A few days ago I went to the Mill to collect some flour to develop new recipes and asked Alessandro if he had any new interesting products. Happens that I just arrived on a lucky day while freshly ground wheat germ was available. Wheat germ is no more than 3% of the entire grain kernel, and is generally discarded because of its more intense flavour and the presence of moisture which can reduce shelf life of the flour. A product rich in vitamins, starches, proteins and lipids, wheat germ is really good for our health. Presence of Omega 3, Omega 6, vitamins A and D, make it a very valid aid for skin, hair and helps fighting free radicals too. To best preserve all its nutritional qualities the advice is to eat it raw (in this way all its properties, especially vitamin E and B and fatty acids are kept intact) in addition to milk, yogurt or soups but without exceeding a daily dose of 50 g. Being a highly perishable product in order to keep more than a few days you can toast it lightly to remove the moisture which encourages rancidity and mould formation.
Catch a Babka in the Rye! I haven’t been baking this soft and pillowy treat for a while and when Alessandro gave me the first few packets of Maroggia’s Mill rye flour I knew immediately I had to try and develop a recipe for Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook which had nothing to do with the idea we usually have of rye bread. Nothing better than a Babka. Would I be able to obtain a soft and pillowy crumb with such a flour, which as you know is not as rich in gluten as wheat flour? Well, I am proud to say that I made it! And my guinea pigs loved it. Of course it’s not as light and pillowy as it would be using wheat flour, but i can assure you its surprisingly soft and melts in the mouth beautifully.
How I love the cold season. Vendors at every turn of a corner, the thick smoke coming from the roasting racks. Paper cones filled with roasted chestnuts keep my hands warm. Autumn and winter are my favourite season for their distinctive perfumes and flavours. Chestnuts come in the first place of my cold season food top ten. Sweet and fragrant, once amongst the staple food of our ancestors here in Ticino it has now become quite an expensive ingredient to buy in stores. Definitely not an every day ingredient if not for those who have the chance of being able to go in the woods and pick some. Every now and then I treat myself with a bag of chestnut flour and bake kolache. Lately I have been experimenting a bit and came up for this recipe for a bread I took to a dinner with friends. It’s flavour is intense and lends itself well to accompany a vegetable soup which is so seasonal. Chestnuts, walnuts and polenta are all products which are typical of my region and blend perfectly. This bread is one with a strong personality, it is rich and dense and keeps fresh for several days…a bit like bread did in the old days.
For some months now I have been getting in the mail the Swiss bakers, pastry chefs and confectioners newspaper, Panissimo. An interesting read which informs of all the news revolving around the world of baking and a huge inspiration for the development of new recipes. In fact every now and then the Richemont School publishes its recipes for delicious breads and confectioneries. And that’s how I discovered “risotto bread”, a bread enriched with cooked rice and other flavorings. Obviously I could not refrain myself from experimenting and trying to work out a new recipe of my own for Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook, and thus basmati bread was born. A nice find, a bread with a soft and fragrant crumb delightfully perfumed as only Indian rice can be. I baked the buns for the first picnic of the warm season and my friends and faithful guinea pigs liked them very much. The recipe is very simple and quick, with a short proofing, but you can experiment stretching the rest of the dough in order to get a lighter, honeycombed crumb. Are you ready for the inebriating scent of these sandwiches?
Summer is almost over but some juicy tomato are still hanging on the plants of most of home gardens…a wonderful opportunity to try out a great classic of Italian baking: friselle. Have you ever tasted one?
Before moving on to the recipe let’s find out more about these delicious baked goods. Frisella (or frisedda, freseḍḍa, frisa or friseddha in the various variants of Apulia) is a bread biscuit which is only partially baked, cut in half and then baked once more to dry it. It is typical of Southern Italy regions such as Campania, Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria. Before the war, wheat flour friselle were reserved for the most affluent and celebrations. The poor ate barley flour or barley and wheat flour friselle. The characteristic shape is the result of transportation and storage needs, in fact friselle were strung on a cord to facilitate transport and storage. Fishermen used to wet them with sea water to make them soft and to be able to eat them.
Generally the bread is rubbed with garlic, wet with water and seasoned with fresh tomato and a drizzle of oil, but you can be more creative and use all sorts of ingredients…I even had friselle with lumpfish roe once! Friselle keep for several days if kept in a tin box but personally I can get through a batch in just a few days with the pretence of a snack or an aperitif!
Wholemeal flour. I must admit it, its’ a kind of flour that I use little…very little. Blame it on my passion for pillowy white bread, but maybe it’s about time to change my habits and try to use it more often in my recipes. Alessandro, our favourite miller, was recently a guest of Swiss Italian television to talk about this very special kind of flour and I was asked by him to develop a recipe specifically for the occasion for Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook. Quite a challenge since I usually use whole wheat flour just to add flavour and hardly in amounts greater than 30%. But the results of this recipe were so good that I’ll try to introduce more often whole wheat flour in my recipes.
And here we are, time flies doesn’t it? This is my last episode on this season of “Cuochi d’artificio” as the program is taking a well deserved summer break. A challenging adventure which made me grow so much and discover the fascinating world of tv production, one experience I hope to have the honour and privilege to repeat next year. This episode has for a theme snails. Well, nothing more suitable for bread, as dough is often shaped in this guise, and bread snail can be found in bakeries filled with all kind of ingredients, both sweet and savoury. In the past I have used this shaping to make my Crunchy Licorice Snails, Rye and fennel seeds snails with blood oranges and red onion chutney and Poppy seed snails. This time around I thought it could be fun to bake snails that at first glance might seem stuffed with basil pesto…while instead they are flavoured with a fresh mix of minced mint, pine nuts, white chocolate and a touch of grated lemon zest. The dough is 100% vegan. The use of cocoa butter makes it particularly soft, the best vegan bread I have developed so far…it’s really light as a feather and very similar to brioche dough. You can change the filling omitting white chocolate and put another 100% vegan ingredient. Unfortunately my knowledge in this area is limited and my attempt to produce a vegan vanilla custard failed miserably.
Here is a list of the required ingredients and step by step instructions to bake the bread and to make the filling. Here you can see the episode where I explain all the steps to bake these cute snails at home.
Bicycle! Bycicle!, when Alice proposed me this theme I clearly sensed her perplexity…what would I do of it? Was it feasible, with bread? Her uncertainty was palpable and I had to think quick in order to convince her everything would be fine and not miss this opportunity. Paris-Brest, of course! One of the most famous and popular French pâtisserie classics was created in 1910 by chef Louis Durand to commemorate the Paris–Brest–Paris bicycle race begun in 1891. It’s basically a wheel shaped choux filled with praline flavoured cream. What about a bread wheel, filled with a foie gras cream? To recreate the craquelin effect, a decorative crackly topping, I relied on the recipe for the topping for tiger bread rolls. The result? Simply stunning! Unfortunately due to ethical issues my first recipe for the filling was rejected. But since I personally find it amazing and love foie gras I decided to post it, in case you would like to try it. The recipe I cooked in the studio has more of a strong and rustic flavour, but is still very good.
Here you will find the list of ingredients needed and the directions to bake the bread and to whip up the filling (sorry it’s in Italian but I’m pretty sure google translate will be ok) and here you can find the whole episode with me explaining all the steps to bake this beauty at home. Are you ready?
Sometimes it does not take much of an effort to have a brilliant idea. One of the easiest ways is to proceed by mental association. What I wanted was to develop a recipe that would be easy and quick to bake but still quite stunning, even its simplicity. Something with bread. Mmmmmh, soup served in loaf…but what if I turned it into a sweet recipe? No, nothing like my beet and mango gazpacho, what I wanted was something more unusual and original. A cake! Well…a cake encased in bread might be a bit too dense. The answer was just around the corner…a cheesecake! Rolls are perfect to serve this cake as a single portion, the crust is crispy on the sides and is not too heavy unlike some cheesecake crusts which are quite dense and heavy. And imagine the reaction of your guests while bringing them to the table humble sandwiches for dessert? There are endless possibilities to flavour the cheesecake cream as well as the pairing of fruits that you can use to decorate these little delicious treasures. Making them takes very few minutes, a little more than half an hour. Ready to make a great impression on your guests?
It was a long wait…the first weeks of April showering with rain and confusing us with it’s sudden meteorological moods switching from cold autumnal temperatures to sunny days, but finally Spring is here to delight us with it’s sunny and mild climate. To greet the coming of Spring I thought up this simple recipe which I presented on my last recording at “Cuochi d’artificio”. The theme of the episode was “Mess”.