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.
It has been quite a while now since I last posted a cake recipe for Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook. As you know by now my diet unfortunately does not allow me to eat sweets, although on rare occasions I happen to cheat (better not mention the Christmas festivities, which have been a disaster as far as diet is concerned). But this cake is simply divine and I could not keep myself from posting the recipes. It’s a reinterpretation of the most famous Sachertorte, the original recipe I have worked on comes from a recipe which I have been baking for nearly 20 years ripped from an old issue of a magazine which I cannot tell anymore whether it was “A Tavola” rather than “Italian Cooking”. However, the recipe of the original Sacher is superb but this white version is not far behind. I used Maroggia’s MillNostrana flour and the result is soft and spongy to perfection, very moist and sweet without being sickening (to avoid it being to sweet I decided not to cover it with a white chocolate glaze, which is to my taste a bit too sugary). A bite leads to another bite, melting quickly in the mouth. The first person to test the recipe was my friend Gio’, which I found out loves white chocolate both reasons why I decided to rename this recipe “Gio’s cake”. I also tried to make a bigger cake using a classic 20 cm diameter mould ring and it was met with great enthusiasm, but keep in mind a bigger cake requires different temperatures and times for baking. What are you waiting for, why don’t you try it too?
For this episode of “Cuochi d’artificio” I did no kneading, at least not in the tv studio’s kitchen (of course I could not stop myself from baking the focaccia I used for this recipe) but found myself using my belovedfocacciaas the main ingredient for the dish. Too little time and too many steps to bake a well honeycombed and fragrant focaccia, not to mention the structure of the dough which is very wet and difficult to handle and this might put off some viewers. But who knows, maybe I will have the opportunity to present my own recipe for focaccia on tv sooner or later. But no more talk. Pudding is a great way to recycle old bread and focaccia leftovers (even though it never occurred to me to have focaccia leftovers) and in this case instead of the usual sweet pudding dessert I decided to make a savoury version. To flavour it I used formaggella ticinese, a very fat cheese, anchovies and the right dose of one of my favourite ingredients…licorice! Are you curious? Then clickhere to access to the episode with the recipe and here for all the ingredients you need and the steps to follow to bake the recipe. Bon appétit!
The Paris-Brest, a jump into the void. Yes I admit, not without shame, that I never had one before trying the recipe at home. No romantic breakfasts with a view on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, no foodie raids at Hermé’s. My last trip to Paris probably dates back more than twenty years ago. Just a child, fascinated by Loire’s Castles and Diane de Poitiers. So what got me into experimenting with this classic gem of French pastry? Definitely my passion for beauty, the challenge of being able to obtain a product not only palatable but also aesthetically appealing (do you remember the ordeal I had gone through to make “simple” éclairs?) and an innate curiosity.