Monday, February 1, 2016

beignets della domenica

sunday pastries
my sister
Sunday is...

a calm morning rise, coffee in bed, a few pages of a book, a slow breakfast, a kiss from my husband, a double morning kiss from my son, a bonus hug, a pair of jeans, a sweater, some music, a walk somewhere, anywhere, maybe in the woods, at the beach or just at the market. Talks, laughs, a long tel conversation with a friend, a nap on the couch, a good ol' movie on TV, some home cooking and ....pastries.  Yes, pastries! It doesn't matter if we miss out on one or two of the above but never, ever, will we fail to meet our love for Sunday pastries, even if we need to make them ourselves!

And if, on a particular Sunday, my sister and her family just happen to be over for lunch, this means that my little assistant is in town and family photography adds on top of all of the above. I don't know how long I can still manage to convince that little rascal of my nephew with all the...look here, tilt your head, look up, look down, smile, say cheese, but as you can tell by the pictures it wasn't so difficult after all. A plate of cream puffs within an easy reach did the trick.

I'd say I won his heart through his stomach.  What do you say?  

sunday pastries
sunday pastries
sunday pastries
sunday pastries
my nephew in action

Cream Puffs

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter, cut in pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup shifted flour
4 eggs

In a medium size saucepan, bring water, butter, sugar, salt to a boil. Quickly stir in shifted flour with a wooden spoon until one big mass is formed and a film sticks to the saucepan.

Remove from heat and stir in 1 egg at a time. Stir vigorously to incorporate each egg before adding the next one.

Transfer the choux in a large pastry bag. Line baking tray with parchment paper and form rounds of pate choux on the tray. Keep a distance of 2 cm from one another. You can make them small or big, it depends on your preference.

Bake in a preheatd oven at 180ºC for 20 minutes the smaller ones, 30 minutes the bigger ones or until puffs rise and are golden brown.

For the filling, I used simple unsweetened whipped cream.

Dust a few with icing sugar.  Dip some in melted chocolate and then fill with whipped cream and dust with icing sugar.

Your choice.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

a sandwich, or something close to one

Think of this as a savory strudel, that's not a strudel but a bread, that's not really a bread but a pizza that becomes a sandwich, or something close to one. Excuse the play on words, I couldn't find a better way to say it.

Go get that cheese you've tucked away in the fridge. Some of those preserved artichokes laying at the bottom of a half empty jar, or the sun dried tomatoes you bought and forgot all about, a few olives, ham, prosciutto, a scrambled egg maybe? Make a quick pesto with some parsley and walnuts, when basil and pine nuts are not handy. Here, you can use just about everything or anything you have hanging around the fridge and in your pantry. This kind of pizza, if pizza I may say, is rolled like a strudel and eaten like a sandwich, it's practical, easy, you don't even need a fork and knife.

The ideal eating method, for women: put on your favorite movie, find a spot on the couch, pull up your feet, and bite into a slice or two. Ocean's Eleven is the film I recommend. Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon and Andy Garcia will take up most of your visual concentration, you need something to unconsciously bite into that equally satisfies your visual appetite.

The ideal eating method, for men:  adapt :)
stuffed bread
Once the bread dough is ready (click here for the recipe) and your filling is decided, the rest is easy. Use your hands to expand and stretch the dough to a rectangular shape, large enough to contain its filling. Stack the filling along the center, then fold the two extreme ends inwards to partially cover the filling.  Now, fold the horizontal end of the dough, closest to you, over the top.  Flip the opposite end to cover once again.  Delicately stretch the dough and tuck it under the loaf. If the dough should rip, repair the hole by pinching the dough back to shape. This will seal the dough and prevent the filling to spill as it bakes.

NOTE: do not use wet ingredients, such as a fresh milky mozzarella, or fresh tomatoes.  They'll make the dough soggy.

The filling I used: smoked cacio cavallo cheese, evo preserved artichokes, prosciutto and a ready made parsley and walnut pesto.

The day after:  place a slice on a preheated non stick pan. Allow the filling to warm up so that the cheese melts once again, flip the slice on the other side and give it enough time to warm through.

Bake the loaf in a preheated oven at 220 ºC, after 20 minutes reduce the heat to 200 ºC for a further 30/40 minutes until bread is golden, crisp and brown.
stuffed bread

Thursday, January 14, 2016

when it comes to chocolate I go bananas

Banana Chocolate Bread
If I choose to eat chocolate, it's got to be dark. For me, the darker the better, the bitter, the better. You'll most likely find me eating a square, a cube or a chunk with a piece of bread, preferably a toasted slice.  Not the spreadable kind but the kind that makes that muffled sound in your mouth as soon as you bite into it, something like, know what I mean. It needs to melt in my mouth and not in my hands, and if I find a boozy cherry inside, I won't mind at all, but if there's a couple of drops of coffee instead, I'll enjoy it even more.  Not to mention if I get my hands on those with a thin layer of mint.

..but when that dark chocolate, finds its way in a tin to become soon later what is more than just a cake, then my friends, my dear, dear, friends, we are on a totally different planet, the one closest to heaven!
Banana Chocolate Bread
Chocolate Banana Bread (Cake)

2 whole eggs
150 g raw sugar
150 g flour
16 g baking powder
50 ml milk
100 ml extra virgin olive oil, the mild kind
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch salt
30 g good quality dark chocolate cocoa powder
1 banana, mashed
1 banana, whole

In a big bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy, add the extra virgin olive oil and whisk until absorbed in the liquid. Add in the milk and 1 mashed banana, whisk again. Now stir in the dry ingredients, sieved flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, salt and cocoa powder.

Pour the batter in a tin lined with baking paper. Slice a banana in lengthwise in 4 and place on top. Bake in a preheated oven at 180ºC 40 minutes, check with a skewer if it comes out clean and bake a few more minutes if necessary.