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

Elven Bread 2

Ok, I confess it, I have a thing for bake with yeast, any kind of yeast, dry, fresh, wild, sourdough… So when  a friend of mine presented me those pretty rolls I couldn’t avoid to think: “that is, that is exactly what an elven bread should look like“. Those rolls are absolutely superior in savor and shape to any other bread I have seen or taste before. So I took the recipe and I made some adjustament that suit my taste better, and here it is the prettiest bread roll I have ever done…

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Ingredients

For the dough:

20 gr. of active dry yeast

800 gr. of strong flour

2 cups of full-fat milk

1 cup of oil

3 tbs of sugar

1 tea spoonful of sea salt

1 egg yolk and two whites

For the wash:

100 gr of room temperature butter

1 egg yolk

For the glaze:

1 egg

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Directions

Prepare the sponge:

  • Sprinkle yeast and sugar into 100ml of warm milk in the  bowl of a stand mixer and stir to dissolve (if you have a kneading machine you will save a lot of work).
  • Set it  to rise in a warm place for about one hour.

Prepare the dough:

  • Mix the  flour with salt and add it with the remaining milk to the sponge.
  • Attach the dough hook to the mixer and knead it until you have a smooth and elastic dough (about 20 minutes at medium speed)
  • 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).
  • Knock back and divide the dough in eight small ball of 150 gr each Let it rise for another hour.
  • Prepare the wash, with the whip mix together the egg yolk and the butter until creamy
  • Knock back the first ball and roll with a pin until 3 mm high, spread the wash uniformly and cover with another rolled dough like in the photos. When you have 4 layer, cut the dough in eight triangles and roll it as in the photo (you will get the shape of a leave). Let it rise for another half an hour.

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  • Make an egg glaze by lightly beating the egg
  • Brush the top of the loaf with the glaze. Bake it in a preheated oven at 200°C for 2* minutes until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped underneath. If you have a steam oven like me, then just use the bread program.
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The butter add an incredible flavor and it is a treat also eaten without any filling
Elven Bread 2
The texture is amazing but the taste is even better!

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

 

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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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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