Merry Christmas and a festive Stollen

I can hear the kookaburras calling outside my window and the Torres Strait pigeon in the mango tree as dusk settles here after a hot and humid Christmas eve. It’s not what many would consider typically Christmasy but to us it is.

Today I baked and prepared for our meal tomorrow. Part of it was this delicious stollen, another recipe from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent. Get this amazing cookbook before it is sold out to make all the wonderful recipes.

As my family and I are preparing to attend Christmas eve Mass at our local church, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the peace and joy of Christmas and the holidays.

Lebkuchen – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #58

Lebkuchen is a spicy German cookie synonymous with Christmas. Soft in the centre and slightly crunchy on the edges, fragrant with spices and sticky molasses. What this cookies lack in looks it makes up for in flavour and like all good things, improves with age!

Lebkuchen adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup molasses
115g/ 1 stick salted butter
30mls/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup castor sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 1/4 cup plain flour, sifted
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 teaspoons cocoa powder
pinch salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

 

Icing

1 cup icing sugar
15g/1 tablespoon butter, at room temp
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons water

 

Method

  1. To make the dough stir together in a bowl the buttermilk and soda. It will become bubbly and thick.
  2. Add the honey and molasses and stir to combine. In a bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter until smooth, add the oil, sugar and vanilla.
  3. Beat for 3 -4 minutes until light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the egg, followed by the molasses and honey mixture. It will look curdled but that’s ok.
  5. Stir in the remaining ingredients. The dough will be thick and slightly wet. At this point it’s a good idea to wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or even a few days to allow the flavours to mature.
    When ready to bake, heat the oven to 180C/350F.
  6. Line baking trays with baking paper.
  7. Use baking paper dusted with flour to roll out the dough. It will be sticky so be liberal with the flour.
  8. Roll the dough to about 1 cm/1/3inch thick.
  9. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters or simply squares with a knife.
  10. Arrange on prepared baking trays allow a little room for spreading.
  11. Bake for 12-13 minutes. Don’t overbake.
    Make the icing as soon as the trays go into the oven, by beating all the ingredients together until a smooth consistency.
  12. Once the cookies are out of the oven and still warm, paint with the icing.
  13. Leave as is or embellish as desired.
  14. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

 

Christmas Cake – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #55

Do you like Christmas fruit cake? Fruit cake is very alienating – you either love it or you hate it. Here in Australia, we have had an English baking heritage and that includes fruit cakes. In years gone by it was the only cake to have for a wedding, baptism or at Christmas. Even my Italian mother made a great fruit cake. Mum’s cake began with boiling of dried fruits, butter, sugar and spices which was left to cool before adding the flour, eggs and rum. I loved that smell of cooking fruits and spices and still do. Fruit cakes have lost favour in recent years but I still enjoy really good fruit cake moist with fruit that has been plumped in dark rum.

This Welsh Christmas cake from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent, is a very traditional fruit cake. My version includes stem ginger in syrup and dark Jamaican rum to soak the fruits. Baking it in a ring pan ensures even baking and it doesn’t dry out on the edges in an effort to cook the centre. Fruit cake is not meant to be served in fat wedges rather a thin sliver with a little liqueur on the side is perfect, almost like a spoon sweet. Do try it any time of the year!

Welsh Christmas Cake adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent

280g/10oz currants
340g/12oz sultanas or golden raisins
280g/10oz dark raisins
1 cup dark Jamaican rum

Soak the dried fruit in the rum for about a week until all the rum is absorbed.
1 cup glace cherries
1/2 cup diced candied lemon peel
1/2 cup diced stem ginger in syrup
3/4 cup blanched almonds, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup plain flour

After a week, mix the cherries, lemon peel, ginger almonds and flour together with the dried soaked fruit.

Now prepare the cake:
fine dry breadcrumbs for the pan
2 cups plain flour
pinch salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup almond meal
250g/ 2 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
5 large eggs
1/4 cup dark Jamaican rum, a little extra to spoon over the cake
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Prepare a large angel food pan by coating with cooking spray and dusting with dried breadcrumbs. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F. Sift the flour, salt and spices and set aside.
In a stand mixer beat the butter until smooth, add the sugar and then the syrup. Beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well beating additions and scraping the bowl when necessary. Add in the rum and extracts. On low speed mix in the flour mixture and almonds. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the fruits and almond mixture. Stir until well combined. Spoon into the prepared pan, taping the pan down on the kitchen bench to ensure there are no air pockets. Bake the cake for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until a skewer inserted comes out clean. My cake was cooked at 2 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven. I like to give the cake a little drink at this stage by spooning over a couple of tablespoons of rum while the cake is still warm. To keep the cake moist I like to wrap it in a clean cloth to cool slowly. When the cake is cool wrap in plastic wrap and keep in an airtight container. This cake will keep well but can be portioned and stored in the freezer.

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.

Dutch Sweet Bread – December 2014 daring bakers challenge

For the month of December, Andrea from 4pure took us on a trip to the Netherlands. She challenged us to take our taste buds on a joyride through the land of sugar and spice by baking three different types of Dutch sweet bread.

As this year draws to a close, I know many reevaluated the past 12 months. The past 12 months are pulled apart and put back together and New Years Resolutions are made. In the coming year we will exercise more, spend more time with loved ones, slow down, learn to say “no” and generally turn over a new leaf.

Often my resolutions are put aside sometime in the first month of the year but many years ago when my children were young I decided on a resolution that as a family we would pray before our evening meal. We would take turns each night and no matter what happened during the day we would thank God and name one thing we were grateful for that day. Today with my children in their late teens we still maintain this resolution. Learning to be grateful for each day has helped us get through some difficult times this year as my dad declined as he suffered from dementia and then passed away in April of this year. In 2015, we will be grateful for the many blessings in our lives of family, friends and love.

On a lighter note, I am also grateful the the December Daring Bakers’ challenge was simple and absolutely delicious! Thank you Andrea from 4pure – this was a perfect challenge for this time of the year. My house smelt amazing, it didn’t take too much time and we had something tasty for breakfast!

Happy New Year, dear friends! Blessings.


Ontbijtkoek – from The Dutch Table

1 cup rye flour
1 cup all purpose flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each of cardamom, coriander, ginger and ground cloves
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses (I used treacle, because that’s what I had)
1/2 cup honey
1 cup milk
pinch salt

Heat the oven 150C/300F and line a loaf pan with paper.

Mix everything together to a smooth batter. 

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 80 minutes or until done.

 Cool on a wire rack and serve with a slick of butter.

GEVULDE SPECULAAS: THE DARING BAKERS’ JANUARY, 2013 CHALLENGE

 
 
 Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij was our January 2013 Daring Bakers’ Hostess and she challenged us to make the traditional Dutch pastry, Gevulde Speculaas from scratch! That includes making our own spice mix, almond paste and dough! Delicious!

 
In the sunny (and sometimes torrentially rainy) reaches of far North Queensland we don’t often (read never!) get to see and taste good,traditional Dutch pastries, so when Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij challenge us to one of her countrys’ traditional pastries I was thrilled.
 
I had seen recipes for speculaas – that is speculass cookies – a spiced Dutch Christmas Cookie but this word “Gevulde” I didn’t understand until I read further into the challenge. “Gevulde” means “stuffed” so the “specualaas” is “stuffed” with almonds paste. This has got to be good!
 
Francijn challenged us to make everything from scratch, that is to say, the speculaas spices, the almond paste and then the speculaas dough using the specially mixed speculass spices. Francijn recommended we smell each spice and use according to our taste.
 
The speculaas spice is made up of a number of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, white pepper, coriander, ginger. Also mace and anice which I had never used and couldn’t purchase in my local supermarket. I did track these spices down in a local speciality food store and set about mixing my spices. Mmmm, this spices mix is very good!
 
Here’s what I did:-
 
Take 1 teaspoon of ground cloves, ½ teaspoon of mace and ½ teaspoon of ginger.
Add to taste ½  teaspoon of white pepper, 1 teaspoon of cardamom, ½  teaspoon of coriander, ½ teaspoon of anise, and 1 teaspoons of nutmeg.
Weigh the amount of spices you have now, and add an equal amount of cinnamon.
 
Recipe Almond Paste
Ingredients:
7/8 cup (210 ml)(125 gm)(4½ oz) raw almonds (or 1-1/3 cups (320 ml)(125 gm) (4½ oz) ground almonds)
5/8 cup (150 ml) (125 grams) (4½ oz) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) lemon zest
 
Grind the almonds for one or two minutes in a food processor, until you see nothing but very small pieces. (Or skip this step if you use ground almonds.)
Add the sugar, and grind for another one or two minutes. It must be very fine after this step.
Add the egg and let the food processor combine it – if it is powerful enough. Otherwise you will have to combine it with your fingers.
Store the almond paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Although the flavor gets better as days pass by, it is not wise to store the paste for too long, as it contains a raw egg. For the same reason you should not eat the paste unbaked.
 
Recipe Speculaas Dough
Ingredients:
1¾ cups (250 gm) (9 oz) all purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
¾ cup (150 grams) (5-1/3 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch salt
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) speculaas spices
3/4 cup (1½ stick) (175 gm) (6 oz) unsalted butter
 
Directions:
Put flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl.
Cut the butter in dices and add.
Knead until smooth.
Feel free to add a little milk if the dough is too dry.
Wrap in clingfoil and put in the refrigerator for two hours.
You can choose to make the dough a few days in advance, just like the almond paste, that will benefit the flavor. Freezing is no problem.
 
 
 

Assembling and baking the Gevulde Speculaas
Ingredients:
speculaas dough
almond paste
whole almonds without skins for decoration
1 large egg
shallow baking pan, 8×10 inch (20×26 cm) or, round with of diameter 10 inch (26 cm)
 
Directions:
1. Grease the pan.
2. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas 4
3. Divide the dough into two portions.
4. Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface, until they are exactly as big as the baking pan.
5. Put one of the layers in the pan and press it lightly to fill the bottom.
6. Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon cold water.
7. Smear 1/3 of the egg over the dough in the pan.
8. Roll out the almond paste between two sheets of clingfoil, until it is exactly as big as the pan, and put it on the dough in the pan. (If you chose to make the paste soft, you can smear the paste instead of rolling it.)
9. Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and smear the next 1/3 of the egg over it.
10. Now put the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible.
11. Smear the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough.
12. Decorate the pastry with the almonds.
 


13. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven.
14. Let cool completely in the pan, then cut it in portions as you like.
15. If you wrap the stuffed speculaas in clingfoil, after it has cooled completely, you can store it a few days at room temperature. Freezing is possible, but fresh speculaas tastes better.

Thanks Francijn for a fantastic challenge! Gevulde Speculaas was a hit in my family! I will definately be making these again!

THE DARING BAKERS’ DECEMBER, 2012 CHALLENGE: PANETTONE

 
The December 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by the talented Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina. Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread!
 
Yep, you read correctly.
That’s me!
I hosted the December 2012 Daring Bakers’ Challenge!
I was so thrilled to be asked to host this challenge and enjoyed the experience immensely. Here is the  challenge as I presented it.  
 
I joined DB in June 2009 to learn my about my favourite pastime – baking! Since then I have felt as though I have been learning at a patisserie school with some of the world’s best teachers. From macarons to croissants, puff pastry to bombe Alaska, I never know what each month will bring.
This month I am your host. I can’t believe it either! I’m not sure how qualified I am but this month I’m going to challenge you to make Panettone – a traditional Italian Christmas Bread.
I live in a little town in far northern Australia which is known as “Little Italy” due to its predominantly Italian heritage and culture. Being born of Italian parents in this very Italian town, Italian food was and still is, just part and parcel of my life. Every Christmas the commercially prepared panettone took pride of place on the table and was enjoyed with dipped into our Asti Spumante. Leftovers are eaten for breakfast with our morning coffee and I always buy an extra one to have on hand when visitors drop in.
So how was the Panettone born? Traditionally it is eaten by the Milanese but now it is available all through Italy and in many parts of the world. There are many stories and legends of the Panettone but the one recounted by Carol Field, whose recipe I have favoured, is that of a rich young Milanese noble who fell in love with the daughter of a poor baker whose name was Tony (Antonio). The nobleman wanted to marry the baker’s daughter so he ensured the baker had at his disposal the very best ingredients – eggs, butter, flour, candied orange peel, citron and sultanas. The baker created a wonderful bread which became known as pan di Tonio (Tony’s bread). The baker found his fame and fortune and the nobleman honorably married the baker’s daughter.
 
There are lots of different types of Panettone now available – some with chocolate or vanilla fillings or coated in chocolate but the traditional Panettone is my favourite. Traditionally, the Panettone is made with wild yeasts but I’m never very good with sourdough breads so even though I tried a traditional recipe I settled on this one with commercial active dry yeast. If you have had success with sourdough Panettone I would welcome your version. This recipe may seem a little complicate but let me assure you, taken over a two day period (resting in the refrigerator overnight) it is quite simple, only time consuming as all yeasted products are, but even then it’s inactive time waiting for the dough to rise. Also, not to worry if you don’t like dried or candied fruit, simply substitute with chocolate chips, nuts or some of the wonderful flavoured chips you lucky guys have in the US. Think about using dried date and walnuts or dried cranberries and white chocolate. Flavour it however you like – soak your fruit in rum or brandy. Mmmm.. what about coffee flavoured? Maybe certain types of candy might work. And then if you are like me, a Panettone fan, you will find that this recipe comes quite close to the commercial variety. Adding the Almond Glaze simply gives the Panettone another dimension and it really is very tasty.
I hope you enjoy the challenge of making your very own Panettone in the flavours custom made for you and your loved ones.
 
 
 For me the hardest thing was to find traditional Panettone papers in my part of the world. I found them online at a New Zealand store but I know they are available at Amazon (P & P was exorbitant to Australia). Failing that an empty can, 6 inch (15 centimeter) diameter lined with paper works. Or a small 6 inch (15 centimeter) cake pan with paper lined card extending the rim would also be fine as would a charlotte mold or soufflé dish. I tried homemade panettone papers which were also quite successful if none of the above are suitable. *Note: See photo instruction in the “Additional Information” section below.
Mandatory Items: Make a panettone in the traditional tall cylindrical shape using the recipe provided with or without the almond glaze. It is optional to make your own candied orange peel.
 
Variations allowed: You can substitute the golden raisins, candied citron, candied orange peel, grated lemon and orange rind with other dried or candied fruits or nuts or chocolate, use different flavours or whatever you like. If you have a recipe you love using the traditional wild yeast it would be great if you could make that recipe and share it with us.
 
 
 

Preparation time:
Sponge
35 minutes
First Dough
mixing 15-20 minutes
rising time 1 -1 ¼ hours
Second dough
mixing 15-20 minutes
Rising time 2 ½ – 4 hours or overnight in a cool place
Final dough and rise
preparing and mixing 1 hour
rising 2-4 hours
Baking 40 minutes
Cooling 30 minutes
Almond Glaze extra 15 minutes
Candied Orange Peel
Prep time about 1 hour
Cooking time 3 hours plus resting time
Equipment required:
  • Small bowl (for the sponge and soaking the raisins)
  • Spoon
  • Stand mixer with paddle and dough hook or wooden spoon, medium large bowl and arm strength
  • Measuring cups, spoons and scales
  • Plastic wrap
  • Large bowl for rising the dough
  • Paper towel to dry the raisins
  • Grater
  • Medium bowl for mixing filling
  • Panettone papers or pans as above
  • Food processor and spoon for Almond Glaze
  • Cutting board for candied orange peels
  • Knife for candied orange peels
  • Saucepan for candied orange peels
  • Wooden spoon for candied orange peels

Panettone:

Makes 2 Panettoni
 
Ingredients
Sponge
1 satchel (2¼ teaspoons) (7 gm) active dry yeast
1/3 cup (80 ml) warm water
½ cup (70 gm) unbleached all purpose flour
First Dough
1 satchel (2¼ teaspoons) (7 gm) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water
2 large eggs, at room temp
1¼ cup (175 gm) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour
¼ cup (55 gm) (2 oz) sugar
½ cup (1 stick) (115 gm) unsalted butter, at room temp
Second dough
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup (150 gm) (5-2/3 oz) sugar
3 tablespoons (45 ml) honey
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon essence/extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) orange essence/extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
1 cup (2 sticks) (225 gm) unsalted butter, at room temp
3 cups (420 gm) (15 oz) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour; plus up to (2/3 cup) 100 gm for kneading
Filling and final dough
1½ cups (250 gm) (9 oz) golden raisins or golden sultanas
½ cup (75 gm) (2-2/3 oz) candied citron ( I didn’t have this so I made it up with candied orange peel)
½ cup (75 gm) (2-2/3 oz) candied orange peel (try making your own; recipe below)
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 to 3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) (15-25 gm) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour
Directions:
Sponge
  1. Mix the yeast and water in a small bowl and allow to stand until creamy. That’s about 10 minutes or so
 
 
 
2.Mix in the flour.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in size for about 20 to 30 minutes
 

 
First Dough
By hand:
  1. Mix the yeast and water in a large bowl and allow to stand until creamy. Again, about 10 minutes or so
  2. Mix in the sponge and beat well with a wooden spoon
  3. Stir in the eggs, flour and sugar.
  4. Mix in the butter well
  5. This should only take about 5 – 6 minutes
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and allow double in size, about 1 – 1 ¼ hours
By Mixer:
  1. In the mixer bowl, mix together the yeast and water and allow to stand until creamy. Again, about 10 minutes or so
  2. With the paddle attached mix in the sponge, eggs, flour, and sugar.
  3. Add in the butter and mix for 3 minutes until the dough is smooth and even.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and allow double in size, about 1 – 1 ¼ hours
 
 
Second dough
By Hand:
  1. Be sure to have your dough in a large bowl as above.
  2. With a wooden spoon mix in eggs, egg yolk, sugar, honey, vanilla, essences/extracts and salt.
  3. Mix in the butter.
  4. Then add the flour. Stir until smooth.
  5. At this stage the dough will seem a little too soft, like cookie dough.
  6. Turn it out and knead it on a well-floured surface until it sort of holds its shape. Don’t knead in too much flour but you may need as much as 2/3 cup (100 gm). Be careful the excess flour will affect the finished product.
By Mixer:
  1. With the paddle mix in thoroughly the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, honey, vanilla, essences/extracts, and salt.
  2. Mix in the butter until smooth.
 
 
3. Add the flour and slowly incorporate
4. At this stage the dough will seem a little too soft, like cookie dough.
5. Replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead for about 2 minutes.
 
 
6. Turn out the dough and knead it on a well-floured surface until it sort of holds its shape.
 7.
7. Don’t knead in too much flour but you may need as much as 2/3 cup (100 gm). Be careful the excess flour will affect the finished product.
 
First Rise
  1. Oil a large bowl lightly, plop in your dough and cover with plastic wrap
 
2. Now we need to let it rise until it has tripled in size. There are two ways to go about this.
  • Rise in a warm place for 2 – 4 hours
  • Or find a cool spot (64°F -68°F) (18°C – 20°C) and rise overnight
  • Or rise for 2 hours on your kitchen bench then slow the rise down and place in the refrigerator overnight. If you do this it will take some time to wake up the next morning but I preferred this method.

 Filling and Final Rise:

 
 
  1. Soak the raisin/sultanas in water 30 minutes before the end of the first rise. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.
 
2. Now take your dough and cut it in half. Remember we are making two panettoni
3. Combine all your filling ingredients and mix well
 
 
4. Press out one portion of dough into an oval shape
 
5. Sprinkle over one quarter of the filling and roll up the dough into a log
 
  1. Press out again into an oval shape and sprinkle over another quarter of the filling
  2. Roll into a log shape again.
  3. Repeat with the second portion of dough
  4. Shape each into a ball and slip into your prepared pans, panettone papers or homemade panettone papers.

 
 
10. Cut an X into the top of each panettone and allow to double in size.
11. Rising time will vary according to method of first rise. If it has been in the refrigerator it could take 4 hours or more. If it has been rising on the kitchen bench in a warm place it should be doubled in about 2 hours. 
 
Baking
  1. When you think your dough has only about 30 minutes left to rise preheat your oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 and adjust your oven racks
  2. Just before baking carefully (don’t deflate it!) cut the X into the dough again and place in a knob (a nut) of butter.

3. Place your panettoni in the oven and bake for 10 minutes
4. Reduce the heat to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 and bake for another 10 minutes

5. Reduce the heat again to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3 and bake for 30 minutes until the tops are well browned and a skewer inserted into the panettone comes out clean.
6. Cooling your panettone is also important. If you have use papers (commercial or homemade) lie your panettoni on their side cushioned with rolled up towels. Turn gently as they cool. If you have used pans cool in the pans for 30 minutes then remove and cushion with towels as above.
7. Panettone can also be cooled suspended. How to do this? Firstly you need to use papers (commercial or homemade), insert clean knitting needles into the bottom of the panettone in a X shape. Flip over and support the knitting needles on the edges of a large saucepan with the panettone suspended within the saucepan. Yep, a lot of trouble and I didn’t really find that much difference – maybe I took too long to insert the needles.
 
Almond Glaze for Panettone
 
Ingredients
1 cup (140 gm) (5 oz) whole blanched almonds
1 cup (125 gm) (4 ½ oz) confectioners’ (icing) sugar
2 tablespoons (18 gm) (2/3 oz) whole wheat flour
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons (45 ml) good quality extra virgin olive oil
Few drops of almond essence, to your taste
Pearl sugar, flaked almonds or demerara (course crystal) sugar to decorate
 
 
 
During the final rise, prepare the almond glaze. Process almond, confectioners’ sugar and flour until the nuts are finely chopped and well blended. Mix in the egg whites, oil and essence. Process to combine. It is meant to be thick and glue like. All is well! When the panettoni are well risen carefully spread half the mixture over the top. Don’t worry about spreading it to the edges, in fact keep well away from the edges because the glaze will melt and spread. Bake as per the panettone recipe above.
 
 
Candied Orange Peel 
 
Ingredients
9 thin skinned oranges
3½ cups (800 gm) (28 oz) sugar
¼ cup (60 ml) corn syrup (If corn syrup is not available you can use a dash of lemon juice or cream of tartar.)
Water as needed
Granulated sugar
Directions:
  1. Wash and dry oranges then cut the tops and bottoms off.
  2. Cut into 6 or 8 pieces vertically
  3. Remove the flesh with a sharp knife and reserve for another use (or just munch on it)

4. Put the peels in a large saucepan and cover with water

5. Cook slowly over gently heat until the peels are tender – about ¾ hour to 1 hour
6. Drain and cover with fresh water. Sit for an hour or up to overnight. Drain
7. Into another large saucepan pour 2 cups of water. Mix in the sugar and the corn syrup.
8. Bring mixture to boil then add peels. Partially cover the pan.
9. Reduce heat to very low and using a candy thermometer adjust the temperature so that (212°F to 222°F) 100°C to 105°C is maintained. You may need to add extra water – I didn’t
10. After 2 hours has passed remove the lid and rise the temperature to (235°F) 110°C so that it boils and the water evaporates
11. Turn off the heat and wait until the bubbles subside
12.  Scoop out the peels with a slotted spoon and place on a rack to cool and dry.
 
 
13. After a couple of hours the peels are ready to roll in sugar and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. These will keep well for a few months in the bottom of your fridge.
 
 

Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: Once your panettone is thoroughly cooled, place in a large plastic bag or container and it will keep quite well maybe for a week. At first the panettone is soft and tender but after a day or two it becomes dry like the commercial variety. I found that the glaze kept the panettone a bit more moist. I didn’t freeze mine but I have frozen the commercial variety for a month or two.

How to make homemade Panettone papers:

 
Cut 6 long strips on baking parchment and arrange in a star pattern on a baking parchment lined oven tray. Staple the middle.
 
 
Place the Panettone dough in the middle
 
Wrap strips around the dough.
 
Make a collar out of baking parchment using a cake pan or saucepan to give the shape and staple in place.
 
 
Remove the collar from the cake pan and slip over the dough. Attach the strips of paper which cover the dough to the collar with staples.
Bake as directed without removing from the oven tray.
Looks rough but it works. Takes a bit of fiddling.
 
 

THE DARING BAKERS NOVEMBER CHALLENGE: TWELVE DAYS OF COOKIES


Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us.

So, after a couple of months break Marcellina in Cucina is back baking with the Daring Bakers in their monthly challenges. This month Peta of Peta Eats dared us to bake celebration cookies, bars, squares or any celebration sweet. The baking and sharing of cookies at Christmas is not a tradition followed in Australia (though I love the idea!) as it is in the States. Interestingly Peta Eats is Australian based blog but she provided us with some fantastic recipe ideas.

Peta asked that we make at least one of her recipes and then another of our own choice. The piped shortbread looked to good to pass up and it did not dissappoint – melt-in-the-mouth delicious!

 
My own choice was the nutty and moreish Hazelnut Rosettes which are a regular in my household and they look so sweet! Don’t you think?
 
Here is the recipes.
 
 
Hazelnut Rosettes (Australia Women’s Weekly Beautiful Biscuits)
 
250g butter
1/3 cup castor sugar
60g ground hazelnuts
1 2/3 cups plain flour
choc bits to decorate
 
Heat oven to 180C
Beat butter and sugar well. Mix in hazelnuts and beat again. Stir in the flour. Mix until well combined. Fill a piping bag that has been fitted with a star tube and pipe into small paper or foil cases. Top each with a choc bit and bake for about 15 minutes.

 
 Piped Shortbread
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time:8-10 minutes
When piped to about 2.5 cm/1 inch this recipe makes approximately 120 cookies.
for golden rings it makes about 60 I didn’t got no where near this many
 
Ingredients
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) softened butter
1¼ cups (175 gm) (6 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
½ cup (65 gm) (2- 2/3 oz) confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup (45 gm) (1½ oz) cornflour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla essence
Nuts, chocolate chips, maraschino cherries
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to moderate 300°F/ 150°C/gas mark 2
2. Combine butter, flours, vanilla and confectioner’s sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle beater. Mix on low speed until combined and then change to the whisk beater.
3. Beat for 10 minutes.
4. Pipe into rings.
5. Decorate with maraschino cherry pieces to look like little wreaths or leave plain.
6. Bake in preheated moderate oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned.
7. Cool completely and drizzle with melted chocolate or icing (frosting) if you want to.

 
 To pipe shortbread beat for 10 minutes NO MORE – if you overbeat the mixture it won’t hold when it cooks.
A cool oven is important. If your oven is too hot the butter and sugar boils and you end up with lacy cookies that fall apart as soon as you try to do anything with them.
Between piping put the bowl and the piping bag away from your oven so it doesn’t get hot but don’t put it in the refrigerator because it gets too cold and you can’t pipe it.

How many cookies will you bake for Christmas gift giving?




A Tribute on Mother’s Day

In 1961, a young Calabrian girl married her sweetheart.
They had met many years earlier during WW11 when his family, in Northern Italy, hosted hers.

Soon after their marriage, this young bride left her big, loving family to embark on a life adventure, joining her new husband in the far off foreign land of Australia.
Life in tropical, northern Australia was a stark contrast to her home in Reggio di Calabria. Strange foods, different cultures and a  foreign language in a harsh, oppressively hot country. At first intense homesickness and the loss of their first child took it’s toll. However, she soon found herself being embraced by the small farming community and friendship were cemented. Alongside her husband she worked and toiled the land and kept neat the little home her husband had prepared.
The young couples’ joy was increased as their first daughter was born followed a few years later by a second daughter.
She revelled in making her girls’ birthdays special with cake and spumante.
Life was simple but good.

With her captivating smile and vivacious personality, she soon befriended many, enjoying the multi cultural aspect of the community.  Teaching a friend a traditional Italian recipe, sharing a joke, days at the beach were her pleasures.

She showered her growing daughters with love and attention.


But within 15 years of arriving in Australia, her life was cut short.
This was my mother.
I was nine at the time and my sister, thirteen.
My mother didn’t grace the front cover of a magazine.
My mother wasn’t a famous public figure.
My mother wasn’t a Pulitzer prize winner in fact, I don’t think she ever won anything in her short life.
But, as many young Italian brides who left their family and friends behind to immigrate to Australia for a better life, she had courage and fortitude to overcome what was presented to her.
She made the most of her life and as many people who die young, she seemed to live life to the fullest.
My father never quite recovered and lost the joie de vivre that he had in her company.
My sister and I also lost much.
We lost the unconditional love,
the teachings,
and the traditions a mother passes on.
Our mother was a great cook and baker but as with all women who arrive in this foreign land of Australia, often she reworked the traditional recipes with the ingredients she had on hand.
And so, unwittingly, new recipes were created.

My sister has always hungered for a speciality our mother made.
Fried Ravioli di Ricotta.
Recently we attempted to recreate our mothers’ speciality.
It should have consisted of crispy fried pastry filled with sweet orange scented ricotta.
Did it work?
No, it was a major fail!
The ricotta was not firm enough,
The pastry not crispy enough and
the ravioli kept unsealing in the hot oil.
Does anyone know of this recipe?  I’d love to hear from you.

However, all was not lost.
The pastry I had used was the same as the dough for storch.
What is “storch”?
Interestingly, this is the crispy, lighter-than-air fried pastry is other wise known in Italy as crostoli, cenci, bugi, chiacchieri and in some places I am told – stracci. For some reason in our part of the world they became – storch.
This is how I make “storch”.
You will need a pasta machine to achieve the thinness required for this recipe
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
30g butter, slightly softened
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon brandy
1or 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
light flavour oil for frying
For this purpose I had doubled the quantity but one quantity will make many.
In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, place the flour and salt.  Add the butter and mix on low until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add in the eggs, egg yolk, brandy, sugar and vanilla. Mix on low until combine. Switch to dough hook attachment and knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. This can all be done by hand, of course. 
Rest the dough for at least an hour.

Cut small portion of dough off the “mother” dough. Flatten the smaller piece and begin to pass through the pasta machine on the widest setting. Fold the dough and keep passing it through the widest setting until the dough is smooth and pliable. Dust with extra flour as required. Begin to reduce the setting until you are at the finest setting. Pass the dough through the finest setting and place the length of dough on to you work surface. Carefully stretch it to ensure it is as thin as possible
Cut the dough along the length into about 5cm or 2 inch strips which will be approximately 10 – 15cm or 4 -6 inches long. This is just to give you an idea but really how you cut is up to you. I make a small cut in the middle of each piece and twist one end through the cut, as you can see above.

I like to shallow fry but you can deep fry. The oil should not be too hot – approximately 180C/375F.
The storch should not colour too deeply.
They will puff and expand.
Carefully turn, if you are shallow frying and remove when you think they are ready.
They will be a little soft but will crispen on cooling. 

Drain on absorbent paper.
Then when cool dust generously with icing (powdered) sugar.
 Today in Australia is Mother’s Day and I celebrate with others, the gift of my kind, brave mother.
I ask one thing of you.
Take time today to turn to your mother and tell her how much you love and respect her.
If you can’t be with her, call your mother and remember to telephone regularly.
If you have lost her like me, keep her memory alive by talking to your family and friends about her, cook her recipes, keep in contact with her friends.
My mother wrote in my childhood autograph book:-
Tanti amici, fratelli e sorelli
Ma sempre solo una mamma. 
In other words,
You can have many friends, brothers and sisters
But only ever one mother.

Chocolate, Apricot and Hazelnut Panforte

Wow! Where has the time gone!
Christmas is but a few days away!
For various reasons, regular readers will know that I have been very absent from blogging of late but I hope to change that from now on.
And though absent online, baking has not ceased in my kitchen (albeit it may have slowed!).
A new job this year has strengthened an acquaintances and a by product of that is the sharing of new recipes and ideas – I love it!
This recipe comes from a colleague’s husband who spotted it in a Woolworth’s supermarket catalogue.
Originally made with pistachios and ginger, this is my twist.
Chocolate, Hazelnut and Apricot Panforte

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups plain flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon, ground
  • 1 cup blanched almonds, toasted
  • 1 cup hazelnuts nuts, toasted
  • 200g dried figs, stems discarded, roughly chopped
  • 100g glace apricots, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 100g dark chocolate
Combine nuts, fruit and ginger in a large bowl.

SIFT together the flour, cocoa and cinnamon

COMBINE the honey and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil then simmer for 3 minutes stirring occasionally. Stir through the chocolate until melted then remove from heat. Pour into the bowl with the flour mixture, nuts and fruit and mix until well combined.

 PRESS the mixture into a greased and lined 23 cm round pan. Bake in a moderately slow oven 160°C for 30 minutes. Cool in pan before turning out and slicing.

You will find that once you add the chocolate, and remaining ingredients the mixture becomes quite firm and you will need some muscle to mix it. That all as it should be.
This is delicious but please, small slices only!
It’s very rich! Perfect with a coffee!