madonna del piatto

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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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my Umbrian crostata on “The American in Italia” magazine

crostata made with farro flour and brown sugar

I have developed this recipe for my first article on “The American in Italia” online magazine. It’s a lovely rustic crostata made with farro flour and unrefined brown sugar. For more crostata recipes please check my previous posts  here and here. Enjoy!


27 Comments

chocolate and ricotta crostata with homemade candied orange

Umbria meets Sicily: a pastry tart with chocolate, orange and ricotta

CROSTATA AL CIOCCOLATO.  I can proudly say that this is a family recipe. My family is half Umbrian, half Sicilian. Both regions have great food but when it comes to sweets there is no contest.  Sicilians are blessed by the best sweets ever  invented, cassata, cannoli, panzerotti, martorana, granita, pignolata….oh my.

Enter any humble bakery in Sicily and you will feel like in sugar heaven.   Sicilians  rarely make sweets at home because they can buy the best stuff in the world. And by the way, most of their sweets take days to make, so why bother.

We Umbrian peasants really can’t compete but we have one good thing, our crostata. We like it so much we eat it all the time. In addition it’s really easy and quick to make.

I don’t know who had this brilliant idea, but sometime when I was a kid, one of my Sicilian aunties living in Umbria came up with the idea of using the cannoli filling for a crostata. It was an instant success and adopted for all picnics and garden parties. Home-style fusion food, I just love it.

Recipe

  • 1 recipe crostata dough
  • 250 gr / 8 ounces ricotta
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 100 gr. / 2 and 1/2  ounces 70% dark chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon minced candied orange or citron peel
  • orange blossom water (optional)

Chop chocolate in small cubes and stir into the ricotta, add all other ingredients  and if desired 1/4 teaspoon of orange blossom water. Make sure to use good quality, flavorful candied peel which will contribute a characteristic citrus taste to the mixture. In the winter I make candied orange peel, it’s fantastic.

Prepare the tart as explained in the main crostata recipe using the ricotta filling instead of jam. Bake the crostata at 180° C/ 350° F for  45 minutes, or until the lattice is golden. Cool the crostata in the pan on a rack and serve.

Because of the soft cheese filling, you need to make this tart the same day you serve it otherwise the crust will soften.

Serves 8


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the big kicks

the "cauciuni", Christmas sweets from Abruzzo

CHICK PEA AND CHOCOLATE DUMPLINGS.

Did you know that ancient Romans  – if poor – were not allowed to cook? Such was the danger of fires that the plebeians were expected to eat in a tavern rather than cook on a rickety brazier.

Italian farmers had basic cooking facilities until relatively modern times. Most food was cooked in a clay or copper pot over an open fireplace which was also the only heating system of the house. That’s why the Italian tradition is rich in fried sweets. They can be cooked easily and in amounts suitable for large families.

This is  a fabulous recipe from my friend Luana. The “cauciuni”  are fried dumplings that are prepared in Abruzzo for Christmas. The name probably means small “calzoni”- of the pizza variety -, but to us Italians it sounds like “big kicks”.

The filling is a relatively extravagant concoction combining the peasant beans and nuts with the noble coffee and chocolate. Unlike real life, the combination of social strata works very well.

Recipe

Dough

  • 350 gr (3 cups plus one tablespoon) all-purpose flour
  • 50 gr (1/4 cup) sugar
  • 25 gr (1/8 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sweet wine, brandy or cognac

Filling

  • 200 gr (7 ounces) cooked garbanzo beans, mashed
  • 50 gr (1/4 cup) sugar
  • 100 gr (3 ounces) dark chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon coffee powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon sweet wine
  • 100 gr ( 3 ounces) toasted almond
  • 2 egg yolks

Make the dough in a food processor as explained for fresh pasta. Alternatively mix ingredients by hand in a large bowl, then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour if necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place the dough on a table, and flatten it  with a rolling pin until it is about 3 mm cm (1/8 inch) thin. Cut it into 5 cm (2 inch) disks. Knead the leftover dough, roll it again and cut more disks until all dough is used.

Blend all filling ingredients and place a teaspoon of filling over each disk. Fold disks in half and seal pressing with your fingers along the round edge of each dumpling (see video below). Deep fry in hot vegetable oil until golden. Serve warm with a glass of Marsala or other sweet wine.

Serves 6-8


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from Umbria with chocolate

the Eurochocolate festival in Perugia is a good opportunity to sample new and fashonable products

the Eurochocolate festival in Perugia is a good opportunity to sample new and fashionable products

Every year around this time, mid October, I get vaguely annoyed. First of all it gets cold and wet for the first time after months of wonderful weather. It’s still beautiful all around, but one needs to get used to the sweaters.

Then, like every October in the last 10 years,  Eurochocolate comes to Perugia and so the traffic and a million chocolate wrappers.

Eurochocolate is a large chocolate festival, sponsored by the big chocolate brands. It brings more than 100 thousand visitors to our small provincial capital. The locals lock themselves up for 2 week-ends. There is not point in getting squashed when one can buy (most of) the same stuff in the supermarket.

It’s better to visit during the week if one wants to get any close to the stands.

fine Venchi chocolate from Torino

faboulus Venchi chocolate from Torino

Those who love crowds can go in the weekend to see the making of the chocolate sculptures in Perugia’s main street Corso Vannucci. Large blocks of chocolate are carved by energetic artists and all the trimmings are given out for free to the onlookers (video).

Altrocioccolato, held in Gubbio is the cozy, fair-trade, green alternative to the monster kermesse. There’s lots of organic stuff, hand knitted socks, good music and free theatre for the kids. It’s even possible to find parking space. Really, it is very friendly.

no sponsors and genuine children entertrainment at Altrocioccolato Festival in Gubbio

no sponsors and genuine children entertainment at Altrocioccolato Festival in Gubbio

As for myself, if I need special chocolate, I can get it year around, I have friends. I go to Barbara in Santa Maria degli Angeli*  or to Elena in Palazzo**  where I can find a variety of artisan chocolate at reasonable prices. I like to support small companies. I like to get suggestions and a bite to taste in peace, no queuing up required.

I am grateful to someone who makes the effort to trace good genuine products, possibly from another small company, and hands it with a smile. They know I’ll be back tomorrow.

*Terra Umbra. Via Patrono d’Italia 10, Santa Maria degli Angeli, Assisi
**Pasta fresca e non solo, 43, Viale Michelangelo Palazzo di Assisi
 


15 Comments

classic tiramisu

classic, soft, creamy, fantastic tiramisu

classic, soft, creamy, fantastic, tiramisu

In Italy,  the zabaglione – a frothy custard made of egg yolk whipped with sugar and fortified with wine – has been administered to the weak, to fighters and lovers for at least 500 years.

Only in the early ’80s however,  Loli Linguanotto, the chef of a restaurant in Treviso near Venice, conceived a dessert that was meant to be good for everyone, the young and the old. He layered lady fingers dipped in espresso with a mixture of zabaglione and mascarpone cheese and sprinkled it with cocoa powder.

The now world-famous tiramisu had been invented and became an instant success. Indeed the tiramisu is known and appreciated probably way more than Loli would have ever anticipated.

Needless to say, the secret of the recipe is to use original ingredients. Take real espresso no coffee granules,  Italian mascarpone no bland cream cheese, good quality  lady fingers, no store bought sponge cake. When I can, I use Sardinian savoiardi which are larger, softer and more fragrant than regular lady fingers.

Recipe

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoon /50 gr. sugar
  • 1/2 pound / 250 gr.   mascarpone
  • 1 cup/ 250 gr. chilled heavy cream
  • 1 and 1/2 cup cold  espresso coffee
  • 1/3 cup dry Marsala or other sweet wine
  • 30 Italian lady fingers
  • unsweetened dark cocoa powder for dusting

Beat egg yolks and sugar in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water using a whisk or an electric mixer until smooth and fluid. Add 3 tablespoon Marsala and whisk thoroughly for another minute or so. Remove bowl from heat and let it cool. Add the mascarpone until just combined.

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

Add the rest of the Marsala to the coffee and transfer into a flat bottomed bowl which must be wider than the lenght of the lady fingers.

Now work quickly. Dip both sides of each lady finger into the coffee mixture for a few seconds. The cookies absorb rapidly and will disintegrate if left in the coffee. Line the bottom of a baking pan with one layer of ladyfingers, making compact rows. Spread a 1/2  inch/ 1 cm layer of  the mascarpone filling on top. Repeat layers of cookies and filling, ending with mascarpone.

Cover the pan with clingfilm and chill for at least two hours and up to 2 days.  Before serving dust with cocoa. This looks prettier and fresher than dusting before chilling.

Serves 8-10

Savoiardi, artisan made Italian lady fingers from Sardinia

Sardinia Savoiardi, artisan made Italian lady fingers

Tiramisu on Foodista


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cassata siciliana

homemade Sicilian cassata

homemade  Sicilian  cassata

SICILIAN CASSATA. Nothing is simple in Sicily. So much has happened for innumerable centuries. Every population around the Mediterranean has had a kingdom there, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normands, Spanish, Bourbons. Each left memories, traditions,  ingredients. The Arabs brought in almonds and citrus.  Marzipan was developed under the Normands. The Spanish introduced chocolate, candied fruits and sponge cake. The cassata is a sophisticated cheese cake enclosed in a  marzipan shell and decorated with candied fruits. It’s exquisite when fresh and made with good quality ingredients. This is another recipe of my friend Luana. She is such a perfectionist, she even makes the marzipan from scratch.

Recipe

For the sponge cake shell:

  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 200 gr sugar (7/8 cup)
  • 150 gr (1 and 1/4 cup)00 or  pastry flour
  • 100 gr  (7/8 cup) rice or potato  starch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 tablespoon hot water
  • 250 gr. (9 ounces) marzipan
  • 1/2 cup Marsala or other sweet wine

Preheat oven at 170°. Whip egg whites to firm peaks with 75 gr. sugar. Whisk egg yolks, hot water and 125 gr. sugar.

Add the baking powder to the flour and slowly fold it  into the beaten yolks. Finally, gently fold the beaten egg whites into the mixture.
Bake for 20 min. or until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

For the filling:

  • 700 gr ricotta cheese
  • 150 gr (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • 200 gr (7  ounces) dark chocolate finely chopped
  • 200 g  (7  ounces )  mixed candied fruit finely diced plus additional larger pieces for decoration
  • 200 g (7  ounces) toasted peeled almonds finely chopped

Whisk the ricotta with the granulated sugar until smooth and then add chocolate, almonds and diced candied fruits. Line a 25 cm (10 inch) diameter pudding mold  with plastic wrap. Roll the marzipan 1/2 cm (1/4 of an inch) thick and as wide as the mold. The marzipan used in Sicily is traditionally colored green using food pigments. Line the mold with marzipan. Slice the sponge cake in 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick slices and use the slices to line the marzipan inside the mold. Sprinkle with Marsala wine and add the ricotta mixture. Cover with more sponge cake slices, press down gently and sprinkle again with Marsala.

Cover and refrigerate the cassata for several hours. When firm, turn the cassata over onto the serving dish and remove mold and plastic wrap. Decorate with sugar frosting and strips of candied fruit and chill for a few more hours before serving.

Serves 8

In Assisi you can find good Marsala at Il Baccanale wine shop: via del Comune Vecchio 2, near Piazza Matteotti, Assisi, Umbria, Italy.

hevanly sweet

heavenly  sweet

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