Tuesday, December 29, 2009

TWD : Low andLuscious Chocolate Cheesecake

I knew I was making something wrong (not letting it cool in the oven , not passing a knife along the border or ?) and it cracked ! But I'll copy Amanda and glaze it tomorrow !
Can someone tell me why this wonder is called Low ?
This easy and delicious (I licked the spoon ) recipe was chosen by Margaret of Tea and Scones and I'm sure it will be very appreciated tomorrow after the due cool rest.
Please visit Margaret for the recipe and the others TWDers for more lusciousness !

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Daring Baker's Challenge : Gingerbread House

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

In the past days I have been very very busy cooking for a sort of Christmas catering : I made 43 meals, 35 for Christmas eve and 8 for the 25th !! The worst part was delivering everything to 4 different groups of people (obviously living in different parts of Rome) coming back home and cooking for our dinner !! It was very funny when Andrea and Paolo, the husband of my friend and abetter (?) Cristina, had already packed everything and I arrived with my camera... no pictures this time !!

Anyway I'm glad I had made this little houses for a charity sale well before time because I needed some kitchen-free time !!
As you can see the houses have been decorated by my children with lots of fun (I actually plan on making them again during the holidays).
I used the Great Scandinavian Baking Book's recipe but I didn't like the results: the dough was not good to eat and it shrunk a lot while baking. I had another batch from a previous try (it's darker ) that worked much better, I got it from a youtube video .To glue the house I used the simple syrup : it's much faster and holds forever !!
Please visit the blogroll for many more houses !!!


Anna's Recipe:
Spicy Gingerbread Dough (from Good Housekeeping)http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/recipefinder/spicy-gingerbread-dough-157...

2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger


1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.

2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.

3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)

4. Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.)

5. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.

6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C)

7. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.

8. Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping of the shapes you cut.

9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.

10. Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house.

Y's Recipe:
Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas http://astore.amazon.com/thedarkit-20/detail/0816634963

1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.

2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.

3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.

4. [I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]

5. Preheat the oven to 375'F (190'C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

Royal Icing:

1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren't using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

Simple Syrup:
2 cups (400g) sugar

Place in a small saucepan and heat until just boiling and the sugar dissolves. Dredge or brush the edges of the pieces to glue them together. If the syrup crystallizes, remake it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

TWD : Café Volcano Cookies

These cookies, chosen by Macduff of The Lonely Sidecar , are called in Italy 'Brutti ma Buoni' (Ugly but Good) and who could say the name is not right ?!
So, at least this week, I have a good excuse !
Please visit Mcduff for the recipe and the others TWDers for more goodies !

Monday, December 14, 2009

Daring Cook's Challenge : Salmon en Croute

The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.

This month's challenge was a very nice recipe even for an evening when you want something more than the usual dinner (I made the crust but skipping that part the rest is quite easy) or could be a nice idea for the holidays.
I didn't try the beef recipe even if I intented to but my day are shorter or I'm getting old or I don't know, so here we are on the 14th again !

Please visit Simone to see her wonders and visit the Daring Cooks blogroll !!


Salmon en croute:
Mascarpone or creamcheese 5.2 ounces/150 gr
Watercress, rocket (arugula) and spinach - 0.6 cup/4.2 ounces/120 gr
Shortcrust pastry - 17.6 ounces, 500 gr. Use a butterversion such as Jus-rol which is frozen or dorset pastry. or... make your own!
Salmon fillet (skinless)- 17.6 ounce/500 gr
egg - 1 medium sized

1.Heat the oven to 200°C/390 F. Put the mascarpone or cream cheese in a food processor with the watercress, spinach and rocket and whizz the lot until you have a creamy green puree. Season well.
2. Roll the pastry out so you can wrap the salmon in it completely (approx. 2-3 mm thick) and lay it on a buttered or oiled baking sheet (it will hang over the edges). Put the salmon in the middle. If it has a thinner tail end, tuck it under. Spoon half of the watercress mixture onto the salmon. Now fold the pastry over into a neat parcel (the join will be at the top, so trim the edge neatly), making sure you don’t have any thick lumps of pastry as these won’t cook through properly. Trim off any excess as you need to. Make 3 neat cuts in the pastry to allow steam to escape and make some decorations with the off-cuts to disguise the join if you like. Brush with the egg glaze.
3. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and browned. To test wether the salmon is cooked, push a sharp knife through one of the cuts into the flesh, wait for 3 seconds then test it against the inside of your wrist; if it is hot, the salmon is cooked. Serve with the rest of the watercress puree as a sauce.

Shortcrust pastry
While this is not mandatory to do, I highly recommend making your own shortcrust pastry as it is very simple to do! As mentioned in the notes; please make sure to not add too much water as that is the key to having a successful shortcrust pastry. Watch this video to check the correct consistency of the dough Making shortcrust pastry

450 gr (15.8 ounces or 3.2 cups ) of plain all purpose flour
200 gr ( 7 ounce) cold butter
pinch of salt

Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. If you have a food processor you can use that as shown in the above video.
Stir in the salt, then add 2-3 tbsp of water and mix to a firm dough. Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface. Wrap in cling film and chill while preparing the filling.

For best results make sure the butter is very cold.

Instructions for Beef Wellington (serves 4)
Button mushrooms - 17.6 ounces/500gr (stalks removed and finely chopped)
Olive oil - 2-3 tbsp
thyme - 1 sprig
Beef fillet, center cut piece - 21.16 ounce/600 gr
English mustard - 1 tbsp
puff pastry (all butter pastry pack) - 17.6 ounce/500 gr
parma ham (prosciutto) - 3 slices
egg yolk - 1 pcs, beaten

For the herb crepes:
plain (all purpose) flour - 0.3 cup/1.76 ounce/50 gr
milk - 0.5 cup/125 ml
mixed herbs - 1 tbsp (chopped, use herbs such as cervil, chives and tarragon
butter - 0.5 tbsp

1. To make the crepes, whizz the flour, egg and milk with a pinch of salt in a blender or processor until smooth. Pour into a jug and stir in the herbs and some seasoning. Leave to rest.
2. Fry the mushrooms in a little oil until they give up all their moisture and it has evaporated, leaving you with a thick paste. Add the thyme leaves and some seasoning and keep cooking for a few minutes. Cool.
3. Stir the melted butter into the crepe batter, heat a 15 cm crepe pan and oil it lightly. Pour in enough batter to make a thin layer on the base of the pan, cook until the top surface sets and then turn over and cook briefly. Remove and repeat with the rest of the batter. This will make a couple more than you need so choose the thinnest ones for the recipe.
4. Sear the beef all over in a little oil in a very hot pan. Brush with the mustard, season and allow to cool.
5. Lay a large sheet of cling-film on a kitchen surface and put two crepes down on it, overlapping a little. Lay over the parmaham (prosciutto). Spread the mushroom mixture over the ham and put the beef in the centre. Roll the cling-film up, taking the crepe with it, to wrap the beef completely into a nice neat log. Chill for 1 hour.
6. Heat the oven to 200°C/390F. Roll out the pastry, remove the clingfilm and wrap the beef in the pastry like a parcel, with the ends tucked under. Trim to keep it nice and neat. Brush with egg, score with shallow lines across the top and chill for 20 minutes.
7. Cook for 20 minutes. The best way to test if the meat is done to your liking is to neatly and carefully stick a skewer into the beef, count to three and then test it against your inner wrist. If it is cold, the beef will be raw, if it is warm then the beef will be rare and if it’s hot, it’ll be cooked through. Leave to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Some video tutorials to watch:
Rolling out pastry
Making shortcrust pastry
Making salmon en croute

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TWD: Sablés and a very long Week - End

This week it was Barbara's turn to choose and she chose these cookies that are fast and can easily be decorated for the holidays.
I usually am very optimistic but after this failure I'm afraid I can't bake these kind of cookies without spreading !! (it happened with the world peace cookies and with the molasses ones !)
I made the hazelnuts variation and left a log in the freezer for a quick treat (spread) in the future !
Please visit Barbara for the recipe and the TWDers for more variations.
I'm kind of tired today (for us it is a festive day that remembers the Immaculate Conception of Jesus and the children had a 'bridge' and didn't go to school neither yesterday) because I baked a lot starting from this cake on Friday for a friend's birthday (the recipe is here)

On Sunday it was Anita's sixth birthday so I prepared a lunch with the granparents and made Dorie's Sweet Crust with pastry cream and strawberries.

And yesterday some friends came for a cooking party were they made sandwhiches

and decorated cupcakes

As you can see Anita went for the Carioca Style !!

The cake was a semi disaster because I was baking too many things (in the end I even forgot the brownies on the terrace !) and was too late for it but Anita liked it anyway ! (you can see her body 'fat' as Anita said because it was not dry !!)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Recipes to Rival: Old World Rye

This wonderful loaf was baked thanks to Temperance the host of this november challenge. I 'm desperately running out of time so I made it in the bread machine (as I used a cup of my sourdough I turned off the machine to let it proof longer). I added some walnuts, pecans and raisins and 'substituted' sourdough for part of the white flour and water, I don't know why mine got so dark maybe too much cocoa ? Anyway the bread is very very delicious It's waiting for me for breakfast !!!


Old World Rye
A World of Breads by Dolores Casella, 1966

2 cups rye flour
1/4 cup cocoa
2 T yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup molasses
2 tsp salt
2 T caraway seed
2 T butter
2 1/2 cups white flour or whole wheat flour

Combine the rye flour and cocoa. do not sift.
Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water.
Mix molasses, 1 cup warm water, salt, and caraway seed in large mixing bowl.
Add the rye/cocoa mix, the proofed yeast, the butter and 1 cup white flour or whole wheat flour.
Beat until the dough is smooth.
Spread the remaining flour on a breadboard and kneed it into the dough
Add more flour if necessary to make a firm dough that is smooth and elastic.
Place in buttered bowl and cover. Allow to rise until double (about 2 hours).
Punch dough down, shape into a round loaf and place on a buttered cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal.
Let rise about 50 minutes.
Bake at 375 for 35 to 40 minutes.

You can add 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 cup each of raisins and walnuts.
Don't limit yourself to round loaves, have fun.

And to prove that man CAN live by bread alone....
Back in the 1930's, a Cornell University professor named Clive McCay developed a bread recipe named Cornell Bread. It makes a complete protein that rats can live on exclusively. (The only reason that humans can't live on it exclusively is that it lacks vitamin C, which rats don't need.)

The Cornell formula to enrich bread consists of 1 tablespoon each soy flour and nonfat milk powder plus 1 teaspoon wheat germ for each cup of flour used in a bread recipe. These enrichments are placed in the bottom of the measuring cup before the flour is spoon
ed in.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sweet and Simple Bakes: Snow-Flecked Brownies

This month this is the wonderful recipe Maria and Rose chose for us.
You can be sure that their recipes are as the group's name implies: in fact they are a joy to bake even if you do not have time !!
Even if Maria warned us not to I split the recipe and diminished the sugar a little bit the results are fantastic !
Please visit the site from the 2nd to see more brownies !

here is the recipe :
Snow-Flecked Brownies

375g best quality dark chocolate
375g unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
6 eggs (large)
350g caster sugar (superfine)
1 teaspoon salt
225g plain flour
250g white chocolate buttons or chips, or white chocolate chopped into chunks (or your own choice of chocolate)
2 tsp icing sugar, for dusting

Tin measuring approx 33cm x 23cm x 5.5cm

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/350F.

Line the sides and base of a 33 x 23 x 5.5com baking tin with foil or baking parchment.

Melt the butter and dark chocolate together in a large heavy based pan.

In a bowl or wide mouthed large measuring jug, beat the eggs together with the caster sugar and vanilla extract.

Allow the chocolate mixture to cool a little, then add the egg and sugar mixture and beat well. Fold in the flour and salt. Then stir in the white chocolate buttons or choped white chocolate. Beat to combine then scrape and pour the brownie mixture into the prepared tin.

Bake for 25 minutes, You can see when the brownies are ready because the top dries to a slightly paler brown speckle, while the middle remains dark, dense and gooey. Even with such a big batch you do need to keep checking on it: the difference between gungey brownies and dry ones is only a few minutes. Remember, too, that they will continue to cook as they cool.

To serve, cut into squares while still warm and pile up on a large plate, sprinkling with icing sugar pushed with a teaspoon through a small sieve.

TWD: Rosy Poached Pears and Pistachio Tart

Lauren of I'll Eat You had the chance to choose this beautiful and wonderful tart.
The preparation is a bit time consuming but I'd love to have a picture of the happy face my two lucky neighbours had when they opened the door and saw it !
I made it exactly as the recipe but didn't have pistachios left to caramelize so I used almonds.
Please visit Lauren for the recipe and the blogroll for more !