Sunday, December 27, 2009

Daring Bakers-Gingerbread Houses

There is a winged lion on the left panel and an angel on the top

I can't believe that another month has passed, and it is time for another Daring Bakers' challenge. I had some troubles with the pictures, and more importantly with the stability of one of my creations. I chose the first dough, suggested by Anna, and noticed that the recipe has the wrong gram amount, which should be 1,330 instead of 1,660. I measured the flour in cups and the resulting dough was nice and soft, not dry like some of the other daring bakers mentioned. After baking, the dough stayed a little soft when I first made some houses, so for the second creation I cooked the heck out of it to the point of almost burning the edges.

Since we celebrated a birthday in the family, and the dough was really big, I cut enough for 9 small gingerbread houses, one for each of the kids who came to the party. The houses were a huge hit since they are things from story books and none of the kids had assembled nor decorated a gingerbread house before. They also loved the royal icing and couldn't stop eating it, really funny. I wish I had a pictures of all the creations because they were beautiful and unique, and one in particular was outstanding and looked like a log cabin. Alberto was the budding artist.

When not licking his fingers Alberto managed a beautiful log cabin

Since I am in Venice, visiting my home town, my family, and my "old" friends, I decided to propose something Venetian as well. Initially I thought of a palace, then decided to make a gingerbread reproduction of the famous Campanile di San Marco. It was really challenging to put the pieces together since during baking they lost the perfect edges, and when glued together they were not straight. I assure you that the real campanile is quite straight.

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

Check here for the recipes and pictures of the amazing creations by other bakers.

Really crooked

The real thing

Anna's Recipe
Spicy Gingerbread Dough

2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
9 1/2 cups (1663g)* all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger

1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.

2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.

3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)

4. Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.)

5. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.

6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C)

7. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.

8. Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping of the shapes you cut.

9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.

Royal Icing

1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren't using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

* if a cup is 5 oz. and 1 ounce is 28 grams than the correct amount should be 1330 grams.

A special thanks to Anna and Y, and to the founders of the Daring Bakers for bringing all of us together with amazing ideas, month after month.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Venice-Still Crazy After All These Years

I am in my hometown, enjoying every second, every walk, every sight, all my friends, my family and the breathtaking beauty at every corner.

It is freezing cold, thick snow fell two days ago at the same time as a high tide. I froze my feet and my fingers when I went out to take pictures but I loved every minute.

Here are some pictures taken around town, just a little taste of this fragile but absolutely worth a visit city.

A little taste of Venetian life during the high tide and the snow, life goes on, deliveries have to be made.

Kids were hard at play, enjoying this rare happening.

Below is a picture of one of the oldest and still active squeri, name used for the places where they used to make gondolas.

Squero di San Trovaso

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hot Fudge-Perfect for the Holidays and Quick too.

I am in a real time crunch this week. We are leaving for Italy (YEAH!) on Monday, I am catering a party this Saturday, AND crazy me decided to still do the farmers' market tomorrow (I am hiring a friend to sell for me though). Every Christmas I make few types of cookies to give as gifts, but this year it is not a feasible proposition. Did I mention that I am also seriously purging the house of all the stuff we don't need any more? That feels good, but it will take a while, and I have piles every where. Jill at Jillicious Discoveries gave me the idea of making something quick and delicious like chocolate truffle sauce, so here I am proposing a recipe different from hers, which I found in David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop.

This sauce is very rich, velvety, and chocolaty, perfect for a gift. I found the jars at Cost Plus for $.99 each, always a great source of bargains. They looked too cute so I knew they would work.

Semisweet Hot Fudge

adapted by The Perfect Scoop

1 cup heavy cream
3 oz. unsalted butter
2 TBS light corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract

Bring all the ingredients, except the chocolate, to a soft boil simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add the chocolate and let melt for 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth, ladle into the jars, let cool, seal and label. Keeps refrigerated for 2 week.

When I make it again, I would decrease the sugar to 1/2 cup (my personal preference for less sweet things), and maybe add a little bit more cream to make it slightly less dense.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tiramisu' Turns One-Book Review

Almond Sticks from Bittersweet
for the recipe click here

A year ago I started this blog with the idea of showcasing Marin County growers and their products. I wanted to write about this rich and beautiful area where I live, in northern California, its farmers, the organic movement, and more. It was also an attempt to professionally promote my cooking and baking. Somehow I didn't manage all that, instead I got really interested in photographing food, and being part of an amazing blogging community I slowly got to know.

When I started my career as a pastry chef I made the decision of not going to culinary school so I depended heavily on books to learn techniques, styles, recipes, and more. To start this new chapter, I began working in small restaurants that hired me because of how my products tasted and looked, not on the account of my resume'. Because of schedule restrictions I was never able to work in any of the top restaurants in the City of San Francisco so I learned at a slower pace and mainly through personal quest. Three years ago exactly, I started working with a talented pastry chef, DMG, who taught me a huge amount of techniques and more. DMG also introduced me to bread making, which is something I will always be grateful for.

I love the challenges that classic French pastries bring, and I would love to be able to keep learning classic techniques, but ultimately I prefer baking rustic things, things that are not complicated by layers of sweet buttery creams. When I was growing up in Italy, we used to have lunch at my grandparents' house on Sunday. A big tray of pastries was always present, bought from the still existing shop Pasticceria Tonolo. While my family always went for the creamy items, I always ended up eating the simple pastries, and my all time favorite was a huge meringue filled with whipped cream. I would eat it slowly, first hitting the crunchy shell, then enjoying the soft center, and finally enjoying all three components together. I didn't know it then, but I believe that I was always thinking "One day I want to learn how to make this", and therefore my interest in pastries began by eating them.

Since we are close to the Holidays I thought of highlighting the books I keep using over and over, and the authors who keep inspiring me. Some books I have highlighted before, some will be new for you. I haven't had a chance to see some of the books that just came out, and I am sure someone else will write about them. I also have to limit this post somehow, so I am not able to write about many other talented people or wonderful books out there, these are by far my list. I am also limiting my selection to pastry, since that is what my true passion is and these are the books that helped me along the way.

I have met some of these authors, and I can attest that the books reflect them, they are humble, down to earth, wonderful people, all connected by their love for the art of baking. The list is in alphabetical order.

Flo Braker is a Bay Area resident, avid baker, recipe master, prolific author. I have three books by Flo, Sweet Miniatures, Baking for all Occasion, and The Simple Art of Perfect Baking. Her books are ageless, and the recipes, tested and retested, work every time. Her cakes are always wonderful, her directions easy to follow. She is one of those people you want to hug when you meet her, a beautiful soul.

David Leboviz, former pastry chef at Chez Panisse, now lives in Paris, where he teaches courses, gives tours, writes books, and leads the great life of a gourmet. I love his books Ready for Desserts, and Ripe for Desserts, and his Perfect Scoop is the ultimate inspiration when it comes to ice cream and sorbet. His recipes are bold, will kick you to attention, and I love his writing. You can find David here, his great blog. I have many recipe in my recipe book that come from him, his Chocolate Pave' is ingrained in my neurons for ever.

Rose Levy Beranbaum, is the ultimate sweet heart of the cake world, and also a prolific author, and a trove of recipes. I met her once, and she has the spirit and the laugh of a young soul, she is also hilarious. She has a blog, and many books, the Cake Bible, the Pie and Tart Bible, and the Bread Bible, which I happily own. Rose has published a more recent one, Rose's Heavenly Cakes, which I haven't had a chance of seeing, but could be as well be my next purchase. She approaches her writing the same way she started learning how to bake, down to the details, testing and re-testing, until she gets if right. If you need to know how to multiply a recipe to make a wedding cake, this is the book you want. Her recipes are also classic and work well.

Emily Luchetti, the pastry chef at Farallon, and former pastry chef of defunct Star Restaurant, is a continuous inspiration for me, lives in the Bay Area, and is the author of many books. Her dessert recipes are wonderful, easy to replicate at home, some American classic, some innovative, her book Passion for Desserts is full of them. Her taste is impeccable and I love in particular her ice cream book, Passion for Ice Cream, very classy and classic, and full of anecdotes.

Alice Medrich, is the ultimate Chocolate Guru, another Bay Area resident. She is responsible for changing the way Americans taste chocolate, starting in the 80's, in her Berkeley shop Cocolat. Her book Bittersweet is all you need if you want to learn how to work with chocolate. Her book Pure Desserts is very inspiring for the unusual use of ingredients in baking, like buckwheat or kamut flours. Her list of books is impressive, I could add a couple to my wish list.

Peter Reinhart, is the ultimate Bread Guru, a teacher, a prolific author, constantly inspiring regular people to get their hands dirty with yeast and flour. I was part of the Bread Baker Apprentice challenge, but had to stop because I was often late with the entries, and I started gaining weight eating the wonderful breads I was making. This book is full of information on how to start a wild yeast culture, how to make bread, how to shape it, proof it and bake it. I recently bought his latest book, Artisan Breads Every Day, which makes baking bread at home, with less than ideal time, a pinch. Peter can also be found in his blog. Did I mention that I tested some of the recipes before publishing and my name is among the list of more than 400 testers? Power to the cyber world!

Sherry Yard, is the executive pastry chef for Wolfgang Puck, and a force of nature. Her book The Secrets of Baking is a classic, organized by family of pastries, and impeccable. She classifies recipes under Master recipes and then shows all the variations, a must have, if you are just starting. Her book Dessert by the Yard, is a fun recollections of her career through recipes.

Last, but not least, are three books I love and keep going back for inspiration.

Baking with Julia, authored by the late Julia Child and written by Dorie Greenspan, is one of those books you keep discovering, with very rustic recipes, like the sticky buns, or the croissants.

Wild Sweets and Charlie Trotter's Desserts are two books I adore because of the photographs and the use of very unusual ingredients. If I were working in an innovative restaurant I would use their approach, incorporating savory ingredients into my dishes.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bread Baking Day #24-Tyrolean Ten-Grain Bread

Idania of El Aroma de Idania chose this month BBD's theme (for details on how to participate click here). I haven't participated for a while to this event started by Zorra, and I probably did only twice, but I really wanted to bake some bread with lots of grains, so this is the perfect recipe for this month's theme, mixed breads. This bread is perfect for cold weather, I can see it tossed into a French onion soup or the Italian ribollita, or just toasted with some butter. It would make perfect sandwiches too if baked into a loaf pan.

Idania chose mixed breads as this month's theme and choose a bread made with at least two types of flour to reflect her mixed heritage. I wanted to try an Italian recipe but I couldn't find anything that looked too interesting in my books so I chose this bread that I had made before and comes from Tyrol, a region that spans across Austria and part of northern Italy. The recipe comes from The Bread Bible, written by the super talented and wonderful Rose Levy Beranbaum. The recipe calls for one type of flour but I decided to substitute part of the bread flour with spelt, which is an ancient grain cultivated by the Romans. I also doubled the original recipe since the first time I made this bread I wished I had made more since it was so good. The photos are really bad, they don't give the bread justice, it looks so much better and it tastes grainy and delicious.

Notes: The ten grain mixture needs to be soaked 8 hours to overnight, and the sponge is also made 8 to 24 hours before the bread is mixed. Plan accordingly.

Tyrolean Ten-Grain Bread
adapted from the Bread Bible

1 1/3 cup bread flour (7 oz./200 gr.)
1/2 teaspoon instant dry yeast (0.8 gr.)
1/2 tablespoon malt syrup, honey or sugar
1 3/4 cup water at room temperature (375 gr)

Flour mixture:
1 1/4 cups plus 1/2 tablespoon bread flour (7 oz./ 200 gr.)
1 1/4 cups plus 1/2 tablespoon spelt flour (7 oz./ 200 gr.)
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast (5 gr.)
3 tablespoons wheat germ (24 gr.)
2 1/2 teaspoon salt (16 gr.)

Mix all the sponge ingredients together, cover with the flour mixture and let ferment 1 hour at room temperature, refrigerate 8 to 24 hours in the refrigerator. The sponge will bubble through the flour mixture.

Grain mixture*:
1 cup ten-grain mixture (200 gr.)
1 cup hot water (225 gr.)
Cover the grains with the hot water, let cool and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Make the dough:
Mix the sponge and the flour mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer adapted with a hook attachment. Mix at low speed for 10 minutes. Let rest for 20 minutes. Add the grain mixture and knead for about 3 to 5 minutes until well incorporated. The dough will be tacky, barely sticky, adjust the water or the flour content to achieve the right consistency. Let the dough double in a warm place for 1 1/2 -2 hours. Give the dough 1 or 2 business letter folds and let rise a second time, 45 minutes to an hour. Shape as desired, let double (40-50 minutes), slash as desired, and bake at 450F, spraying the oven well with water. After 15 minutes, rotate the bread, and bake until nicely brown and the internal temperature reaches 200F.

*Ten-grain/seed mixture:
Mix equal volumes of the following:
pumpkin seeds
sunflower seeds
soy nugget granules, toasted
barley flakes
steel-cut oats
craked wheat

Don't stress too much about this, I used a different mixture, and I believed it had 8 grains and cereals instead of 10.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gingersnap Lemon Ice Cream Sandwiches

Gelato is ever present in Italy, everywhere you go there is a gelateria where you can find the most amazing flavors of ice cream (malaga, bacio and melone are some of my favorites). Just two blocks from my house there was a wonderful ice cream shop, Gelateria Causin, owned by a nice couple whose son worked there, and was/is the cousin of one of my classmates, whom I had a crush on. They weren't too bold with experimenting, their flavors were classic, but the ice cream was delicious. After many years in business the couple retired and the son sold the business, which has never been the same after they left. I wish I had known back then that I was going to make ice cream as a living, I would have asked them to apprentice at the shop, to learn their craft and maybe get a chance at romance with my former classmate.

Mr. Causin, like I remembered him, waiting for his costumers*

I have learned how to make a simple ice cream base with eggs, milk, cream and sugar. I change the flavors depending on the season, cardamom, ginger, vanilla, lemon thyme, lemon verbena, you name it, but this time I turned to two of my favorite Pastry Chefs, cookbook author extraordinaire, Emily Luchetti and David Lebovitz. While David left the Bay Area some time ago (did it do it for the French macaroons?), Emily still lives in the Bay Area, and works as the Executive Pastry Chef at Farallon Restaurant. Years ago I casually bought David's first book Room for Dessert not quite knowing who he was, but it was love at first sight when I read that he doesn't like chocolate and raspberries together, and that he is crazy for cardamom. I met Emily Luchetti when I bought her book Passion for Dessert, and had it signed at a Bakers' Dozen function. She was part of a panel of authors presenting their just released books and she answered a question that made me realize how down to earth she was despite her success. Emily is someone I would love to work with one day (not that I haven't tried, twice as a matter of fact). Her books have been the source of many recipes, her taste is impeccable and I love reading the little stories she writes on how every recipes came to being. David and Emily came out with an ice cream book almost at the same time but they are very different, hers more feminine and light, his bolder. I decided to join the two authors in an ice cream sandwich so I used Emily's recipe for ginger snaps and David's for the ice cream. I consider ice cream sandwiches something every grown up should have once in a while, to feel like a kid again.

Ginger Snaps

adapted from A Passion for Ice Cream

1 cup a/p flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground white pepper
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp kosher salt
4 oz. butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 TBS molasses

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and the brown sugar together until smooth. Stir in the egg, mix, then stir in the molasses and scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl well. Stir in the rest of the dry, pre-sifted ingredient in two additions. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 3 hours. Divide the dough in half, and roll in two 9-inch-long-logs and refrigerate or freeze until solid (I actually scooped the dough with an ice cream scooper). Cut the logs into 1/2" slices (there should be 24 cookies), roll them in the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, arrange them on a baking pan (they expand quite a lot), and bake in a pre-heated 350F oven. Bake until set and still puffy, they will sink as they cool.

Lemon Ice Cream

adapted from The Perfect Scoop

Zest of 2 organic meyer lemons
1/2 cup sugar (100 gr)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, approximately 3 lemons (125 ml)
2 cups half-and-half (500 ml)
Pinch of salt

Process the zest with the sugar in a food processor until fine, and the sugar is nicely colored and the lemon oil has been released. Add the juice and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Mix in the half-and-half and the salt until smooth. Chill for an hour, then freeze the mixture according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

*Photo courtesy of unknown photographer, I can't find the site anymore. If I do I will give proper credit.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ricotta Fig Tart

More figs you say? But if you have followed me for a while, you would know that I am a big fan of this versatile fruit (see here, here, here, and here). I could eat figs every day, and now that the season of fresh figs is over I can still get my daily fix with dry figs if I need to. A neighbor has a fig tree she doesn't pick (what's wrong with her?), and I mean to contact her to see if I can do pick it for her and share the bounty, I think there are still a few on the branches. Figs and I go way back, and one of the favorite things to eat as a child where these huge, soft, drenched in corn start, figs my dad used to bring home. I owe my dad a lot of things, my love for eating is one of them.

I haven't made this tart in ages, not sure why since it is one of my favorites. I was trying to think of something new to try with ricotta, my favorite cheese to bake with, to increase my chances of winning the cheese guide and cookbook Sweet Charity is giving away. After a little search in my ever growing stack of cookbooks, I realized that many ricotta recipes were either for Easter cakes, or where kind of boring. I also remembered I still had some extra pasta frolla in the fridge so I opted to make this tart, which you have to give it a try, it is delicious! I suppose that if you are not a fan of figs (how is that even possible?), you could substitute other dried fruit, like plums, or cherries for the figs.

This recipe comes originally from my first ever cookbook I bought in the States, Spago Desserts, which I purchased shortly after moving from Venice to Santa Monica, and is one that has given me few wonderful recipes. I haven't changed the filling of this tart since I think it is perfect the way it is, but I don't use a brioche dough as the base like the book calls for. The brioche didn't work so well the first time I tried it (probably due to my inexperience with yeast doughs), and I think the tart is better and more elegant with a buttery pate sucree. This recipe introduced me to one of my favorite spices, cardamom, a spice I had never used or seen in Italy. After smelling it and tasting it in this wonderful tart I have become a total cardamom addict, I use it a lot, and one of my favorite ways to enjoy it is as an ice cream flavor, in Cardamom Ice Cream.

Make ahead notes:

*When making this tart, plan ahead, since the figs need to be reconstituted in liquor, and the tart is best served chilled. Don't skip the orange zest as it is a match made in heaven with the cardamom and it add a great dimension to the tart.

*If you can't stand the blandness of store bought ricotta, try making it at home with this recipe, it is easy and really superior to the store variety. I would also use whole milk ricotta, not the low fat or fat free versions, the end result will not be the same.

Ricotta Fig Tart
adapted from Spago Desserts

pasta frolla or pate sucree

3/4 pound dark dry figs (I use black mission)
3/4 rum or armagnac
3/4 pound whole milk ricotta
3 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
3 table spoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
pinch of salt

2 TBS almond meal
1 TBS sugar

Roll the dough to a 1/4" thickness, and transfer it into a 10" tart shell. Cut the dry figs in half, and marinate them in rum or Armagnac, until needed. In a large bowl mix the cheeses until smooth, add the sugar and mix until smooth. Add the whole eggs and the yolk, one at a time. Add the lemon juice, orange zest, extract, cardamom and the salt. Mix just until combined. Poured the filling into the tart shell. Drain the figs and arrange onto the filling, without letting them sink. Bake in a 350F pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes, then add the almond meal mixed with the sugar. Keep baking until the filling is firm to the touch and lightly golden, another 20 minutes or so. Cool on a wire rack and then chill until ready to serve.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

La crostata di mele e mandorle e' di Adriano Continisio

I apologize to my English readers but I have no choice but to join this protest against plagiarism. A well known Italian TV personality "stole" the following tart recipe from Adriano's blog, Profumo di Lievito, and passed it for hers during a TV appearance. Apparently the same woman did the exact thing back in 2003 to Lydia of Tzatziki a colazione. Many Italian food bloggers are publishing Adriano's original recipe today, giving him the credit, and the amazing thing is that nobody is writing the plagiarist's name as everyone knows who she is (except me since I live in the USA and I am clearly not following Italian TV). Don't you love the Internet? Power to the masses! This recipes looked amazing, and I had heard about it from other bloggers so I was happy to try it with or without the protest. The title means "The Apple and Almond Tart is by Adriano Continisio". Adriano wrote about the experience here, and Lydia here.

Pasta Frolla is an Italian version of tart dough, made by mixing the butter with the flour until sandy and then adding the liquids. I had been meaning to try Adriano's recipe anyway since many blogs complimented on it, so here you go, try it too.

The original recipe appeared here, and I am going to reproduce it to the letter, and you can find a translated version at the bottom of the post.

Oggi partecipo a questa protesta, organizzata da Rosy of Rosemarie & Thyme, copiando la ricetta di Adriano pari passo, e il testo seguente da Rosy.

Perchè oggi 8 novembre 2009 molti food bloggers e forumisti pubblicano in contemporanea questa ricetta?

Per solidarietà con Adriano Continisio che l'ha inventata e pubblicata sul suo blog già nel 2007.

Riassumendolo in pochissime parole, questa manifestazione vuole porre l'attenzione prima di tutto sulla necessità di un comportamento corretto per chi usa la rete nei confronti di chi pubblica materiale. Spesso si sceglie di mettere a disposizione il proprio materiale o lavoro con una licenza che permette di usarlo a condizione che se ne citi la fonte e questo è già un dono, a mio avviso. Si dice a chi legge: puoi gratuitamente utilizzare il materiale, puoi prenderlo, ma devi specificare che è mio e dire dove l'hai preso. Non è chiedere molto!

Altra importante condizione è che il materiale non venga usato a scopo di lucro.
Quando tutte e due le condizioni non vengono rispettate è evidente che la cosa è ancor più grave.

Questa volta è capitato ad Adriano, ma nel tempo è già capitato ad altri. Creare un tam tam è forse il primo di tanti passi per avversare il fenomeno, perciò ci siamo uniti e oggi pubblichiamo con il nome del suo autore la ricetta e la foto della crostata che ognuno di noi ha preparato.

E' ora che tutti sappiano di chi è la farina e pure il sacco!!!!! Crostata di Mele e Mandorle ricetta di Adriano, di Profumo di Lievito Ingredienti 400 gr pasta frolla*
4 mele grandi (ca. 600gr al netto degli scarti) 80 gr di zucchero 4 cucchiai di amaretto di saronno succo di mezzo limone poca cannella in polvere massa di mandorle 120 gr uova intere 60 gr zucchero 50 gr farina di mandorle 15 gr farina di mais fioretto 15 gr di fecola un pizzico di sale estratto di mandorle una manciata di mandorle a lamelle sciroppo di zucchero, marmellata di albicocche.
Saltare a fiamma alta le mele sbucciate e tagliate a cubetti, miscelate con il succo di limone e lo zucchero, fino a che non risultino asciutte ma non spappolate. Incorporare il liquore e la cannella e lasciare raffreddare.
Foderare uno stampo da 26cm e cuocere in bianco per 15 minuti (i primi 10 con carta da forno e riso). Nel frattempo montare le uova con lo zucchero ed il sale, incorporare delicatamente le polveri e poche gocce di estratto. Pennellare la frolla con poca marmellata, versare le mele, coprire con la massa e cospargere con le mandorle a filetti. In forno a 170° per ca. 20 minuti. All'uscita dal forno lucidare con sciroppo a 30°be.

Per chi non conosce l'antefatto la storia è su Profumo di Lievito, il blog di Adriano

Dal post di Adriano i seguenti chiarimenti sul dolce:

Quanto conservare la crostata
Adriano: la marmellata fa da parziale barriera, ma la frolla tende ed assorbire l'umido delle mele. Una giornata regge. La farcia è morbida e la copertura inizialmente croccante, poi si ammorbidisce.

Come ottenere lo sciroppo a 30° be per lucidare la torta
Adriano: per lo sciroppo: versare 100 gr di acqua in un pentolino, aggiungere 135 gr di zucchero semolato, portare ad ebollizione, poi lascia reffreddare.

Le uova come sono pesate?
Adriano: le uova vanno pesate senza guscio.

*Per la pasta frolla
la mia ricetta è questa, dividete per 4 o 5
1000 gr farina 0 biscotto (in alternativa 900 gr 00 e 100 gr fecola di patate)
500 gr burro appena morbido
250 gr zucchero a velo (200 se utilizziamo il miele)
200 gr uova intere (oppure 150 gr uova e 50 gr di miele d’acacia se vogliamo una frolla morbida)
6 gr di sale sciolto in 20 gr di succo di limone
6 gr di lievito istantaneo (se utilizziamo farina normale)
zeste grattugiate di un limone
1 cucchiaino di essenza di vaniglia.

Per ulteriori spiegazioni cliccare su La pasta frolla perfetta di Adriano.

For English readers

Apple and Almond Tart

400 gr of Pasta Frolla*

4 big apples (600 gr after cleaning them), cut in cubes
80 gr sugar
4 TBS Amaretto di Saronno liquor
juice of 1/2 lemon

Cook the apples with the sugar and the lemon juice until dry but not too soft. Add the liquor and the cinnamon. Let cool.

Almond Paste
120 gr eggs
60 gr sugar
50 gr almond meal
15 corn flour
15 corn starch
Pinch of salt
almond extract

1/2 cup of sliced almonds
apricot jam

Pre-heat the oven at 350F. Line a 9"-10" tart mold with the pasta frolla. Blind bake the tart crust with pie weights for 15 minutes, removing the weight for the last 5 minutes. While the tart is baking, beat the whole eggs with the sugar and the salt, gently incorporate the dry ingredients and few drops of almond extract. Brush some apricot jam on the crust, add the cooked apples, cover with the almond paste, spread the sliced almonds on top and bake in a pre-heated oven at 350F for about 20 minutes. Brush the top with some sugar syrup (100 gr water and 135 gr sugar, brought to a boil and cooled).

*Pasta Frolla

1000 gr pastry flour
500 gr butter, softened
250 gr powder sugar
200 gr eggs (about 3 large eggs)
6 gr salt
20 gr lemon juice
6 gr baking powder (if using a/p flour)
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract

Slightly beat the eggs until the salt is dissolved. Mix the flour and the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until sandy. Add the sifter powder sugar and mix fore few seconds. Add the eggs to the flour/butter mixture and mix until the dough comes together. Wrap tightly and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use. Divide it in portions, wrap tightly and freeze it.

Laura's notes:

*I used more like 200 gr of pasta frolla for my 9" tart, maybe I rolled it too thin. The pasta frolla was nice and soft, easy to roll and not sticky at all.

*This recipe lends to many variations, so it is surprising that the above mentioned TV personality didn't try to change it and make it her own. I can picture the apples cooked with brown sugar and star anise, and other liquors added to the almond paste. The crust can also be modified with the addition of nuts for example.

*The tart took much longer to cook, it was really pale for a long time. I also over beat the eggs so the filling is more spongy than creamy.

* The apple filling was too sweet in my opinion, next time I will use less sugar.

* The cake was really good, the crust nice and soft, the flavors went well together, definitely a keeper.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sourdough Cinnamon Bread

There are many advantages of speaking more than one language obviously, but one became clear relatively recently when I started discovering a great deal of wonderful Italian food bloogers. I love to read in my native language, learn about restaurants and food trends, rediscover dishes, and feel a little nostalgia (ok, a lot!). One of the Italian blogs in my ever growing reading list is Profumo di mamma, a blog that Gaia only started this past August, but that in a very short time has become a great source of inspiration. When I saw these little sour dough panini I knew immediately that I had to try them. See, I have been keeping a starter in my fridge for almost a year now, but I rarely use it.

I started this mother culture when I was testing some recipes for bread guru Peter Reinhart's new book, which I can't wait to get my hands on, and I was sent the full instructions to start a mother dough. I had tried making a starter before, with various degrees of success, but this last one was a very powerful one, super active, not too sour, and I can leave it in the fridge abandoned for a month and it comes to life beautifully. Because of laziness I haven't used it much, but Gaia's recipe couldn't be passed.

Since cinnamon bread is really popular in my house, I decided to change the recipe a little to add cinnamon, which is used rarely in Italy, but it is something I grew to love after leaving in the States for few years, except when it is added to cappuccino. I slightly decreased the amount of sugar in the dough since I wanted to roll the dough in cinnamon sugar. Last change was the addition of honey, since I didn't have any malt in the house. I wanted to make little crescent rolls like Gaia, but in my notes I explain why it didn't work. The bread turned out very delicious, soft and full of cinnamon flavor, and the dough was not sour at all. Thank you Gaia for inspiring me to try this recipe. Now I have to keep the starter well fed so I can make these more often.

I know I am weird, but can you see a face on this roll like I do? A little deformed, but it is there.

I am submitting this recipe to yeast spotting, a fun weekly event organized by the talented Susan of Wild Yeast.

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from Profumo di Mamma

350 gr mother starter
150 ml milk
1oo gr sugar
1 large egg
1 tbs honey
400/450 gr all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
50 gr butter, softened
cinnamon sugar (5o gr sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon)
1 large egg for egg wash

Add all the ingredients, except the butter and the cinnamon sugar, to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the hook attachment. Mix the dough at low speed for 5 minutes to develop the gluten. Add the softened butter and mix for few more minutes until incorporated. Adjust the amount of flour to have a soft and tacky dough. Remove the dough onto a well floured counter top. Let rest for 5 minutes, then proceed with pulling and folding the dough like an envelope, which will develop the gluten. Let rest for 30 minutes and repeat the pulling and folding two more times. Allow the dough to double in size. Roll the dough to 1/2" thickness, brush with the egg wash, sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar (leaving one long edge free of sugar). Roll tight and cut into pieces 1' to 1 1/2" thick. Distribute the rolls onto a 10" well buttered cake pan. Let rise in a warm place until double (1h to 1h30m). Bake at 350F until nicely brown.

*I normally leave my doughs sticky because the folding is done with extra flour so by the time I am done with the second folding the dough has the right consistency, and is still wet, which works so much better in my opinion.

*I had to fold the dough a third time because it didn't look ready after two folds, I wonder if it had to do with the milk or the fact that it was a mother dough.

*Because of the wild yeast, the dough took a while to rise, next time I will let it rise in the fridge overnight to save time and so it will be cold and easier to handle.

*I initially planned to make all the dough into little crescents, but the dough was too soft, so I decided to try two crescents and the rest was turned into a cross between Monkey Bread and Cinnamon Rolls.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Focaccia with Figs and Walnuts

The talented Paoletta of Anice e Cannella challenged us again to join a fun Autumn game. In the Summer she gave us a recipe and we were challenged to copy or change it to our liking, this time we were given the ingredients and we had to come up with the recipe.

Since the ingredients are some of my favorites to work with, and I love baking bread, I decided to give this focaccia a twist by adding egg yolks, sugar, and increasing the amount of corn flour. I probably used the last figs of the season, but dry reconstituted figs could be used as well.

The result was so spectacular and really tasty.

Focaccia con fichi e noci

for the sponge:
1 cup warm water (225 ml)
1 tsp active yeast (4 gr.)
1 cup all/purpose flour (130 gr)

Add the yeast to the warm water and let it stand for 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix until incorporated. Let stand at room temperature until bubbly, or let stand overnight to develop more flavor.

for the dough
3/4 cup water (200 ml)
1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast (2 gr.)
1/3 cup olive oil (75 gr)
1 tsp kosher salt (40 gr)
1/4 cup cornmeal (40 gr)
2 yolks
4 tbs sugar (40 gr)
3 cups all purpose flour (375-400gr)
1 pint of fresh figs (10-12 figs), quartered
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
one egg for the egg wash

Add the rest of the ingredients to the sponge and mix for 5 minutes at low speed on an electric mixer fitted with the hook attachment. Adjust the amount of flour to have a sticky dough. Remove the dough, which should be sticky and tacky, onto a well floured counter top. Let rest for 5 minutes, then proceed with pulling and folding the dough like an envelope, which will develop the gluten. Let rest for 30 minutes and repeat the pulling and folding. Let double at room temperature, about 1 hour. Press the dough onto a well oiled baking pan. Brush the top with one egg, dd the quartered figs and the crushed walnuts and let rise at room temperature for another hour. Bake at 350F until nicely browned and the internal temperature reaches 200F.

Focaccia con fichi e noci

225 ml di acqua tiepida
4 gr. di lievito di birra secco
130 gr di farina

Sciogliere il lievito nell'acqua tiepida e lasciarlo riposare per 5 minuti. Incorporare la farina e lasciare lievitare a temperatura ambiente per una o due ore. Per sviluppare piu' sapore si puo' lasciar lievitare per tutta la notte.

Per la pasta:
200 ml di acqua tiepida
2 gr. di lievito di birra secco
75 gr olio d'oliva extravergine
4 gr di sale
40 gr farina di mais
2 tuorli
40 gr di zucchero
375-400 gr farina
10-12 fichi, tagliati in quattro
una manciata di noci spezzettate
1 uovo

Aggiungere il resto degli ingredienti meno l'uovo alla prefermentazione e mescolare per 5 minuti in un mixer, aggiungendo farina q.b. per fare una pasta morbida e appiccicosa. Versare la pasta su un ripiano infarinato e lasciare riposare per cinque minuti, poi procedete tirando e piegando la pasta come se fosse una busta, per sviluppare il glutine. Lasciare riposare la pasta per 30 minute e ripetere le pieghe una seconda volta. Lasciare lievitare a temperatura ambiente fino a raddoppiare il volume, circa 1 ora. Distribuire la pasta in una piastra da forno ben oliata. Spennellare la pasta con un uovo sbattuto, aggiungere i fichi e le noci e lasciare lievitare per un'ora. Cucinare in forno medio (175C) fino a che prenda colore e la temperatura interna raggiunga gli 80C gradi.

Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daring Bakers-French Macarons

I remembered the first time I tasted a French Macaron, it came all the way from Paris via a family friend, and it was from Pierre Hermé, of all places. It was a revelation, the flavors were amazing, so was the texture. After I switched my career to the Art of Pastry I decided I had to master these delicate morsels. The first recipe I tried was from the Chocolate Desserts book by Pierre Hermé, and obviously they were chocolate macarons. They were truly amazing, and for a while I was making them as part of the cookie platter at the restaurant where I worked. After a while I stopped making them, mostly because of laziness, and because I have a hard time not eating then non stop. But soon I discovered a sunflower seeds and ginseng recipe in the gorgeous book Wild Sweets and I was hooked again.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

For this challenge I had left over egg whites from all the challah bread I make for the farmers' market, so I had plenty to work with. To be daring, I wanted to compare recipes and try different flavors so I chose to make the sunflower seeds recipe, Fleming's recipe with the addition of cocoa powder, and Tartelette's recipe to which I substituted half pistachios and added a little cardamom. I also made some macha macarons using Helen's recipe, because I have been wanting to make those for ages, and I filled them with red bean paste butter cream, YUM!

For the complete recipe please check Ami's blog Baking without Fear here.

The daring kitchen has a forum for the Daring Bakers and I had read many posts complaining of the lack of feet using Fleming's recipe, which has less sugar than more traditional recipes, including Helen's of Tartelette. Helen was wonderful and helped by sharing her expertize with macarons, but still the recipe was at fault, I believe. After trying one batch using Fleming's recipe I have to agree with the other DBs, mine got no feet and they all cracked. Plus they were not soft, but quite hard.

The other macarons all had feet and looked like they are supposed to look. The eggs whites were the same, aged the same, the only difference, beside the cocoa powder, was the ratio of almonds and sugar. I will stick with the other recipe from now on since it worked for me.

Thanks Ami for challenging us with this recipe and to all the other daring bakers for their talent and inspiration. Check their work here.

Sunflower Ginseng Macarons

225 gr icing sugar (sifted)
50 gr sunflower seeds
75 gr almonds
1 tsp ginseng powder
100 gr whites
25 granulated sugar

Grind the sunflower seeds with a little bit of powder sugar in a coffee grinder. For the method, follow Tartelette's recipe.


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