Spooky pumpkin cookies

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  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup butter, sliced
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree

 

  • Preheat oven 180 C.
  • Stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and the spices. Mix the dry ingredients with the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add  the pumpkin and mix to form a soft dough.
  • On a  floured surface roll the dough out to 3 mm. thick. Cut out biscuits with a cutter. Place biscuits on a  cookie sheet.
  • Bake 180 C for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • When cold put a dollop of chocolate cream or of jam on one biscuit and place another on the top of it.
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BULGUR SALAD (UNDER THE TOSCAN SUN, 1)

under the toscan sunUNDER THE TUSCAN SUN: AT HOME IN ITALY is a memoir by Frances Mayes. In this book the author recounts the purchase of her home, Bramasole, in Tuscany. She tells about all the adventures she and her partner had in renovating the house and working in its gardens while enjoying the sights and food of Tuscany. First published in 1996, this memoir helped in starting the worldwide Tuscan-mania that doesn’t seem to fade. A must read if you are planning a holiday in Tuscany or you want just escape a boring raining weekend in winter. But what a  Turkish recipe, as Kısır (bulgur salad) is, has to do with Tuscany and its sun? The fact is that at the moment I am in my home in Tuscany, enjoying the lovely panorama and the fresh vegetable that my father (healthy 85 years old-thanks to the olive oil) grows in the garden. I had fresh tomato, parsley, onions, salad from the garden, excellent organic olive oil from our trees and some fine grounded bulgur I brought from Turkey… The next thing to do was to prepare kısır a typical Eastern Turkey recipe but with fresh, zero-km ingredients from my Tuscan garden. The freshness of the ingredients and the quality of the olive oil (Tuscan olive oil is less acid than average Turkish olive oils), added extra flavor and texture to this recipe, but I assure you it is tasty also with market-fresh ingredient. If you are gluten intolerant, you can use quinoa  instead of bulgur, it taste beautifully also with quinoa that add a crunchy texture to the recipe.

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The view from my home (typical sweet Toscan hills :-))
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The vegetable garden
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Ripe and green tomatoes

 

Ready to enjoy Kısır
Ready to enjoy Kısır

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 spring onions (chopped) and 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 plum tomatoes, finely diced
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • the juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp mild chilli flakes or Turkish pul biber
  • 1 cup bulgur
  • 5 tbsp chopped parsley
  • salt to taste
  • 2 handful of chopped green salad leaves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the water and when it boils, pour it on the bulgur, let it cool
  2. Heat oil in a small saucepan over low-medium heat
  3. Add the onion, and sauteé for a few minutes, until soft
  4. add the tomato paste and mix well and let simmer for 5 more minutes
  5. When the bulgur is cool and soft, add all the chopped ingredients
  6. Season your salad with lemon juice, chilli and salt
  7. Let it set for at least two hours in the fridge.

 

 

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.

Pesto alla Genovese

Eugenio Montale became a Nobel laureate poet in 1975, the Swedish Academy awarded him despite his modest poetic production (5 books in 50 years of work), declaring that Montale was ”one of the most important poets of the contemporary West”.

montaleGlory of expanded noon
when the trees give up no shade,
and more and more the look of things
is turning bronze, from excess light.

Above, the sun—and a dry shore;
so my day is not yet done:
the finest hour is over the low wall,
closed off by a pale setting sun.

Drought all around: kingfisher hovers
over something life has left.
The good rain is beyond the barrenness,
but there’s greater joy in waiting

translated by Jonathan Galassi (forpoetry.com)

Montale was born in Genoa, in 1896 and died in 1981 in Milan. In his poems the focus is on the landscape, sunny and desolate, stone walls surronding vegetable gardens and cultivation of olive trees. In the inclement sun everything appears hard and cruel. Those poetic descriptions are very far from the turistic leaflets of Portofino or Cinque Terre. True is that Liguria used to be an hard and poor area and many it inhabitants migrated before and soon after II World War.

Pesto alla Genovese is a very tasty sauce, you can use for your pasta, on toasted bread as a snack, is wonderful with boiled potatoes. But mind the ingredients, they have to be fresh (sometimes I found basil that went to seed in the supermarket and it is too hard to get a real nice pesto), prefer pine nuts produced in the Mediterranean area (they are long and thin) rather the Chinese variety that is cheaper but they don’t taste the same (they are bitter). The original recipe traditionally,  is made in the mortar.  You can do pesto in the food processor, but with mortar the green essential oils contained in the basil leaves come off and  the marble of the mortar that is cold and prevents the oxidation of basil.

Ingredients:

  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tablespoon of pine nuts
  • 1 cup of leaves of fresh basil
  • a pinch of rock salt
  • 2 tablespoon of parmesan cheese, grated.
  • 1 tablespoon of pecorino cheese, grated.
  • 5 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions:

  1. Wash the basil leaves in cold water and put them on a canvas to dry . They must be perfectly dry before starting the preparation of the pesto.
  2. Put a clove of garlic in the mortar,  Add 1 tablespoon of pine nuts and  crush until cream. Scoop out the garlic cream from the mortar and put aside. You will add it later.
  3. Put the remaining pine nuts in the mortar, half a cup of the basil leaves and few grains of rock salt.
  4. Smash the basil leaves with a rotating movement along the interior walls of the mortar. Add the remaining leaves, some more rock salt grains  and continue smashing.
  5. Then add cheeses. Amalgamate and taste. Adjust with salt if necessary.
  6. Finally, add the oil and stirr gently. Keep the pesto under a light layer of oil to prevent oxidation.

The Bar Lume’s Cornetti

I cornetti del Bar Lume in italiano 

Bar Lume is an Italian bar in a small sea resort near Pisa (when I read the novels it sounds like Vecchiano), 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 an egg glaze by 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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