As I write it is my birthday. I woke up at 6.30 to prepare everything, both the rolls for the challenge and a sweet dessert to celebrate. So forgive me for cutting short, time is short and I even have to pack for tomorrow since I’m going to fly to the UK for a family reunion.
MTChallengekeeps lifting the stalk and I admit, I am struggling. It’s a lot to deal with, the degree of complexity, not to mention the degree of sophistication required…imagine what happened in my mind when I saw these beautiful rolls with which Giovanna challenged us. I quite not fit in. I’m rough and tough. Im not good with sophisticated things, at least not in the kitchen. These kind of challenges always make me quite anxious. On top of it the UK trip and a fridge to empty rather than to fill. So no coup de theatre, just two little recipe in order to participate. I hope Ale and Giovanna will forgive me but after all, the most important thing is to participate, isn’t it?
Today for Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook I propose you my own interpretation of a great classic of Neapolitan pastry. The babà! Three years ago I baked babà for the first time thanks to the MTChallenge and I then promised to myself to try out other combinations sooner or later. I just had to wait until Alessandro wrote to me one day asking me if I had some original ideas to promote a new brand of gin, 100% local, produced by friends of his. I had already heard about Gin Bisbino and already had the opportunity to taste it but in fact I had never thought of using it in a recipe. Gin Bisbino really impressed me for its delicate flavour. A real pleasure to taste Gin Bisbino goes perfectly well with the fresh flavours of rosemary and grapefruit I chose to flavour the pastries with. To balance the bitter note of the grapefruit I added a little rose water that comes very delicately as an aftertaste, especially when the cream is eaten on its own. I decided to brush the babàs with rhubarb jelly which is slightly sweeter albeit maintaining the sourness of the other ingredients. And if you do not want to get your hands dirty, you can always try the recipe of Gin Bisbino to make an excellent Gin Tonic! Continue reading / Continua a leggere…
What could possibly happen when a friend offers you mealworms to taste? This is what happened two me a couple of weeks ago. I went over to the Mill for my usual flour collecting trip and found Alessandro holding a box of dried mealworms and a big grin on his face. Taste, he said. And taste I did indeed. Of course he commissioned me a recipe for Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook. How cool is it to work with him???? That’s how my Tenebrownies were born. But if dried worms make you feel queasy you can bake these delicious brownies with any kind of nut or ingredient that please your palate. They are simply divine. Crunchy on the outside and extremely chewy inside. You definitely have to try them! And what about the mealworms, what do they taste like? Well, I must say I was amazed…they have a distinctive aftertaste of hazelnut!!!! In this case the flavour is very attenuated by the high content of chocolate and cocoa in the brownies but the larvae give a very special crunchiness that I have never felt in any other food, which I really liked. The proof is in the pudding!
Cantucci(or biscotti, as they are called in the States and UK), can’t tell you how many of those I ate when I lived in Tuscany. Actually it was one of my favourite dessert when I went at the restaurant. A nice glass of Vin Santo, the relaxed dipping of the cantucci in the golden boozy liquid. The most perfect way to end a dinner. Before Christmas I was unable to bake panettone so I indulged with backing plenty of cantucci and pandolce (a Genoese version of panettone) that I gave as a gift to family and friends. Searching for the best recipes I came across this one which is just perfect. I found it on a very reliable blog which I already known for years, Anice e Cannella. The only two changes I made have been replacing orange zest with lemon zest, which I much more prefer, and not brushing the cantucci with the egg (more out of laziness than anything else). A gift which my guinea pigs welcomed and appreciated very much. You can store them in nice tin boxes and bring them as a gift to friends who invite you over for dinner, maybe with a good bottle of Vin Santo!
A recipe is a stratification, sweet or salty, bitter, spicy or sweet and sour, of the manifestations of one’s love. I do firmly believe in this statement. May it be a gesture of affection, a manifestation of esteem and friendship, or love expressed as an overwhelming passion if you proceed to remove layers of flavours and gestures to distill its essence what you will obtain is one of the deepest and most sincere of all human feelings. A thought waiting to take shape, the choice of ingredients and the process of turning them into something familiar, desired, which has the power of warming the heart, or an unusual pairing of flavours, a surprise, love at first sight. The long wait, that feeling so similar to the eager stare at the window when waiting for a lover who has been away for a long time. What will be next? A perfectly risen cake, eyes bursting with desire or a collapsed soufflé and a quick peek on the cheek, a glacial politeness falling heavy like a gravestone on a long time exhausted relationship? Food speaks, or allows us to speak to others when words fail or are simply useless. I have seen more manifestations of love on a rich and well prepared table that in readymade Valentine gifts and in badly chosen birthday gifts.
What remains of the cake…what to do with it? Sometimes, even though not very often, a bit of cake may remain uneaten, waiting to be finished and eventually ends drying up. Or in the worst cases, as it happened to me with Antinea’s birthday cake, a part of a layered cake might break effectively becoming unusable. And what about the tops, cut to level perfectly the cake layers? Too much cake to eat, at least for me! I then asked myself what I could do with those poor cake crumbles, but also with the double Gruyère cream I had bought in excess (rather than running out an ingredient I have a tendency of buying too much) and the ridiculous amount of eggs I was given by my aunt, who has now taken the habit of delivering about a dozen every week…high cholesterol anyone? Adverse and hostile as I am to cake pops, an option which seems amongst the most popular when it’s up to use leftover, I thought of using the leftovers to flavour a batch of muffins, a sweet recipe which has been missing for quite a while in my column for the Maroggia’s Mill. In fact my last sweet muffins recipe for Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook has been the one for Beetroot, Orange and White Chocolate Muffins.
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?
Polenta. For centuries it has been the staple of our grandparents and great-grandparents diet, accompanied by meat, cheese, or more commonly by milk (even though I’m aware it is a quite childish on it’s my favourite combination). Corn is a tenacious plant with a very good yield, two features which make of this plant the most commonly cultivated and the staple of many peoples diet all around the world. It can also be toasted and reduced to a fine powder to produce farina bona, a special flour which is typical of the Valle Onsernone, a Valley in Ticino. Corn flour can be used in many different ways, as coating meat or bread sticks instead of using breadcrumbs, and can also be used in sweet preparations such as cakes (like amor polenta) and biscuits.Continue reading / Continua a leggere…
Easter is around the corner and this year instead of the traditional colomba I decided to venture into new shores and try a recipe of which my friend Rita told me so much about last year. Rita has been a good friend for many years and over the time I also had the chance to meet all of her family. Back in the days they used to run the most famous pastry shop in Chiasso. Her father often told me about the pastries that they sold and also lent me several books (although pastry is not really my field, even though I always promise myself to sooner or later and bake some of the delicacies illustrated in these magnificent volumes). In short, they know their pastries. So, last year speaking of colomba and various Easter cakes and breads Rita asked me whether I knew this sweet bread which is traditionally baked and eaten in Como, la resta. Characteristic of this sweet loaf is the insertion of a branch of olive tree in its centre. I was immediately fascinated by this traditional bread and promised myself to try this recipe sooner or later. Luckily this year Easter falls shortly after my column of recipes for Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook.