madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


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gluten free bruschetta bread

 GF bruschetta bread!

a beautiful gluten-free loaf of bread!

 

This has been very difficult. And slow. And sometime a little discouraging. It often happens with gluten free cooking, you probably already know it.

I have started to experiment with gluten-free flours about 3 years ago and to try to make GF bread about one year ago. Last September, I got the first bread that looked like something I would actually want to eat. It has taken me another 7 months to perfect it.

Of course I don’t bake bread everyday. In addition, I am a small eater so each loaf lasts me several days as I am the only GF person in the house. But still, I must have made at least 20 different recipes to get to this point.

You will probably say: “what’s the big deal? the internet is full of GF bread recipes, why don’t you make one of those? “. I know, I have obsessively read hundreds of gluten-free bread recipes. However, I was looking for a specific result, let me explain please, it’s going to be a bit long.

bruschetta, the real one, no-frills

a slice of rustic bread made with wheat flour

1) I wanted  bruschetta bread, meaning an Umbrian style white loaf with a neutral taste, a crunchy crust and a relatively light and dry crumble. This type of bread is ideal not only to make bruschetta or crostini, but is a perfect accompaniment to and Umbrian style appetizer of cured meats (like prosciutto or salami) and pecorino or rubbed with garlic and doused with olive oil on top of a soup.

2) I wanted to make bread that works with different gluten-free flour mixes. Often recipes of GF mixes call for ingredients I can’t buy locally. Besides, if my mix has ingredients not available to you – who are probably living on the other side of the planet –  you will not be able to reproduce it.

3) I wanted to make bread without eggs, nut flours and soy as they are allergenic. I use butter in this recipe but you can easily substitute it with vegetable shortening if you are intolerant or vegan. I wanted bread that could be modified according to people’s allergies. No corn? Use millet.

4) last but not least, I have been absolutely appalled by the incredible high amounts of yeast used in many recipes. GF dough needs a little more yeast than a wheat based dough, but anyone who knows anything about bread making will tell you that over-yeasting is never a good idea. The bread is less digestible and definitely less palatable than the one made with small amounts of yeast and allowed to raise slowly at relatively low temperature.

Based on the above requirements, here is what I found out so far:

a) IT’S ALL IN THE METHOD. All commercial GF flour mixes are based on variable amounts of cornstarch, rice flour, tapioca and potato starch. A mix is generally added with one or more thickening agents like xanthan, pectin, guar, psyllium or cellulose. After so many experiments, I think that with a bit of patience and method any gluten-free flour mix based on starches and seed flours can be used to make a reasonable bread. I think small amounts of bean flours might also work but I haven’t tested it.

I have made this bread with 4 different commercial gluten-free flour mixes. GF bread flour in Italy is added with guar and cellulose not with xanthan. Some mixes have milk some don’t but I don’t think this has an influence on the final result. I find that every mix has a different aftertaste so you might need to try a few to see which one you like better.

I also find that every flour absorbs a different amount of water so you might need to adjust the final amount. If your dough is too dry the bread will not raise. If it’s too wet you will not be able to give it a shape.

b) A pre-ferment also named poolish or Italian sponge is essential for a light bread.

c) Adding steam to the oven while baking bread is the key to a high loaf with a crunchy crust. Cooking it in a pan will invariably produce a less crispy crust than a shaped loaf.

d) butter in the dough helps achieving the desired texture, olive oil not so much.

Recipe

With gluten-free bread you need to weight your ingredients. Please also weight the water or convert accurately

  • 1/2 kg (18 oz) of your favorite gluten-free flour mix for bread
  • 100 gr (3.5 oz) tapioca or cornstarch
  • 50 gr (2 oz) very fine corn meal or polenta flour*
  • 4 gr (1 teaspoon) dry yeast
  • 25 gr (1 oz) butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt

*the corn meal is used to flavor the mix. I use a type of Italian cornmeal called “fumetto” wich is as fine as wheat flour. You can substitute it with any flour you like, e.g. buckwheat, chestnut, quinoa, sorghum, teff or simply more rice flour provided that it is very finely ground to avoid grittiness.

Make the pre-ferment (poolish):

In a tupperware, mix the tapioca and corn meal with 150 ml water and 1 gr (1/4 teaspoon) yeast to make a thick batter. Add 1-2 tablespoon extra water if the mixture looks dry and clumpy. Cover, wrap in a tea towel and store overnight in a draft free place. I keep it in the microwave if I am not planning to use it. The poolish is ready when the surface is covered with small bubbles.

mix the poolish ingredients in a plastic box

mix the poolish ingredients in a plastic box

GF_bruschetta_bread02

to obtain a thick batter

when the poolish is ready it's covered by small air bubbles

when the poolish is ready it’s covered by small air bubbles

Make the dough:

The next day, using a stand mixer or food processor, mix the flour first with the softened butter then add all the poolish plus 3 gr (3/4 teaspoon ) of the dry yeast and salt. With the machine running at medium speed, start adding the water. GF flours absord incredible amounts of water. You will need 280-300 ml to obtain a really sticky dough. If the dough forms a ball, add more water as a ball it’s too dry to raise.

a very sticky thick batter

a very sticky thick batter

Using a spatula transfer the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap then with a tea towel and put it in a draft free place to raise.

the dough before rasing

the dough before rasing

and after

and after

Form the bread:

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and flour it well. Using a spatula, place the dough on the paper, cut it  into 2 or 3 loaves and roll it very carefully in the flour to give them shape. Don’t knead the dough as it might deflate.

GF_bruschetta_bread11

Place the dough on floured parchment paper.

GF_bruschetta_bread12

cut the dough into 2-3 loaves and roll carefully away from each other

Bake the bread:

Preheat oven to 180 °C (360° F) and place a pizza stone in it. You want to start cooking the bread on a hot surface. If you don’t have a pizza stone use an empty metal cookie sheet or large metal pizza pan which is what I do.

GF_bruschetta_bread14

cover the dough with a towel supported by the handle of a pan so it does not touch the loaves

Cover with a tea towel as explained in the picture and let it rise again 45 minutes to one hour.

the loaves raising on top of the warm stove

with the oven on, I place the loaves raising on the stove so they keep nice and warm

If your dough is to wet, the loaves might spread out. If this happens, fold them in half along the length just before baking and roll them carefully in flour. Brush the surface with a mixture made with one teaspoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon milk or butter. A this point you can decorate it with sesame or other seeds if you like.

Slide the parchment paper with the loaves over the pizza stone or the hot pan that you have previously placed inside to heat up. Add a pan of hot water to steam the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes then remove the pan of water. Continue baking for additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until light golden all around.

Remove to a rack to cool. Don’t cover it until is completely cool otherwise the crust will become soft. Allow to cool completely before slicing or opening.

The bread keeps well for several days without crumbling or falling apart. I slice one loaf and freeze it and then revive it in the toaster when I need it.

In the video below by my favorite Italian GF bloggers you can see how thick is the dough how to form it on parchment paper and cook it on a hot surface. Note that they don’t use a poolish in this recipe nor steam the oven. Nevertheless the results are wonderful.

post submitted to Yeast Spotting

 

 


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Traditional Italian Easter dove bread

Colomba, the heavenly Easter sweet bread from Italy

Colomba, the heavenly Easter sweet bread from Italy

COLOMBA PASQUALE FATTA IN CASA.

You may not be the most beautiful dove but you have a sweet, buttery heart. You may not be not the softest but I have made you with stone-ground artisan flour, organic sugar and eggs, homemade candied orange peel and only 1/4 teaspoon yeast. I’ve made you with love and all the necessary time.

Actually, I did not have the time for you. Tomorrow we open our B&B. In the last few days I have laundered 30 blankets, cleaned, waxed and polished every object and piece of furniture and stocked the refrigerator and larder. I am tired and sleepless but I wanted to make something good for my family for Easter.

On second thought, there is always time for something good.

Recipe

Poolish (pre-ferment):

  • 60 gr flour (scant 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoon yogurt with live cultures (e.g. a probiotic)
  • enough water to make a very thick batter (1 and 1/2 to 2 tablespoon)
  • 1 gr ( 1/4 teaspoon) dry yeast

1st dough:

  • 260 gr ( 1 and 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoon) good-quality strong flour
  • 75 gr (1/4 cup) light brown sugar
  • 100 gr (4/5 stick) butter
  • 100 ml (2/5 cup) water at room temperature
  • 1 egg

2nd dough:

  • 60 gr flour (scant 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoon soft butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup regular sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

Decoration

  • 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • icing sugar
  • 4 tablespoon chopped candied orange peel

Colomba, the Easter dove shaped bread, was invented in 1930 by Angelo Motta to extend the success of industrially produced pandoro and panettone. All of them are descendents of the brioche-like sweet breads made for the Italian Renaissance courts some 500 years ago.

In our home, we stay away from mass-produced holidays breads. As I mentioned in my breadmaker Pandoro recipe, commercial Christmas breads that have a shelf life of a year, can’t possibly be healthy for you.

Making such a large brioche is work and time intensive. I simplified the method using the dough cycle of my bread-maker as follows:

Day 1, early afternoon

In a glass or ceramic bowl mix the poolish ingredients, cover with a tea towel and let it rest until evening. As I am using only a minimal amount of yeast you will see a very small increase of volume, don’t worry. This allows for flexibility in the preparation. The dough raises so slowly that if you do anything one hour later nothing gets spoiled. In addition the dough has the time to develop flavor with hardly any acidity.

Early evening

Assemble all ingredients for 1st Dough in the bread-maker and add the poolish. Start the shortest dough cycle (mine takes 2.2 hours). After 10 min or so open the lid quickly to check if the dough has formed, close and leave it there until the next day. You might need to add more water as not all flours absorb the same amount of moisture. You need to have a soft dough.

Day 2, morning

Open the bread-maker lid and add all ingredients for 2nd Dough to the previous one. Start the dough cycle once again. When finished leave it in the breadmaker with the lid closed.

Day 2, afternoon

Transfer the dough onto a floured worktop. The dough is very soft at this stage. Use a plastic flat spatula to handle it. Lightly knead in the candied orange peel.

Transfer the dough  into a generously buttered dove-shaped mold. The first time I made this recipe, I did not have the dove mold, so I cut it into 3 cylinders, a longer one for the body and two for the wings. I then shaped it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper as shown in the picture.

if you don't have a dove mold, use parchment paper and 4 ramekins to keep it in shape

if you don’t have a dove mold, use parchment paper and ramekins to keep it in shape.

If you find a mold you will need one that can hold a 750 gr cake (7- 8 cups, 11 x 8 inches).

Cover carefully with a light tea towel and let it raise for another hour or so in a draft-free area of your kitchen.

For the glaze: mix sugar, cornstarch and enough water to make a thick paste. Drizzle or pipe the glaze over the dove. Be gentle or it will deflate! Sprinkle the surface with whole almonds, a few additional slivers of candied peel and icing sugar or sugar pearls.

Bake in preheated oven at 170 °C (340 °F) for 40 min or until beautifully golden. Cool at room temperature and unmold several hours later or the next day.

HAPPY EASTER!

thsi is the Colomba in its proper dove shape mould

this is the Colomba in its proper dove shape mould


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savory cauliflower crostata

savory gluten free crunchiness, so delcious, so light.

savory gluten-free crunchiness, so delicious, so light

Does cauliflower count for detox? That’s what we are supposed to do for at least one week in January, isn’t it? Have you done the salad treatment and figured it’s bad for you since there’s a foot of snow outside? It’s too cold for self-inflicted punishment.

I am so glad is not bikini time yet. That’s even worse than New Year detox. Lucky me I don’t even wear a bikini anymore.

As a consequence I can have this wholesome, gluten-free food which is every bit as good and crunchy as any gluten equivalent. Not bad for a healthy dose of veggies and – as an added bonus – is wonderfully easy to digest.

Recipe

  • 1 cauliflower, cleaned and separated into florets
  • 1  garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 eggs
  • 5 tablespoon grated parmesan
  • 200 gr (7 oz) young Pecorino or Asiago, diced
  • 125 gr ( 1 and 1/8 cup) tapioca flour
  • 125 gr ( 1 and 1/8 cup) glutinous rice flour
  • 125 gr (1 stick) butter

Preheat oven to 200° C/ 390° F.

Using my food processor method for sweet pastry, make the savory shell using the tapioca and glutinous rice flours, 2 eggs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoon Parmesan and enough cold water to obtain a firm dough. I have tried to make pastry with various gluten-free flours but this is by far the easiest and most consistent in terms of structure and flavor.

Line a 10 inch ( 25 cm) tart pan with parchment paper. Roll the dough into a 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thin disk and transfer into the tart pan so to make a case with shallow sides. I roll the dough onto a clingfilm sheet and then I flip it into the lined tart pan.

Cover with the clingfilm and transfer in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 an hour and up to half a day. This crucial step will give you a crispy shell.

Blanch the cauliflower florets in plenty boiling water, drain.  Saute 1 finely minced clove of garlic in 2 tablespoon olive oil until fragrant. Add cauliflower florets and saute briefly to infuse in the garlicky oil. Season to taste with salt and black or red pepper. Set aside.

While the cauliflower is cooling, whisk 3 eggs with 1/2 cup milk and the rest of the grated parmesan. Transfer the cauliflower into the pastry shell and top with diced Pecorino cheese making sure to push the cubes in between the florets.

Pour the egg mixture over the tart and transfer into the oven.

Bake the crostata in middle of the oven 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden. We love it hot from the oven but it’s still good at room temperature.

Serves 4 as a vegetarian main, 6 as a side or appetizer.

PS. If in a hurry, using good quality store-bought puff pastry is a quick alternative to the pastry shell. In this case it’s obviously not suitable for a gluten-free diet.


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fried Sicilian pidoni (you can also bake them)

endive stuffed Sicilian pidoni

PIDONI FRITTI ALLA MESSINESE. The Pitoni or Pidoni are parcels of a pizza-like dough, stuffed with curly endive, mozzarella and a tiny bit of anchovy. Not dissimilar to calzoni but fried, they are a typical and most appreciated dish from Messina. In Sicily you can find them in the friggitorie, the Italian equivalent of fish and chips shops.

The dough it’s made with more fat than regular pizza, so it becomes deliciously flaky once is fried.

I know, I know what you’re thinking. “I can’t fry”. The pidoni in the picture are actually baked and fabulous. However if you can, do fry them please. Just once, you won’t regret it.

For this recipe you need a summer evening, a bunch of friends and family, kids running around in the garden, plenty cold drinks and a huge bucket of fruit salad as a dessert. They are filling so it’s a one dish dinner. It’s party food, make it once and I promise, they’ll want it forever.

Recipe

For the dough:

  • 400 gr (3 cups) Italian 00 or pastry flour
  • 200 gr ( 2 cups) Manitoba or strong bread flour
  • 300 ml (1 and 1/3 cup) water
  • 2 gr ( 1/2 teaspoon) active dry yeast
  • 40 gr (6 tablespoon) olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

For the filling:

  • 500 gr (1 lb, about 2 bunches) curly endive which is also named chicory or frisee
  • 600 gr /18 oz diced canned tomato
  • 400 gr (14 oz) fresh mozzarella
  • 6-8 anchovy fillets
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • vegetable oil for deep frying

Schedule and method:

  1. Twenty-four hours before you need it, make the dough using  my instructions for slow focaccia. Basically you need to mix the dough ingredients , oil the dough, cover it and let it raise in a draft-free area. About half way the proving period knead it briefly to knock off the gas and cover again.
  2. A couple of hours before dinner, make the filling. Wash the curly endive thoroughly and chop it finely. I pulse it in a food processor. Mix the chopped salad with the tomatoes, salt lightly and transfer in a colander for at least one hour. It’s important to remove as much liquid as possible from the vegetable mixture so squeeze it in a cotton towel if necessary. Transfer in a bowl, add one tablespoon olive oil and season the filling with a sprinkle of black pepper.
  3. One hour before dinner, divide the risen dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball. Place each ball on a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a thin disk of about 20 cm ( 8 inch) in diameter.
  4. Now assemble the pidoni. You’ll need to work fast so they don’t fall apart. Divide the filling among the 16 disks leaving a 2.5cm ( 1 inch) margin around the edge. Place 1 slice of mozzarella and 1/2 anchovy fillet broken in 2-3 pieces over the filling and fold the disk of dough to form a small calzone.
  5. It’s time to cook them. Preheat the oil in a deep saucepan,  until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden in about 25 seconds. Seal the edges of the pidoni with a fork,  drop them carefully  into the hot oil and fry for 3-4 minutes per batch until golden . Drain on kitchen towel and set aside while you continue making the next batch. Continue until all are finished and serve.

If you decide to bake them, brush the pidoni with olive oil on both sides, place them in an oven tray lined with parchment paper and bake them in a very hot oven until golden, 15- 20 min.

Serves 6-8


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sour-cherry braided brioche

a golden, buttery brioche enveloping a spectacular preserve


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I live the strange life of innkeepers, having my Sundays all together in a single dose and enjoying rest and relaxation when the  world seems to be most busy, in the winter. Working 7 or 8 months in a row with no breaks has its disadvantages. However, we also get to have longer holidays in December and escape the cold to sunny and exotic corners of the world.

Another advantage is that I don’t feel guilty for having stuffed myself with all sorts of holidays sweets. I did not, I suffered through tropical fruit shakes and green curries ;).

Back to the grayness of January I feel I am allowed some comfort food. Don’t you?

Every spring I make wild sour cherry preserves. The cherries are tart like hell but intensely aromatic with an almondy aftertaste. They complement perfectly the buttery lightness of the brioche but you could use blackberry or blueberry jam.  The brioche is an adaptation of my friend Corinna’s fabulous torta di rose.

Recipe
Dough:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 gr. (1 teaspoon) active dry yeast
  • 400 g (3 cups) gr all-purpose flour

Filling:

  • 100 g / 3.5 oz butter, softened at room temperature.
  • 1 to 1 and 1/2 cup sour cherry preserves

Make the dough as explained for the torta di rose, transfer onto a work-top, knead briefly  and roll into a 3 mm (1/8 inch) thick  square.

Using a flexible spatula, spread first the  butter and then a thin layer of preserves over the dough.  Cut the square into 6 strips which should be at least 10 cm. (4 inches) wide. Starting at the long side of each strip, roll the dough into a log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up.

how to make it: spread a thin layer of butter, then the preserves, then roll into logs

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 3 logs of dough seam side up and parallel to each other on the sheet. Beginning in the center and moving toward one of the ends, braid the logs. Turn the baking sheet around and repeat the same procedure for the opposite end of the logs. Pinch ends together and tuck the join under the braid. Make sure to use a small amount of preserves or all this will be a sticky mess!

Make a second braid with the rest of the logs on a separate baking sheet or use a large baking sheet so you have at least 5 inches between the braids.

Cover the baking sheet with a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 45 to 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180° C (375°F). Bake braids until golden, about 45 minutes. Serve at room temperature. Serves 8-10

This recipe has been submitted to YeastSpotting
Braided Brioche on Foodista

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