I’m quitting. This is the last one, I swear. I have been repeating the same thing for quite a while now. Too much stress, brainstorming, tetris-like scheduling strategies. What about the anxiety, the overwhelming sense of inferiority I feel every time I check out the other contestants’ recipes, every time a picture gets posted onto the group’s facebook page. And then a new month comes along with a new challenge. I can’t help but participate, I can’t resist to the call of the MTChallenge. Even though I felt a shiver down my spine when I read the theme for this month’s challenge. Our dear Ilaria chose one of the most fearsome recipes…the macaron! A few years back I did experiment a bit and produced dragon eggs for a first attempt and got only close to proper macarons with these Luxemburgerli-like sweets (a swiss version of macarons but of a smaller size) on my second attempt. Fear and Loathing in Chiasso. And on top of it all the tap in the kitchen has been out of order for almost a month and I was forced to wash dishes, bowls and kitchen accessories in the bathtub. You can just imagine my state of mind. And what about the firm conviction that both the shells of the macarons had to be flavored, which led me to test and photograph them a second time because the first one I had forgotten to spice up the shells of one of the two recipes I baked for the challenge. The first macarons batch turned out to be perfect (I have pictures to prove it!!!) but I decided not to fill them in order not to waste time and ingredients. And of course the second time around something went wrong with the cardamom macarons. Virtually they came out in the shape of tits. I think the problem lies in the fact that the mix was very thick and maybe I should have work it a little harder in order to break the air bubbles. Or maybe it just needed a little more egg white having added the cardamom powder and poppy seeds. However having no time nor desire to whip up a third batch I decided to participate in any case, with both macarons: the beautiful and the ugly. Continue reading / Continua a leggere…
Desserts at my house are quite forbidden. Or I’d rather say that you will hardly find in my pantry packets of biscuits, chocolate bars, candy and all food alike. The main issue is self-control, the other “no sweet stuff factor” is because I’d rather choose ingredients myself since too often store bought sweets contain too much sugar for my palate. This recipe for Maroggia’ Mill Cookbook was born from the desire for something sweet…but not too much. Flavours to pamper your tastebuds with and sweeten a gloomy day and why not, to scent your house with. I simply love it when the perfume of a sweet dessert spreads from the kitchen and permeates all the flat, it always puts me in a good mood. I decided to make small tart, a simple trick not to have too many sweets at home and because I find the little tart or cake format nicer to be photographed. For a 24-25 cm cake of about it is sufficient to multiply the quantities of the two ingredients and to bake the tart for 45′-50′.
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.
A couple of months ago I was interviewed by a young local journalist, Ivan Campari, for a series of articles he is publishing on the newspaper LaRegione featuring young people from the Mendrisiotto area. For this I have to thank my friend Alan Alpenfelt, the mind behind the independent Radio Gwen and the acting company V XX Zweetzwho was interviewed too and gave my name amongst others. To greet both the photographer and the journalist I decided to bake a batch of biscuits, which proved providential as the only good picture of me is one I am transferring them from the baking tray to the rack! I am such a terrible photography subject as I always feel very embarrassed and pull faces and eventually end up throw evil glances at the camera.
Antinea is a special person. We’ve known each other for little over a year but it is as if it were a life time that we have been friends. It was a mutual friend who introduced her to me. With the impending 35th birthday I thought it would be good for me to start some kind of physical activity to keep fit. Amongst the various options the most popular for women in their thirties seemed to be pilates and talking to Marko it came out that her friend Antinea is pilates instructor. There was a nice vibe from the start and despite my stiffness and the struggle to assimilate her teachings I decided to trust her, committing to exercising and trying to overcome my limits. And so it was. I’m sure that without her there would have been no “Cuochi d’artificio”and I am convinced that pilates has greatly contributed to my physical and psychological well-being, giving me not only a new body but also a new mindset. Perhaps at my age I have finally reached a state of equilibrium and for that I must thank Antinea too.
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 chutneyand 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.
Sometimes the best recipes for Maroggia’s MillCookbook are born this way…recovering ingredients that have been languishing in the fridge for too long and next to their expiration date. Full cream, I can’t ever recall for which recipe I had bought it. Was it to make a batch of fleur sel caramel or rather to bake somecookies to nibble on at tea time? No clue at all! Then I came up with this bizarre idea. What about trying to bake sweet full cream infused grissini, would they taste any good? The answer came with the verdict from my faithful guinea pigs, these grissini are simply AMAZING. And highly addictive to…Flavia knows something about it, having said at least three times “This is the last one, I swear” before sealing the bag and leaving the few survivors on her studiomate Micha’s desk. These grissini can be underbaked, maintaining an internal softness which makes them very pleasant and accentuates the creamy quality of its dough. Alternatively, you can bake a little longer and let them dry in the oven to make them crispy. However you decide to bake them they are perfect as a snack for tea time or to munch on in front of a good movie. The sugar and pistachio breading can be replaced with other kinds of chopped nuts. What are you waiting for, roll up your sleeves and knead! Continue reading / Continua a leggere…
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?
Biscuits, biscuits..give me biscuits! I have no clue what is going on with me, but maybe the macrobiotic experience (which I interrupted nearly three months ago) has shocked me to the point that I really needed to walk a bit on the dark side of baked goods and indulge in all those recipes that require a lot butter and a good dose of sugar. I’m pretty confident I will overcome this phase, especially because I don’t think my hips can take so much fat for very much longer. No, I don’t think so. So enjoy these sablés until I feel like posting sweet recipes. And I want to share this with you and all of Maroggia’s Mill‘s friends. When my friend Flavia (a very talented photographer, go and check her work here) invited me over for tea I baked a good batch which was thoroughly enjoyed. In fact they didn’t last long, I can tell by the way my pants feel a bit too thighs! Needless to say, these biscuits melt in your mouth with delicate bursts of cinnamon and orange flavour which blend very well with each other as well as with dark chocolate. The addition of crunchy almonds and chopped dark chocolate add an extra thing to the whole sensory experience you have while biting in. Diet can start tomorrow (you can always go and check mymacrobiotic blog…since it’s still online!)! Continue reading / Continua a leggere…