Overnight Healthy Rye and Spelt Loaf

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I would love to make you believe that I spent days elaborating a new recipe for a healthy and delicious bread. That I experienced, tried and tested various formulas until one day, exhausted but elated, I triumphed…Alas, the truth about how this bread came to be is that a few weeks ago, as I was setting up to mix a loaf, I realized I only had near-empty packets or various flours! Then epiphany hit me: mix them together and hope for the best! My, was I happy with the result! A crusty, dense and flavorsome loaf, perfect for sandwiches, divine with jam!

INGREDIENTS, makes 1 loaf

300 gr of spelt flour (2-1/4 cup)

200 gr of rye flour (1- 1/4 cup)

70 gr of wholemeal spelt flour (1/3 cup +2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon of dry yeast

1 pinch of sugar or 1 teaspoon of honey

370 ml (1-1/2 cup) of water, at room temperature

2 teaspoons of salt flakes

HOW TO

1. Start this recipe a day ahead.

2. Mix the three flours together in a large bowl, add the dry yeast and sugar (or honey) and gradually add the water, mixing with a spoon until a soft dough forms. Try not to add all the water at once. As flours always vary, it is better to start with 2/3 of the water and only then you can decide if you need the extra liquid. You are after a rather sticky dough, but not a wet one. If your dough feels too dry after you have used all the liquid, add 1-2 extra table spoons.

3. Once the dough has been mixed (you can easily do this by hand as it requires no kneading, just mixing until combined), add the salt and mix until well incorporated.

4. Cover the bowl with plastic film and leave at room temperature for 6-8 hours, then move to the fridge to rest overnight.

5. The next morning, take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest at room temperature for 2 hours.

6. Heat up your oven to 220 C (430 F)

7. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and very gently shape the dough into a loaf, being mindful not to knock out the air. Prove at room temperature for 40 minutes, then score the top with a sharp knife, sprinkle the loaf with a little water and place the tray into the oven.

8. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is crusty and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Cool at room temperature on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing.

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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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Hazelnut Amaretti (Amaretti alle Nocciole)

Just when I thought I couldn’t make Amaretti because I was out of almond meal (and in no way inclined to take a trip to the supermarket with child and toddler in tow) I found a half-packet of hazelnut meal hidden in the cupboard. The idea struck me immediately, but what if it wouldn’t work? Good news, it did! The savoury nuttiness of the hazelnuts , combined with the gentle sweetness of the meringue and the bitter kick of cocoa powder turns this classic Italian cookie into an irresistible grown-up affair. The addition of chocolate chips has the potential to lure children into tasting them and enjoying them with gusto.

Ingredients

1 egg white, at room temperature

75 gr (1/3 cup +1 tablespoon) of sugar+extra for sprinkling

140 gr (1 cup +2 tablespoons) of hazelnut meal (roasted ground hazelnuts*)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 scant tablespoon of cocoa powder

24 dark chocolate chips

How to

1. In a clean dry bowl, beat the egg white with the sugar until they are stiff and shiny. If you are impatient, like I am, I suggest using a hand-eld electric beater to do the job.

2. Gently fold in the hazelnut meal, add vanilla and cocoa and mix well until all the ingredients are well amalgamated. Don’t panic it , at first , it looks like the egg white won’t be enough to bind the dry ingredients. It will come together in 1 or two minutes and you will be left with a soft, sticky batter.

3. Shape the dough into 12 balls, they size of a walnut and dust each ball with  sugar.

4. Gently push your index finger in the middle of each ball to create a little crate. Push two chocolate chips into each crate.

5. Put the shaped amaretti on a cookie sheet lined with baking paper and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

6. In the meantime bring your oven temperature to 170 C (340 F).

7. Bake for 25/30 minutes or until the amaretti are slightly cracked, but retain some softness. To make sure they are cooked through check that the base is firm and tanned.

Cool them at room temperature (not in the oven,as my friend Helen did…) and enjoy with coffee, gelato, hot chocolate or, if you can handle it, some fiery Grappa.

* Toast shelled hazelnuts in a hot oven for ten to fifteen minutes. As soon a you take them from the oven, rub the nuts vigorously with a towel to remove their bitter brown skins. Grind in a food processor fitted with a sharp blade.

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Italian Spiced X’Mas Slice, with figs, cranberries and roasted hazelnut

I had a pretty disastrous couple of days in the kitchen.

First, I charcoaled the left-over potato bake, then I dropped-and shattered-the just-bought, very extravagant jar of designer-worthy vanilla paste.

On the same day, as I was unstacking the dishwasher, I managed to snap the stem off two-two!– champagne flutes.

And so it was only  a natural course of event that I should burn the caramel (once again!) for my chocolate-covered caramel bites!

I didn’t even cry when it happened.  There were no more cook’s tears left in me…

But somehow I had to turn the week around and start fresh again.

And I had all that amazing 70% chocolate waiting to be used and, hopefully, not burnt…

A no-bake something or another was the safest way to go…

And, well, it looks like I may have just redeemed myself!

This easy-peasy chocolate slice makes the perfect Xmas edible gift, so make sure you have enough for yourself as well as your lucky recipients.

INGREDIENTS

200 gr (7 oz)of 70% dark chocolate, melted with 1 tablespoon of butter (in a double boiler or in the microwave, whichever suits you)

a handful of whole roasted hazelnuts, skin removed (roast your nuts for 10 minutes in a medium oven then rub them in a kitchen towel to ease the skin off)

2 tablespoons of ground hazelnut (hazelnut meal)

a handful of dried cranberries (or sour cherries)

three table-spoons of chopped up semi-dried figs

1 scant table-spoon of cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

a pinch of nutmeg

In a large bowl, mix together the nuts with the dried fruits, the spices, the cocoa and the ground hazelnut.

Add the melted chocolate white still hot and combine well.

Pour the decadent paste into an oven dish lined with baking paper.

Flatten with the back of a spoon and allow to set in the fridge for 1 hour before cutting it into rustic chuncks.

Serve with Grappa or Rum, or simply with espresso coffee, if you want to feel very Italiano!

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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 strawberries, 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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