Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Neapolitan Gateau

Neapolitan Gateau
Believe it or not, the last time I made this cake was at least 20 years ago.

I'll never forget the moment I unlocked the spring form pan and the cake slowly collapsed right before my eyes.  It was a total disaster.  Lory, my accomplice of mishaps, certainly remembers as clearly as I do.  All I have to say is "strawberry cake" and it will trigger a big fat 15 minute laugh, with no refrain to tears and sore cheek muscles. It's one of those stories that remain in the family, even if there's really no story, it's just the whole thing about it that makes it the tale of the strawberry cake.

20 years later.
Neapolitan Gateau
My 2nd attempt.

This time the cake didn't collapse but the taste was different from mom's. She must have adapted the recipe because the one I remember was less sweet and without the chocolate finish on top, the sponge wasn't so soggy either.  There were a couple of things I needed to change to make it more mom's strawberry cake and less Carol Bink's Neapolitan Gateau.

3rd attempt.

Mom's adaptions are not noted on her recipe book. I know I won't stop making this cake until I get it right.


The result is delicious.  I'm still far from figuring out mom's secret touch but I think I'll leave it that way.

Here's the original Carol Bink's Neapolitan Gateau from my mother's recipe book.  My adaption is right below.  You choose which one you prefer.
My Adaption:

For the base, I used 2 cups of regular tea biscuits, 1 heap tablespoon of good quality cocoa powder and 1/2 cup of melted butter.

For the strawberry custard, I omitted the addition of the eggs both yolks and meringue.  I simply made a strawberry puree, added 3 tablespoons of sugar (because I found some very sweet strawberries that didn't need the addition of too much sugar, otherwise you can use the amount from the recipe above), whipped cream and gelatin powder.

I soaked the sponge with milk.  I also tried it with a lemon juice syrup (dissolve and reduce over low heat 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of lemon juice).  I don't mind the liqueur either but if you have kids in the family the other two options are better.

For the rest, I followed the recipe above.

Sponge Cake
6 eggs
200 gr flour
170 gr sugar

Beat the egg whites with sugar for 20 minutes, using an electric mixer.  Add egg yolks and beat well, then add flour.  Bake in a preheated oven at 180ºC for 40 minutes.

Friday, April 10, 2015

the risottare method for a puttanesca pasta

The trick you need to know to make a Puttanesca pasta taste great is the same trick you need to know to make almost every pasta taste great.  The method is called risottare, which comes from risotto. 
Risottare is not the same thing as mantecare or sautéing.  Risottare, allows the sauce to penetrate the pasta, it literally gets into it.  Flavours amalgamate turning a simple puttanesca pasta into something that goes way beyond any verbal description.  You need to try it, to understand what I mean.  

Cook the pasta as you would a risotto.

The pot of water is boiling.  The puttanesca sauce is almost ready.  Butta la pasta (throw the pasta in the pot).  

Cook the pasta half the time required.  The package will indicate how much time it takes to cook it al dente. 15 minutes?  Set your timer to 7.

Don't drain the pasta but use something, like a pasta fork or a hand colander, so that you can pull it up from its water. Keep the pot with the liquid handy.  The pasta now goes straight into the pan where the puttanesca sauce is waiting to receive it. Turn on the heat and add a couple of ladles of the pasta's liquid in the pan.  Allow the pasta to absorb the liquid by flipping and tossing the pasta. As you would with a risotto.  Repeat the process until the pasta is cooked al dente (your timer is set to 7 minutes, remember?).
Puttanesca Sauce

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 anchovies, drained and finely chopped
2 whole garlic cloves
1 can whole peeled tomatoes
100 grams taggiasche olives (buy them with the pit and remove the pits yourself, they contain more flavor)
a few fruit capers (rinsed and drained)
dried chilli flakes
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)

Add the extra virgine olive oil into a large sauce pan.  Add the garlic cloves and cook for about 3 minutes, remove the garlic from the pan.  Add the anchovies and let them dissolve in the oil with the help of a wooden spoon.  Add the olives and chilli flakes.  Now raise the heat on the stove and add the canned tomatoes.  Don't squish the tomates, leave the tomatoes whole. Turn the tomatoes so they can cook on all sides.  The high heat allows the tomatoes to caramelize but will also make a mess on your stove, it is, however, a necessary step for taste and worth cleaning up afterwards. 

Lower the heat and cook no more than ten minutes stirring every now and again.

Cook your pasta using the risottare method mentioned above.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

light buttery dinner rolls

dinner rolls
I can’t help myself from making these dinner rolls over and over again.  Don’t make their name fool you because they aren’t just for dinner, actually I love them more for breakfast and I think they make an excellent bun for hamburgers and sandwiches.

This is absolutely THE best basic soft bread dough I’ve tried so far.

The recipe comes from Sarabeth Levine’s book, Sarabeth’s Bakery, From My Hands to Yours.  I’ve adapted the recipe with just one simple addition, a sprinkle of maldon salt on top of each bun, just when you are about to place them in the oven.  I like to have that light salty touch.  Like other recipes I’ve tried from this book, the result is perfect if you follow the instructions exactly word by word, no less, no more. Although, I did reduce the yeast which calls for 28 gr of compressed yeast (or 3 ½ tsp active dry yeast), I used 7 gr of fresh compressed yeast instead.  The reason for this is because I prefer to allow the dough to rise slowly overnight in the fridge so that I can pull them out in the morning to bake straight away.  Even if it takes longer to rise I noticed that using less yeast results, in taste, less yeasty.

The author introduces the recipe with a small note: “Present these light and buttery rolls in a linen-lined basket at your next dinner party and your guests are bound to sing your praises”. 

I have a feeling that I will present these light and buttery rolls for Easter breakfast.  Served warm in a linen-lined basket on a table set with bowls of jams and butter, chocolate, eggs and salami, pizza Pasquale, Colomba, milk, coffee and tea.  For some reason I already hear those sings of praises.

dinner rolls
Dinner Rolls
Adapted from Sarabeth’s Bakery, From My Hands to Yours

28 gr compressed yeast ( I used 7 gr)
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 cup of whole milk
1 large egg, plus 1 large yolk
3 ¾ cup all-purpose flour, as needed
1 tsp fine sea salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, well softened
*Maldon salt to finish (my adaption)

Crumble the yeast finely into a bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer.  Add the milk and sugar, whisk to dissolve the yeast.  Add the egg and yolk.  Attach the paddle to the mixer and at a low speed add 2 cups of flour and the salt.  One tbsp. at a time add the butter and allow the butter to become absorbed before adding another. Add another cup of the flour to make a soft dough that cleans the sides of the bowl.

Generously butter a large bowl.  Turn the dough on a lightly floured work surface.  Shape the dough into a ball and place the ball in buttered bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic film and let stand in a warm place until double. 

Divide the dough in 9 equal portions (the book says 18 portions).  Shape each portion into a ball.  Cup one hand over the dough and move your hand in a tight circular motion, letting your palm gently touch the top of the dough.  Arrange the balls in a pan lined with parchment paper, leaving some space between the balls.

Allow the balls to rise until double and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown at 180ºC.  Optional, add some maldon salt just before you slip them in the oven.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

panino gourmet

panino gourmet
There's a place in Rome, in the Monti area, where you can find a great spot for panini. It's a sandwich take-away restaurant with an unusual selection on their menu.  The ambient is essential, there's lots of stainless steel, lots of grey, it's like walking straight into a high-tech professional kitchen.  At first, you perceive a cold impact which contrasts with a sense of welcoming coziness that comes immediately after, as soon as you grab a stool, drink a beer and watch the chef prepare you a gourmet panino, of top knotch quality.  Your so indulged to dive into it immediately that your intent of a take-away is long forgotten.

The menu lists a variety of unique sandwiches. Their bread is homemade, like kale bread, chestnut bread, black squid ink bread, matcha with wasabi sesame seed bread, potato bread, blueberry bread, each combined to a perfect filling. You'll find octopus and potato bread sandwiches; lamb burgers with persimmon sauce, red mizuna and chestnuts; green burgers; kale bread with pumpkin soup (the soup is in the bread); vegan burgers with black sesame seed bread, tofu, ginger sauce and leek sprouts...things like, rabbit tuna (?) cooked at a low temperature with dill and juniper berries.  It's all gourmet, it's all good!  Panini with a capital "P".

Tricolore Panini.  This is their and don't miss their instagram.

The last time I went, I had a pita with falafel (made with a broth-boiled beef), daikon and a green sauce. I posted a picture here on my instagram. It was so good that I was inspired to make my own gourmet sandwich using some left over beef from a broth I had made a couple of days before and sadly sitting in the fridge waiting for this to happen. 
panino gourmet
The ingredients I used are leftovers.  The bread,  is a homemade kamut bread a few days old, that I reinvigorated by spraying some fresh water on each slice and toasting it in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil.  I also used the same bread to make the green sauce, only the crumb of two slices, which I placed in a bowl to soak in a couple of spoons of white vinager.  I then squeezed the crumb from the liquid, placed it in a mixer adding, some fresh mint leaves, fresh parsley, a couple of anchovies, one hard boiled egg (only the yolk), 3 tbsps circa, of extra virgin olive oil, salt to taste. Once the green sauce is made, spread a generous amount on each slice of bread. The more the better.  Add some fresh greens, and slices of boiled meat, previously heated on the pan with a little oil. The onion you see on top was also left over from the meat broth, it's simply boiled.  Finish with salt and oil just before placing the other slice of bread on top. Now all you need is a beer.