Fudgy, crackly Mother’s Day Cookies

FullSizeRender 3.jpgI think it’s safe to say I enjoy the process of making these cookies just as much as I love devouring them. It’s quick work if you have a standing mixer or a hand held electric whisk, as whipping the egg with the sugar until triple the volume is the key to the fudgy texture of the crumb, which, combined with a crackly, meringue-like edge, pretty much makes these the best cookies ever. Big claim, I know, but if you don’t believe me, then take the word of master baker Edd Kimber (the boy who bakes), whose recipe I adapted to create a fitting Mother’s Day treat.

Don’t despair if you are not in possession of kitchen gadgets, a good ol’ hand whisk and elbow grease will do the trick, and will infuse the batter with all the love our mammas deserve.

INGREDIENTS, MAKES 10, adapted from The Boy Who Bakes

80 gr of unsalted butter

small pinch of salt

150 gr of milk and dark chocolate (mix it up as you wish, I still had Easter eggs I needed to use up!)

1 egg

150 gr caster sugar (Edd’s recipe uses a combination of caster and soft brown sugar, which I didn’t have on the day. If you do use a mixture of both, you will get a shiny crackly top)

100 gr of self raising flour

2 tablespoons of Dutch cocoa powder

a few strawberries, cut into three

METHOD

1. Preheat you oven to 170 C. Line two oven trays with baling paper.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter together by placing them onto a bowl and sitting the bowl of top of a pot of boiling water (stove on low). Make sure the water in the pot doesn’t touch the bowl, or the chocolate will seize. Add the salt. Mix and rest for 5 minutes.

3. While the chocolate mixture is cooling, whip the egg with sugar until it triples in volume. If using electric beaters, this will take about 5 minutes. Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the egg one and mix well.

4. Gently mix in the flour and cocoa. The mixture will be thick and fudgy. You will want to stick your fingers in there. Go for it. Chef’s privilege!

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5. Dollop tablespoons of mixture onto the trays, very well distanced apart as the cookies will spread during baking. Top with strawberries.

6. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool onto the tray for 10 minutes, then gently transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Please note that after 12 minutes in the oven, the cookies will feel super wobbly. They will set harder as they cool. Don’t be tempted to bake for longer.

7. Give to your mamma with a big hug!! xxx

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How to make easy, no-knead focaccia!

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This is a culinary wonder! Simply mix the ingredients and let time create your dough. No mess, no fuss. The next day, bake it and enjoy! This is one of my most popular and versatile recipes. You can use this dough to create bread and pizza too. So easy, all you need is to mix, let it rest and bake. Suits vegans and people with nut, egg and dairy allergies too.

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How to make easy, no-Knead Focaccia, serves 6

INGREDIENTS

4 cups of 00 or all purpose flour

tip of a teaspoon of dry yeast

1+1/2 cup of water at room temperature, plus a few tablespoons, as needed

2 teaspoons of salt flakes

1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling on top)

METHOD

  1. Mix together, flour, yeast and most of the water and mix with a chopstick. Don’t add all the water at once as you may not need it all, it will depend on your flour. The texture you are looking for is a very soft dough. Add salt and oil and mix with a chopstick. Cover with plastic film and allow to rise for 10-12 hours or until more than doubled in size and very bubbly. In warmer climate this will take less. FullSizeRender.jpg
  2. Preheat your oven to 220 C, 430 F. Using olied hands, gently lift the dough (it will be sticky) out of the bowl and spread it onto an oiled oven tray (or one lined with baking paper). Drizzle with oil on top, create dimples with your fingers and season with salt flakes.
  3. Bake for 25-20 minutes or until golden.
  4. Serve as it it or with thick slices of tomatoes!  IMG_0967.JPG                                                                                                                                  SUBSCRIBE to keep enjoying my recipes for free!   DAY 2 RECIPE 2.00_05_53_11.Still003                                                    Watch this recipe on my YouTube channel   DSC_4086SILVIA’S CUCINA is available in stores and online!MADE IN ITALY is available herehere   and here

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Gluten-free Ricotta Soft Buns

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Here they are, my fiends! After posting a picture of this buns on my Instagram page (@silviacollocaofficial), my inbox got flooded with messages asking for one thing and one thing only: post the recipe, Silvia! I have to say, I do love it when the image of a baking success stirs so much excitement that I cannot keep up with replying to you all. I suppose a little tease is part of the game, the more I read you trepidation, the more I am keen to improve the recipes to deliver formulas that will not fail you. And so, here it is. A recipe for gluten-free soft buns, that you can have as dinner rolls, burger buns, sandwich rolls, or simply slathered in copious amounts of butter and jam. They are truly wonderful freshly baked (although, always wait an hour before eating, they do need to cool down for the crumb to settle), but they are also quite delicious toasted the following day. I have frozen a few and the jury is still out on what they taste like (and what the texture is) once they are thawed, but I officially declare this a recipe success and I now pass it on to you.

If you are familiar with my gluten free bread (read this post here, if you aren’t), you know I use Caputo Fiore Glut GF flour, for optimal result. I have to admit I am yet to find a GF flour that delivers the same results as this one. Please note I am not commercially associated with this brand, so I can’t help you find stores that stock it, but I am confident a google search will indeed help you.

For the love of precision, I am only providing metric measurements, as I feel more confident this way.

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INGREDIENTS, makes 8 small buns

400 gr of Caputo Fiore Glut GF flour

7 gr of dry yeast

130 gr of fresh ricotta

1 tablespoon of honey

50 ml of olive oil

150 ml of water at room temperature

2 teaspoons of salt flakes

1 beaten egg to brush on top

METHOD

1. Put flour and yeast in a large bowl, add water, oil, honey and ricotta and start mixing with a wooden stick.

2. When the dough is coming together, add salt and start kneading. Tip the dough onto a floured bench and continue kneading until smooth. If it seems too sticky, add 1-2 tablespoons of flour. Similarly, if too dry, add a little water. Keep in mind that this is meant to be a soft dough.

3. Once smooth, roll into a ball, place back into your bowl. Cover with plastic film and rise at room temperature for 2-3 hours or until doubled in size.

4. Using oiled hands, lift out the dough that has risen, stretch it into a rectangle, fold each side into the middle, then roll into a ball and prove for 1 hour or until risen by 2/3.

5. Dust your bench with GF flour, stretch the dough into a rectangle, fold each side into the middle, then roll into a log. Cut the log into 8 pieces and roll them into a ball. Arrange them close together onto a tray lined with baking paper. Allow to rise for 40 minutes.

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6. Bring your oven to 200 C (390 F), conventional. Brush the buns with beaten eggs and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Each oven is different, so your baking time may be longer or slightly shorter. Cool on a rack for 1 hour before eating, to allow the crumb to cook through.

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A Wonderful Gluten Free Bread

IMG_0399.jpgIt is with great joy and anticipation that I share this recipe with you today. I have been trying to create decent and palatable gluten free breads for longer than I care to remember. I have had so many failed attempts in my kitchen, the fingers on both hands aren’t enough to count. My main concern with the end product was a lack of flavor and a texture that was together too crumbly, too crunchy and too sticky. The many requests I received from you inspired me to look for more suitable flours and, about a month ago I got my hands on Caputo Fiore Glut flour, especially made for bread baking. And the bread pictured above is a result of such fortunate encounter. In case you are wondering, yes, it tastes as good as it looks! I served it to my husband and eldest son, who are used to eating my home-made wheat sourdough, and for a moment they didn’t even realize this bread was gluten free! I have trialed this recipe six times, to make sure I have the right familiarity and confidence to talk you through what to expect when using, touching and tasting it. I hope my experiments and advise are enough for you to try for yourself and succeed.

PS I would advise you go online and find out how to get your hands on this flour, as I am not sure substituting with any other GF flour would work. I have no commercial association with this brand, so I can’t be helpful in suggesting where to find it. Please note I am in Sydney, Australia. You can try searching for “deglutinated” bread flour” and see what you find.

Please remember this flour contains no gluten, which, once reacting with water and yeast is the force that makes the bread dough rise. As there is no gluten in this recipe, the dough will not rise as much as a regular wheat loaf.

This bread is very similar to the flavor and texture of sourdough. If you are after a softer type of bread (like sandwich bread or rolls), hang in there, I will start testing for those soon!

INGREDIENTS 

450 gr Caputo Fiore Glut GF flour

1×7 gr sachet of dry yeast

300 ml of luke warm water

1 teaspoon of  GF rice malt syrup (or honey)

1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons of salt flakes

METHOD

Please note I have only included metric measurements as this is how I tested this recipe and feel more comfortable. You can try translating into oz, but I would avoid cups, as they are not precise enough for this type of preparation. 

The timing and oven temperature is based on my own home oven (Ilve). All ovens seem to vary slightly, so you may need to adjust according to your oven specifications

1. Place flour in a large mixing bowl, add yeast, rice malt syrup, oil and 250 ml of water. Use a wooden or plastic chopstick to mix ingredients together. Add the rest of the water gradually, as needed. Add the salt and mix through.

At this stage the dough looks a bit like cement, hence the use of a stick instead of kneading with your hands.

2. Once the dough is coming together, use your hands to squish it like you would with play dough. You will soon start to notice it’s becoming “kneadable”. Flour your bench with GF flour, tip the dough onto the bench and start reading until smooth. This should take about 2-3 minutes. Roll into a ball, place it back in the bowl, dust with GF flour and cover with plastic film, to rest and prove for 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

3. Once the dough has proven, tip it onto a bench, dust with GF flour and stretch the dough into a rectangle.

You will notice it will look slightly crumbly at this stage.

Fold each side into the middle, then roll into a ball. Repeat two more times. Shape back into a ball and leave to prove, smooth side down, onto a bread basket or colander well dusted with GF flour. Prove for 2 hour or until almost doubled in size. In cold climate this can take longer.

You will notice that the more you fold and roll, the more it starts resembling wheat dough. Basically we are cheating this GF flour to act like wheat flour! Also the folding and rolling will ensure you a nicer crumbs, dotted with little holes, just like wheat sourdough.

4. Preheat your oven to 250 C (480 F), conventional. Once the oven has reached the desired temperature, gently tip the risen dough onto a cast iron pot lined with baking paper. If you have proved the bread in a bread basket or colander, make sure the pattern embossed onto the dough is on top. Score the top with a sharp knife or razor. Put the lid on (make sure there are no plastic parts) and bake it for 35 minutes. Turn the heat down to 220 C (420 F), take the lid off and bake for a further 15 minutes, or until the top is a dark caramel. Bake it for a little longer, if need be. You know your loaf is cooked through if it sounds hollow when tapped at the bottom, Take the pot out of the over (please use mitts!), lift out the bread, peel off the baking paper and cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing.

If you don’t have a cast iron pot, simply place the proved dough onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. Score the top with a knife or razor, put in the oven and spray the top with water using a spray bottle. Repeat the spraying after 5 minutes, This will ensure you a lovely, crunchy crust, with a little shine to it. Bake at 250 C for 35 minutes, then turn the oven down to 220 C to finish baking. Cool on a wire rack as indicated above.IMG_0647.jpg

This bread will keep for a few days, wrapped in baking paper. When slicing, always use a serrated bread knife, as the crust really needs it. When eating once it has just cooled down, this bread is at its very best! Crunchy crust and soft moist crumb. Once it starts going stale, it is lovely toasted, in fact I have just had a little jam toast using a 2-day old GF bread!

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Chickpea and Aubergine Warm Salad

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Silvia’s Chickpea and Aubergine’s salad

And so, without fail, we have bid our adieu to yet another year and welcomed the new one with expectant hearts. We have duly complied a list of resolutions for 2016 and on day 5 we are still sticking to it. Marvelous! Drink less, exercise more, work less, laugh more, play lego with boys, don’t yell at them, kiss husband more, eat healthy food… As I type this I have a big smile on my face knowing that however short-lived all these aspirations are, I still believe in writing them down and implementing those changes in my life, for however long they last! The two things I am sure I won’t fail at, are kissing hubby (he’s rather irresistible) and prepare healthy meals for my family to enjoy. All year round.

Ingredients, serves 4 as a side (vegan, gluten free)

1 large aubergine (eggplant), cut into 2cm cubes

1 garlic clove, skin on and bashed with the back of a knife

4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon of paprika

1 tin of chickpeas, well drained

salt and pepper for seasoning

parsley leaves and nasturtium to scatter on top

Method

1. Heat up the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan, add the garlic and cook in the oil to infuse its scent into it for 1 minute. Add the aubergine, stir well until well coated with the oil, then turn  the heat to medium-low, cover with a lid and allow the hot oil and the steam to cook the vegetables gently for 15 minutes. Stir from time to time.

2. When the aubergines look soft and slightly caramelized, add the chickpeas and paprika, stir well and cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.

3. Serve warm topped with parsley and nasturtium leaves and a grounding of black pepper.

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Blueberry, Chia and Olive Oil Cakes

When spring lures us with its sweet promise of long, sun-drenched days, but instead delivers endless weeks of gray skies and relentless rain, I find myself itching to get in the kitchen, turn the oven on and whip up a quick, yet satisfactory fix to perk up my mood.

These muffins are my ideal solution to the wet and blistery day ahead of me, a perfect mixture of moist, diary free cake enhanced by precious blueberries and chia seeds, my go-to health boosters. You can use gluten free flour if you are so inclined and reduce the, already low, quantity of sugar of swap it altogether with honey or other natural sweeteners, although I wouldn’t recommend stevia or natvia as they can leave a strange aftertaste. Over to you and your need to lift up your mood!

INGREDIENTS, makes 12 regular sized muffins of 6 Jumbo ones

3 eggs

1/2 cup of brown sugar

1/2 cup olive oil

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, paste or the seeds of 1 vanilla bean

1/2 cup almond milk

2-1/4 cup of  self-raising flour

1/2 cup of blueberries

chia seeds to sprinkle on top

HOW TO

1. Preheat your oven to 180 C (350 F)

2. Line a medium sized muffin tin with wrappers

3. Beat the eggs with sugar for 5 minutes or until pale and fluffy and the sugar crystals have dissolved

4. Add oil, vanilla, and lemon zest and mix well.

5. Add the almond milk and gradually incorporate the flour, beating gently, until a wet batter is formed. Add the blueberries and fold them in gently

6. Pour the batter into the muffin tin making sure not to fill to the rim as the cakes with grow a lot whilst baking. Top each cake with chia seeds

7. Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through if tested with a skewer

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Roasted Cauliflower Salad

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Is the humble cauliflower enjoying a new renaissance? Whether you work in food or simply enjoy your home-cooking time, it appears that this pearly white cluster of florets is now proudly sitting at the forefront of the pantry. We have devised creative ways to turn it into cous cous and have compounded it into pizza bases (although the jury is still out on that one…), we are using it as a potato substitute in thick, wintery soups and enjoy it raw, thinly sliced like a carpaccio. Is there anything cauliflower can’t do? It turns out, you can also roast it until deliciously caramelized and crunchy, but still tender to the bite. With the added nutritional boost provided by vitamin C, K, B6 and folate, I am pretty much convinced that cauliflower wears the crown as the healthiest cruciferous!

INGREDIENTS, SERVES 4

1 cauliflower heard, cut into florets

4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons of baby capers, roughly chopped

2 anchovy fillets, thinly chopped

1-2 French shallots, finely chopped

1 small chillie, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar

2 more tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper for seasoning

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METHOD

1. Pre-heat you oven to 200 C (395 F)

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil  and cook the cauliflower florets for 5-8 minutes, or until soft but still retaining some firmness. Drain well then tumble onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. Season with oil, salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes or until golden.

3. Make the dressing by mixing together baby capers, anchovies, chillies, vinegar and oil. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.

4. Pour the dressing over the roasted cauliflower florets and scatter fresh herbs on top. Enjoy warm or at room temperature as a light lunch or a side dish.

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Almond, Pear and Olive Oil Cake

The seasonal change has hit our southern shores, swapping the warm breeze for a crisp chill. I have packed away my summer dresses and sandals to wrap myself in wooly layers, scarves and boots. To accompany the cooler weather, the stalls now abound with glorious winter produce, whose main purpose is to nourish and comfort. As I type this I’m embracing this sunny yet cool day, sipping tea and indulging in my second slice of this incredibly moist pear and almond cake, lightly scented by cinnamon and mandarine. Cold months to come, I fear you not! INGREDIENTS, makes1

3 small pears

3 eggs

1 cup of brown sugar (plus 2 tablespoons to sprinkle over the pears)

Cinnamon

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup of buttermilk

juice of 1 mandarine

1 cup of almond flour (almond meal)

1-1/2 cup of self-raising flour (gluten free flour will also work)

METHOD

1. Preheat your oven to 180 C (350 F)

2. Line a round cake tin with baking paper. Sprinkle the base with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and a little cinnamon

3. Cut the pears into two, scoop out the core, then cut each half into two, lenghtways. Line the base of the cake tin with the pears.

4. Beat the eggs with sugar until fluffy, add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, oil, buttermilk and mandarine juice and whisk well. Add the almond flour and the sifted self-raising flour and gently incorporate them into the batter without over mixing. Pour the batter over the pears and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.

5. Turn up side down and leave to cool on a rack for 30-45 minutes before serving. Enjoy as it is or with vanilla gelato, cream or thick Greek yoghurt.

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Crispy Potato Skins

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, you have peeled a gargantuan amount of potatoes to make your creamy Paris mash/chips/champs you name it…now what to do with the skins? The frugal Italian in me cannot bear the idea of wastage and I’m always eager to conjure up a way to give new life to left-overs and food scraps. A little research shows me that most of the nutritional virtues of potatoes (and there are very many, starch bashers out there….) are trapped in the skin. I am talking about super power boosters such as potassium and calcium, optimal for bone mineral density and protection against strokes. Match that with the everlasting benefits of every Italian’s best friend, extra-virgin olive oil, and you have got yourself a perfect, healthier alternative to potato chips that celebrates resourcefulness and flavor in one nimble move!

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INGREDIENTS, serves 6

The skin of 1 Kg (4-1/2 Lb) of potatoes

4-5 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

Salt, herbs and freshly ground pepper to taste

HOW TO

1. Place the skin in a large bowl, cover them with warm water and set aside for 20 minutes. In the meantime, heat up your oven to 200 C or 400 F.

2. Drain the skins and pat dry with a tea towel. Toss them with enough oil to cover them evenly (use your hands if helpful), season with salt and herbs and arrange them onto an oven tray lined with baking paper in one layer (bake them in batches, if need be)

3. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Cool at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to crisp them up further and serve topped with freshly ground black pepper and a few rosemary springs, if liked.

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Cornetti (Italian Croissants)

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For those of you who have travelled to Italy this is old news: we love a sweet breakfast. We also love a fast breakfast. Often standing by the counter of a busy bar after we have elbowed our way to the front line, where we are inevitably seduced by an array of sweet offerings. From Crostatine (mini tarts), bomboloni (donuts) to our one true love, the Cornetto, an Italian version of the famous French croissant. And if you think that standing by a busy counter to sample such treat defies the purpose or having the treat in the first place, think again! We don’t need to savor it. In fact we Italians devour it with gusto, especially once we have decisively dunked it into our espresso or cappuccino (no soy lattes or frapuccinos where I come from…). Although I am a fierce admirer (and consumer) of the French croissant,  with its buttery, flaky layers of pastry, my loyalty lies with the denser, richer Italian version. A masterful combination of brioche pastry laminated with butter and shaped into perfect crescents. Yes, you get the flaky, buttery layers as well as a sweeter, more perfumed dough that will make all your resolution crumble at the mere sight of it. Arguably these babies are a bit of a labour of love. Do not go near this recipe if you need instant gratification in the kitchen. However, if, like me, you love a baking challenge, don you apron and get the flour ready! See you on the other side. With coffee!

INGREDIENTS, Makes 16/20

For the pastry

500 gr of strong baker’s flour
60 gr of sugar
2 tablespoons of soft butter
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
finely grated zest of 1 orange or lemon
1/2 cup of water at room temperature
1-1/2 tablespoons of dried yeast
For the lamination
200 gr of soft butter
For the glaze
1  beaten egg mixed with 2 tablespoons of milk
a little raw cane sugar for dusting on top
 WARNING!!!
Start this recipe the day before. Better not to attempt this unless you have a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook… Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
HOW TO
1. Dissolve the yeast in the water and stand for 5 minutes or until frothy. In the meantime put 3/4 of the flour in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook (I told ya!), pour in the yeasted water and mix on low speed for 1 minutes. Add 1 egg and mix well, then add the second egg and mix until well incorporated into the dough. At this point the dough will be very sticky. Don’t panic, it’s all ok! Add the rest of the flour and the sugar and beat on low-medium speed for 5 minutes, the add the 2 tablespoons of soft butter, the orange zest, the vanilla and mix well. If the dough is still too wet add 1 or 2 tablespoons of four, but keep in mind that the dough needs to be a little sticky.
2. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and rest for 30 minutes. After that time, take the dough out of the bowl, stretch it into a rectangle and fold it onto itself. Place it back in the bowl, covered. Repeat after 30 minutes. After the second folding of the dough, allow to rise at room temperature for 3 hours or until doubled in size.
3. Roll the dough onto a floured working bench to shape a rectangle about 1 cm thick. Distribute the cubed, soft butter onto the rolled out dough, then fold into three like you were folding a business letter and roll gently with a rolling pin. Cover with plastic film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, roll the dough into a rectangle then fold into three again, cover with plastic film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Repeat two more time.
4. After the dough has rested for the fourth time, roll it out to shape a circle. Using a pastry cutter or a butter knife, cut the circle into 4 sections and each section into 4 or 5 isosceles triangles, according to how many cornetti you wish to shape and their sizes. You should end up with 16/20 triangles. Roll each triangle onto itself starting from the base and gently stretching the dough. The idea is that the more you can roll it up, the prettier it will look. However the taste will be the same, so if this is too finicky for you, don’t stress! Tuck the thinner tip under the belly of your newly shaped crescent to make sure they don’t come apart during baking. Repeat with the remaining dough.
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At this point you can let them rise at room temperature for 1 hour and then bake them (and eat them!) otherwise you can lay them onto a tray lined with baking paper, cover the tray with plastic film and slow prove them overnight, ready to be baked in the morning. Alternatively, you can freeze them in the tray. Once frozen, transfer them into a freezer bag. When you want to bake them, simply thaw them out for 3-4 hours, glaze and bake! I often do that as we are unlikely to eat 16-20 cornetti in one sitting…however tempting it is!
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5. When you are ready to bake them, bring your oven to 200 C (350 F), glaze the cornetti, dust the with sugar and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Dunk away!
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Adapted from Anice e Cannella

Watch Made in Italy with Silvia Collocaon DVDSilvia’s Cucina the cookbook is available in stores and online!Silvia’s new book Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca is on sale now!97819213839779781921383373Made in Italy with SilviaColloca is produced by SBS Australia andFremantlemediaSilvia’s Cucina is on Facebook Twitter and Instagram