Torta Della Nonna – The Daring Kitchen November, 2016 Challenge

For the month of November we at the Daring Kitchen were challenged by Ginger-Z to make the delicious Torta della Nonna.  This humble Italian cake is seen in many variations, single crusted and double crusted. Many years ago I had clipped a recipe from an Australian magazine Home Beautiful. Actually the clipping is dated 1993! Oops, never got around to making it. For my version, I added a layer of Nutella at the bottom of the pastry and I mean, what is not made better with Nutella! Very similar to Gâteau Basque which featured in “Cucina” over a year ago.

I am sad to report that this will be the second last Daring Kitchen challenge. Daring Kitchen has been an important part of my baking life since 2009 and was the catalyst for starting this blog. Daring Kitchen will close it’s doors following the December challenge. It is with this amazing group of people that I have learnt many baking skills – puff pastry, macarons, croissants, many tortes and delicious treats from around the world. Daring Kitchen will be missed.

Torta della Nonna

Custard

2 1/2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, split
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup castor sugar
4 tablespoons plain flour
Nutella, as desired
slivered almonds for topping

Pastry

2 cups flour
pinch salt
2 egg yolks
125g butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup castor sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the custard, heat the milk and vanilla bean until just starts to boil. Set aside to cool slightly. Beat the egg yolks and sugar well until light and creamy. Stir in the flour. With a whisk gradually add in the warm milk. Strain the milk mixture back into the saucepan. Return to the heat and stir until it thickens. Boil for about a minute to cook the flour. Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl covering with plastic wrap touching the custard to prevent a skin forming.

To make the pastry, in a food processor place the flour, salt, egg yolks, butter, sugar and vanilla. Process until the mixture just starts to come together. Remove and wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.

When ready, grease a 20cm pie plate and preheat the oven to 180C. Divide the dough in two pieces, with on slightly larger. Roll out the larger piece between to pieces of non stick baking paper until large enough to fit the pie plate. Carefully lift the pastry and press into the pie plate, trimming the edges. Spread the base with Nutella, as much as you wish, then top with the prepared custard. Brush the edges with water. Roll out the second piece of pastry as you did with the first and fit over the custard, pressing the edges to seal and then trim off excess. Brush the top with water and sprinkle with slivered almonds. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes.

Allow to cool and dust with abundant icing sugar. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

 

 

Multi Coloured Pasta – The Daring Kitchen July, 2016 Challenge

There is pasta and then there is PASTA. This is PASTA. Coloured with vegetable puree. Sliced and rolled until we have striped pasta. I had always wanted to make coloured pasta but I never thought of striped pasta until this.

Dulcie from The Taste Trail  challenges us at The Daring Kitchen to make our own patterned pasta from scratch. Dulcie had been developing all-natural rainbow pasta recipes for a couple of years and now thought she would share what she has learnt. Her famous last words were “I promise, it is not as complex as the end results would lead you to believe.”

You find Dulcie’s detailed instructions on the Daring Kitchen site. While I based my pasta on her recipe, I found my juicer wouldn’t produce enough vegetable juice so I simply used the very fine puree of roasted beetroot and steamed spinach to colour the pasta. I also used a different method to achieve the stripes.

For each portion of dough, I used 200g pasta flour with one egg and a couple of tablespoons of fine vegetable puree until it came together into a smooth and pliable dough.

Once the pasta was made and rested in the refrigerator overnight, each colour was rolled slightly with a rolling pin then passed through the pasta machine rolling and folding until it was well worked, smooth and each a uniform shape. I joined the prepared pasta one on top of the other dampening with a little water ensure they stuck well.

Then the portion was cut evenly in two…

…and layered up!

From this I cut thick slices, which were rolled a little by hand before being passed through the pasta machine.

 

I filled my fresh pasta with ricotta, parmesan and greens from the garden, such as silverbeet (chard), rocket and parsley.

And prepared colourful ravioli.

A quick cook in boiling, salted water.

Before being tossed with loads of butter, garlic, basil and parmesan cheese. YUMMO!

 

Italian Anise-Orange Cookies – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #44

Colourful sprinkles attract children like bees to honey.
 I had made these cookies for the biscuit platter for a family gathering. I added a little liqueur in the icing instead of the orange juice asked for in the original recipe not thinking how attractive these cookies look to children. Well, these cookies were so popular among the children, I felt guilty and kept quiet about the unseen liqueur. 
Bet the children slept well that night!
This is another recipe in the quest to bake through A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent

Italian Anise-Orange Cookies  adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent
Makes 36 cookies

Dough
2 1/2 cups all purpose plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup castor (superfine) sugar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup whole mile
finely grated zest 1 orange
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground anise seeds

Icing
1 cup sifted icing sugar
1 tablespoon soft butter
2 teaspoons fresh orange juice/liquer of choice
5 to 6 teaspoons water

Coloured sprinkles

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of the stand mixer beat with the whisk attachment the eggs until frothy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar and beat until the mixture is thick and pale, about 2 or 3 minutes. Continue beating and gradually add the oil. Then on low speed add the milk, zest, juice and ground anise. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and add the flour in two additions mixing with a wooden spoon. It may be too sticky so add a couple more spoonfuls of flour if needed. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and line a couple of baking trays with non stick paper. Roll teaspoonfuls of the dough into balls and place on the prepare baking tray. You should have about 36 cookies.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the tops have cracked and are lightly browned.

Make the icing by mixing all the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Dip the tops of the cookies into the icing and place upright on a wire rack. Sprinkle immediately with coloured sprinkles. Allow to set.

Struffoli – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #39

Today I would like to share with you a delicious sweet treat from A Baker’s Odyssey – Struffoli. 
Several years ago I pick up a copy of A Baker’s Odyssey while on holidays in Brisbane. ( I was in Brisbane to see the show Mamma Mia – I love that show!) This cookbook, written by Greg Patent was published in 2007 but I had never come across it. What I loved was the variety of recipes from across the world brought to  America by immigrants. In the book Greg tells the stories of how he came across the recipes and the people behind the recipes. A true treasure! 
Do we have such a book in Australia? As a first generation Australian, I am fascinated by the immigrants that came to Australia –  the people, their food and their stories.  

Struffoli adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent
3 eggs
pinch salt
1 tablespoon limoncello (optional)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups plain all purpose flour
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Honey sauce
1 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoon orange flower water
1/4 slivered almonds
glace cherries and coloured sprinkles to decorate
In a bowl mix together eggs, salt, limoncello, oil and sugar. Slowly mix in the flour until a firm dough has formed. Turn our onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or so. Wrap in plastic and allow it to rest at room temperature for about an hour.
Cut the dough into 8 piece and keep covered. Take one piece of dough and roll into a rope about 18 inches or 45 cm long. Cut into small pieces about 1/2 inch size which is just under 1.5cm. Repeat with all the dough. Set aside and heat the oil.
I just used a deep frying pan filled with about 1 inch of oil. Heat the oil to 185C/365F. Prepare a baking tray lined with paper towels.
When the oil is ready fry handfuls of the struffoli, stirring to separate the pieces and allowing them to brown and puff up. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and cool on the paper towel lined baking tray. Repeat with all the dough.
To make the honey sauce, place the honey, sugar and orangeflower water in a wide frying pan or skillett. Heat to dissolve the sugar then bring to boil. Simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce is glossy and thickens a little. Add the stuffoli and the almonds stir and cook over low-medium heat for 5 minutes until all the struffoli are coated. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for a few minutes to cool and thicken. Stir well. 

Then pile on a serving plate and decorate with cherries and coloured spinkles.
As Greg says these are so moreish, people just pluck them off to munch on and keep going back for more.

Focaccia: April 2015 daring bakers’ challenge


For the month of April Rachael of pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise took us on a trip to
 Italy. They challenged us to try our hands at making focaccia from scratch


It’s always a thrill when the beginning of the month arrives and a new Daring Bakers Challenge is announced. I have been a Daring Baker now for almost 6 years! Yes, I can’t believe it either! How time flies and I still am excited to discover each new challenge. When it is yeast cookery…even better still. So this month when our hosts Rachael of Pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise challenged us to make focaccia I was in my element. My plan was to make it many times using different recipes however times does fly and the month got away from me. I made two simple varieties…one with garlic and rosemary and another with sun dried tomatoes and black olives. 
Thank you Rachael and Sawsan!
Focaccia Two Ways – my own recipe
3 teaspoons dried yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon malt syrup or honey
385g plain flour
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
for Garlic and Rosemary Foccacia
2 or 3 cloves garlic, sliced and mixed with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sprigs of rosemary rubbed with a bit of extra virgin olive oil
sea salt flakes
for Black Olive and Sundried Tomato Foccacia
8 to 10 black olives, deseeded and cut in half
couple of spoonfuls of sliced sundried tomatoes
sea salt flakes
In the bowl of a stand mixer dissolve yeast with water and stand for a few minutes until bubbling slightly, add flour, oil, malt syrup and pepper. With the dough hook attached knead for 5 minutes, then add the salt. Knead again until the dough is smooth and elastic. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer, cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for about an hour or until at least doubled.

In the meantime prepare your toppings if you have not already.

When the dough is ready divide in half. Press out each half then fold it back up by bringing into the middle sides and the top and bottom. Press out and place onto a well oiled pizza tray. Push the toppings into the dough and sprinkle generously with the oil from the tomatoes and the oil from the garlic.

Sprinkly both with sea salt flakes. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.

In the meantime preheat the oven at 200C then bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned and looking delicious.

Serve warm and enjoy!

Homemade Orecchiette with Bacon and Broccoli

Orecchiette have been on my list of pasta to make for a long time and this Sunday was the day! At a local restaurant some time ago I had order a dish of spelt orecchiette which were delicious and thinking of the spelt flour I had just purchase, I thought spelt orecchiette were just the thing. However some online research did not deliver a spelt orecchiette recipe instead the pasta used for orecchiette seemed to be a simple semolina flour and water dough. So let’s not rock the boat…we will stick with tried and true….for the time being, anyway!
Taking a look at the method to hand make orecchiette looked simple…just drag the knife over the little pieces of dough and turn inside out. Easy! Hmmm, so I thought but instead I struggled while my daughter who always masters hand made pasta, ( I think she has an Italian nonna within! ) had no problems. It is tricky. There is no denying that but after a couple (read “lots”) of failures, success was mine! Very excited to produce our first orecchiette!
With some local organic streaky bacon, fresh broccoli and good Parmesan our Sunday lunch was fit for a King (or Queen)
Orecchiette – adapted from here
3 cups fine semolina flour
1 cup plain flour
good pinch salt
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 warm water ( 105F to 115F or 40C to 45C)
1 tablespoon (20mls) extra virgin olive oil
Place the flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Turn the machine on slow and drizzle in 1/2 cup of water. Mix until thoroughly absorbed and the mixture is sandy – this could take 2 or 3 minutes. We need the flour to adsorb the water for as long as possible as this develops the gluten. Once we add the oil this inhibits the development of the gluten.
Drizzle in another 1/2 cup of warm water (it may need reheating) and continue to mix for 5 or 6 minutes. Drizzle in a 1/4 of a cup of warm water and keep mixing for another 5 minutes. By this stage if you machine is anything like mine it will be protesting! Drizzle in the oil and mix for a further 5 minutes. By now the mixture should start coming together and feel a bit like Play Dough. If it doesn’t add in a little more water, 1 tablespoon at a time. 
Once it is ready flatten into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Allow to rest for 1 hour.
Now for the fun part! Take golf ball size pieces of dough and roll a long rope of dough. Keep the rest of your dough covered. The dough should be a little bit thinner than your fingers maybe 1/2 an inch or so in diametre. Now cut the rope into little pillows of only about 1/2 an inch or less. As you go you will learn to adjust the size according to the size of orecchiette you are making.
Take a butter knife or dinner knife, press firmly on one portion…
…draw the knife towards you causing the dough to curl…
…. you should end up with something that looks like this….
….with your fingers unfurl it and turn it inside out shaping it over your thumb. And, just like magic you have made your first orecchiette!
 After a while you will have lots!
To serve with our freshly made orecchiette I turned to our local organic streaky bacon from Backfatters. The pigs at the Backfatter’s farm are very happy, heritage pigs that roam freely. I love that we have such premium quality at our doorstep.
So in a little extra virgin olive oil I sauteed the diced bacon and two finely chopped garlic cloves. After a little while a couple of spoonfuls of pine nuts and a finely sliced chilli followed.
While this happened I put a pot of salted water on to boil and prepared a large head of broccoli. Once the water was boiling the broccoli went in and cooked until just tender. Scooped out, draining all the water and straight into the frying bacon. The remaining water was brought back to the boil.
A little toss, 2 tablespoons of tomato passata and a splash of extra virgin olive brought the sauce together. No extra salt because the bacon is already quite salty.
Once the water returned to the boil all the pasta went in…yes, it’s a lot. The pasta probably boiled for about 5 minutes but just keep tasting it. You don’t want that floury taste and it still needs to have a bit of a bite. Then drain well.
Mix in the bacon and broccoli and a handful of good grated Parmesan cheese and there you have it…it’s a winner!

Grissini Torinesi – Breadsticks from Turin

One of my greatest loves in baking with yeast. I remember only being about 12 years old and buying a packet of dried yeast to make my first loaf of bread. It wasn’t the best bread I had tasted but it lit a fire in my “baking belly” for yeast cookery. The idea that with a few simple ingredients we can create a wide variety of baked goods. My fascination with yeast has never waned and I have many cookbooks on the subject. One of my favorites is “The Italian Baker” by the award winning writer Carol Field.

These knobbly breadsticks are a perfect example of the wonderful recipes contained within this cookbook. They are crunchy, wholesome, and it’s hard to stop reaching for another. The recipe is simple. Why don’t you try it?

Grissini Torinesi  from The Italian Baker by Carol Field

1 1/4 teaspoon dried yeast
1 tablespoon malt syrup
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for brushing
3 3/4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup semolina flour

I prepare mine in the stand mixer but it could all be done by hand.

Mix the yeast, malt and warm water together in your stand mixer bowl. Allow to stand 10 minutes or so until bubbly. Add the oil, flour and salt and start mixing slowly with the dough hook until it all comes together. Continue to knead with the dough hook for about 3 minutes. Remove dough and knead a little by hand to bring it together.
Place the dough back in the bowl and rub the surface with a little oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled. That could be an hour or more.
Preheat your oven to 225C/ 450F
To shape – sprinkle the dough with semolina flour. Cut the dough crosswise into 4 equal pieces then cut each into 5 strips. You should have 20 strips. The dough is lovely and elastic so pick up each strip and stretch and pull until you have nice long breadsticks. Roll in more semolina if you like. Place each one onto a baking sheet (there should be no need to grease because the semolina will stop the sticking). Bake for 20/25 minutes until nice and crunchy. If you have a pizza stone the breadsticks can be baked directly on the heated stone.

A Tribute to my Dad and a Simple Soup for my Dad on Father’s Day.

In 1952 a young man from Fiorenzuola D’Arda near Piacenza in Italy embarked on a journey that would take him halfway across the world to a land very unlike his own with a different language and different customs. Like many courageous immigrants fleeing war ravaged Italy this would become his home and a home he came to love.
He came to work on the famed Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme in New South Wales, Australia. Here he would learn the language and assimilate as best as he could. But in the Snowy’s he did not stay, the lure of the sugar cane fields took him north to Ingham in Queensland where he worked hard alongside his fellow countrymen all keen to make a “few dollars” in the “lucky country”.
By 1961 he returned to Italy to marry his sweetheart and bring his bride back to Australia.

 Within a year they lost their first born child, a girl, three days after her premature birth. His new bride was homesick but determined. Together they worked side by side to build a secure life for their future family. Soon they welcomed a second daughter…

…and then another.
 

The couple made many friends and lots of good times were had…beach picnics, swimming and parties always with lots of laughter.

Fifteen years into their marriage his beloved wife tragically suffered a fatal heart attack. He was a lost and broken man. Life was never quite the same again. He found himself dad and “mum” to his young daughters who were only 9 and 13 years of age… a very difficult task. And even though he later remarried there were always three in that marriage. He never stopped loving his first beloved wife.
 

 
In time, his daughters married. First one…
 
 
 …then the other.
 
 
And his great joy arrived… grandchildren.
 
“The best word is Nonno” he would often say.
 
 
 
The grandchildren grew and he aged.
 
 
Soon it became apparent the unforgiving disease of dementia was taking it’s toll.
 
This was my Dad.
 
Dad lost his battle this year on 29th April when he slipped away surrounded by his family.
Dad had a difficult life. Born in the depression, growing up in Italy in WW1. I’m sure he was often scared and hungry as a child but he never talked about this seriously. He always made light of his childhood. Maybe, he thought, if he told his story it would all be too real.
Dad taught me so much. To appreciate everything you have. He always said he never regretted anything in his life except losing our mum.
After mum passed away, Dad’s cooking abilities gradually surfaced. He had learned alongside his mother.
The staple in our house and in Dad’s repertoire was his “brodo” or broth. Made fresh several times per week taking all morning to simmer on the stove and then used as a light soup with a little pasta and parmesan cheese but also the essential ingredient in his more substantial soups, risotto, pasta sauce and his casseroles of varying types.
When I married and had my own kitchen I too made the “brodo” regularly until I decided I was way to modern for this palava and purchased stock or even stock cubes were way superior! How silly. It is only recently that I have reintroduced the brodo to my household but in a slightly modified version which works in my busy life. Using the slow cooker, I prepare the ingredient in the slow cooker as I clean up after our night meal and the broth will cook slowly all night.
 
I think Dad would be proud… well, once he tasted it!


 
 
My Chicken Broth (idea originally from Smitten Kitchen)
 
1.5 kg chicken wings
3 litres water
1 onion, cut in half
1 carrot, cut into large pieces
a bunch of celery tops and a stalk or two
1 garlic clove, smashed
a few peppercorns
a bayleaf
3 teaspoon salt, or to taste
 
Place all the ingredients into a slow cooker. Turn onto low and cook for 12 hours.
 
 
Just look at this golden goodness.
 

 
Even perfect with just a little good parmesan cheese.

 
This will make 3 litres because no liquid is lost using the slow cooker. It can be simmer very, very slowly on the stove for 4 or 5 hours but you may need to replace some water. Use this wonderful broth as my father would have…in risotto, casseroles, pasta sauces and soups or just as a flavourful broth. Freeze it and have great broth always on hand. It really is the secret to great cooking.
 

This is our first Father’s Day without Dad
 
 
 
This Father’s Day remember to tell your Dad that you love him and appreciate him. We often don’t know what we have until it’s gone.
 
 
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. xxx
We miss you but we know you are with the one you love.
Thank you for all you have shown us.

Apricot Crostata

Like everyone else my life is becoming busier and busier. But I love to bake and know that my family is eating wholesome, yummy food. Modern food can sometimes be time consuming or to cut corners, preprepared short cuts are used.
 
 I love recipes like this one that I found on a wonderful blog, L’emporio 21. This is Italian cooking at it’s best. Take simple, quality ingredients and produce something delicous and beautiful.
 
A crostata is not unfamiliar to most of us but sometimes we need to be reminded how good simple food can be.  The nonnas of old would have used this dough to make a wide variety of different crostate depending on what fruit was in season or what nuts were local. Then perhaps take the dough to be formed into various biscotti, some plain, maybe some filled or flavoured with cinnamon. Such is a good recipe… as is this one.
 
Let your imagination be your guide.
 
 
Apricot Crostata
(adapted from L’emporio 21)
 
For the pastry
400g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
180g sugar
pinch salt
2 eggs, beaten
130ml vegetable oil
grated rind of 1 lemon
 
For the filling
apricot jam
slivered almonds
 
powdered/icing sugar, to finish

 
On a work surface sift (or not) the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a hole in the centre, pour in the eggs, oil and the lemon rind. With a fork or your fingers begin to mix the wet ingredient taking in some of the dry. Continue until all the flour is incorporated and knead lightly and briefly. At this point if you have time wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest in the refridgerator for 30 minutes. If not use it right away.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Divide the dough in two with one being larger. Press or roll the large piece on a baking tray lined with baking paper. (I made mine round and about 25cm in diametre). Spread a generous amount of apricot jam onto the disc leaving about a centremetre of dough exposed around the edge. With the smaller piece of dough roll or press out onto a floured work surface and cut long strips. Lay the strip in a criss cross fashion over the filled crostata cutting off any surplus. Scatter slivered almonds over the crostata.
Bake for about 30 minutes in the preheated oven. If it colours too much cover the surface with a sheet of baking paper.
Once cool sprinkle with powdered sugar

Nougat Torrone – THE DARING BAKERS’ MARCH, 2014 CHALLENGE

The March 2014 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. She challenged us to learn to make classic nougat and to make it our own with our choice of flavors and add-ins.

This month we Daring Bakers were challenge by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt to learn to make nougat. The first sentence of the notes went like this “Success in nougat (as with most candy-making) relies on an accurate thermometer, dry weather, no distractions, and preparing everything in advance so it’s ready to go when you need it.” Hmmmmm, since we had had over 400 mm of torrential rain in the past week and humidity of 80% and above, it probably wasn’t the “dry weather” that nougat calls for. But I thought I would still try my hand at making Nougat Torrone by the recipe Rebecca supplied. 
Growing up in  an Italian family torrone was an essential part of every Christmas with at least several bars of the imported Italian nougat consumed during this time. Homemade Torrone is an often served at weddings and other special events in our regional town. It is brittle, filled with almonds and flavoured with cinnamon, made by descendants of Sicilians who immigrated to Australia many years ago bringing with them their traditions and recipes. Even though my family always had store bought Torrone, I have watched and helped with the making of this Italian Torrone. So with this idea and Rebecca’s recipe, I persisted.
The honey I purchase is a delicious and delicate light coloured and light flavoured honey from the blossom of a eucalyptus tree, Yellow Messmate. I would have liked to team it with the macadamias fresh from the tree but this was not to be. So instead I toasted almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios and ground a cinnamon stick to fine powder for flavouring.

But alas! The humidity dealt a cruel blow! Even though I took the sugar syrup and honey to a higher temperature the recommended the resulting torrone is soft and chewy not hard and brittle as I would have liked. Kept in the refrigerator the nougat doesn’t reduce itself to a sticky mess.  Photos are taken quickly but then the torrone is hastily returned to the refrigerator. Sad!
I think the recipe is great but one must do what one is advised – You need DRY WEATHER to successfully make nougat. Check out Rebecca’s post for all the details and the recipe.

Thanks Rebecca, I do think it is a delicious recipe that will work in the right conditions!