Easy Panna Cotta

panna cottaPanna Cotta is probably the easiest dessert in the Italian gastronomical tradition. 3 basic ingredients (cream, milk, sugar) combined in different ratio, give birth to one of most delicious treat ever. The origin of Panna Cotta is obscure, there are rumors that Panna Cotta, is just the easy copy of the French of Bavarois (obviously French started the rumor!), other claims that it was invented in the Langhe area, by a lady of Hungarian origins, and many others believe that is the Northern version of the Sicilian “Biancomangiare” a dessert of Arabic origins.   Be that as it may, the fact is that Panna Cotta is easy, can be done with what you have in the fridge and with the help of the right mold you will get a spectacular result. Panna Cotta is such a star that deserved a book of its own.

My recipe is not from this book, it is mine. I use organic Agar Agar power instead of gelatin, because I read things about gelatin that made me feel uncomfortable.  It is not always possible to control the origins of the gelatin. Moreover with agar agar, Panna Cotta can be enjoyed also by my vegetarian friends.

Ingredients:

For the panna cotta

250 gr. of cream

250 gr. of milk

4 spoonful of sugar

1 vanilla pod or half a teaspoon of extract

1 and ½ teaspoon of Agar Agar powder

For the sauce:

200 gr. of raspberry

1 spoonful of powder sugar

Some drop of lemon

Directions

In a saucepan, heat cream, sugar, vanilla pod, vanilla seeds and agar on medium heat and bring just to a boil until sugar and agar dissolves. Remove from heat and discard the vanilla pod.

Pour cream into individual serving molds. Refrigerate for at least 2-4 hours, until completely set.

Prepare a sauce, processing the raspberry with sugar and some drop of lemon

Gently remove the panna cotta from the molds and serve it with the raspberry sauce.

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I Cornetti del Bar Lume

Bar Lume is an Italian bar in a small sea resort near Pisa(when I read the novels it sounds like Marina di Pisa), four old geezers and Massimo the Barman, spend their time chatting, arguing, and theorizing about murders in town. The four old men analyze crimes and suspects and Massimo analyzes them with sarcastic wit. The 51GAmwpI5aL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_author, Malvaldi, uses a colorful proseto describe a way of living that resists despite the hordes of tourists tha came in the summersin the small beach town. Every morning Massimo put in the oven frozen Italian Cornetti, that are not at all like the French croissant, their have a richer smell (due to the presence of of orange and lemon zests and vanilla) a more sugary flavor and a fluffier texture. In my family we all love Cornetti but after I read an article about the harm of theingredients used  in professional pastry, I have tried to prepare them myself. The original recipe is quite complex, I will give it later. But this one is easy to prepare, if you double the doses, you can freezea batch of them and have your fresh Cornetto every morning.IMG_0516.JPG

 

Ingredients:

550 gr strong flour (like Manitoba)

180 gr milk

70 g water

70 gr sugar (+ more for the layers)

10 gr of dry yeast

2 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 orange grated peel

1 lemon grated peel

70 gr of butter (+ about 100 gr of room temperature butter for the layers)

A pinch of salt

1 egg for the glaze

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Directions

The sponge:

  1. Sprinkle yeast and sugar into 100 gr of warm milkin the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to dissolve
  2. Set it  to rise in a warm place for about one hour.

 

The dough:

  1. Mix the flour with saltand add it to the sponge, pour in the batter the remaining milk and the water.
  2. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and knead it until you have a smooth and elastic dough (about 10 minutes at medium speed) then add all the remaining ingredients and knead it for another 10-15 minutes.
  3. Work it a bit on a floured surface, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise another hour (but it depends on room temperature, less if it is a hot summer day).
  4. Knock back and divide the dough in eight small ball. Let it rise for another hour.
  5. Knock back the first ball and roll with a pin until 2-3 mm high, spread the with butter uniformly, sprinkle with sugar and cover with another rolled dough When you have 8 layer, cut the dough in 16 triangles and roll it Let it rise for another half an hour.
  6. Make anegg glazeby lightly beating the egg
  7. Brush the top of the loaf with the glaze. Bake it in a preheated oven at 200°C for about 20 minutes until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped underneath. If you have a steam oven like me, then start with the low humidy program for about 10 minutes and then turn to the convection bake for the rest of the time.

 

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Blueberry jam pie/The Jane Austen Challenge

 

‘Then the baked apples came home, Mrs Wallis sent them by her boy; they are always extremely civil and obliging to us, the Wallises, always —I have heard some people say that Mrs Wallis can be uncivil and give a very rude answer, but we have never known anything but the greatest attention from them. And it cannot be for the value of our custom, now, for what is our consumption of bread, you know? Only three of us [endearingly, she counts Patty] —besides dear Jane at present —and she really eats nothing —makes such a shocking breakfast, you would be quite frightened if you saw it. I dare not let my mother know how little she eats – so 1 say one thing and then I say another, and it passes off. But about the middle of the day she gets hungry, and there is nothing she likes so well as these baked apples, and they are extremely wholesome, for I took the opportunity the other day of asking Mr Perry; I happened to meet him in the street. Not that I had any doubt before – I have so often heard Mr Woodhouse recommend a baked apple. I believe it is the only way that Mr Woodhouse thinks the fruit thoroughly wholesome. We have apple dumplings, however, very often. Patty makes an excellent apple dumpling.’ (Emma).

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I haven’t written in my Jane Austen Challenge for a while because I was distracted by all this amazing spring herbs and fruits that are so abundant in the Mediterranean area but not very common on a Regency table.

Sweet pies (in particular apple pies) are often mentioned in Jane Austen’s novels and letters: in Austin’s time not all the household were so lucky to have a oven of their own, so, in this case, the Bates has to send the pies out to the baker to have them cook.

Back to our modern time I decided to use what was left of my homemade blueberry jam that I prepared last  summer for this pie, I used spelt flour instead of white flour, because it adds an extra crunchy texture to the crust and it tastes a little bit like almonds.

The aspect of this recipe that I really like is that you don’t need a scale, a simple cup will do the job. I used a biscuit injector machine to ornate my pie with romantic flower-like biscuit. The recipe was enough for a pie of 25 cm. of diameter and 20 small biscuits.

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Ingredients:

2 cups of spelt flour (or white flour)

½ cup of sugar

½ of butter (cold)

2 Tbs of yogurt

1 egg

5 gr raising powder

Blueberry jam (also raspberry jam is nice with spelt flour)

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, mix  flour, sugar and baking powder, then add the butter, yogurt and egg.
  • Mix all the ingredient, but pay attention to work the mixture for just the minimum time required to form a soft dough, you haven’t to warm the butter!
  • Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out on a floured surface until is abut ½ cm thick.
  • Transfer the rolled crust to an ungreased pie plate. Trim the dish of any extra dough.
  • Fill the pastry shell with the jam, then with the extra dough prepare some decorations. Bake in pre heated oven at 180° for 30-35 minutes, until golden.

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Cinnamon Rolls

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”― Friedrich Nietzsche

This could be the motto of Kurt Wallander, the best seller Swedish detective created by Henning Mankel in the early ’90 and soon became a world best seller. In each of the twelve novels Mankel published in the Wallander series, he tried to enlighten the contradictions inside men and between men and society. I am a real fan of Kurt Wallander, he helped me to understand the contradictions of a society that is apparently perfect like the Swedish one (to be honest, living there I came to understand that Swedish society may not be perfect but it is nearly there). Wallander is not a gourmet as other detectives like my Montalbano, he is easy to please, very often we find him in Fridolfs Konditori to buy Swedish Cinnamon rolls. Fridolfs Konditori actually is in Ystad city center and I can assure that they prepare not only lovely cinnamon buns but also wonderful smorgasbord, the Swedish sandwiches.

So thinking of Kurt Wallander I prepared cinnamon buns but I rolled them in the way Cardamom buns (another Swedish specialty) are usually rolled.

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Courtesy for http://mapio.net/pic/p-57785562/

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Ingredients

10 gr. dry yeast
100 gr. sugar
250 ml milk
1 egg
100 gr. butter
1 tsp salt
1 tbs ground cardemom
700 gr. flour

Filling:
100 gr. butter
50 gr. brown sugar
2 tbs cinnamon

Glaze:
1 egg

Directions

Stir the yeast in a few tablespoons of milk.

Melt the butter put in the bowl of a stand mixer and pour the milk on it. Add the rest of the ingredients and knead the dough for 10–15 minutes.

Let the dough rise while covered at room temperature until it double.

Divide in small part of about 50 gr. each and let it rise again for half an hour.

Roll out each piece of dough so it is about 3 mm.

Prepare a mixture with cinnamon, butter and sugar and spread each rolled piece with it. Roll the dough the long way and cut the roll in the middle and then roll around itself (follow the slide show). Place them with the cut edge upward in paper molds. Place on a baking sheet and let rise under a towel for about 60 minutes or until the buns have doubled in size.

Beat the egg, brush the mixture carefully on the buns. Bake in the oven (200°C) for 20 minutes. Allow to cool on a rack.

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Coffee and cinnamon rolls: the perfect “pika” (coffee break in Swedish)

Colomba (Dove, an Easter Cake)

In fair Verona, where we lay our sceneRomeo and Juliet, W. Shakespeare, prologue

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It is common believe that the Colomba, the Italian Dove shaped Easter Cake, is original from Milan or Pavia, and there are legends about dove shaped cakes back to the Byzantine Era. True is that most probably the mother country of the Colomba is Verona, Romeo and Juliet’s town, THE town of love.

Shakespeare seems to have a thing for Verona, as he set there also another play, The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Verona is a very nice town, not far from Venice and Padua, absolutely worthy to be seen especially in the summer when it hosts a precious opera festival, in its magic Arena.

Coming to the Colomba, it is not easy, I made two tries, using the recipe of Vittorio from the Blog  Viva La Focaccia (https://www.vivalafocaccia.com/ricette/video-ricetta-colomba-pasquale-lievito-birra-casa-impasto-ingredienti/). In the first try I followed Vittorio’s recipe very carefully and everything was fine, until I spread the glaze before baking it. The glaze was probably too cold and the Colomba deflated. I was so sorry

So the second time I baked the Colomba first, and the I spread the glaze and I put it back in the oven for about 5 minutes. The result was great! a fluffy, fine textured cake that was melting in the mouth.

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As it not an easy cake, I prepared a PP presentation with all the necessary steps to follow.

Enjoy!

DOWNLOAD THE COLOMBA RECIPE’S POWERPOINT HERE OR AT THE END OF THE POST:

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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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