YeastSpotting, Zorra is the host this week. To see how to participate check Susan's web site.

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