Category Archives: CAKES

GRANDMA SCARAMUZZI’S EASTER PIZZA DOLCE (SWEET RICOTTA PIE)

PicMonkey CollageSeasonal dishes, they define our lives.  Whether it’s Thanksgiving Turkey or Candy Canes at Christmas or King Cake at Mardi Gras one can often tell the season by its specialty dishes.   Growing up in a Southern Italian American home there were and still are many dishes/foods that are like a calendar smacking you in the head telling you what Holiday or season you are celebrating. Spring. Primavera (it’s the Italian word for Spring, not just a type of Pasta, lol). Easter. Passover. Just a few holiday/seasons that March into May brings to us and in my home, on Good Friday the traditional family RICOTTA PIES would be prepared and baked post 3:00pm and NOT TOUCHED UNTIL 12:00AM EASTER SUNDAY.  This is maddening, although, we are modern now. The Catholic Church’s first Easter mass is around 4pm on Saturday before Easter so feel free to cut into the pie.  Certainly, you may stick to tradition and wait till that clock changed from night to midnight.

A little history with this pie I’m blogging about, in the old days Lent meant no eggs, no dairy, no meat, no sugar, no NOTHIN!!! Southern Italians devised dishes that were accessible and celebratory for breaking the fast.  Ricotta pies which are known as PIZZE (Pizza is a word for pie…the tomato and cheese one is just another version) are made in both sweet and savory types.  Let’s confuse you further!  Every town and region developed it’s own types of foods..while this confuses many ItalianAmericans because we often think only the way that our family makes something is the right way..there are many versions of all these Easter pies.  Mine comes from my Grandmother’s town of CASTEL BARONIA , PROVINCIA D’AVELLINO not far from Naples.  We call isSWEET PIE, or PIZZA DOLCE and it’s a wonderful baked ricotta pie scented with cinnamon, lemon, orange and anisette.  There are similar pies made in the Avellino area withouth the lemon and orange zest and without the glaze on top.  That glaze is used in baked goods from my Grandfather’s town of Grassano, Provincia di Matera in neighboring Basilicata.  I wonder if Grandma Scaramuzzi’s version melded a few things she picked up from Grandpa’s family.  It’s how recipes evolve but the basic pizza is pure Avellinese.  The crust is a typical PASTA FROLLA, the dough used for many Southern Italian pastry/baked goods.  The first thing we need to do it make the dough. You need time for this, Rome wasn’t built in a day!!

PASTA FROLLA

2-1/2 cups SIFTED all-purpose UNBLEACHED flour

-1/4 cup sugar

-1/4 tsp. salt

-1/2 tsp. baking powder

10 Tbs. good  unsalted butter, chilled

1 Xtra Large Egg, beaten

4 Tbsps. milk

Mix all the dry ingredients well.  Cut the butter into a small dice and work it into the dry ingredients until the mix resembles small peas. Now add the egg which you’ve beaten with the milk then add to the flour and butter mixture and stir it all with a fork or wooden spoon until it will hold its shape.  Knead this until it’s smooth then stop. Form the Pasta Frolla into a disk and wrap in “Saran Wrap” or Plastic wrap and into the fridge for 1 1/4 hours.easter16e 021 Don’t get scared, those are disks of pasta frolla for a few pies.

Now we will make the Ricotta filling.

1-1/2 lbs. WHOLE MILK RICOTTA which you’ve drained overnight or earlier in the day in a sieve.  You can also , if available, use the Ricotta which comes in a tin already drained, That’s what I generally use but it’s not available everywhere.

1/2 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1 1/8 TBS ANISETTE EXTRACT

1 TSP. PURE VANILLA

3 TBS DICED CITRONeaster16a 009

1 TSP. CINNAMON

1 TSP. LEMON ZEST

1 TSP ORANGE ZEST

Beat the eggs, then add the sugar and beat, add the extracts, beat.  Now mix in the Ricotta, cinnamon, the zests, and the citron until smooth.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to fill the pastry.easter16e 006These instructions are for a 9 inch pan.  I double recipe and make it in a larger rectangular.  Up to you.   Lightly butter the pan.  From the Pasta Frolla disk, remove about 1/3 for later.  The remainder you will roll out to about 14 inches and line the buttered 9 inch pan.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. You want some of the dough over the sides of the pan.  Press the dough into the sides and then pour in the ricotta mixture.  Roll out the remainder of the dough for the top.   With an egg wash of 2 eggs and 1/8 cup milk brush the rim and then place the top over it.. press the sides to the lid forming a crust and cut away the excess.  Brush the top with the egg wash.  If you truly want a Grandma Scaramuzzi Sweet Pie, turn those bits you just cut off and make a B and a P out of them.  Place them on center of the pie and coat with egg wash.   Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  easter16e 001 What does BP mean?  BUONA PASQUA! Italian for Happy Easter..that makes it a real Grandma memory.  To test for done. use a sharp knife and place in the center going straight into the bottom of the pie.  If it comes out clean, your pie is done. Let this cool for 1 hour to 2 hours.  While it’s cooling it’s time to make the glaze.

1 cup Confectioner’s Sugar

1/2  tsp Lemon Juice

1/2 tsp Orange Juice

1/2 tsp. milk

1/2 tsp. Anisette Extract

1 tsp mixed Lemon and Orange Zest

multicolored “confetti” or non pareils

Mix all except the confetti until you can drizzle it.  cover with wrap until ready to use.

When the Sweet Pie is fully cooled, don’t rush it…make sure it’s cool!! Then simply drizzle the icing over the top making sure to get some into the sides.  You may have more than you need, use it for something else.  After you’ve drizzles add some of the confetti to the top.easter16dc 031 Now here’s some variations…you can do a lattice top  if you like, just cut the top into strips. Nothing at Easter makes me think, remember, and smile about who I am, where I come from, and who loves me almost as much as this does.  Grandma Scaramuzzi and my Mom are right there in the kitchen with me, guiding me as they once did to teach us this pie.  It’s About Easter, about continuity and the cycles of life, rebirth, family, love. About my ItalianAmerican and Southern Italian roots and sharing that with my multicultural family.  It’s fantastic and thanks for letting me share it with you.  easter16dc 030

 

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OLD FASHIONED APPLESAUCE CAKE

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It’s almost sinful to call something OLD FASHIONED today but I’ll gladly use that term to describe this sinfully delicious APPLESAUCE CAKE I made.  What makes it so good?  Attention to sticking to a tried and true formula that will spark all your memories of applesauce cakes of your youth.  If you don’t have that shared history it’s time to make Applesauce cake memories of your own.   As always I reach into that memory box of mine and pull down from it’s shelf the aroma of my mother’s Applesauce cake.  This isn’t technically hers because I never knew how she made it.  Mom had lots of apple cake recipes.  Crisps, PanDowdies, Cobblers, Pies, Loaves, Cakes.  Some were a blend of All purpose flour and other pantry staples,  some were part of that BISQUICK family of cakes, others were simply using a commercial Spice Cake mix and adding apples.  Her Applesauce cake, unlike mine, was made in those Round Tube Pans.  Peppery, spicy, warm and aromatic, she sometimes added diced apples to applesauce batter and would glaze it.  There’s an idea,  a glazed one but I’d add diced crystallized ginger to the top.  Back to the style that I make..it’s baked in a rectangular pan and cut into squares.  It can be frosted, left plain, glazed, or a simple dusting of powdered sugar.   Out here in Monmouth County New Jersey where I live we have a few really nice “farm” and gourmet markets with in house bakeries.  One of them,  Delicious Orchards of Colts Neck N.J. makes a delicious apple spice cake with a white icing on it that is just about one of my favorites.  If you want to make homemade applesauce for this cake recipe I am giving you, this is the Delicious Orchards recipe:

Delicious Orchards Applesauce

 

Or you can simply use your own or a good brand.    My cake uses the spicy mix of my mom’s with the white icing of Delicious Orchards, but I do a basic Cream Cheese Icing.  It’s awesome.  I must tell you, I screwed up when making this.  The crushed walnuts and the raisins get folded in after you have finished the batter.  Well…even with the bag and box of the two ingredients RIGHT NEXT TO THE MIXER, I was so excited to get this cake made…um…they are still not in the cake.  Still delicious.  I wound up just sprinkling some of the crushed walnuts over the frosted cake.  It’s a win-win regardless of including the fruit and nuts or not.  Successful recipe anyway.  I base my recipe off of the Land O’Lakes Applesauce cake recipe with a few changes.  Ready to bake?  Let’s go…preheat that oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 13 X 9 ” pan well, then lightly flour it.

Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar, I used Vanilla Sugar  (see note on bottom)
1 1/2 cups applesauce
1/2 cup Butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Paste or Extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup  raisins dusted with some flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
ICING
1 stick butter (1/4 lb)
8 oz REAL Cream Cheese Not a spread, the bar type
3 cups Confectioner’s Sugar
2 tbs. Vanilla Paste (or 1 1/2 tsp. extract)  PLEASE USE THE REAL STUFF, NOT IMITATION
1/8 Tsp. salt
Add all the ingredients into the Mixer bowl for the cake EXCEPT the raisins and nuts.  Mix on low till all is well blended scraping down on the sides.  Then beat on High Speed stopping to again scrape down the sides until the batter is smooth.  Now fold in the nuts and the raisins.  The flour you shook the raisins up with helps to suspend the raisins in the batter and keep them from sinking to the bottom.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. The sides should have pulled away a bit from the pan and the center will be springy when done.  Let this cool COMPLETELY on a rack for 3 hours.  I hurried the process by sticking it out the window and right into the 30 inches of snow that came up to the sills of the kitchen windows.  Chilled that cake RIGHT down.  LOL…but one doesn’t always have a quick chill handy like that, so wait the 3 hours.  applesauce cake 005  Can you smell that?? It’s spice heaven.  NOW, onto the icing.  While your cake is cooling or while you were baking it, add the butter and creamcheese to the mixing bowl and slowly cream the two.  When they are blended start to slowly increase the beating to medium and slowly add in the sugar and the salt.  Add the vanilla and beat on high until it’s completely blended and it of nice firm consistency.  Place in a cool spot, covered until your cake is ready to frost.
Simply frost the top till it’s all covered.  Crumble toasted walnuts over the top if you like.
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applesauce cake 003  I used the paste and you can see the Vanilla Beans in the frosting.  Delicious. CHILL THE CAKE FOR 1 hour before serving.  Then slice into squares and serve.  It’s amazing.
So, here’s the note about Vanilla Sugar..I was in Central Europe this Summer and of course was picking up ideas and recipes.  Almost all of their sweet baked items use Vanilla Sugar which is simply made by slipping a whole Vanilla bean into a canister of regular sugar.  Let it sit for 5 days before you use it.  Keeps for a long time and the vanilla essence is really great.
Now time for a glass of milk or a nice Black Coffee (only black for me thank you) and a square of my Applesauce Cake.  Happy Cooking!!
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PUMPKIN MAPLE SUNFLOWER SEED BREAD

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Now that it’s November I can officially stop whining that the Summer is almost over, it’s done and like the first few days of November celebrate the dead, it’s a haunting reminder that my pool will not be used for quite a long stretch.  Breathing a deep breath it’s onto the FALL and WINTER  with the end of the year Holidays in front of us in all their PUMPKIN-Y spiced deliciousness…no..no…i’m not talking about the #PSL everything that has taken over everything we eat or smell but something enduring. An  American baked good long made long before Starbucks was even thought of.  PUMPKIN BREAD.12188474_10205151540770510_980123793_n An American “Quick Bread” as my mom’s old cookbooks called it..a bread made without waiting for it to rise from yeast, but using other leavening agents like Baking Powder or Baking Soda.  I’ve been cooking for years and still do not know why one is used over the other in certain dishes, but I’ll just do what I’m told.  For this Pumpkin Bread of mine, Baking Soda is the choice.  Do any of you remember your family baking this in a coffee can?  I do.  Another great memory of things that in the absence of a calendar or your iPhone giving you the date, you know what month of the year it is and certainly know the season.  Pumpkin Bread means October thru January.  Let’s get you in the mood..I like “mood”…makes for a better eating and cooking experience..so here’s my current view..my home..thanks to my wife Deb for doing what I can’t (nor want) to do, and that is decorate the house, set the mood, make our home…I’ll happily stay in the kitchen.  punkin 009

If that doesn’t make you want to hang with some Pilgrims and Native North Eastern Americans and enjoy the dried corn and pumpkins, nothing will.  Something about these colors too, they are warm..evocative…and the spices in the bread, while sharp on their own blend into this orange hug that makes you happy.  Pumpkin Bread is supposed to taste of Pumpkins and Spice.   As the leaves turn and peak with the colors of Fall, fill your home with the warm scent of this Pumpkin Maple Sunflower Seed Bread.  Now let’s go into the kitchen…

TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes               SERVES: 8

1 1/2 CUPS UNBLEACHED FLOUR

1 CUP SUGAR

1 TSP. BAKING SODA

1/4 TSP. EACH OF CLOVES, ALLSPICE, CINNAMON, NUTMEG

1/2 TSP. OF GINGER

3/4 TSP. KOSHER SALT

2 EGGS BROUGHT TO ROOM TEMPERATURE, ORGANIC IF POSSIBLE, WELL BEATEN

1 1/8 CUP PUMPKIN PUREE (I RECOMMEND TRADER JOE’S ORGANIC PUMPKIN, but any good pumpkin puree works, If you are crazy enough to do the pumpkin puree from scratch, remember it’s a Sugar Pumpkin that’s used for Pumpkin pies, not Jack o’Lanterns, everything about them is wrong for this smooth puree, they are watery, tough to work with and full of fibrous flesh, so..while they look like the right thing..they are a different type of pumpkin than what’s used for cooking pumpkin..)

1 TSP PURE VANILLA

2 TBS PURE MAPLE SYRUP plus 1 TBS for finishing the loaf

1/2 CUP VEGETABLE OIL

2 1/2 TBS ROASTED SALTED SUNFLOWER SEEDS

 

Pre heat your oven to 350 Degrees F.  You will need 2 large bowls.  In one, crack the eggs and beat well, then add the oil, mix well..then the pumpkin, vanilla and maple syrup till smooth and well blended.  In the other bowl sift ALL the dry ingredients together. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry and gently combine the two using a folding motion JUST until lumps are gone, and it’s a smooth batter.  Over mixing will toughen the bread. Pour into a well greased loaf pan :punkin 001  Then top the loaf with the sunflower seeds       :12179337_10205151361846037_935758826_nPlace on a baking sheet and into the middle rack of the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes, rotating at the 30 minute mark.  That helps to evenly bake your bread. The bread is done when it’s springy in the center and a tester run into the center of the loaf comes out clean.  It should look well risen and like this:punkin 003   Here’s a close up of the top of the bread.  12188474_10205151540770510_980123793_n After the bread has sat out for 5 minutes, take it off the hot pan and leave it to cool on a wire rack. Drizzle the additional Maple Syrup over the top of the loaf.  Now leave it to completely cool before you serve/slice.  Fast forward 3 hours….time to slice it..LOOK AT THAT!~!!punkin 006 Moist, warm, spicy, you taste the pumpkin in the background..it’s wonderful.  PLEASE don’t short cut and use Pancake Syrup..no lecture on Corn Syrup here other than Pancake Syrup is Corn Syrup with imitation flavorings and colors added…it’s texture is all wrong for this too.  So, if you plan on making this make sure you get yourself a nice bottle of American or Canadian Pure Maple Syrup, my favorite is the DARK AMBER grade.

I concede, I wave the white flag..Summer is over…let the Pumpkin Bread bake.  Enjoy!!!

 

 

 

SUMMER PEACH CAKE WITH RASPBERRIES AND LIME

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Peaches and Raspberries are a classic fruit pairing and a little bit of citrus makes all those flavors pop.  Isn’t that what you want your food to do?  Pop with exciting flavors?  Desserts especially are better with great flavors or they tend to be too sweet.  I do like a sweet dessert but that little citrus really changes the dish and changes it for the better.  Peach Melba, peaches and raspberry sauce over Ice Cream is a Classic,  although sort of out of style dessert but good flavor pairings never fade, you just keep reinventing ways to make them.  So here we have a simple cake baked with peaches. How do you get to the next level?  Think about what might go well..did you say Cool Whip?  hmmm. not on my cakes, sorry…whipped cream would be a good answer.  Go back to the Peach Melba idea…what if you made a basic peach cake and then drizzled Raspberry Lime sauce over it with fresh raspberries and lime zest?  Do I have your attention now? Awesome.  This dessert I created one night out of sheer boredom, nothing “original ” about it other than the addition of lime.  I think i invented that.  Work with me here, say GREAT IDEA PETE!!! But as every recipe developer, food creator, chef, cook must come to terms with, there probably is a dish pretty close to the one you just “invented” out there already.  I’ll be content with knowing that maybe I just brought the idea into your kitchen . That makes me happy.  For this dish find the freshest peaches.11035447_492007387634233_714482008616250832_n  These are New Jersey grown local peaches and they were delicious.  Also, find some fresh raspberries:

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You are going to turn these into a quick sauce by taking 1 pt, reserving at least 10 for garnishing the cake later…simply add the raspberries to a heavy saucepan along with 3 tablespoons of sugar and bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer until they are soft and have released their juices..add 1/2 tsp. of fresh lime juice.  Add to a food processor and simply pulse a few times.  Now you can run this thru a sieve to remove pulp and seeds, or simply use at is. Leave the sauce at room temperature, but covered for when the cake is ready.

for the cake:  use a 9 inch cake pan, well greased with butter.

Preheat oven to 350F.

 

5 TABLESPOONS SOFTENED UNSALTED BUTTER

 

1EGG

 

1/ CUP of SUGAR

 

1/2 CUP WHOLE MILK
1 TSP. PURE VANILLA

 

1 CUP SIFTED UNBLEACHED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

 

GENEROUS PINCH OF KOSHER SALT
1 1/2 TABLESPOONS BAKING POWDER
1/2 TSP. GROUND NUTMEG

4 FRESH SEASONAL PEACHES, PEELED AND SLICED

SUGAR FOR THE TOPPING, PLUS MORE NUTMEG

1 TSP LIME ZEST

Cream the butter and sugar in your mixer till fluffy and light in color. Add the egg , milk, and vanilla and beat till mixed in .   Add the flour, salt, and baking powder and the nutmeg . Beat for 5 minutes.  Pour into the cake pan.  Place the slices in a circle on the top of the cake.  Mix 2 tablespoons of sugar with 1/8 tsp. of nutmeg, pinch of ground cloves and sprinkle over the top of the peaches.  Dot with small pieces of butter, about 2 tbs.  Bake in 350 Degree F oven for 35 minutes or when the cake is firm to the touch at the center. 

When the cake is done, let it cool on a rack for a good 2 hours.  Drizzle some of the sauce over the cake along with the lime zest. Top with the reserved uncooked rasbperries.  Slice and serve with more of the sauce.  Ok, some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream to if you like.

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I hope you find some good fruit to make this cake with.  Not overly sweet and highlights the seasonal peaches.  Raspberries are like grated cheese, they made everything TASTE better!!  The hint of spice is a great background flavor, you know, like in a cake doughnut.  Nutmeg enhances the flavors.