Category Archives: SWEETS

SFINGI DI SAN GIUSEPPE PALERMITANI..SAINT JOSEPH’S SFINGI PASTRY, PALERMO STYLE

palmsunday16 044I get excited many times during the year in anticipation of a Holiday or Celebration and the foods that are part of that season, day, or time.  One of my most favorite is the annual Catholic celebration of the Feast of St.Joseph which Southern Italian culture has created a beautiful day of Springtime foods only eaten on March 19.  San Giuseppe is especially  revered in Sicily where he is one of their most beloved patrons.  Huge Celebrations in all the towns and homes flow out into the streets and special savory and sweet foods are made.  No where in Italy is this celebration as exhuberant as in Sicily, but don’t worry, the rest of Italy celebrates it with many different sweet and savory treats as well  This post deals with my most favorite of them all, the SFINGI DI SAN GIUSEPPE.  Sfingi is a term meaning a fried sponge of dough.  Sfingi are also the name for what people in Naples called Zeppole.  However….when the talented Sicilian pastry makers started immigrating to the USA in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s some things made some changes.  I have no idea why or how this happened because at St.Joseph’s time all Italian Pastry shops made 2 types of “St.Joseph’s Pastry”. They are now sold from the beginning of Lent thru Easter with peak production on and about March 19.  The two types are the Sicilian Sfingi which has morphed into a large, sometimes oversized cream puff, baked then filled with a Ricotta Cannoli Cream.  The top of the Cream puff is placed back on and a then a rosette of Cannoli cream added.  To this crushed pistachio or nuts, candied cherry and orange peel are added.  Crowned with powdered sugar.  The other pastry is from Naples, and is called the ZEPPOLE DI SAN GIUSEPPE.  Using a pastry bag and a rosette tip a circle of the cream puff dough is piped out then slid into hot oil and fried.  It’s split and a Vanilla Italian Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticceria) is added to the center, The top is placed on it and a rosette of the cream topped with a sour cherry (Amarena) goes on to finish it.  Both are amazing.  But so strange that the formerly fried SFINGI is now the baked one.  Whatever.  All delicious.  This is a dish that my mom made.  She loved making cream puffs.  She filled them with all sorts of fillings, puddings, whipped cream, italian creams, ricotta cream, chocolate cream.  But for San Giuseppe she made the Sicilian sfingi (she was not Sicilian!) and I watch intently as she went thru each step.  Let’s push this even further as in Palermo they leave the top off, sort of a Sfingi on the Half Shell.  These are the ones I”m showing you here.  Let’s go into the kitchen and bake!!!

First, you need to make the filling.  CREMA DI RICOTTA SICILIANA

1 lb DRAINED WHOLE MILK RICOTTA

1/2 CUP CONFECTIONERS SUGAR

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon or one very very very SMALL drop of Cinnamon Oil.

3 tbs. fine chopped CITRON

2 tbs. small semi sweet CHOCOLATE CHIPS

BLEND TOGETHER UNTIL VERY SMOOTH AND CHILL OVER NIGHT

SHELLS: GLI SFINGI

1 CUP WATER

1/2 CUP BUTTER OR SHORTENING

1/8 TEASPOON OF  KOSHER SALT

1 cup TIPO 00 ITALIAN FLOUR OR 1 CUP SIFTED ALL PURPOSE UNBLEACHED FLOUR

3 EGGS

GARNISH:  CANDIED CHERRIES   CANDIED ORANGE PEELS  CRUSHED PISTACHIOS

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.  Bring a cup of water to a boil.  Add the butter or shortening and the salt.  Stir until the butter/shortening is melted and comes back to the boil.  Lower the heat and gently add all the flour in at once and keep stirring with a wooden spoon until the flour leaves the sides of the pan.  Remove from the heat.  Now add one egg and beat into the hot mixture until it’s fully incorporated.  Do the same with the next two eggs beating thoughroughly after each egg addition.  Place a parchment sheet on a baking pan.  PLace the mixture in a pastry bag and press out a mound about 2 inches wide.  Or form the same with tablespoons.  Bake for 20 minutes in the hot oven.  Then lower the temperature to 325 degrees F and bake for an additional 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on racks. When cool slice in half.. Remove any wet dough from the inside it there is any.   Fill each 1/2 with the Ricotta cream.  Top with a candied cherry, slice of candied orange peel and some crushed Pistachio nuts.  Chill for 2 hours before serving.  Makes about 1 1/2 doz.   BUONA FESTA DI SAN GIUSEPPE!!!

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.  Zeppole are also the traditional start off Christmas in Italy. They are made on December 8  for the Immaculate Conception ( Immacolata Concezione).   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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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:

  • 16 to 18 Granny Smith, unpeeled, apples
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 TBS butter
  • 1 TBS lemon juice
  • Nutmeg and cinnamon (optional)

Quarter apples, remove core and cut each piece again. In a large saucepan, add apples and bring to a boil, stirring to prevent burning. Reduce heat and cook until apples are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. If applesauce seems too thick, add more water; if too thin, cook longer to thicken. Put through a food mill or sieve and add butter. Gradually add sugar tasting for desired sweetness. Add lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg and/or 1 tsp. cinnamon; taste and, if you like, add more. Makes approximately 2 quarts.

 

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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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!!

 

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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.

AFFOGATO,ITALY’S COFFEE AND ICE CREAM TREAT

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An amazingly flavored dessert/drink that comes from Italy is the perfect idea for your Summer entertaining (ok, not just Summer but i’m trying to play up the seasonal thing here).  It’s called AFFOGATO and it means DROWNED.  A scoop (s) of usually VANILLA GELATO is placed in a chilled glass, cup , or bowl and hot ESPRESSO is poured over it.  Let’s talk here for a moment.  I’m American so I will have to say, you can use a good creamy naturally flavored VANILLA ICE CREAM and a good strong BLACK COFFEE for this treat.  It’s way better though when you stick to the original and proper when possible and find (or make if you’re into that) Vanilla Gelato and make a pot of Espresso.  Now again, since I’m American I’m almost forced into telling you that you can top this with Amaretti Crumbs, Shaved Chocolate, I guess the sky is the limit.  I will also tell you that now you are making an Ice Cream Sundae of sorts and you’ve sucked the Italian soul completely out of the mix.  Americans LOVE having lots of varieties especially when it comes with toppings. Me, I’m more the purist and I prefer this as the Italians intended it to be made.  Lots of overkill “recipes” for this on the web.  Why complicate???

To  make this tasty treat…simply scoop Vanilla Gelato or Ice Cream into a chilled glass that can withstand heat, we want no accidents here..or into a bowl (safer),then for each scoop, 1 1/2 ounces of hot espresso over the top.  Serve…eat/drink enjoy.    This, along with a platter of cut Summer fruits and berries and some biscotti is a great way to end a Summer’s meal.

The picture is of an AFFOGATO I enjoyed for dessert at the OBICA’ MOZZARELLA BAR, Canary Wharf, London     ( I know, that’s not Italy, but so what,It’s Europe..LOL) in July 2014 on family vacation (or should I say Holiday since it was in London???).  Just to keep my authenticity badge, I have had this in Italy but there’s not corresponding picture.  So there’s that.  Now enjoy the Summer and enjoy the foods and gatherings that make it the great season it is.

Now if you want to expand on the basic “affogato” as nature intended it…here’s some ideas, for you boozy adults, a bit of your favorite Liquore, think ones that go well with vanilla and coffee like Amaretto, Fra Angelico, Kaluha….or for the non boozy types some Nutella, Chocolate or Caramel Syrup.  I’ll keep mine gelato and espresso.  Enjoy!!

 

MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS COOKIE, THE ANGINETTI (CIAMBELLINE)..

IMG_6361  What makes a Holiday special?  I really think it’s a mix of the present with a heavy dose of the past.  Holidays like all parts of our lives should be a blend and one should not dwell too deeply in the past because much of what was there no longer is.  Cooking is one of the easy areas to recreate those past memories and that is no more apparent than at the end of the year cycle of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.  Everything is different from the rest of the year. There are no Menorah lightings in June.  Santa does not come down the chimney in May.  Once a year we bring out decorations and treasured family recipes that connect us to our identities. My Holiday gift to you all at this Christmas time  is my Mom’s CIAMBELLINE recipe.  The proper name for this cookie is ANGINETTI and it was taught to my mom’s mother, my Grandma Maria Adelina Melito Scaramuzzi by her sister in law, my Zi’Caterina Scaramuzzi Luberto.  So this story begins with a sister in law sharing a recipe from Grassano, Matera, Basilicata in Italy with her little brother’s new wife.  My Luberto relatives call this cookie the GINETTE (obviously their way of saying Anginetti) but my grandmother who came from a different town in Italy tagged them with her local name for them, you see, this cookie is made all over Southern Italy and by all the immigrants and their families here in the U.S. and all over the world.  My Grandmother used the term CIAMBELLINE..it’s the word for wreath, something with no beginning and no end.  It’s an ancient pagan symbol of a snake biting it’s own tail, a symbol of life eternal, a symbol of the unending cycle of birth and death.  Other names for this cookies are Lemon Drop, Anisette Drop, Love Knots, Taralli (that is a generic Italian word for small cookies), Orange Juice Cookies, Italian Knot Cookies, etc.  The point is it’s all the same cookie but depending on where your ancestors in Italy came from the flavorings may be different. Our family’s recipe relies on Lemon, Orange, and Anisette.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen buying your extracts stick with 100% pure, never imitation. READ LABELS ALWAYS!! Lots of labels fool you into thinking they are the real deal.  It should be noted that while I’m writing this I’m also eating a CIAMBELLINE as well. How’s THAT for inspiration??? Now before we get started realize that this is only my way which I’m sure is somewhat modified in some way from when my Grandmother handed out this recipe to every child and grandchild.  In some she used melted butter, in others the butter was creamed. My earliest recollections were of the melted so that’s my preferred method. Here is a recipe card written by my mom for her mother’s CIAMBELLINE:1460286_237205316447776_1865507221_n  Give me a moment to wipe a tear away, I certainly miss my Mom and Grandmother, but what a great legacy to honor them by then to recreate every year in our own kitchens something that gave them great joy to share. Time to make CIAMBELLINE (or GIAMBIS as mom called them for short).

MAKES:  about 48 depending on how big you are making them

TIME: 2 hours

8 cups SIFTED UNBLEACHED FLOUR

1 TSP. KOSHER SALT

8 tsp BAKING POWDER

3 sticks MELTED UNSALTED BUTTER

JUICE OF ONE LEMON

JUICE OF ONE ORANGE

1 cup SUGAR

7 EGGS, beaten

1/2 tsp. of ANISETTE EXTRACT

1 1/2 TSP. VANILLA EXTRACT

1 1/2 TSP. LEMON ZEST

1 1/2 TSP. ORANGE ZEST

 

LARGE MIXING BOWL

First mix together the beaten eggs with the Sugar till well blended.  Now add the zests, the extracts, juice and blend well then do the same by adding the melted butter.  Make sure it is cooled.. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Now in batches sift together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder) and gently blend into the bowl until it’s a soft, not too sticky, pliable dough.  You may have to gently knead with your hands and don’t panic if it’s still a bit sticky.  To get to the right consistency simply dust a little more flour into the bowl and onto your hands and only add enough until you are at a smooth dough. Then stop and let it rest for a good 15 minutes.  Pull of the dough in small balls, like a golf ball size and roll into a rope then turn it into a knot.  Place onto sturdy baking sheets.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Remember, there’s no “set” size so no debating on this.  Make that your own preference.  Our family likes them a bit bigger than some other families do.  CIAMBELLINE cook fairly quickly and are NOT supposed to be a dark brown.  Bake for 10 minutes, check the bottom to see if it’s light brown.  A good method for a first timer is to break one of the cooked ones open to see if it’s done because the tops may look “not done” to you.  This is part of the practice makes perfect notion.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat’s it, that’s done.  Look in the picture at how light they appear on their tops.  Yet, the interior is done.  The longer you cook them the harder their texture will be. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  If you want more color to your tops leave them in a little longer.  However, in any case these are an iced cookie.  When you are done with your last batch going in it’s time to make the icing glaze.

ICING:

JUICE OF 2 LEMONS

JUICE OF 1/2 ORANGE

4 cups of CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR

1 TSP ANISETTE EXTRACT

1/2 TSP VANILLA EXTRACT

1/2 tsp of LEMON ZEST

1/2 TSP OF ORANGE ZEST

MIX everything together till you get a nice icing consistency.  If it appears too loose, in small batches add more confectioner’s sugar. Dip the cookies on their tops into the icing and let the excess run off.  Grandma Scaramuzzi suggests that you also dip the bottoms as that will encase the cookies in the icing and keep them fresh longer.  I personally listen to her.  Place the iced cookies on racks and top them with small CONFETTI ( multi colored Non-Pareils).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  There is nothing in this world FOR ME that says it’s either Christmas, Easter, or a special occasion than the sight and smell of CIAMBELLINE in my kitchen.

Like the symbolism of Birth and Death between Christmas and Easter and the unending circle of Life that we all share, these cookies tie me into that natural occurrence.  May you all have fun baking these cookies and thank you for letting me share them with you all.

May each one of you enjoy the Holidays…however or whatever you make them out to be…Celebrate…and Happy Cooking!

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PIZZELLE SANDWICHES FILLED WITH CANNOLI CREAM FOR THE HOLIDAYS

001  PIZZELLES, a crisp, lightly ANISETTE scented wafer cookie that finds it’s way onto many a table of homemade treats at the Christmas Holiday Season.  It’s a great presentation and once you’ve mastered the PIZZELLE MAKER002 technique you can bang these out by the hundreds.  The maker (iron) is essential and if you are a fan of these treats it’s a nice investment.  Very kid friendly  for those holiday family cookie making kitchen events.  Most makers start around 39.99 or so and can be purchased in a single iron or in the double iron (worth the extra money) and can be found on line or in specialty kitchen stores. So what’s the PIZZELLE all about?  It’s Italian and they are made all over Italy today as well as in Italian-American homes.  However, they do have a precise point of origin and that is the ABRUZZO in Central Italy.  The Abruzzo is a region that straddles the North and the South in terms of culinary traditions but I’ve always felt that it favors the South in it’s foodways.  The powerful pagan mixing with Catholic traditions is a driving force in Italy and there is much talk that the pizzelle is a traditional sweet that originally was part of the feast of one of two saints. The cult of San Domenico in Cocullo or the cult of Beato Roberto in Salle both claim the pizzelle.  I’ll go with the San Domenico story because of this:002 You’re not seeing things, apparently S.Domenico is a magnet for snakes (I’m a fan of the cheesy movie SNAKES ON A PLANE too so this is right up my alley) and they are used in the annual Procession of S.Domenico di Sora every May slitthering up and down the statue.  Another example of snakes as the evil serpent and S.Domenico as the one who restored the area to good clean living.  AND..the pizzelle was created to celebrate the triumph of good over evil.  Don’t quote me as this is one of many legends regarding the crispy pizzelle but chances are somewhere in the history books there’s something to how and why they were originated.  The Anisette flavoring which is so popular may not be part of the original flavoring.  That might have simply been a non flavored wafer since there are now ones made with Vanilla, Anisette (my preference), Cinnamon, Lemon, Orange, Chocolate..the usual Italian suspects.  Since I’m giving you a recipe with Anisette, and then giving you a Sicilian cream to fill it with this version clearly is not authentic nor is it Abruzzese but like myself, an Italian-American mix.

Let’s start with the cream, enough to make 25 or so Pizzelle sandwiches.

1 1/3 cups SIEVED RICOTTA (drain it thru a Cheesecloth for at least 5 hours, or find a fresh made type, use whole milk Ricotta, if your Ricotta is thin or loose it will affect the creme and not be suitable for a sandwich between 2 crisp pizzelle.  The way to correct the excess moisture is by sieving it, not difficult, Cheesecloth though is needed)  If you have access to small amounts of IMPASTATA then you are in really good shape, that’s the low moisture Ricotta used by the pros for Cannoli and ravioli but tough

1/2 cup CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR

DROP OF CINNAMON OIL, or 1/2 TSP. GOOD GROUND CINNAMON

1/4 TSP. PURE VANILLA EXTRACT

1 TBS. GOOD SEMI SWEET CHOCOLATE CHIPS

Blend everything except the chip till thick.  Then fold in the chips. Chill for at least 3 hours, covered.

For the PIZZELLE..I use the Williams Sonoma recipe with a few tweaks:

FOR 25 PIZZELLE , YOU NEED TO DOUBLE THE RECIPE FOR THE 25 SANDWICHES

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus
    more for brushing
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. ANISETTE EXTRACT (LOOK FOR PURE ANISE EXTRACT ONLY, chocolate, lemon, or orange are also fine to use)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until light yellow and thick ribbons fall from the whisk, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the 8 Tbs. melted butter, the vanilla and lemon zest and whisk until blended.Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour and baking powder. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture in two additions, folding each addition just until blended.Heat a pizzelle maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Brush lightly with butter and spoon about 1 Tbs. of the batter onto the pizzelle maker. If any batter oozes out, cut it off immediately. Cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions until golden brown. Transfer the pizzelle to a wire rack and let cool. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Makes about 25 pizzelle.
when the pizzelle are completely cooled, ASSEMBLE right before serving or the wafers will get soggy.  Simply and gently spread no more than 1/8 inch of the creme between the 2 pizzelle.  Dust with extra powdered sugar when serving.  An awesome Holiday /Winter Dessert especially because they evoke fresh twinkling snowflakes.
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You can certainly made as many or as little as you want and only fill some.  The key is to not have a loose filling and not to overfill.

S’MORES PIE…THE KIDS’ DESSERT IN A GROWN UP FORM

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Let’s start out by saying that S’mores are not my favorite dessert and I hate when kids have them in their hands.  Don’t judge me.  They make a big mess, admit it.  Think about that party, BBQ, outdoor meal where you indulged your kids or friends with a stick, a Jet Puffed MARSHMALLOW and some GRAHAM CRACKERS and a piece of HERSHEY’S CHOCOLATE.  What happened next?  Kid got burned?  the flaming marshmallow ended up in a floaty pile of molten sugar on your couch or rug? Chocolate fingerprints all over the walls?  Are you getting it?  OK…I surf alot of Social Media, especially the food-centric sites and of late I’ve been seeing this S’MORES PIE thingy.  My oldest just had some oral surgery done so she , for the time being, can only eat things that are sort of soft.  I thought I’d break down and turn the dreaded S’MORES in to a pie.  I accomplished my mission and as happy as I was that my kids were loving a Sunday night dessert, IT MADE A MESS.  The counter was covered with sticky shrapnel from the cake spatula, the plates, etc.  Delicious for this type of sweet dessert but I have not changed my opinion.  There will still be a ban on Grill/BBQ made individual S’Mores as long as I’m around.

MAKES 6-8 slices                    TIME: 2 1/2 hours

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY:  low

1 GRAHAM CRACKER 9 TO 10 INCH CRUST

1 CUP HEAVY CREAM

1 /2 TSP. SUGAR

1/2 TSP. GOOD VANILLA EXTRACT

PINCH OF SALT

1/2 STICK (1/2 CUP)

12 OZ. GOOD MELTING CHOCOLATE

ENOUGH MINI MARSHMALLOWS TO COVER TOP OF PIE

DOUBLE BOILER OR STAINLESS STEEL BOWL FITTED OVER A SAUCEPAN WITH 1 INCH OF WATER BROUGHT TO A BOIL then BROUGHT TO A SIMMER  ON LOW

In the bowl over the steaming water, add the butter into the bowl. Let this melt, then add the salt, sugar, vanilla, and cream..Whisk till blended.   Then add the chocolate and whisk  until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is shiny and smooth.007  Now let this cool to room temperature then into the fridge it goes for close to 2 hours, you must let it set.  Remove from the fridge and turn on your broiler.  Add the marshmallows evenly to the top of the toy.

008  Place the pie on a baking pan and remove the top rack of your oven.  When the broiler has heated the oven place the piceon the middle rack.  DO NO LEAVE YOUR SPOT.  As SOON as you see the pie browning rotate it and only let it stay in for no more than a minute or so,  you should see the browning then remove the pie.  Let it rest for a good 5 minutes or you will surely burn the insides of the mouths of anyone who is waiting to eat this.

 

Slice and serve, it should be melt-y and rich.  I don’t trust a “perfect”slice of this.  It’s rustic and the slices shoud/need not be perfect.

Have fun with it and enjoy!!

 

10965_1151469789308_1304531591_30356921_1242298_n  That’s what you want!!!