Milk Bread Rolls for Beth

 

A few days ago I received a very encouraging letters from Trix Wilkins, I went to her blog  and I discovered that she wrote a novel,  The Courtship of Jo March: a variation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women , that of course I am dying to read,  meanwhile to thanks Trix of her kind words, I prepared milk bread rolls, soft and fluffy, the kind of bread that Beth, Jo March’s fragile little sister, would have like to have with her tea. Those bread rolls are not the Japanese bread rolls that are very fashionable on food blogs on those days. They are actually small bread rolls that are used in Italy, but I would dare to say in the all Mediterranean area, to prepare savoury or sweet snacks as the taste is pretty neutral.

Milk Bread Rolls for Beth
Hear how they look like, I made 12 of 60 gr each

Ingredients:

  • 400 gr flour
  • 200 gr milk
  • 50 gr butter
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp of honey
  • 10 gr dry yeast
  • 5 gr salt
  • 1 egg for the wash
Milk Bread Rolls for Beth
Still warm…

Instructions

  1. Warm the milk (35 C.) and combine in the bowl of a stand mixer with the honey, yeast and a tsp of flour. After about 10 minutes, add the rest of the ingredients, attach the dough hook and run the mixer, starting on low to wet the dry ingredients.
  2. Turn speed to medium and run the mixer for 15 minutes. The dough is ready when it came together and gather in the centre of the bowl attaching itself to the hook.
  3. Divide the dough in small pieces of 60-70 gr each, set them in an oven pan covered with baking paper, cover with plastic wrap and set the pan in a warm place for about 90 minutes until more than doubled
  4. Roll each portion into a log and flat it gently and roll it (like the snail shell). Place each piece of dough inside the oven pan, giving some space between each roll. Cover the roll with plastic wrap and let rise again until double in size, about an hour or so.
  5. Preheat oven to 180 C’. Make the egg wash by lightly beating the egg. Brush the surface of the rolls with the egg wash without letting the fluid drip to the sides
  6. Bake in 180 C’ oven for 20-25 minutes or until rolls are deeply golden on top.
  7. Serve them with warm or cold with savoury or sweet fillings
Milk Bread Rolls for Beth
Ready for a savory snack with Italian Prosciutto
Milk Bread Rolls for Beth
And for a spring snack with pink lemonade and orange jelly

 

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Rout-Cake (The Jane Austen Challenge)

 

In Emma, probably my favourite among Jane Austen’s novels, rout-cake is mentioned as an assessment tool to evaluate society in Highbury:

“.. Her Bath habits made evening-parties perfectly natural to her, and Maple Grove had given her a taste for dinners. She was a little shocked at the want of two drawing rooms, at the poor attempt at rout-cakes, and there being no ice in the Highbury card parties. Mrs. Bates, Mrs. Perry, Mrs. Goddard and others, were a good deal behind hand in knowledge of the world, but she would soon shew them how every thing ought to be arranged…”

Mrs Elton considers rout-cake prepared by the ladies in Highbury quite unsatisfactory but we all know that Mrs Elton… was a vain woman, extremely well satisfied with herself, and thinking much of her own importance; that she meant to shine and be very superior, but with manners which had been formed in a bad school, pert and familiar; that all her notions were drawn from one set of people, and one style of living; that if not foolish she was ignorant, and that her society would certainly do Mr. Elton no good.”

Lady Charlotte and her the Lady’s own cookery book, did not give any hint about a rout-cake should look like at Jane Austen’s time. But another essay came to rescue me: it is “Jane Austen and food” by Maggie Lane, where I could find the following recipe from another old book: Maria Rundell’s, A New System of Domestic Cookery (1824)

“Mix two pounds of flour, one ditto butter, one ditto sugar, one ditto currents, clean and dry; then wet into a stiff paste, with 2 eggs, a large spoonful of orange-flower water, ditto sweet wine, ditto brandy, drop on a tin-plate floured: a very short time bakes them.”

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Again I had to do the math, because I do my recipes in grams or cups and I discovered that two pound is about 900 gr. too much even for a sweet tooth family as we are.

So my recipe is:

450 gr. white flour

225 gr. butter

225 gr. powered sugar

currents as desired

1 egg

a spoonful of orange-flower water

a spoonful of rose water

a spoonful of sherry

a spoonful of brandy

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Directions:

I prepared as I usually do with pasta frolla (Italian shorcrust), that is I quickly mixed all the ingredient in the stand mixer but I didn’t add the currents. I let the dough rest in the fridge for about half an hour and then I took it back, divided that in two halves, I mixed currents in one half and chocolate chunks in the other (I bet Mrs. Elton wouldn’t find them deluding!).

I rolled the dough into balls and then I flattened them and I in a pan and bake in the oven at 180’ C. for about 10 minutes. The result is crunchy cookies that go very well with tea (or in the evening with something stronger like a good Italian meditation wine!)

Those are the babies with currants:

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And those with chocolate chunks:

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Crescia, Easter bread

I already have the opportunity to talk about Giacomo Leopardi, the great Italian poet. I love his poems, but also his romantic, short life. If you get curious about his life, there is an award winning film, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/sep/01/il-giovane-favoloso-review-giacomo-leopardi-venice-film-festival, that I strongly suggest you to watch.

Giacomo didn’t want to live in his native Recanati, and moved in different cities in Italy, but he missed his home town.  On the 17th  March, 1826, he wrote to his sister Paolina:

Salutami il curato e don Vincenzo, e dà loro a mio nome la buona Pasqua, che io passerò senza uovi tosti, senza crescia, senza un segno di solennità”. (Give my regards to the pastor and don Vincenzo, wish them Happy Easter for me.  A Easter that I will spend without uovi tosti, without crescia, and any celebration at all).

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From this excerpt it is clear that Giacomo couldn’t cook, otherwise he could have done what I did, ask his granma her recipe (yes, I have a grandmother alive and yes, she is 99 at the moment and finally yes, she can still share recipes– all thanks to the Mediterranean diet, I suppose).

So I prepared a big Crescia and I shared with friends coming from that area of Italy.

What can I say, I am a poetic, homesick, Italian expat 😂

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INGREDIENTS

  • 500 gr. flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 250 gr. Grated pecorino romano (it a sheep cheese, usually can be found in big supermarket)
  • 150 gr. grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano
  • 10 gr. Dehydrated yeast
  • 100 gr. Gruyere cheese (diced)
  • 250 gr. milk
  • 50 gr. of lard (I used butter, as lard is not easy available here)
  • 50 gr. of olive oil
  • salt

Directions

  1. Oil one large soufflé mould, and using a strip of parchment paper, line the top of the dish adding an additional 5 cm. of height.
  2. Add the yeast to the warm milk in the bowl of the stand mixer and mix, and let sit until bubbly.
  3. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then add the olive oil, the butter, salt, and grated cheese.
  4. Add it to the yeast mixture and stir it with the dough hook, then add the flour, little by little. Stir it until you get a very smooth dough (it may take 20- 40 minutes at medium speed).
  5. Let the dough sit until doubled,
  6. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead by hand, folding in the diced cheese as you work the dough.
  7. Place the dough in the mould and let it sit until more than doubled (my grandmother suggests that it is read when, gently touched, the dough trembles like jelly)
  8. Bake it at 180’ C. for about 45 minutes (I used the bread program in my oven – with 100% humidity for the first 5 minutes and then decrease at about 30% humidity).
  9. Remove the cake from the mould and let it cool completely, serve it as a snack or at breakfast with cured meat and boiled eggs.

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English Muffin 2 (The Jane Austen Challenge)

As I anticipated in my previous post, I wasn’t very happy with the results of my muffins. So I tried to prepare following the instructions of Lady Charlotte Campbell Bury:

Mix flour in a pan, with warm new milk and water, yeast and salt, according to your judgment. Beat it up well with a wooden spoon till it is a stiff batter; then set it near the fire to rise, which will be in about an hour. It must then be well beaten down, and put to rise again, and, when very light, made into muffins, and baked in flat round irons made for the purpose. The iron must be made hot, and kept so with coals under it. Take out the batter with a spoon, and drop it on a little flour sprinkled lightly on a table. Then lay them on a trencher with a little flour; turn the trencher round to shape them, assisting with your hand if they need it. Then bake them; when one side is done, turn them with a muffin knife, and bake the other.”

Not an easy recipe to follow! She gave no hint of how much should be the proportions and “to your judgement” doesn’t seems quite a straightforward indication to me. Some clues were given by the fact that the batter should be soft enough to be worked with a wooden spoon. So this time I prepared a very wet batter, using 350 gr. of strong flour, 140 gr. of water and 140 gr. of milk and a table spoon of yeast. The procedure was nearly the same as suggested by Lady Carlotte:

1. I mixed the batter, I let it rise for a couple of hours than I mixed again and I dropped in 8 different cans, lightly sprayed with oil. To make an experiment I dropped some batter on a floured surface and I let it rise for another hour.

2.  I heated the oven at 200 C. only on the bottom and I put the cans directly in the           bottom of the oven for ten minutes, then I turn them upside for another ten minutes.

For the other experiment I sprinkled a lot of flour and rolled oat on an electric griddle and I gently put the raised batter. I let them cook 5-6 minutes each side.

I got two very different results:

The muffins I cooked in the oven were very light and fluffy:

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Don’t forget to split it up with a fork:

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Then I grilled it and this is the final result:

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And this the result for the ones cooked on the griddle. A bit rustic maybe, but the taste was even better than those cooked in the oven.

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Semlor, a sweet treat for Nils Holgerson

“TWO days later, another strange thing happened. A flock of wild geese came flying one morning, and lit on a meadow down in Eastern Skåne not very far from Vittskövle manor. In the flock were thirteen wild geese, of the usual gray variety, and one white goosey-gander, who carried on his back a tiny lad dressed in yellow leather breeches, green vest, and a white woolen toboggan hood.” The Wonderful Adventures of Nils Holgerson by Selma Lagerlöf 

Did you know that this child novel is actually a geography school book?

Nils is a mean child which is turned very small by an Elf. He took off with a flock of wild geese that fly over Sweden, he finally learn the geography of his country but also how to be kind.

Selma Lagerlöf is one of my favored author especially the novel “The prince of Portugalia”Today’s recipe I learned when I was living in Lund, in the beautiful Skane, and I decided to prepare it today because is a seasonal treat, the Lent bun.

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INGREDIENTS

100g butter

300 whole milk
100 gr caster sugar
500g, strong floor
10 gr tsp fast action yeast
¼ tsp ground cardamom
a good pinch salt
1 egg

FOR THE FILLING
100g  marzipan, grated
¼ tsp ground cardamom
200ml (7 fl oz) whipping cream
3-4 tbsp icing sugar
lingonberry jam

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DIRECTIONS

  1. Place the butter and milk in pan and heat until the butter has melted, let it cool until 35 c.
  2. Place 1 tbs of caster sugar, 1 tbs of flour, 1tbs of honey and the yeast, along with the milk and butter in the bowl of a free-standing mixer and an mix it for a minut.
  3. Let the mixture rest for an hour.
  4. Add the rest of the sugar, the rest of the flour, the egg and the cardamom. Use the dough hook on the mixer to, then knead over a medium-to-low speed for 15-10 minutes
  5. Place the dough in a clean bowl covered with a damp tea towel.. Let it rest for 3 hours or until doubled in size, in a warm place.
  6. Dust your surface with flour, knock the dough back and roll into a sausage shape. Divide into 14 same-sized buns of about 8g  (I weight any piece of dough to make them as regular as possible.)
  7. Place on a large baking tray, spaced evenly apart and lightly cover with cling film. Leave to raise or about 30 minutes in a warm place.
  8. Once the buns are ready, brush the tops of the buns with milk. Bake the buns for 25-30 minutes in a 200 C. oven.
  9. When the buns are cooled cut the tops off and use a teaspoon to scoop out some of the crumb inside the bun to make space for a for a teaspoon of lingonberry jam and some crumble of marzipan.
  10. . Whip the cream and pipe over the top of the marzipan and to the edges. Place the hat back on the top of the buns and dust with icing sugar.

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Maritozzi (Poetic Buns)

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 I want to celebrate Giacomo Leopardi, the great poet, with those exquisite buns. Actually Roma claims the ownership of those buns, but they are well known in all central Italy and I am sure that Leopardi enjoyed them in his Recanati.

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INGREDIENTS:

10 gr. of active dry yeast

450 gr. of strong flour

200 gr. of full-fat milk

100 gr. spoonful of sugar

125 gr. of seed oil (I used hazelnut oil)

1 Tsp of olive oil

30 gr of honey

1 egg

1 lemon’s grated zest

½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

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DIRECTIONS

Prepare the sponge:

  1. Sprinkle yeast and sugar into 50 ml of warm milk in a bowl and stir to dissolve (if you have a kneading machine you will save a lot of work).
  2. Mix it with 50 gr of floor, one tablespoon of sugar and the honey. let it rise for about one hour.

Prepare the dough:

  1. Mix the remaining sugar, milk, the egg, the oils, the lemon’s rind and the vanilla to the sponge.
  2. Add the remaining flour and knead it until you have a smooth and elastic dough (I used Kitchen Aid, with dough hook, speed two for about 20 minutes).
  3. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise three hour (but it depends on room temperature, less if it is a hot summer day).
  4. Knock back the dough and make the buns (around 12).
  5. Let it rising for another ½ an hour, and glaze them with some olive oil.
  6. Bake it in a preheated oven at 400°F/200°C for 25 minutes until golden and light. If you have a steam oven like me, then just use the sweet rolls program.
  7. Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
  8. When cooled sprinkle with icing sugar, and if you want to feel yourself in Rome, open it and fill it with whipped cream.

 

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