madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


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limoncello profiteroles

 

delicate limoncello profiteroles, a lovely summer dessert

delicate limoncello profiteroles, a lovely summer dessert

If you are under the opinion it might be difficult to make profiteroles, then just think you will be making very soft cookies.

Cookies are not intimidating aren’t they? Even the most inexperienced baker can make cookies. So. You can make profiteroles.

They are a breeze to whip up and you don’t necessarily need equipment such as a pastry bag or syringe. I usually shape my choux with the help of two teaspoons and when they are ready I split them open with a small serrated knife which I then use to fill them. It’s less messy and as beautiful.

I have developed this recipe as a way to use leftovers. After a few days of cooking classes, dinners with friends and my daughter’s birthday I found my fridge overflowing with all sorts of goodies. I had a bowl of chantilly, a jar of lemon curd and enough eggs for an army. I also was dying to try to make choux pastry with my gluten free cake mix. To my delight I found out that it works just as well as wheat flour.

Recipe

For the profiteroles:

  • 75g (2½oz) gluten-free cake mix or 00 wheat flour or pastry flour
  • 50 g (3.5 tabsp) butter
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) water
  • 2 medium eggs
  • grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • a pinch of salt

For the filling:

For the sauce:

  • 4 tablespoon lemon curd, bought or homemade, see recipe below
  • 2 teaspoon limoncello

Before you start, preheat the oven to 180°C/360°F/ and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Lemon curd:

Put 2 whole eggs, zest and juice of 2 lemons, 170 gr (3/4 cup) sugar and 30 gr ( 2 tabspoon)  butter, cut into cubes, into a pan over low heat. Bring slowly to low boil. Remove from heat and strain immediately into a jam jar. Let it cool and close. Keep refrigerated.

Choux pastry:

Place the butter and water in a pan and melt over a gentle heat, then bring to the boil.

Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the flour, salt and sugar. Beat well, until the mixture forms a ball in the pan.

Allow to cool slightly, then gradually add one egg at the time, beating well after each addition. I actually transfer the ball of dough in the food processor, start the blades on high then add the eggs one at the time.

The dough needs to be a stiff dropping consistency. GF flour tends to absorb more liquid than wheat flour. As a consequence, it may be necessary to adjust the amount of eggs depending on the type of flour used. If using wheat flour, you might not need the whole second egg so whisk it and add it by the tablespoon.

Place small spoonfuls of the mixture  onto the baking sheet, about the size of a small walnut. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 15 – 20 minutes.

When the profiteroles are well risen and golden brown remove from the oven. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Assemble dessert:

Using a serrated knife, make a slit in the side of each profiterole, then fill with cream or custard. If you prefer, pierce a small hole in the bottom of the pastry and fill them using a pastry syringe.

To make the sauce, stir the limoncello into the lemon curd to obtain a smooth syrup.

Fill the profiteroles with whipped cream and arrange on a serving plate.  Any filling should not be added until the last possible moment because it will make the choux pastry soft. Just before serving, pour over the limoncello sauce.

Makes approx. 30 profiteroles. Serves 5-6

limoncello profiteroles1

gluten-free profiteroles, just as perfect as the “normal” ones

 

 

 

 

 


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brown sugar steamed custard

lovely light and easy to make custard cook it as you like, stovetop or baked

lovely light brown-sugar custard, cook it as you like, stove-top or baked

Cooking for me is all about sharing. I have never been alone as long as I have been able to share a meal. That’s in fact how I made most friends in my life, around the stove-top and around the table.

And so it is that after publishing more than 100 recipes I have taken the courage to share two ways.

It’s time to ask what you, my readers, like. Of course I can read the blog stats, but I am not interested in soulless numbers, I am interested in people. Would you please help me? I need suggestions.

You know when you are making a search on a website and you click on the “find more like this” button? Please “click” on “write more recipes like this“.

Here is how to do it:

Please go to my recipe list, open your favorite or browse and find one that you intend to prepare. Please post in the comments which one you like and how you would like another similar one.

For example would you like more pasta sauces with vegetables? More simple puddings? More techniques? Why is one of my recipes a favorite of yours?

Please help, I will treasure your suggestions and try to work on recipes that I know you can use and enjoy for special occasion and – even better – for your everyday life.

Today’s recipe is for my friend Sandra who presently lives in a place that does not have an oven. As a consequence she can’t bake cakes. This is compensated by living at walking distance to the Colosseum, poor girl.

This is a delicious pudding that can be cooked on the stove-top in 20 minutes. It’s not only suitable to those who pursue their dreams in small city apartments but to various other occasions.

For example you can prepare it when your oven is full with other dishes or when it’s so hot that you don’t want to heat up the kitchen any further. Or you wish to save energy because you’re cooking for two.

However the recipe can be as easily baked in  the oven in which case you can double it or triple it for a crowd.

Recipe

Pudding

  • 300 ml heavy cream
  • 100 gr dark brown sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sauce

  • 2 organic oranges
  • 3 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brandy

If baking, pre-heat the oven to 150°C / 300°F. If cooking on the stove-top prepare a shallow saucepan that can hold the pudding in its containers, e.g. individual ramekins.

individual custards cooked au bain marie

how to arrange the individual custards in a pan

In a small pan, warm the cream, brown sugar and salt over a medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat. I actually microwave the cream/sugar mixture until warm enough to desolve the sugar.
In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks and slowly whisk in the hot cream mixture. Get read of the foam which has formed by straining it into a jug. This improves the custard’s structure.
Pour into 4 x 120ml (1/2 cup) ramekins or heavy custard cups. Cover tightly with a double layer of foil.
Transfer in a shallow pan lined with a kitchen towel as in the picture above. Fill the pan with boiling water until it comes to about a half way up the sides of the ramekins. Cover with a lid and simmer over low heat for 20-25 min. The custards will just set but still wobble slightly in the middle (they will set further on cooling). Remove from the pan.
If baking, transfer the ramekins into a deep roasting tin. Fill the tin with boiling water until it comes to about a half  way up the sides of the ramekins. Put it in the oven for 20 min. Remove and let it cool.
Chill for at least 3 hours before serving.
Sauce
You can make the sauce in advance as well as at the last minute but make sure to add it to the custards just before serving. If you add it too early its acidity will melt the surface of pudding in a quite unsightly way (I have done it :) ).
Halve the oranges and slice thin, less than 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thick. Arrange in one or two layers in a shallow pan, sprinkle with brown sugar and with a few tablespoon to cover. Cover and simmer on very low heat until the slices are soft. Add brandy. Serve at room temperature or heat up slightly before serving.
you can also make una single pudding and serve it with the soft orange slices on top

you can also make una single pudding and serve it with the soft orange slices on top

In the first picture I have chopped the orange slices before piling it on the custards. Then I have topped them with one piece of my homemade candied peel and curls of dark chocolate.

Serves 4


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olive oil and wine ciambelline cookies

light, crispy and fragrant of fennel and anise ciambelline

light, crispy ciambelline, fragrant of fennel and anise

What an exciting and busy time this is! Summer is finished and fall has descended on us with all its gorgeous beauty. Olive harvest is well underway. This year we are gifted by the much needed help of friends who have come all the way from Singapore for the event, how delightful!

It’s a lot of work but we are having a fabulous time. Beside picking, we have been doing a great deal of laughing, chatting, cooking and drinking. We’ll probably be ready  in one more day and then we’ll need to wait until next week for the pressing and bottling to enjoy our emerald liquid.

The only and real “Alla Madonna del Piatto olive oil“.

The last few B&B/cooking guests will be arriving this week-end for our first – of I hope many – Pasta and Vino Tour. We should actually call it Pasta and Vino and Olive oil tour as it will be heavy on the bruschetta ;).

Pasta and Vino

This is an extraordinary time to be here, wineries are buzzing with activity, there are food festivals and farmer markets in many of the hilltop villages. Olive mills are running 24/7, everybody is out and about with nets and ladders to pick olives until dusk. And if that was not enough, there are mushrooms, truffle, thick farro soups, polenta, pumpkin, fresh fennel and cime di rapa to add to the cornucopia of incredible foods available just now. Add the salami and life is perfect.

Last night, tired after a day of trodding up and down the hill, we prepared a light dish of homemade gnocchi with pesto and these cookies. The term ciambelline means small ring cookies. They are as “seasonal” as a cookie can get as they are made with wine and olive oil.  One can while the night away with a tray of these and a good bottle of sweet wine to deep them in.

Recipe

  • 450 gr (3 cups) 00 or pastry flour, better if organic and unbleached
  • 150 ml (1/2 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • 150 ml (1/2 cup) white wine
  • 2 tablespoon anise seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 130 gr (1/2 cup)  light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup white regular sugar for coating

Preheat oven at 160 °C (340 ° F). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place all dry ingredients – except the white sugar – in a food processor bowl. Using the blade at high speed, add the oil and wine and blend until most of the mixture forms a soft ball of dough, about 2 minutes.

If you don’t have a food processor or mixer, make the dough in a large bowl by hand and transfer on a lightly floured worktop.

Sprinkle the white sugar on a large flat plate or cutting board. On the worktop, roll the dough into 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) thick cylinders. Cut each cylinder into 10 cm (5 inch) pieces and roll them into the white sugar to coat.

roll the dough cycilinders in sugar, then form the rings

roll the dough cylinders in sugar, then form the rings

Pinch the ends of each cylinder together to form a ring.

Carefully arrange the rings on a the baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 min until just golden around the sides.

Cool on a wire rack and serve with sweet wine like a vinsanto, passito or marsala or a big mug of herbal tea.

Makes approx. 36 ciambelline.


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springtime berry tiramisu

sweet and fresh just like spring, berry tiramisu

sweet and fresh just like spring, berry tiramisu

Life is sweet in Umbria right now. Spring is here in all its over-the-top beauty. There are flowers everywhere, I can practically see the plants growing. In fact, it feels almost like summer, warm, bright and full of promise.

We are busy at the moment. Planning an Olive Harvest celebration for next autumn. Planting rosemary bushes outside the new vacation rental which is almost ready (more news soon).

Our B&B guests have returned to populate our house with laughter and stories. They often spend long evenings on the terrace around glasses of wine, gazing at the views until the stars start twinkling.

Poppies have made their arrivals and so have the strawberries. I want to be like Google, taking naps in the sun, but I must run, there’s so much to do!

Recipe

  • approx 30 Italian lady fingers
  • brown sugar for dusting
  • a pan or plate that can hold the cookies in two layers

for the mascarpone custard

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoon /75 gr. sugar
  • 375 gr / 10 oz  mascarpone
  • 1 and 1/2 cup/ 375 gr. chilled heavy cream (whipping cream)

for the berries

  • 1 cup dry Marsala or other sweet wine
  • 600-700 gr (24 oz) mixed berries of your choice. Fresh is best, but a couple of bags of good quality frozen berries are a life saver if one is short of time or it’s not the right time of the season.

Berries:

Prepare the berries up to 1 day before you need them. Place them in a glass or porcelain bowl, add 3-4 tablespoon sugar and 1 cup sweet wine. Let it macerate  a minimum of two hours so they release their lovely violet juice which you will need to soak the cookies (see below).

Make the tiramisu at least 4 hours before serving and up to one day ahead. I make  tiramisu with a zabaglione  instead of raw eggs, so it’s safe to keep it refrigerated for a little longer if needed.

Custard:

Cream egg yolks and sugar in a metal bowl then set it over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Keep beating using a whisk or an electric mixer until very warm to the touch but not quite boiling. Ideally the mixture should reach 70° C/ 160 °F.  Add 1 tablespoon Marsala and whisk thoroughly for another minute or so. Remove bowl from heat, place it in an ice bath and let it cool. Add the mascarpone and whisk until smooth.

Whip the cream in a separate bowl until it holds stiff peaks. Fold it gently into the mascarpone mixture.

Assemble tiramisu:

Line the bottom of a  pan or serving dish with half of the ladyfingers in a single layer, making compact rows. Spread 1/2 of the berries on top with about half of their juices. Make sure to drizzle the juice evenly over the cookies so they will be soft but not soggy. Cover with  1/2 of  the mascarpone custard. Repeat with one additional layer of cookies, berries, juice and mascarpone custard.

Cover the pan with clingfilm and chill for at least two hours and up to 1 day.  Dust with brown sugar before serving.

Serves 12

you can make it with strawberry or raspberry but I prefer a mixture of berries

you can make it with strawberry, raspberry, blueberry or a mixture of what’s in season


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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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Assisi’s apple and olive oil strudel

Rocciata is a rustic apple strudel from Assisi

Rocciata is a rustic apple strudel from Assisi (the red is a sugar and Alkermens glaze ;) )

No. You are not pretty my dear, not even in that red dress. Before baking you, I asked “frog, will you please turn out into a princess?”.

I know frogs are supposed to turn out into a prince, but this one wasn’t promising. Besides, in the fairy tales princes tend to be clad in white. So you stayed frog, thank you very much.

You’re flavorful though, and full of fruity goodness, spices and texture. Slightly crunchy outside with a soft, squishy heart. You are Christmassy as well as Umbrian in your own peasant, medieval, rustic way.

You are not even made with butter, how healthy it’s that at this time of the year?

Recipe

Pastry:

  • 300 gr (3 cups) cake or Italian 00 flour
  • grated rind of 1/2 lemon
  • 5 tablespoon good quality extra virgin olive oil + extra for oiling the pastry
  • 1 tablespoon sugar + extra for sprinkling
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Filling:

  • 4 large apples, diced small
  • 12o gr (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon anise seeds
  • 150 gr (5 oz ) chopped nuts of your choice
  • 150 gr ( 5 oz) rasins or sultanas
  • juice and rind of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoon alchermens liqueur.

Alchermens is an Italian speciality which contributes a floral scent and the bright red color to the pastry. Read here to learn how to substitute and here about it’s tradition.

Make the pastry by mixing all ingredients to obtain a firm dough. Cover and let it rest at least 30 min so it will be easier to roll.

Peel and dice apples, transfer into a bowl and add all other ingredients. In contrast with the dough, make the filling just before you need it to avoid release of juices wich will break the pastry while baking.

Now roll the dough into a long rectangular shape wich must be about 25 cm (10 inch) wide. The pastry must be as thin as possible but it should not break otherwise the filling will pour off the gaps. Brush the pastry sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle lightly with 1 additional tablespoon sugar.

Spread the fruit down the length of the pastry to within 1 inch of the edges.  Roll up from a long edge. Brush lightly with olive oil. Shape the roll into a coil and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoon extra Alchermens for decoration.

Bake at 180 °C (350 °F) for 45 min or until slightly golden. Brush with 1 tablespoon sugar mixed with a little water to make a soft paste and cook another 5 min.

Serve at room temperature.

happy holidays from Umbria!

happy holidays from Umbria!

PS. Sometime I cut the dough in 4 pieces and make 4 smaller strudels rather than a large one. They are easier to serve as a dessert for a large party. This way it makes 14-16 portions.


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Home-made Ladyfingers

light as a feather, home-made ladyfingers

The real Italian heart beats in the peasants. Somewhat our royals have been always underwhelming.

Take our former Savoy kings, for example. It is said that ladyfingers – savoiardi in Italian – have been created at the court of Amadeus VI duke of Savoy in honor of Charles V king of France. As the story goes, the head baker of Savoy was asked to invent something memorable to impress the king during a very rare visit to the Duchy.

Imagine: the medieval king is used to lavish banquets where he is served dishes like the tourte parmerienne, a pastry dish made to look like a castle with chicken-drumstick turrets coated with gold leaf. His head chef, Guillaume Tirel is  considered one of the first truly “professional” master chefs in European history.

Then he goes to visit his brother-in-law in Savoy and he is offered sponge cookies. Wow.

I am not sure the story it’s true, but we should have gotten read of them a few hundred years earlier. I mean, the would-be-kings Dukes.

Luckily we kept the cookies and used them to invent tiramisu. They are also lovely with gelato, warm custard, ricotta or simply dunked in good sweet wine like a Vinsanto o Moscato. And very, very easy to make.

Recipe

  • 75 gr (2/3 cup) 00 or pastry flour
  • 75 gr (2/3 cup)  sugar
  • grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teasp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 scant tablespoon yogurt or milk
  • 2 tablespoon powder sugar plus 2 tablespoon regular sugar, mixed in a small bowl

Preheat oven at 150 °C (300 ° F). Line a large baking sheet with buttered parchment paper. If you don’t butter the parchment paper you will have to eat it as it’s hardly possible to remove it from the cookies after baking.

Whisk egg whites until firm. Cream the sugar and egg yolks, add lemon zest, vanilla extract, flour and milk or yogurt and keep whisking to obtain a very thick batter. Fold in egg whites using a metal spoon. Make sure to incorporate them lightly, with circular upward movements so to obtain an airy mixture that will not deflate while cooking.

At this point, using a pastry bag, you should pipe the batter into 10 cm (4 inch) long strips on the baking sheet.

I hate pastry bags, so I use a soup spoon making sure to keep the strips at least 3 cm (1 inch) apart. One spoon of batter is enough for one ladyfinger.

Now sprinkle half of the sugar mixture onto the strips and wait for 5 mins before sprinkling the rest. This makes that pretty craquelè coating.

Bake for 20 min or until golden around the sides.

Makes about 2 dozens.

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