Cocoa Swirled Meringues (Meringhe variegate)

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I often find myself planning recipes that only require the use of yolks so that I can have some egg whites to play with. As I type this I will concede that this may sound odd to many, but I cannot renounce who I am, a food nerd, really! How many times have you separated eggs, promising yourselves you will give the unused whites a new, worthy life, only to find them weeks later in the back of your fridge, a scary, ectoplasmic entity begging you to be put out of its misery! Here is my favourite thing to do with the protein-packed goodness: whip it, whip it and then whip it a bit more! With sugar, that is, and a little dusting of cocoa powder to turn them into a delectable treat to accompany your coffee or afternoon tea.

INGREDIENTS, makes 12

100 g (just over 1/3 cup) egg whites, at room temperature

pinch of salt flakes

75 g icing sugar (1/3 cup), sifted (icing sugar is the same as confectioner sugar or powdered sugar)

75 g (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) caster sugar

1/4 teaspoon lemon juice or cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla paste or the seeds of half vanilla bean

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

HOW TO

1. Preheat your oven to 100°C (212 F). Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

2. In a large, clean, dry bowl, whisk the egg whites with the salt until frothy and very soft peaks start to form. I always do this do with hand-held electric beaters on low speed as it gets the job done in 90 seconds, with no sore wrist. But feel free to do it by hand if you missed a day at the gym and need to burn off some calories. Gradually increase the speed of your beaters (or your biceps) to medium and start adding the icing sugar then, slowly, the caster sugar. Keep beating for 1–2 minutes (or 5–6 minutes by hand) or until the egg whites are shiny, smooth and stiff.

3. Add the lemon juice or cream of tartar and gently fold it in with a metal spoon, taking care not to beat the air out of the meringue mixture. These few drops of acid will neutralise the eggy flavour that meringue can sometimes have, and will also keep them stable and preserve their crisp whiteness.

4. Add the vanilla and mix gently. Swirl the cocoa in.

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5. Dollop teaspoons (or tablespoons, if you like them larger) of the mixture onto the baking tray, about 2 cm apart to allow for spreading. You can use a piping bag if you prefer, but I love a more whimsical, free-form meringue.

6. Gently place the tray in the oven and bake for 11/2–2 hours. If they start to colour, turn the heat down to 80°C (175 F). You know the meringues are cooked through when the base is touch-dry.

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Cool at room temperature and enjoy as they are with coffee, gelato or, as my dad favours, a big dollop of sweetened whipped cream. The man is known for his sweet tooth …

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Related recipes

Home-Made Marshmallows (http://www.theclevercarrot.com/2013/12/homemade-fluffy-marshmallows-corn-syrup-free/)

Raspberry cake with meringues (http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/05/02/raspberry-cake-with-whipped-cream-and-pink-meringues-2/)

Sicilian Amaretti (http://sundayatthegiacomettis.blogspot.com/2011/11/sicilian-amaretti-cookies-almond.html)

 

X’mas Hazelnut Cookies (Dolcetti alle Nocciole)

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The Christmas season is heralded in my house with the inebriating smell of sweet treats baking in the oven, may they be my almond pastries, favoured by my boys for their resemblance with Rudolph’s red, shiny nose, or my dad’s morsel of choice, soft hazelnut cookies. These rustic looking nuggets are simply irresistible and they can happily carry you throughout your busy festive day: perfectly dunked in your morning coffee, afternoon tea or after dinner digestivo, they are sure to become your new best friend. The fact that they are rolled and baked in under 30 minutes will make them highly addictive…You are warned!

INGREDIENTS, makes 20

2 egg whites

1 cup of hazelnut meal (ground hazelnuts)

1-1/2 cup of icing sugar, plus more for rolling the cookies in

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, or the seeds from half vanilla bean

HOW TO

1. Heat up your oven to 180 C (350 F)

2. Mix egg whites, gournd hazelnut, vanilla and sugar in a large bowl until a thick paste forms.

3. Pinch off small bits of paste to shape balls the size of a large walnut.

4. Generously roll the balls in plenty of icing sugar.

5. Place the cookies, well distanced apart, onto an oven tray lined with baking paper.

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6. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until cracked and beautifully puffed up.

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Cool at room temperature and merrily consume with glee.

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Silvia’s Cucina the cookbook is now available in stores and online!

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Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Cannellini Beans Salad

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Have you been looking for a super healthy recipe that combines nutritional virtues with great flavor? Look no further! In the one bowl you have the antioxidant powers of tomatoes, the good, necessary fats of extra-virgin olive oil, the antibacterial boost of garlic and the mood-elevating kick of rosemary. Add to this blissful mix the low-in-fat-high-in-iron, gluten-free, vegan-friendly and utterly delicious cannellini beans and you have granted yourself a beauty treatment for the insides that is sure to show its mighty benefits on the outside too. Whomever said that Italian food is not healthy ought to think again….

INGREDIENTS, serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main meal accompanied with bread

600 gr (1.3 lb) of cherry tomatoes (I used mixed heirloom)

4 tablespoon of EVOO

2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar (regular balsamic vinegar or verjuice are good substitutes)

A generous handful of mixed fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary)

Salt, to taste

freshly ground white or black pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon of sugar

1  tin of Cannellini beans, well drained and rinsed (if using dried-and-soaked beans, 450 gr (1 lb) will be more than enough)

HOW TO

1. If using dried beans, start this recipe a day ahead. Soak the beans in cold water overnight. The next day, rinse the beans, place them in a pot well covered in water, throw in some herbs and simmer for 1 hour or until tender. Cool the beans in the cooking liquid, taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Set aside until ready to use.

2. Preheat your oven to 160 C (320 F).

3. Put the washed tomatoes in a large bowl, leave some whole and cut the rest in half. Season with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and herbs. Mix well.

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4. Pour the tomato mix onto a large roasting tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until blistered, but still intact. Add the well-drained beans to the tomatoes while that are still warm, taste for seasoning and fix as required.

5. Serve warm as a side dish or accompanied by toasted sourdough for a more substantial meal.

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Valentine’s Day Treat: Coconut and Dark Chocolate Macaroons

DSCN0036Have you been looking for a last minute Valentine’s Day treat recipe? Have you forgotten about today or have you been in denial about it, only to wake up this morning feeling a slight sense of guilt because you didn’t get your better half any tokens of your appreciation? You are not alone! Welcome to my 6 am panicking thought “OMG, it’s Valentine’s Day and I forgot about it!”. And so, while my darling man was still soundly in bed, I quietly rushed downstairs, whipped up a batter in less than 5 minutes, allowed it to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes while running on the cross-trainer (all the while wearing a face mask to make myself look pretty for our romantic date later on in the day) and by the time I had my shower and got dressed, these chewy, delectable coconut bites were out of the oven ready to be drizzled with thick, syrupy dark chocolate. Talk about multitasking… Happy Valentine’s Day!

INGREDIENTS, makes 12 large cookies

3 egg whites

pinch of salt

2/3 cup of caster sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 cups desiccated coconut

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or paste

1/4 cup dark chocolate chips, melted

HOW TO

1. Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt for a couple of minutes or until soft peaks form.

2. Add the sugar, a little at a time and keep whipping the egg whites until thick and glossy.

3. Gently fold in the coconut and vanilla.

4. Dollop 1 tablespoon of mixture onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. MAke sure to leave them well distanced as they will grow a little whilst baking.

5. Rest in the fridge for 20 minutes. In the meantime, bring your oven temperature to 170 C (340 F).

6. Bake the macaroons for 20-25 minutes or until the bottom in dry and golden and the top is slightly browned and firm. They will feel a little soft but they will continue to firm up as they cool down, at room temperature.

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7. Allow to cool for 20 minutes, then drizzle with melted chocolate. Rest until the chocolate has hardened, then surprise you beloved with your home-baked, love-filled treat.

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Summer Berries Milk Pops

The things you come up with when you have little children!

Do you, like me, spend your Saturdays and Sundays under the constant pressure of delivering a treat “because it’s the weekend..PLEEEASEEEE, Mamma, PLEEEASEEEE!!!” ?

Some of you may have noticed I do have a sweet tooth, but when it comes to my children’s teeth, I seem to forget their need to satisfy such craving…

It is balancing act of finding a way to reward them with a sweet gratification that is also not entirely unhealthy.

After a bit of brain churning, I  have come up with the idea of combining the precious protein and calcium of milk (good), with the vitamin loaded goodness of summer berries (very good) and icing sugar (ok, bad, but 2 out of 3 ain’t too shabby!)

INGREDIENTS (enough to fill 6 ice-pops moulds)

2 cups of mixed berries (I used frozen berries, cheap and gorgeous)

1 cup of icing sugar

2 cups of milk

Simmer the berries with the sugar for 5 minutes of low heat, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat off and mash the berries to a pulp with the back of a fork . Sieve the berry juice through a fine tooth strainer and reserve the ruby-red nectar. You should end up with roughly 1/2 a cup.

Add two cups of milk and stir the mixture until it looks a desirable hot pink shade. Pour the liquid into the moulds and freeze for 4 to 6 hours.

Cherish the smile in your children’s faces as they take the first bite…

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Sausage and Peas Risotto

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Combine the creaminess of Carnaroli short grain rice with the perfume of red wine and the savoury deliciuosness of pork and fennel sausages, with stewed sweet leeks and a generous amount of butter and Parmigiano and you have got yourself joy on a plate. Risotto is the ultimate comfort food and it is really quite straight forward to make. Having said that, I have to be pedantic and fastidious and insist you only make it if you have a great stock to cook in with. Cubes won’t cut it, I’m afraid…

INGREDIENTS, serves 4

2 sausages, sliced

2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

2 leeks

1 tablespoon of butter +1 extra at the end

2 cups of Carnaroli or Arborio rice

half a glass of red wine

4 cups of good stock

2/3 cup of frozen peas

salt and pepper to taste

freshly grated parmigiano

HOW TO

1. Pan fry  the sausage with oil until browned and almost cooked through. Remove and set aside.

2. Slice two leeks and wash throughly to remove any grit. Stew over a low flame in the same pan with the sausage juices adding a tablespoon and butter a Cover with a lid and stir occasionally. They should turn soft and creamy in about 20 minutes.

3. Add the rice and toast in the pan with the leaks until the grains turn translucent, pour in the wine and allow for the alcohol to evaporate. Stir a little to make sure no grains are sticking to the pan, being mindful not to distress the rice too much. You want to make sure the grains keep their shape and texture.

4. As the wine dries out, turn the flame down and start adding the stock, a few ladles at a time, stirring gently. Repeat for about 16/17 minutes,until the rice is almost cooked. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly. Add a cup of frozen peas and your slices of sausage.

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5. Turn off the flame , add a ladleful of stock, a generous grating of Parmigiano and 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir vigorously to release the starch. Cover with a lid and rest for 3 minutes. This process is called mantecatura and it is essential in order to obtain a creamy risotto with its characteristic all’onda* texture .

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Serve with lots of Barbera and enjoy!

* The way of the waves.

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Lemon and Almond Cake with Vanilla frosting

It seems like every cake or cookie I make these days has to have lemon in it. This new-found obsession may be directly linked to my incredibly generous lemon tree.
This year it’s going crazy and there are only so many Gin&Tonics a breast-feeding mother can have…what to do with the rest of the lemons? Boil a few for two hours and blend them togther with eggs, sugar and almond meal and make yourself a deliciously moist lemon cake. And, yes, it goes well with Gin&Tonic, if you were wondering…

INGREDIENTS, serves 8

For the cake

2 large lemons, whole

250 gr of sugar

250 gr of almond meal (almond flour)

5 egg yolks

1 teaspoon of baking powder

5 egg whites, whipped to soft peaks

HOW TO

1. Boil two large lemons for two hours then blend them, whole, in a food processor with 250 gr of sugar, 250 gr of almond meal and 5 egg yolks.

2. Add a teaspoon of baking powder. Whisk 5 egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gently fold in the lemon mixture.

3. Pour onto a greased and floured cake tin and bake at 170 degrees Celsius (338 degrees Fahrenheit) for 40/45 minutes.

Cool down in the tin, then reverse onto a cake stand and ice with vanilla frosting.
For the vanilla frosting

75 gr soft butter
375 gr icing sugar ( I know, it’s a lot. Keep your kids away or they’ll be bouncing off the walls within seconds!)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. milk

HOW TO

1. Blend butter and sugar until creamy then add vanilla and milk. Beat for a couple of minutes on medium speed, until frosting is smooth.

2. Spread frosting onto your cooled cake and decorate with toasted pistacchio nuts and lemon zest.

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Torta Gianduia (Hazelnut and Dark Chocolate flourless cake)

Rain, rain and more rain! Sydney has been wet and cold for days now. As happens every winter, everybody is talking about the ‘wettest and coldest winter of the last 50 years’… Nevermind that, I know just what will turn this cold, wet long week-end into a warm, indulging, chocolate cuddle: A Piemontese chocolate and hazelnut Torta. Piemonte is a region in the north of Italy bursting with God-blessed products and culinary traditions ranging from the wonderfully pungent Bagna caoda to the utterly divine (and utterly expensive) white truffle, to  mellow richness of Langhe hazelnuts. The crafty Torinese Caffarel artisian chocolatiers, back in 1852, married the latter with chocolate out of necessity, since cocoa was rationed during the years that followed the Napoleonic wars, and named the offspring Gianduja. So, if you were wondering, yes, Italians did invent Nutella. It was in fact originally called Gianduia Spread.

Now, for the cake…

Ingredients

150 gr (3/4 cup) of unsalted butter

160 gr  (6 oz)of 70 % dark chocolate

45 gr (1/3 cup and 1 teaspoon) of dutch cocoa powder + extra for dusting

50 ml (1/8 cup)of hot water

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 tablespoon of Frangelico or rum

250 gr (1 cup and 4 tablespoons) of firmly packed brown sugar

4 eggs

120 gr (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) of hazelnut meal

Pinch of salt

How to

1. Heat your oven to 160 C (340 F)

2. Melt the butter with the chocolate in a double boiler

3. Pour the hot water into a bowl with the cocoa powder and whisk until there are no lumps. Add the vanilla and the Frangelico (or rum). Add the cocoa mixture  to the buttery melted chocolate and stir to combine.

4. In a separate bowl, cream the yolks with the sugar with a whisk or an electric beater until fluffy then pour in the chocolate mixture. Add the hazelnut meal and stir to combine.

5. In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. This will take about 1 minute if using a hand-held electric beater.  A fair bit more if doing by hand…Gently fold the egg whites through the chocolate mixture using a large metal spoon. Pour the batter into a 20 cm round cake tin, lined with baking paper. Bake for 40/45 minutes or until the edges are firm and the surface it slightly cracked and feels soft in the middle.

As it cools down, it will sink in a little creating the perfect opportunity to be topped with cherries, cream or both! You may dust it with icing sugar, cocoa powder or, if you feel exceedingly indulgent, coat it with molten dark chocolate…

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Happy long week-end…

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