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.
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.
It has been hanging around for a long time, this thought. Unfortunately having many things to do and little time to stop and think and do something about it…but I couldn’t stop thinking this blog was born thanks to my passion for sourdough but lately my recipes have been increasingly lacking this ingredient. What happened? Nothing serious, some of it is to blame on the discovery of long fermentation which can make yeasted bread more digestible and fresh for longer time, just like sourdough bread. A little blame is on “Cuochi d’artificio” for which I decided to restrain myself to the use of yeast, being sourdough leavening too complex. And last but not least lately time to plan refreshments and dough rising has failed me big time.
At the first occasion I knew I had to do something about it. I threw a quick loving glance to the jar of my dear Hannibal Dolores Frank, my liquid sourdough culture, and rolled up my sleeves. In a jiffy I found the right ingredients and I started to put down, off the cuff, the recipe for these mock panettoncini fo Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook. Mock because mind you, panettone is a serious matter. The recipe is regulated by a disciplinary from which you can not escape, and the commitment needed to come up with a good homemade panettone is remarkable. This recipe in a way is no exception and I don’t recommend it to the faint of heart, or better faint of hand. Unless you are familiar with very hydrated or high in fat doughs, if you’re not quite skilled with handling and shaping breads I warn you nervous breakdown is around the corner waiting for you. But if you are experienced or daring enough go all the way and this recipe will not disappoint you. These little panettoni are perfect for a special, and why not romantic, breakfast. Soft as a pillow and sweet, I tell you. Bake them on a Saturday afternoon for Sunday morning. Pop them for a while in the oven before you tasting them while cocooning in the warmth comfort of your bed, wide smile under your cappuccino foam moustache. That’s amore!
Christmas is just around the corner and this month’s episode of Cuochi d’artificio I was asked to bake a recipe for bread that could be baked in a pot. There are plenty of iron cast pot bread recipes out there and I myself have already developed a few recipes. This time around I thought about using the Winter festive time as a pretext to devise a sweet bread recipe, a kind of bread that personally I have never seen on the web. For the spice blend I was inspired by two loaves of German culinary tradition, the Breslau Stollen and the Hutzelbrot. I took some ingredients from each recipe and came up with this soft loaf, which looks a little like a very primitive panettone but is enriched with cinnamon, cardamom, almonds, plums, figs and dates instead of raisins and candied fruit as in the traditional version of panettone.
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.
Ready, steady, go! With a little delay on the start of the new “Cuochi d’artificio” season, but here I am. This year we start with a few changes. From now on the cooks on the show can be consulted directly by the public by writing an email. All of the show’s chefs are here to help you resolve problems in the kitchen, giving tips and providing you with the best recipes.
The first question that was sent to me concerns homemade bread in its simplest form. Thinking about it, I realized that this question often comes from people who haven’t got much experience in the kitchen, who might have tried over and over the same recipe without obtaining any satisfactory results but still want to be able to make a genuine bread in their own kitchen. Better if all the process is sort of fast, effortless, without messing the kitchen too much. Daunting task…Luckily a few months ago I came across this gadget, a rubber bowl which allows you to mix the dough, let it proof and bake it in the same container. Not bad for those who do not want to havee too many kitchen tool to clean (after baking the mold is basically clean and just needs a good rinse) and doesn’t have a great dexterity to engage in types and shapes of bread which are far too complicated. The proofing schedule is specifically meant for people who work. This bread just needs a little kneading, proofing a few hours and can be put to rest in the fridge during the day if you want to bake the bread in the evening to return from work, or overnight if you want to cook it the morning after a good night’s sleep. I added a bit of whole wheat flour and seeds to give a more rustic and authentic flavor to the bread, to make it more homely.
And what about you, do you have any questions?
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?
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.
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