Category Archives: DESSERTS

VIENNESE VANILLA CRESCENTS…VANILLEKIPFERL

00vanillenkipferlWIENER VANILLEKIPFERL……a very popular Holiday cookie these are AUSTRIAN VANILLA CRESCENTS.  This type of cookie is made all over the world for the Christmas season and sometimes for special occasions thru the year.  Wedding Cookies, Greek Kourabiedes, American Almond Crescents, the list goes on but at their heart they are a butter cookie made with finely ground nuts in the dough.  The nuts can be almond or walnut.  The butter is always present and in the central European countries the Vanilla Sugar is an ingredient as well.  Simply put, it’s granulated or fine granulated sugar infused with vanilla beans and is very fragrant.  So why am I focusing in on this Viennese version?  Well last Summer I visited Vienna and bought a cookbook, in German, called WEIHNACHTS BACKEREI…translates to CHRISTMAS BAKING.ho15577518_10208099303022724_1310207240_nNice looking book, i had to buy it. Cost 6.75 Euros. One of the recipes is the Viennese crescent.  I made them last Christmas using European butter and they were fantastic, so now I share this with you.  The butter I suggest to really make them over the top delicious is butter from Europe.  A little more costly for sure than U.S. butter but they are after all European butter cookies.  A few European brands are LURPAK, from Denmark, FINLANDIA from Finland, KERRYGOLD, from Ireland.  There’s also the US made in the European style PLUGRA.  They are richer than the usual American butter. If you can’t find them the cookies will still be fantastic!

VIENNESE CRESCENTS                            TAKES: 3 hours                    YIELDS: 48-60

the rezipe
2 cups sifted unbleached flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 TBS. vanilla sugar
1 TBS pure Vanilla Extract
3 egg yolks or 2 extra large yolks
1 cup Ground Almonds (or ground walnuts)
1 CUP COLD EUROPEAN BUTTER (or good quality U.S. butter)
2 TBS vanilla sugar plus 2 TBS Confectioner’s Sugar for coating
Cream the butter and the sugar, then the eggs, then the almonds and flour.All ingredients are quickly mixed to a smooth dough in your mixer and let cool for approx. 1 hour. Cut the dough into a small roll of small, coarse pieces, shape them into crescents and place on a  well greased baking tray or baking sheet. I’d use a SILPAT mat if you have them, or lightly greased parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees F in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes till firm and golden. While still warm roll in the Vanilla sugar and confectioner’s sugar blend.
If you like the taste of Almonds in this, add 1 tsp. Almond Extract while you’re mixing the dough.
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 Quantity: about  48-60 piecesbakingnight121915-025bakingnight121915-026
Let fully cool.  Store in air tight tins or in baking tins layered with waxed paper and well wrapped.fulleuropevaca-938Just to show you were I bought the cookbook, this is a roadside scene in the WIENERWALD, or the VIENNA WOODS which lie outside of the city of Vienna, Austria.  A magical land where Wiener Vanillekiperl fall out of the sky!!  Now that you have the recipe you don’t have to wait to take a trip to Austria.  Bring Austria to you own kitchen!!!
Glückliches Kochen!
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ZEPPOLE…THE ITALIAN AMERICAN STREET FEAST TREAT, MY STYLE

001The smell of the ItalianAmerican Summer…Zeppole frying in oil..big vats of them…their steam wafting in every direction pulling you closer to the stand.  You are mesmerized by the bobbing of the hand pulled balls of dough sizzling on their sides in the molten oil.  You await, impatiently for the fresh hot balls to be drained.  Then with the deft hands of a master the Zeppolaio places your hot zeppole into a paper bag, brown or white, and adds a blizzard of powdered sugar.  Next they fold the bag and SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE and hand it over to you.  Your heart is pounding (isn’t it??) and you reach with childlike anticipation at what’s waiting for you in that little sack.  You reach in and without hesitation bite long and hard on one and for a moment you’re impervious to the scorching heat from the steam that’s scalding your tongue.  Who cares?  It’s worth it. Every blister is worth it soothed by the chilly feel of the powdered sugar with a sweet finish.  Deep breath, of course not with a zeppole by your mouth or you’ll asphyxiate from the sugar dust…deep breath and then another bite, damn it just eat the whole thing.  Now you’re happy.  Sound familiar?  Please don’t tell me this is a unique experience for me, lol.  I KNOW you are with me.  Now just so you know, I like them with powdered sugar which is how most street feast vendors make them, or with granulated sugar which is how many restaurants and home cooks make them.  They are great both ways, infact they are awesome with a pinch of cinnamon in the coarser sugar.  What’s a zeppole anyway?

Well it’s simply a regional Italian term for a type of fried dough THAT IS usually ring shaped or a roundish ball. Zeppole come in many varieties.  This blog will make the one’s similar to the street feasts, but other zeppole contain lemon and ricotta in the dough, some use mostly eggs and pipe it through a bag to create a French cruller like small ring.  That is a more specific type of Zeppole that is cut and filled with Italian pastry cream and topped with an Amarena cherry for March 19th’s  St.Joseph Day. It’s a very Napoletana thing. There are also many savory types of zeppole.  So take away from this that there’s more zeppole than the one you may be used to.  In other parts of the  USA Italian Americans call zeppole by different names, like Pizza Fritta, or Fried Dough.  I’m from NYC so I use our regional term.  Here’s a beautiful tray of zeppole hot out of the fryer at NYC’s San Gennaro Feast:008 Now today is Aug.15, it’s Ferragosto the Italian End of Summer celebration that coincides with the religious FESTA DELL’ASSUNTA, or Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The ASSUNTA is a national holiday in Italy and it’s a popular girls’ name.  My great grandmother on my mom’s mom side was named Assunta…006 Assunta Prisco Melito, born in Castelbaronia, Avellino and died in Napoli. My grandma passed this name onto my mom, Assunta Scaramuzzi Battaglia, but she went by Susan as most first generationers did to fit in more in America.  We used to celebrate her NAME DAY each August 15, here’s a picture from the 1976 celebration.0002 A delicious Cassata from Alfonso’s in Staten Island helped make it a festive day!  Zeppole are not specific to Ferragosto but they are fun and celebratory and you CAN make them in you own kitchen in a regular pan.  Here’s how I make them…:

2 CUPS SIFTED FLOUR

1/2 TBS KOSHER SALT

1 1/4 CUP WARM WATER

2 PACKAGE YEAST

SOY, VEGETABLE OR PEANUT OIL at least 1 gallon

2 CUPS POWDERED SUGAR OR GRANULATED SUGAR

In a large stainless steel bowl add the water, salt , and yeast.  Mix.  Let this sit for at least 15 minutes. It should be frothy on top by then.  Now add the flour and blend well until all the flour is incorporated.  This is almost a bread dough BUT you are not going to tighten this up or knead the dough.  Cover and let this rise for no less than 2 hours.  You should have a yeasty aroma dough that’s not quite as tight as many bread doughs.  Spongy and sort of loose.  Heat in a deep high sided heavy flameproof pot or cast iron pan (pot better, less chance of oil spillage and the ensuing disaster and/or mess.) and fill 1/2 way with the oil you’ve chosen and place on medium to high heat.  Most feasts use those large soybean oil containers. I use what I have on hand.  When the temp gets up to 350 degrees F, or when you gently place a small ball of the dough into the oil and it immediately starts to sizzle frantically your oil is ready.  Have a tray lined with paper towels ready to receive the hot zeppole.  This recipe should make about 36.  Using a damp hand pinch a small ball of dough and add to the hot oil. repeat until you are almost full in the pot, don’t overcrowd though.  Flip them as they turn golden brownish. When both sides are the same color it’s time to gently remove them using a kitchen spider or similar long handled implement that lets the hot oil drip out.  Remove the finished zeppole to the lined tray.  Now  continue to make more zeppole until you’ve used up all the dough.  Here’s when you need a kitchen assistant, it’s sugar time.  While the zeppole are still hot. add them to a bowl filled with 1/2 of the sugar. Roll the zeppole in batches in the sugar.  THEN in a paper bag, add the rest of the sugar and shake the zeppole  until they are all coated again, certainly you will do that in batches.  If needed, use more sugar. EAT. delicious.

TIPS or SIDE NOTES:  Every pan/pot and stove top are different so..while i’m giving you directions here PLEASE let your common sense guide you.  You may have the oil too hot, or too cool. So you may need to play around till you get the hang of it. PLEASE DON’T GET DISCOURAGED!! If it’s your first time HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO BE A PRO AT IT?? Be patient and you’ll find your way. As always, have fun cooking!!!

 

 

 

 

 

CANNOLI TIRAMISU’ IN A GLASS OR CUP

0tirpmi Last week I, A FOOD OBSESSION, had my first POP UP Dinner and I hope it’s not my last.  It was an amazing amount of fun, anxiety, great kitchen work, planning and working with some great people.  Through a Facebook food group I’m in, the MERRICK GIRLS WEEKNIGHT RECIPES group, my blog and my posts became known to the owner and chef of a Merrick, Long Island NY restaurant beautifully located on the water, ANCHOR DOWN SEAFOOD BAR AND GRILLE.  Chef Stephen Rosenbluth and his wife Jennifer had the idea to have me come to their restaurant on a Sunday night, create a special menu showcasing my recipes that I would cook with his wonderful kitchen staff and serve to members of the group.  FANTASTIC!!!  It would so much fun meeting all these people I’ve been in the group with for the last 2 years as well.  So I came up with a seafood menu and somehow it just evolved into a celebration of my Sicilian heritage.  Now TIRAMISU is hardly Sicilian.  It’s a Northern Italian creation most likely from the late 60’s -80’s up in the northern province of VENETO.  It’s said to be derived from the more traditional Zuppa Inglese layered dessert once very popular throughout Italy.  Growing up there was no TiraMiSu’, which translates as   PICK ME UP alluding to the Espresso which is the main flavor in the dessert.  I remember Zupp’Inglese as a child but no TiraMiSu’ which is historically correct.  America started seeing this dessert in the early 80’s or so and it took off.  If you tell me that as an ItalianAmerican in the NYC area you knew what Mascarpone Cheese was before the arrival of TiraMiSu in the 80’s i say…i don’t think so.  LOL..  TiraMiSu took over as the standard offering in all the Italian American and Italian restaurants in the USA.  It’s everywhere now.  Some versions good, some not so good.  It’s an Italian Crisp LadyFinger (called SAVOIARDI) layer, soaked in Espresso and sometimes a Liquore, then layered with an egg enriched Mascarpone and Whipped Cream layer, scented with Vanilla.  There’s some unsweetened cocoa dusted over the top and it’s chilled and sets up beautifully.  But let’s get back to what it’s doing here in my Sicilian PopUp.  I thought I’d play on the idea of a traditional Tiramisu but make it SICILIAN and a nice light ending to the meal.  I made a basic cannoli cream and added that to a wine glass. The Savoiardi were only 1/2 dipped into a syrup we made with Espresso, sugar, Marsala, Orange Peel.  All Sicilian flavors. The LadyFinger was place into the cream with the dry end up.  A drizzle of the syrup…a grating of Orange zest and a cherry completed the dessert.  Sicily in a cup…deconstructing a classic Northern dessert.  I think you have the idea now and you will want to make this for a party or dinner.  Let’s make CANNOLI TIRAMISU’!!

for 8 servings…have 8 stemmed glassed

takes..about 5 hours (not because it’s difficult, but the cream should be made at least 5 hours and chilled before making the dessert, overnight is best)

3 cups of drained RICOTTA pressed thru a sieve, or 3 cups of Impastata  Ricotta.

To drain wrap into a cheesecloth and hang over your kitchen faucet with a bowl underneath it.  This is the difference between the texture of Pastry shop Cannoli cream and loose runny homemade cannoli cream.  It’s worth the extra work.

1 drop CINAMMON OIL, or 1 TSP. GROUND CINNAMON

1/4 CUP SEMI SWEET CHOCOLATE CHIPS

1 CUP SIFTED CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR

1/2 TSP VANILLA EXTRACT

8 IMPORTED ITALIAN SAVOIARDI (LADY FINGERS)

3 TSP. ORANGE ZEST

8 CHERRIES, GLACE’, CANDIED, or MARASCHINO (DRAINED AND BLOTTED)

Using a mixer beat the cheese till smooth.  Add the cinnamon and the vanilla. Beat till blended in.  Now add the sugar slowly and when all incorporated raise the speed and beat until it’s smooth and no lumps are present.Fold in the Chip.  Cover tightly and refrigerate.

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THE SYRUP

2 CUPS STRONG BLACK ESPRESSO

2 STRIPS ORANGE PEEL

JUICE OF ONE ORANGE

1/2 CUP MARSALA

3/4 CUP GRANULATED SUGAR

WHISK together in a saucepan till the sugar is dissolved. Add the orange peel. Bring to a boil then reduce and simmer until it’s reduced by almost 40%.  Let cool.anchordown22816 086

Now add a small amount of the syrup to the bottom of the 8 glasses. Into each glass fill 1/3 of the way with the cannoli cream.  One by one, dip 1/2 of the SAVOIARDI into the Syrup and let the excess run back into the pan.  Now place it into the glass on top of the cream.  When finished with all 8, garnish with a drizzle of the syrup, divide the orange zest over the 8 cups, and add a cherry to finish.anchordown22816 006Now serve!!  It’s a tiramisu’ idea with the flavors of Sicily…who doesn’t love CANNOLI???? The happy diners at the PopUp all enjoyed their desserts.   It was a pleasure cooking with Chef Rosenbluth and staff and a pleasure working with and finally meeting the Girls of the Merrick Girls Weeknight Recipe Facebook Group.  You can find the group and join it on Facebook at :

https://www.facebook.com/groups/MerrickGirlsWeekdayRecipies/

And you can dine at ANCHOR DOWN SEAFOOD BAR AND GRILLE in Merrick LI :

http://www.anchordownny.com/

 

Tell Chef Stephen, Jennifer, Chef Jason and Murph, Christian, Bev, and  Megan you read about them on my blog!!!

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WARM APPLE COBBLER, AMERICAN CLASSIC

 

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American Cuisine all too often is solely looked at for it’s Processed and Fast Food side.  I’ll have to agree that YES America is the leader in Processed/Fast Foods but one reason is that American culture in many ways fosters the bigger, better, quicker, easier route to get from point A to point B.  Sometimes that’s a good way to live.  Sometimes it’s not.  And most times we can alter that pattern LIKE….cooking from ingredients that are not pre-made for you.  Here’s how I create my recipes, I use my head, my 57 years of cooking, eating, reading, traveling and take that and place it into my kitchen and create.  Then, when I’m ready to actually make something on the spot or have been planning on and commit it to this blog for you to follow I research my cookbooks and online as many recipes as I can to see if I’m still on the right track.  Only then do I title a recipe.  Cobbler is an American dessert that falls into that CONFUSING C WORD category..Crumbles, Cobblers.  Here’s what I’ve come up with..Cobbler is a flour based batter poured over sweetened and sliced fruits baked in a buttered pan.  They are easy.  The most laborious part is peeling and slicing the fresh fruit.  It’s also a wonderful “pantry” recipe.  Chances are, the fruit being the variable, you have all the ingredients in your pantry at all times.  320880_2097459198452_191891307_nApples!! That’s what’s in the pantry this time of year. APPLES!  Delicious baked in treats all year long but PARTICULARLY in the FALL/WINTER.

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This cobbler is my version of a very easy and basic American dessert.

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The farm markets are heady with their scent.  So….let’s buy a few and make an APPLE COBBLER.

SERVES: 8                                      TIME: just under 1 hour start to finish

FRUIT BASE:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour or cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 cups sliced peeled firm tart apples (4-5 apples)
  • 1/2 tsp Lemon zest
  • 1 tbs. fresh lemon juice (throw those bottles of lemon juice away!!)

BATTER TOPPING:

  • 1 cup  unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 11/2 teaspoons baking powder (check the expiry date on your BP, it might be time for a new one)
  • 1/4 teaspoon  Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted then cooled to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbs. sour cream
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • butter for greasing the pan
  • plain fine breadcrumbs for lining the bottom of the pan

Pre Heat the oven to 35- degrees F.  In an 11X7 rectangular baking pan lightly grease the bottom and sizes with butter.  Dust the bottom of the pan with dry plain breadcrumbs. Set aside.  In a large bowl mix all the Ingredients in the FRUIT BASE portion of the recipe.  Pour into the pan.

Beat together all the wet ingredients of the Batter Topping part of the recipe except for the milk. Then Sift together all the dry ingredients.  Stir 1/2 the dry into the wet.. When it’s combined stir in the milk. When combined stir in the rest of the dry.  When combined stop stirring and pour over the top of the fruit base.  Sprinkle with cinnamon lightly, then into the oven for 30-35 minutes, rotating it once 1/2 way thru. Test to see if the topping is done by poking the center with a toothpick. Do not let it go thru to the fruit.  If if comes out clean, you are done. If not at this point 5 more minutes should do it.

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Sometimes the baker doesn’t cover all the fruit!!! Shame on him !! (ok, that was me)…But this is what your APPLE COBBLER should look like!!  Serve in a few ways, warm (BEST!!!) topped with Vanilla Ice Cream, or sour cream, or whipped Cream…some sugar crystals or Raw sugar crystals, and when warm a drizzle of Maple Syrup (pure)…it’s heaven.. Room Temperature is ok too…Ice cold out of the fridge, not so good…the cold temperature masks all the flavors.

Happy Baking…Happy Eating…Happy Sharing!!

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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!!!

 

 

 

PIGNOLI COOKIES, A GIFT FROM SICILY

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Memories taste sweet and one of the sweetest memories I have is of my Mom’s PIGNOLI COOKIES.  Hers were not unique but they were hers and that’s what makes them special. I treasure her recipe box which was really not how she cooked, only certain things were committed to a written recipe.  Her cooking was mostly recipes in her head…I wonder where I get that from.  This was one of her written ones..the PIGNOLI COOKIE which is the GRAND PRIZE if you landed the one or two that are in all ItalianAmerican cookie platters at the end of a special occasion.  Almond paste and Pignoli, the two main ingredients have always been wildly expensive.  Most bakeries today sell them for 29.99-35.00 @ lb. Making them at home is much cheaper, but not cheap.  Here’s Mom’s recipe card:aipignul As with all her written recipes, they are incomplete.  Her philosophy was , if you know how to cook, you can fill in the blanks.  So there you go.  I wanted to make them and went by memory.  Too lazy to look for Mom’s card.  I remembered it right down to the measurements…pretty scary.  I did add 2 other items away from Mom’s recipe, one was 3 tbs. of sifted Unbleached flour and 1/2 tsp. of Pure Vanilla (have we had this talk yet..go to your pantry..if your extract says Imitation, throw it out…buy a bottle of PURE Vanilla. Why are you cooking with fake stuff?  Unless you are baking everyday in big quantities the additional cost of the real item is not a burden.) The flour just helps stabilize the mixture, the vanilla I use in baking like one uses lemon in savory cooking.  It seems to carry the other flavors and enhance them.  That almond essence is just fantastic in these chewy almond macaroons (yeah, they are a form of macaroon).

So what’s the history of this cookie?  Marzipan is a very well loved and used ingredient in European confections, North, Central and Southern.  In Italy the region that Marzipan or PASTA REALE really is King is Sicily.  Certainly the Salento and Puglia have their share of Almond Paste treats, but in Sicily it’s almost a religion.  Almonds are a crop for the region and Sicilians include almonds in both their sweet and savory foods.  No one knows for sure where this pignoli (which is another hallmark of Sicilian cooking) topped almond macaroon came from.  The cookie is also made with slivered almonds on top.  Since all research I’ve read points to Sicily, I’m going with that premise.

Notice 2 things in my pictures that I don’t want you to do.  First is the foil on the baking sheet.  I had no Silpat, no parchment paper.  I improvised with lightly greasing a foil lining. In a pinch it works, but you SHOULD use silpat or Parchment.  The texture will be better.  They are also just a touch darker than they should be.  I received a work related call while I was baking them and that extra 2 minutes in the oven created a crispy sort of bottom.  They should be soft yet browned so, shut your phone off when you are cooking or risk a potential disaster.  Had I not pulled them out when I did they would have become AMARETTI, those toasted almond macaroons, delicious, but not what I was making. Seconds count in cooking and baking!!!

TIME: 45 MINUTES                                         YIELD:  18 COOKIES

8 oz. ALMOND PASTE, cut into small pieces then broken up with a mixer into small pieces

2/3 CUP SUGAR

3 TBS. SIFTED UNBLEACHED FLOUR  (omit this is you are looking for GLUTEN FREE)

2 BEATEN EGG WHITES at ROOM TEMPERATURE

1/2 TSP. PURE VANILLA EXTRACT

1 CUP PIGNOLI (PINE NUTS)

CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR FOR DUSTING (Check the labels as not all Confectioner’s Sugar is Gluten Free if you are in need of this to be GF, if not, omit)

SILPAT or PARCHMENT PAPER  (Mom used Waxed Paper, but I think Parchment is a better choice)

Let’s start baking.  Pre heat oven to 325 F.  To the already mixed up Almond paste (you can use a food processor too) add the sugar.  Mix well, Then add the flour.  Mix well. Should look like this:pignoli 001 Now add the eggs and vanilla and mix just until the mixture comes together. It will be a sticky dough so don’t be alarmed at that.  It should hold a small ball shape.  Empty the nuts into a bowl.  Now, roll 18 equal sized small balls, i guess a teaspoon full is good.  Eyeball this folks, just keep them equal size. That’s also how things bake properly and at the same time.  Dip one side of the ball into the bowl of Pignoli.  Then place them on the Silpat or Parchment Paper lined baking sheet.  Use heavy baking sheets if you can.  Less chance of burning will occur. When they are all lined up, with room in between place them into the oven on the middle rack.pignoli 002 looking at the foil is killing me.  But, honesty in cooking and blogging so there you go.. DON’T USE FOIL!! Bake them for 15 minutes.  Then place them in the top rack and bake for addition 5 minutes only.  USE YOUR HEADS HERE!! If they look too brown or brown enough don’t do the 5 extra minutes.  Every oven is calibrated differently…so use the common sense adjustment for making these.  Your eyes are your biggest cooking implement.   When you remove them let them sit for 3-4 minutes, then gently transfer them with a spatula to a cooling rack.  Let them cook for 1/2 hour.  pignoli 004  My phone call created those over toasted pignoli on the cookies and the darker ring around the base.  No phone calls.. Let it ring. That’s what voicemail is for.  Now dust them with Confectioner’s Sugar.  pignoli 005  If not serving them right away no sugar dusting until you are serving.  MAKE SURE THEY ARE STORED IN AIR TIGHT CONTAINERS!!!  You will get that wonderful soft and chewy texture then.pignoli 022 Like that!!  Even with my extended accidental baking time they were wonderfully PIGNOLI COOKIE textured.  I can hear my Mom exclaim ” AI’PIGNUL”  spoken as Ai PEENYOOL…dialect Italian…  That makes this blog and recipe much more personal for me, and so, for you too.  You are baking an HEIRLOOM recipe, as much as that overused buzzword can be thrown around, it makes perfect sense here.  With anticipation I would watch my Mom remove the Marzipan (Almond Paste) from the plastic covered tubes (Odense was the brand she used) and steal a chunk or two of it before she continued with the rest of the recipe.  Food memories make for better tasting food.  GRAZIE MOM for this gift, her recipe is like a million others but I have the proof in my hands and her handwriting.  And now I pass it on to you.  Happy Baking!  Happy Eating!!

 

pignoli 012

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.