When I was a little girl right before Christmas it was tradition that I, my older sister and my father would go shopping in Milan on a Saturday. A special event, an opportunity for us to spend some time alone with our Daddy, who was often away from home for business matters. On this same Friday, but twenty-eight years ago, I would be counting the money safely stored in my piggy bank, waiting impatiently for the next morning to come. To my eyes Milan was magical place. I recall the bitter cold which would redden our cheeks and noses. The snow would fall slowly, in fine grains that almost did not leave a trace on the sidewalks. And all those lights, bright lights everywhere.
After long walks in the centre of the city and a due visit to Rinascente and Fiorucci where we would usually find little presents for our mom and friends we would happily end our Christmas pilgrimage at a mythical place: Luini. Luini and its warm to piping hot panzerotti, for which we would patiently wait in line, that same line that in the past years split into three to four separate ones in order to greet as much costumers as possible. Panzerotti must be eaten standing up, preferably leaning against a free portion of one of the walls of the buildings along Via Santa Radegonda 16, not to lose crispness of the dough and lava texture of the filling, which for me will always and only ever be tomato and mozzarella.
Crack, crunch, crock! As I crunch through a bread thin the first thing coming up to my mind is the classic comic balloon words written in a bold uppercase font and the exclamation point, slightly bigger than the character as to give strength to the onomatopoeic sound. To me crunchy foods, especially if they are baked goods, are irresistible. Is it an ancient heritage we carry with us that drives us to go through entire packs of crunchy crisps and crumbly grissini?
After a quick glance at the blog I realized that along all these years I posted few recipes for crackers. Such a gap had to be filled as soon as possible, I thought to myself! It’s thanks to chilli and a brilliant intuition (which I admit was totally random as when opening the “Food Thesaurus” the first ingredient I came across was saffron) I baked these amazing bread thins. Without modesty I can say this recipe is among the best I ever made for the blog when it’s up to crackers and Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook.
These bread thins are quite spicy, so if you do not like spicy food but you still want to feel a slight tingling I recommend to halve the amount of chilli.
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?
The first meal of the day is the most important, needless for me to say it for the nth time. May it be breakfast on working days or a rich Sunday brunchspent in the company of family and friends it doesn’t really matter, it’s carbohydrates that make the difference. A proper source of energy, carbohydrates are better to be consumed during the first part of the day mainly because by approaching the night hours our capacity to burn down calories is reduced and this may lead, if carbs are consumed in excess, to an important weight gain. Today’s recipe for Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook is a twist on zwieback, a great classic of Swiss breakfasts. I admit I do prefer them much to their Italian cousins, rusks, which always seem to be inconsistent and unwilling to be properly dunk in tea. For while dunking a rusk in tea it is important not to exceed those five seconds soaking time separating a properly soaked slice from an impalpable slurry which irredeemably splashes in the cup resulting in Pollock splatters all around, staining clothing, tablecloth and newspaper. Zwieback on the other hand are more compact and can be dunk twice. Italy 0 – Switzerland 1. And why not…lets be dragged by a little national pride, roll up our sleeves and accomplices our faithful and reliable Maroggia’s Mill flours let’s bake together these crispy delights! I added whole wheat flour and a pinch of cinnamon to the mixture to differentiate our zwieback from those available on the market, but you can try to make the classic version using only white wheat flour or pick any other combinations of sweet and savoury ingredients to flavour them. For the record this recipe has been subjected to a brunch tests and got top marks from all of my five enthusiastic guinea pigs. What are you waiting for? Ready, steady, bake!
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.
I had been working on a new vegan dough for my last episode of “Cuochi d’artificio”a few months ago and fell in love with it. The use of cocoa butter has proved decisive for its softness, something I would never imagine possible without the use of butter. Having experimented with sweet dough I thought it might be interesting to develop a recipe for savoury brioche, and here it is. For the shaping I looked back to the good old babka (check out my Chocolate Babka and Licorice, White Chocolate and Strawberry Babka). The result? A pillowy soft, scrumptious, fragrant and summery bread! Even my friend Nevia, who is skeptical about “bread which has stuff in it” tried a slice and loved it! Perfect to whip up some Sunday brunch sandwiches, eaten alone or with a nice cream cheese. Continue reading / Continua a leggere…
Bagels. If I’m not mistaken this is the second recipe I tried after discovering my passion for bread baking. The first one was the Cottage Loaf, a bread which has been the staple of my baking when sixteen. Around that time my father used to travel a lot to the United States, something which I guess summed up with my passion for american tv series and MTV played a role into feeding my interest for this bread. I then did a 10 day holiday in N.Y. where I religiously followed my plan to eat a typical american breakfast every single morning, with the rule of changing both menu and place every single day. Amongst the breakfast I had there where bagels too, of course. I would opt for a classic philadelpia cheese and smoked salmon bagel, straight from the oven and still warm. No doubt one of my favourite breakfasts during my american holiday. I haven’t been baking bagels since, for no reason really. This time a pretty weird idea to use Maroggia’s Mill flour came to my mind. Liquorice flavoured bagels! Take a look into Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook with me and let’s see how these beauties can be baked at home.
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.