May 29, 2008

Traditional Tiramisù

As I told you, Italian desserts are a very modern creation. Cakes and sweet breads have a long tradition, it’s true. And it’s also true that we can trace the history of gelati and sorbetti back to Roman times. But the traditional Italian dessert until very recently was just fruit. Pure and simple.

However, nowadays Tiramisù is the ultimate Italian dessert. I’ve already posted some tiramisù recipes, but this one is more “traditional”. Traditional tiramisù calls for savoiardi, or Italian lady finger cookies. Savoiardi are light, fragrant, subtle and delicious.

Ingredients (serves 8)
20-24 savoiardi (lady finger cookies)
8 oz mascarpone cheese
3 pasteurized eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tsp of sugar
1 cup of espresso
3 Tbsp rum
cocoa powder
pinch of salt

Basically we’ll follow the same instructions as before. Take the eggs and separate the yolks from the whites using two bowls. Beat the yolks vigorously with 1/2 cup of sugar for 3 minutes and when it has a light and bright yellow color, add the mascarpone cheese. Beat for another 3 minutes until it gets smooth and creamy. Then beat the whites with a pinch of salt until firm and stiff peaks form. Gently mix the creamy mascarpone and yolk mixture and the whipped whites. Lay about 8 cookies side by side in a rectangular pan. Spoon some caffè corretto (espresso + rum + 2 tsp sugar) over the cookies, soaking them. Place a layer of the mascarpone mixture on top of the cookies and repeat this operation completing 3 layers. Sprinkle high-quality cocoa powder on top. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, but again it tastes way better the next day!

Tips

I’ve had some difficulty finding savoiardi. Even in Italian specialty shops I’ve had some problems. Sometimes I find them just in regular supermarkets, and I’ve found them even in a dollar store (and yes, they were made in Italy… however I must confess I didn’t try them).

I have lived in Chile and savoiardi are unexpectedly popular down there. So I was really surprised when I couldn’t find them in North America. Maybe it was just my luck, but in Chile you can buy them even from vendors in the streets! And it gets even more interesting. Chilean savoiardi are called galletas de champaña (champagne cookies), yet there’s no champagne in them. But they have an interesting ingredient that you don’t find in the Italian ones: chuño, which is dehydrated potato flour. Far out!

Branching out
Cantucci Tiramisù
Amaretti Tiramisù


Posted by Daziano at 10:22 AM | 11 comments  
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May 24, 2008

Exceptional 3 cheese pizza

I love cheese in all its forms. In this pizza I wanted to mix some of my favorite cheeses, so I chose three of them. And I chose 3 cheeses that, even with different general characteristics, have one common feature. First, slices of majestic taleggio. Taleggio is a buttery Italian cheese that luxuriously melts in your mouth (and while it melts indulging your palate you’ll forget its sharp aroma). French Brebis, a nutty 6-month-aged cheese made of sheep milk, from that region, partly in France, partly in Spain, but having in reality its own splendid individual identity: the Basque Country. And Ribafria, a Portuguese goat cheese with a thick tasty rind covered with crushed peppercorns. This cheese, which is aged for almost 2 months, will add a nice pungent touch to your pizza. Strong aromas, different origins (location and type), nutty and spicy flavors, tanginess, these all combine creating a unique blend for a very exceptional pizza.

So, cow, sheep and goat. Italy, France and Portugal. What’s the common feature present in these cheeses? Well, maybe you guessed it? They all have an edible rind.

Ingredients
Pizza dough (use half of one of these recipes)
5 oz Taleggio cheese
5 oz Ribafria cheese
5 oz Ossau-Iraty-Brebis-Pyrenées cheese

8 Tbsp tomato sauce
1 handful chives
Olive oil

Prepare the pizza dough according to one of my previous recipes. When the pizza is shaped, spread some passata di pomodoro or a simple tomato sauce on top. Add the cheeses, sliced. Cook in a pre-heated oven at 450F for 25 minutes until golden brown, then serve with a touch of chopped chives.

Posted by Daziano at 10:29 PM | 7 comments  
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May 19, 2008

Chicken Mushroom Pizza

I like the idea of baking pizza when my friends are coming over. It’s simple, delicious and they love it. But there are two things you have to consider. First, after tasting homemade pizza you simply can’t go back, and neither can your friends. So, they’ll ask you to make pizza all the time. Not that I don’t like this, but just be prepared. Second, if you are Italian you’re used to thinking parsimoniously about the toppings. However, everybody else in the world loves the sensation of abundance in their toppings. That’s why I always make at least two pizzas. One simple and more Italian pizza, like a classic margherita. And another more generous American-style pizza. Abundance is not bad if you keep in mind the Italian philosophy. You know: the excellence of the ingredients.

Ingredients
Pizza dough (use half of one of these recipes)
6 oz cremini mushrooms
3 chicken breasts
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
6-8 Tbsp tomato sauce
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 little bunch basil
Salt, pepper
Olive oil

Prepare the pizza dough. Cut the chicken into really thick slices. Add some apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic, and let the chicken chunks marinate for about 30 minutes. In a saucepan sauté the mushrooms with some olive oil (about 1 Tbsp). The secret for brown and tasty sautéed mushrooms is a very hot saucepan and mushrooms that are cleaned but not washed. When the mushrooms are ready, set them aside and using the same saucepan sauté the chicken until nice and golden brown. If you want, after sautéing the chicken, add ½ cup of white wine and then add the tomato sauce. By doing this you’ll capture all the flavors. Just remember that I always use the simplest tomato sauce (tomato puree or passata di pomodoro). Also remember that anything you’ll put on your pizza has to be cooled before. Now, when the dough is ready and shaped, and ready to bake, add the tomato sauce, the grated cheeses, the mushrooms and the chicken. Bake in a 450 preheated oven for about 25 minutes. Of course, add some fresh basil and a touch of olive oil before serving.

Tip

I really don’t know how to count chicken breasts. So, when I say two chicken breasts, I mean all the chicken breasts you can get from one chicken.

Posted by Daziano at 6:31 PM | 10 comments  
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May 15, 2008

Incredibly simple baked gemelli


Ingredients
1 pound gemelli pasta
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup Tomato sauce
1 cup small scallops
½ cup chopped pancetta
½ onion, chopped
6 oz Cremini mushrooms
Pecorino romano cheese

½ cup white wine
1 cup baby spinach
Olive oil

First, we’ll do a successive sautéing process. In a saucepan sauté the onion with about 1 Tbsp olive oil until transparent and tender. Reserve. Using the same saucepan (without the onions) sauté the pancetta until golden. Reserve. Then, sauté the scallops just for a couple of minutes on each side. Reserve. Finally sauté the mushrooms until brown. Clean the mushrooms first but don’t wash them, we don’t want to have extra water here. When the sautéing process is over, pour in the wine and let the alcohol evaporate. Then add the tomato sauce, the heavy cream, and the reserved ingredients. Add salt and pepper. Prepare the pasta according to the label instructions. About 2 minutes before the pasta is cooked al dente, pour 1 or 2 scoops of the salted and starchy cooking water of the pasta into the saucepan. When the pasta is ready, drain it and toss directly into the saucepan. Add the baby spinach. Give a quick stir, add some pecorino romano cheese and broil in the oven until the cheese turns golden brown.

Posted by Daziano at 10:46 PM | 5 comments  
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May 12, 2008

Blueberry gelato

Blueberry gelato is one of my very favorites. I can’t explain it, but it’s so heavenly tasty and sublimely delicious! And it’s fully charged with antioxidants so despite the calories it is very good for you. Well, what else can I say: just try this recipe and indulge yourself!

Ingredients
3 ½ cups blueberries
5 egg yolks
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup water

In a saucepan dissolve 1 cup of sugar with ¾ cup of water over medium heat. Add the blueberries and bring it to a simmer for a couple of minutes, until the water turns into a blueberry sauce. When the sauce is cool, blend it at high speed in an electric blender. Then make the custard, following these instructions but using the ingredients listed above. Make the blueberry gelato using your ice cream machine.

Tip

Quebec is the biggest producer of wild blueberries. Southern Chile, with a climate comparable to Vancouver, has the largest production in South America.

July is the season of blueberries, but if you can’t wait – just as I’m not able to – you can always use individually quick frozen blueberries.

Posted by Daziano at 7:52 PM | 19 comments  
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May 7, 2008

Scallop mini calzoni

I love calzone, and since they are easy to handle and carry and also because you can eat them hot or warm, they are another staple for an Italian picnic. Individual calzoni are great, but you can also try a big regular one.

Ingredients (for 4 mini calzoni)

Pizza dough (use half of one of these recipes)

Filling for each individual calzone
1 Tbsp tomato sauce
1 little bunch of baby spinach
About 6 sautéed medium scallops
1 ½ slices of prosciutto
1/3 cup grated cheese

Season the scallops with some salt. In a saucepan, sauté the scallops with some olive oil until golden on each side. Prepare the dough. When it’s ready, divide it into 4 little balls. Roll each ball with a rolling pin shaping thin discs. In the center of each individual calzone spread some tomato sauce, then add a layer of raw baby spinach. Add the sautéed scallops and then some pieces of prosciutto. Cover with grated cheese. Close each calzone, folding the dough in half. Crimp the edges with your fingers. Brush the top of the calzoni with olive oil and bake in a preheated 425F oven for about 25 minutes until nice and golden brown.

Tip - Singular vs Plural: In Italian you eat one calzone, but several calzoni. You can follow the same logic with salame / salami for example.

Posted by Daziano at 10:21 PM | 5 comments  
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May 3, 2008

Brioche with fennel seeds

I know that brioche is a French bread. In fact, this sweet bread is so French that you should know that Marie Antoinette said “qu’ils mangent de la brioche” (let them eat brioche) instead of “let them eat cake” (it wasn’t really Marie Antoinette, but an unknown French princess, and the original phrase did mention brioche). And it makes more sense because brioche is a kind of bread, so if the crowd didn’t have regular bread, why didn’t eat brioche instead. Pourquoi pas, right?

Ok, brioche is French. But my nonno (grandpa) used to bake wonderful brioche with a little touch of anise seeds. So, here’s my version with fennel seeds!

Ingredients (makes 1 big loaf)
5 ½ cups flour
1 cup milk
1 ½ cup sugar
4 tsp yeast
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
Zest of 1 orange
1 tsp orange blossom water
Tbsp fennel seeds
1¼ stick of butter
Pinch of salt

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk. When it has doubled its volume, add it to the flour mixed with 1 cup of sugar. Begin to incorporate using a fork, and then knead using your hands. When the dough is nice and elastic, let it double in volume, covered in a warm place. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and mix the egg yolks with ½ cup of sugar until a light colored creamy mixture forms. Slightly beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt. Add both egg mixtures to the dough, cover and let it rise again. Punch down the dough and then add the butter (room temperature), 1 Tbsp at a time, while kneading the dough on a floured surface. Incorporate the orange zest, the orange blossom water and the fennel seeds. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Then knead the dough and shape the loaf. Create one long strand of dough, about 3 times longer than your bread mold. Cut into three parts and make a braid. Transfer into the mold (already sprayed with non-stick oil) and let it rise covered for at least 1 and a half hours. Brush with some sugared milk. Bake in a preheated 425 baked oven for about 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out dry after inserted into the bread. Don’t forget to put a cup of warm water in the oven while baking your brioche.

Nothing can beat warm brioche with some butter and apricot jam!

Tip

In Italy if you order brioche or brioscia (or even briosce) what you actually get is a croissant shaped brioche or just a regular croissant, both called cornetto. Cappuccino and cornetto is the ultimate Italian breakfast.

Posted by Daziano at 1:57 PM | 0 comments  
May 2, 2008

Rustic parmesan bread


I told you I bake a lot when I go picnicking. And homemade bread has to be part of an Italian picnic! The simplest bread you can make follows almost the same directions as pizza dough. There are only two little secrets you need to know when making bread. First, let the dough rise overnight in your fridge. Second, put at least 1 cup of hot water in the oven while baking the bread (I use my Pyrex measuring cup). The long rise process will allow the bread to have a nice texture, while the water in the oven will provide humidity that will create a nice crust. And with a nice crust you can save your bread longer.

Ingredients (makes 1 big loaf)
5 cups bread flour
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups warm water
1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
Sesame seeds

The instructions are almost the same as before. Put the flour and cheese in a bowl and mix. Dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of warm water and let it rise for about 2 minutes until it’s bubbly and it has doubled in volume. Add the yeast to the flour, add the olive oil and another cup of warm water, and incorporate using a fork. Add the salt and knead the dough with your hands. When the dough is smooth and elastic, refrigerate covered overnight. The next day, take the dough out of the refrigerator. Punch the dough with your hands, and knead for a while. Let it double its volume covered in a warm place – 30 min to 2 hours depending on how warm your kitchen is.

Shape the loaf. If you’re shaping a plain loaf then you have to make some cuts on top of the dough with a very sharp knife. Or you can use other creative shapes. For example you can roll out the dough in order to create one long strand of dough, about 3 times longer than your bread mold. Cut into three parts and make a braid. Transfer into the mold (already sprayed with non-stick oil), put some sesame seeds on top, brush with olive oil and let it rise covered. The braid should use more than 1/3 but less than ½ of the mold in height. It will be ready for baking when the dough has risen slightly above the edges of the mold. Bake in a preheated 425F oven, with one cup of hot water in the oven, for about 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out dry after inserted into the bread.
Posted by Daziano at 7:53 PM | 0 comments  
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