Mini bundt cakes with chocolate drizzle

Mini bundt cakes with chocolate drizzle

Yes, I’m playing the chocolate card, guilty as charged! As if mini, individual bundt cakes weren’t adorable enough, I had to go and drizzle a sticky, luscious dark lacquer all over them, thus rendering them utterly irresistible. These cakes incapsulate … Continue reading

Beer and Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Flat Bread (Pizza Scima alla Birra)

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It has become a tradition now to kick off the new year with a bread-dedicated post. After all, I am a self-confessed avid baker (read “bread-baking addict”) and very little else elevates my culinary spirit to blissful excitement more than kneading, beating and shaping a starchy good. I have spent the last couple of weeks back home, visiting family and gorging on love, food and wine and I have been  inspired to fight the seasonal sense of laziness and get back into the kitchen (my mum’s, to be precise, as I am still in Milan), after trying a truly wonderful flat bread at Agriturismo Troilo, in Colle Zingaro, in the Abruzzo region (pictured at the bottom of the page), a few miles away from when my mum is from. Antonina, the talented home-cook who runs the place with grace and a true respect to the authenticity of regional food, didn’t shy away from giving me her recipe, which required 4 ingredients only: oil (good, local EVOO), OO flour, water and salt. The right ratio of those humble ingredients, provides a flaky, pastry-like dough, that crumbles in your mouth as you blissfully stuff it with morsels of home-made salami all happily washed down with a drop of Moltepulciano. It is similar to the recipe Signora Matilde once gave me (which I posted here), and just as good. Those Abruzzese women are a treasure trove of home-cooking secrets and it is vital to pass them on to make sure they are available to the generations to follow.

I have adapted Antonina’s recipes, using beer instead of water, for a slightly more robust flavor and to allow the natural yeast in beer to rise the bread slightly in the oven. Also, I have used a locally produced EVOO, so rich and intense its color is a vibrant hue of emerald green.

Ingredients (serves 4)

2-1/2 cups of OO flour (or plain flour)+ some for heading the dough

3/4 cup of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (I know, it’s a little extravagant, but it will impart the bread the most beautiful flavor. I wouldn’t advise replacing it for vegetable oil)

a little less than 3/4 cup of beer

1-1/2 teaspoons of salt

How To

Combine flour, oil, beer and salt in a bowl, and mix with a spoon until a dough forms. Knead the dough onto  floured surface for 3-4 minutes until soft nd smooth.

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It should be pliable and a little softer than egg-pasta dough. If it feels too sticky add a little extra flour. If too dry, add a little extra beer.

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Oil a baking dish and flatten the dough onto it. Score the dough with a pastry cutter to create a criss-cross pattern.

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Once the bread is baked and slightly cooled, the scoring will make it easier to cut in chunks. Bake at 200 C (395 F), conventional oven, for 30-35 minutes or until the top is bronzed and crunchy.

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Cool at room temperature for 10-15 minutes, then carefully lift out of the baking dish, break up into chunks and serve with cold cuts of meat and cheese for the ultimate antipasto.

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Pizza! Home-made and utterly delicious (and healthy too!)

Very few things speak of Italy to me than a perfectly baked Pizza.

The thought of a wonderfully crispy and thin crust, so masterfully stretched and folded to create the perfect base for our favorite mediterranean combination of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and a few other usual suspect, topped by a drizzle of top-notch quality extra-virgin olive oil, is enough to send me delirious and wish for a scalding slice of Margherita straight away. My most luxurious culinary vision is a happy face stuffed with Neapolitan-style pizza, melted mozzarella dribbling down my chin and all!

Neapolitan-style pizza could not be farther from those doughy, rubbery, gummy disks of dough fried in lesser fats and topped with a cornucopia of ingredients that we Italians have never even heard of…Can someone please enlighten me on what Pepperoni is??

No, pizza, Italian pizza, is light, delicate and accommodates only a few ingredients on top. It is gentle on your digestive system because of the slow-fermentation of the dough and it, by all intents and purposes, good for you.

So, get your flour and start kneading!

Ingredients for the dough

3 1/2 cups  00 type flour (or plain)

1/2 cup  wholemeal flour

1 teaspoon of dry yeast

1-1/4 cup  lukewarm water

1/2 teaspoon of sugar

2 teaspoons of salt flakes

Extra-virgin olive oil, to grease the bowl and to drizzle on top.

How to

Dissolve yeast and sugar in water. Stand for 5 minutes or until frothy.

Place flour in a large mixing  bowl, add the yeasted water and mix for 1-2 minutes, then tip the dough onto a floured surface, add the salt and knead vigorously for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape it into a ball.

As all flours tend to differ slightly, you may have to add a little more water of a little more flour in order to have the perfect dough. You want a soft, pliable dough, but not too sticky.

Rest the dough in an oiled bowl, covered with a tea-towel for 30 minutes, then lift it out, place it back onto a floured surface, stretch it with your hands and fold it into three and then back into a ball. Put the dough back in the bowl to rest for another 30 minutes, then stretch and fold again.

As tedious as this process sounds, this is paramount for obtaining a light, crispy and easy to digest base.

After the second stretch-and-fold, place the dough in a large oiled container fitted with  lid (like a Tupperware one). Place in the fridge (with the lid on) and slow-prove for a minimum of 6 hours, up to 36 hours.

When you are ready to make you pizza, take the dough out of the fridge and place it in an oiled bowl and cover it with a tea-towel. Rest at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.

Your dough is now ready to be stretched, topped and baked.

How easy is this?

Pre-heat your oven to 220 C, 425 F.

Roll it out to your desired thickness, keeping in mind that it will rise a little while baking.

If you plan to use a pizza stone, place it in the oven now to heat up. Dust it with coarse semolina to prevent the dough from sticking.

I normally roll the dough and place it onto a sheet of baking paper. It easier to carry to the oven and you can slip the paper off the stone 15 minutes into baking, to allow the base to crisp up nicely.

Top with tomatoes, salt, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and whatever you love more, keeping in mind that, less is more… I have a personal love-affair with anchovies, capers and olives.

If you plan to add cheese, do so only for the last 5 minutes of baking, or it will dry out.

You pizza should take 20 minutes to bake, but since all ovens vary, check it after 10 minutes and judge for yourself.

Take the pizza out of the oven, top with basil or rocket leaves, if liked, a drizzle of extra-virgin, and , Ecco, (there it is!) your authentic Pizza Napoletana is ready.

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Panini alle Olive (Olive and Rosemary bread rolls, made in a food processor)

Happy 2012 to all!

Given my self-confessed obsession for yeasted baked goods, it only makes sense that the first post of the year is -yet another- bread recipe. I have been experimenting with doughs and flours and I really wanted to offer you an alternative to hand or machine kneading, and it turns out that some breads can be mixed in a food processor! No hard work+no floury mess= amazingly good bread rolls with a soft, moist crumb.

Ingredients

1x 7gr (0,2 oz) sachet of dry yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup lukewarm water

1/2 cup water

1/4 extra virgin olive oil

500 gr (3-3/4 cup) all purpose flour (or Italian 00 flour)

1-2 rosemary sprig

2 teaspoons salt

2 handfuls of pitted olives

How to

1. Stir the dry yeast in lukewarm water. Stand for 10 minutes until the liquid appears slightly creamy, than add1/2 cup of water and oil

2. Place  flour, a scant handful of rosemary springs and  salt in a food processor fitted with a sharp blade, cover with the lid and pulse a few times to combine the flour with the salt. Gradually add the yeast+olive oil liquid until it starts to combine. At this stage the dough will look quite dry. Don’t be tempted to add water or oil as the olives you are about to scatter through it will add a lot of moisture.

3. Sprinkle in the olives (I used green Sicilian and black Ligurian olives) and pulse until the dough starts to gather into a slightly sticky ball. If you think your dough it too wet, you can sprinkle a little extra flour. Likewise, if your dough isn’t moist enough, add a table-spoon of water or another couple of olives.

4. When the dough easily detaches from the sides of the bowl, take it out, dust it with a little flour, shape it into a ball and leave it to rest, well covered, until it doubles in size. In warm weather this will take 1 1/2  to 2 hours, allow a little longer if  it’s cold.

5. Cut the dough into 8 pieces, shape them into balls and place them to prove on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Be sure to allow some room for the rolls to grow. You can use this dough to bake loaves as well, as pictured below.

6. Allow to rise for a further hour. In the meantime bring your oven to 200 Celsius (390 Farenheit). Bake your rolls for about 20 minutes or until they look slightly golden and sound hollow when tapped with your fingers.

Serve with pecorino and salame or simply devour them as there are…

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