August 28, 2011

Coming back to the blogosphere: the 7 links challenge hit me too!

22 comments


I’ve been away for a long time. Two months more or less. I know some of you noticed. Thanks for all your sweet words. For those of you who didn’t, don’t worry, no offence…I know I’m a tiny dot in the food bloggers world. 

These two months have been real crazy. I (we) have been through family crisis, job crisis, risk of unemployment, risk of losing the house, my mom’s presence for 6 weeks and much more. Just when you are thinking “oh finally a relaxing period ahead” (this is what I was thinking back in June when the school year finished), life hits you! And this time it hit us harder than ever.

I have to admit, though, that now that everything is over Wally and I are a much more solid couple and our lives are really improving dramatically. (This of course is a consolation now. In the moment the crisis hit and you don’t know how it will resolve, sometimes one is just not able to see positive sides.) Now the only thing I need to do is get some real, mental rest. As I am writing this post, I’m thinking this is the first half hour in 2 months that I take for myself and that I spend without tears, anxiety, or worries. It feels good. 

In all this, updating my blog was the last of my thoughts! It still is not my priority because I haven’t yet gained full control of my free time. But a splendid person sent the whole 7 links thingy in my direction and I decided to take the opportunity to come back with a post and to revisit my blog. But I'm doing this also with a veil of sadness because, as of now, I don't know if and when I will be back blogging for real. For the time being, I consider this my last post. Maybe there will be more in the future but for now I need to focus on something else in my life. This does not mean I will completely disappear. I will continue follow you all and I will try to keep in touch as much as I can.

So as part of the 7 links challenge I have to publish 7 links to my blog, one for each category
-  Your most beautiful post
– Your most popular post
– Your most controversial post
– Your most helpful post
– A post whose success surprised you
– A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved
– The post that you are most proud of.

Here are my links. It was a bit hard for me to choose some. Most beautiful because of the pictures or because of what I wrote? Controversial in which sense? I don’t think I have any controversial posts…But I went with my guts. You might not agree and I would love to hear how and why so! I hope you enjoy. 

Most beautiful post

The post I wrote on Risini, an Italian pastry that belongs to my childhood, is really dear to me. I put so much effort into making them and setting the right stage for the pictures.




Most popular post

To my surprise the post which got more comments was my second entry to the Foodbuzz competion of last year. I was really not happy with my pics but I was very happy with the dessert.




Most controversial post

The first entry to the Foodbuzz competition…I really was conflicted between participating or not




Most helpful post

I don't know if it was helpful for others but it sure was helpful for me. I'm talking about the DB Challenge of May 2010: the piece montée. I learnt how to make pate a choux and I learnt that you can get seriously burnt with caramel!




Post whose success surprised me

It sure was the first post about my cheddar panini, which got more than a couple of comments! It was also the post with the first pictures I took with my new manual camera! They were still not amazing but for sure a great improvement. 




Post I feel didn’t get the attention it deserved

I have no doubt about this one. It was my post on the Torta della Nonna, the most amazing Italian dessert in my humble opinion, and the one I make the best. I won the Marin County fair competition (first place and best in show) with this single desssert. It's also my family's favorite. Of course that post did not get the deserved attention because it was one of my first ones but you should really try this cake!
PS: terrible picture, I know!




Post I am most proud of

For sure my first post! Because I really am not good at decorating and I felt it like a terrific accomplishment to take that class and be able to make flowers and roses with royal icing! And because it was my first post.



I guess this is it! Revisiting my blog gave me a nice perspective of what I've accomplished. I would love to thank you all of you for being part of my life and amazing readers of my blog. Maybe I will be back to improve what I've done so far, earlier than you think!

Have a sweet day!

June 29, 2011

Closed for Summer Holidays!

21 comments



I'm leaving tomorrow morning. I am going to Italy to see my family. Don't envy me. I don't envy myself :) Going to Italy is always a little bit of a tragedy (although I always end up having fun!) and this time my schedule is already so full that I know I will have no time for blogging. I will miss blogging. And I will miss Wally (who is not coming with me) and my kitties. And I will miss you all!

I'm not staying long but I will come back with my mamma, who will be staying with us for 5 weeks. We will be travelling so, once again, I won't be blogging much. This is the first time I take such a long break from blogging. It will feel weird. It will also feel good. I have been a little demotivated lately and finding the time to blog has been really hard. I think a holiday will do me good. 

In the meantime I will try to keep reading all you because I need my daily doses of food blogging reading :)

Happy summer to everybody!

June 23, 2011

No better way to start my holidays: pull apart cheesy bread

22 comments



I had no doubt about it. The first thing I wanted to bake once on holiday was bread. You all know very well by now how much I find kneading and making bread relaxing and soothing. I haven’t had time to bake bread in a long time and I had a loooong list of “wish-to-bake-soon” bread recipes on my list.

I finally decided to tackle this pull apart bread from Roxana @ A Little Bit of Everything. I had it bookmarked since the day she posted this recipe. Simple and delicious. And above all so versatile! With a solid basic recipe you can have an infinite variations depending on the filling you choose. You will never get bored of this bread! I chose to fill it only with cheese because that’s what I had at home and I did not want to lose the momentum by going out to the store to buy extra ingredients. I used a mix of cheddar and gruyere but, as Roxana said, let your imagination drive you!




Pull Apart Cheesy Bread
Ingredients

500 g (18 oz or 4 cups) all-purpose flour 
a pinch of salt
7 g (1 1/ tsp) active dry yeast
350 ml (12 fl oz or 1 1/2 cup) lukewarm milk
170 g (6 oz) cheddar and gruyere cheese

1 egg for brushing



Method

In your mixer bowl, cream the yeast with a little milk. When the yeast has dissolved pour the rest of the milk.

Slowly add the flour, mixing until the dough comes clean from the sides of the bowl.

Place the dough into a greased bowl and let it rest at room temperature, away from any breeze until it doubles in volume. When risen divide it into 10-12 balls and flatten them.

Shred the cheese you will use as filling and place about 2 tbsp of it on the flatten dough.

Seal the pocket with a fork or with your fingers and place it in a greased loaf pan. Do the same with the rest.

Leave again to rest at room temperature. When risen brush with egg wash and bake in preheated oven, at 375F degrees for about 35-40 minutes. 

Leave to cool a little and get it out of the pan. 

Have a sweet day!


June 18, 2011

How I survived the last week of school: Pancake Muffins

21 comments



I haven’t posted in over two weeks. Yes, you heard me right! Two weeks! Can you believe it? I can’t! In the past, even in the busiest week I have been able to post twice a week. Lately I am just so tired that I can’t find the strength and time to post. I have been baking a little, mainly for dinners or similar occasions. But I have not had time to take (decent) pictures or to write a post.

This was the last week of school and if you are a teacher or closely know one, you must know how exhausted we are in the last few weeks! Even few more days seemed unbearable. But I needed to cheer myself up. I needed to prepare something quick and good for my last few breakfasts during school year. And I needed to let you know that I’m still here…hanging in there until the long overdue holiday will come.

I took advantage of this little spur of energy I had two days ago to make these pancake muffins, a recipe I bookmarked long time ago from The Mom Chef (I know I can always count on her for a successful recipe. Thanks, Christiane!). I survived the week. I’m finally on holiday. Now I’m going to rest!


Pancake Muffins
Ingredients

290 g (10 1/2 oz or 2 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour
130 g (4 1/2 oz or 1 cup plus 2 tbsp) cake flour
10 g (2 tsp) baking soda
10 g (2 tsp) baking powder
5 g (1 tsp) kosher salt
6 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
85 g (3 oz or 6 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
75 g (2.67 oz or 6 tbsp) granulated sugar
5 ml (1 tsp) pure vanilla extract
790 ml (26.6 fl oz or 3 1/3 cups) buttermilk, at room temperature
Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling



Method

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Liberally spray two 12-cup muffin pans with the cooking spray or line the muffin pan with paper cups.

In a medium bowl, mix the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a large, clean mixing bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric hand mixer on medium-high speed to firm (but not dry) peaks, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.

In another large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the mixer on medium-high speed until thick, ribbony, and lemon-yellow, about 6 minutes. Add the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla; mix on medium-low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add one-third of the dry ingredients and mix on low speed. Add one-third of the buttermilk and mix to combine. Alternate adding the remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk, ending with the buttermilk and mixing until just combined.

With a large rubber spatula, gently fold the whites into the batter, leaving some streaks.

Scoop about 1/2 cup of the batter into each muffin cup—you can fill the cups to the rims. Bake, rotating the pans after 10 minutes, until browned on top and puffed, and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out dry, 20 to 25 minutes total.


Source: The Mom Chef

May 30, 2011

Poppy seeds Pound Cake and a missed Food Bloggers Brunch

37 comments



Yesterday I was supposed to be at an amazing brunch with some amazing food bloggers of the Bay Area. Jean @Lemons and Anchovies was hosting it. That alone says how amazing the brunch was going to be. Many more amazing food bloggers joined, bringing a dish for the brunch and something else for a food swap. I was supposed to be one of the lucky ones to be there yesterday. But it did not happen. After 15 minutes on the car we stopped to get gas and….the car never started again! The battery was gone, finished, kaput! AAA arrived over 2 hours later to give us a jump start. At that point it was late, we still had 45 minutes to drive to get there and the frosting on my pound cake was totally melting. And we were totally bummed!



Waiting for AAA and seeing how things were going, Wally and I got hungry and we attacked the cookies I had made for the food swap. Well…at that point somebody had to eat all the sweets we had in the car, right? We sacrificed ourselves. That was the only way to cheer myself up for missing the brunch L
I hope another brunch will happen soon. In the meantime, I would like to share the poppy seeds pound cake that I had made to share with the other bloggers. Because it is an amazing pound cake. Because we (Wally and I) think it’s the best pound cake we have ever had. It’s not too sweet, which makes it perfect for a breakfast treat without getting into sugar high. Because you can make it with or without frosting and it is still going to be just perfect for any occasion. Because it’s simple to make yet so different from other pound cakes I had before. I hope I will be able to share this pound cake at the next bloggers brunch. Because, oh yeah…there will be other brunches.



Poppy Seeds Pound Cake
Ingredients
Yields 14 to 16 servings

230 g (2 sticks or 1 cup) butter, softened
240 g (8.6 oz or 1 cup) sour cream
300 g (10.65 oz or 1 1/2 cups) sugar
320 g (6.75 oz or 2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 can Solo Baker Poppy filling*
5 g (1 tsp) baking soda
4 eggs, separated
5 g (1 tsp) salt
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla

confectioners’ sugar or lemon frosting

*NOTE: I was not sponsored or paid by Solo company for this post. I just love Solo brand for poppy seeds because they are really moist and make this pound cake amazingly fluffy and moist.


Method
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan and set aside.

Beat the butter and the sugar in large bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the poppy filling and beat until blended. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and the sour cream and beat just until blended.

Stir the flour, the baking soda and the salt until mixed, and add to the poppy mixture gradually, beating well after each addition.

Beat the egg whites in separate bowl with electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold the beaten egg whites into the batter.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on rack. Dust with confectioners sugar or with a light lemon glaze.

Have a sweet day!

Source: Solo

May 15, 2011

Apple Cream Cheese Turnovers

36 comments



I always loved apple turnover! I love puff pastry treats in general but apple turnover are on my top 3 list for sure! When I found this recipe in one of my used cookbooks I had mixed feelings. On one side I thought the idea of a cream cheese dough wrap was intriguing. On the other side I wondered whether it could have ever competed in excellence with the traditional apple turnover recipes. Well, when in doubt you just have to test it yourself, right?!

The verdict? Forget about the traditional puff pastry version! This is way better! The dough is so soft, almost creamy. And the taste is very delicate. A perfect complement to the apple and cinnamon flavor of the filling. I’m sold!



Apple Cream Cheese Turnovers
Ingredients
Yields 8

230 g (8 oz) cream cheese
230 g (2 sticks or 8 oz) butter, at room temperature
30 g (2 tbsp) sugar
60 ml (2 fl oz or ¼ cup) heavy whipping cream
pinch of salt
325 g (11.25 oz or 2 ½ cups) flour
15 g (1 tbsp) sugar
5 g (1 tsp) cinnamon
1 large egg, lightly beaten

For the apples
8 medium-sized firm, juicy apples
150 g (5.3 oz or 3/4 cup) sugar
57 g (1/2 stick or 2 oz) butter
2 g (1/4 tsp) salt
30 ml (2 tbsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice


Method

Put the cream cheese, the butter, the 2 tbsp of sugar, and the cream in the bowl of your electric mixer and beat on medium speed until well blended. Add the salt and the flour and mix until just incorporated. Refrigerate the dough for an hour.

While the dough is chilling, prepare the apple filling. Peel, core, and slice the apples. Place them in a pan with all the other ingredients and cook them over medium heat until they are soft but still retain their shape (about 10 minutes). Let them cook down completely before using them.

Preheat the over to 350F degrees and prepare a baking pan with parchment paper.

Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out 1/8” thick. Cut the dough into 8 circles.

Mix 1 tbsp of sugar and cinnamon in small bowl and set aside.

To assemble

Put 1/3 cup of the apple mixture on one side of each circle and fold the dough in half, forming a half circle. Press the sides together and fold the edge over to seal the turnover.

Cut three air slits in the top of the turnovers. Brush them with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until they turn golden brown.

Serve warm.

Have a sweet day!

May 07, 2011

Zaleti - cookies to fight nostalgia

32 comments




I’ve been a bit nostalgic lately. I have to be honest here. I do not feel much nostalgy for Italy. I don’t miss living there. I do miss Europe and, above all, European people. I work in an Italian immersion pre-school and some of the teachers are Italians but still...we are living in the States. The environment is different. The vibe is different. The cultural entourage is different. I adapt very easily to different cultures. I lived in three different continents and I can adapt fairly quickly. But adapting does not mean conforming. I am and I will always be and feel and foreigner. And sometimes I really get nostalgic and wish I could live without feeling a foreigner.

One thing that usually cheers me up in these moments is to bake something that belongs to my place and people. These cookies are very much so. And very much part of my childhood memories.




Zaleti
Ingredients for about 60 cookies

200 g (7 oz) all purpose-flour
50 g (1.77 oz ) corn flour
150 g (5.3 oz) butter
75 g (2.6 oz) confectioners’ sugar
2 egg yolks
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract
5 g (1 tsp) baking powder
1 pinch salt

chocolate chips and/or raisins (optional)


Method

In a medium bowl, sift the flours and cut the chilly butter in. With the tips of your fingers, gently work the butter until you obtain small buttery crumbs.

Add the sugar, the vanilla extract, the egg yolks, the baking powder and the salt. (If you decide to add chocolate chips or raisins add them now)

Quickly work the dough first with a fork and then with your hands until all the ingredients are all incorporated. The dough is similar to a pasta frolla so you need to work it quickly otherwise you will “burn” it. Wrap the dough into plastic wrap and let it cool in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.

Once the dough is chilly, preheat the oven to 350F degrees and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Take small pieces of dough at a time (keeping the rest cool in the fridge), roll them out in long thin rolls and cut small chunks of dough (about 1” long).

Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet and bake them for about 20-25 minutes.

Let the cookies cool down completely before serving because they break down easily.


Have a sweet day!



May 02, 2011

Pebble Beach Wine and Food Festival: not to be missed

11 comments



Thanks to Foodbuzz I got two tickets to go to the Pebble Beach Wine and Food Festival last Sunday. Oh yeah, I was there! And I loved it! I loved that huge pavillon filled with delicious food and an amazing wine selection. I love meeting up, even if just briefly, with some of the bloggers I got to know along the way in my first year or so of blogging. Some of them, I had met them already at Foodbuzz festival (Jean @Lemons and Anchovies, Azmina @Lawyer Loves Lunch), others I had “met” already on the blogosphere but not yet in person and I was so excited to finally meet them (Lisa @Authentic Suburban Gourmet and Liren @Kitchen Confidante). I have missed many others, I know….but I know they were there and I am so happy for them because it was truly a great event.




For once, I did not take the pictures. This time Wally came with me and I left him take up the role of the photographer (and on this note…sorry if some of the pictures are not great). And if it is true that a picture is worth a thousands words, I’ll leave you with just a few of them. Make sure you check out other bloggers’ posts about them event. I’ve seen amazing foodies at work that day. I’m sure they will amaze you with wonderful pictures and food descriptions…much more professional than mine.







I promise I have many more and they will come as soon as I have time to go through them but I wanted at least give you a taste of what that amazing afternoon was :)

April 30, 2011

Pepperoni pizza rolls

20 comments



I rarely make pizza myself. There is no valid excuse for that. I bake almost daily (well, not so much lately, but I used to) and I make yeast goods very often, but it rarely occurs to me to make pizza. And, believe me, I have a genetic disposition for eating it as often as I can! However, I’m not a picky pizza eater. I eat almost any kind of pizza, even Pizza Hut (shhhhh don’t tell my family or my government or they will take away the Italian passport from me!). After all, if I were a picky pizza eater I should have never left Italy. Probably, the reason why I don’t make it often is that I know it will never be as good as the Napolitanean pizza I eat when I go home and so I don’t even try.

Last week, however, I was in pizza making mood. Maybe it was the spring break, the extra time I had, the cloudy weather….I don’t know. I just know that I felt inspired to make my own pizza. I did not make a big round pizza, though. I wanted to make something that Wally could easily bring to work the day after (I was sure there was going to be leftovers). So I decided to make 4 small rolls instead of two big round pizza. Ehmm…I intended to make 4 small rolls. In reality they turned out pretty big! Well, we just had a lot of leftover. No complains, right?

And by the way, this time I’m really glad I decided to make it. It was the best pizza dough I’ve ever made! Now I only need to be able to replicate this success over and over again.



Pepperoni Pizza Rolls
Ingredients for two round pizza or 4 big rolls

500 g (17.6 oz) bread flour
30 g (2 tbsp) active dry yeast
45 ml (3 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil
10 g (2 tsp) salt
15 g (1 tbsp) sugar
300 ml water (I used less than that)
additional flour to dust


Method

In a small bowl, mix a half glass of warm water together with the sugar and the yeast. Stir well and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes until the yeast is dissolved and the water is foamy.

In another small bowl, pour another half glass of warm water and stir in the salt until dissolved.

On a flat surface (or in a big bowl if you don’t have much practice), put the flour and make a dwell. Pour the content of the first small bowl (water, sugar, and yeast) in the center of the well. Next, pour the water and salt mixture and finally add the olive oil and start to mix.

You can initially stir the mixture with a wooden spoon, keeping next to you additional flour and the remaining water to be slowly added to the dough. Knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough becomes smooth, silky, and elastic. (If you were working in a big bowl, when the dough starts taking more shape you can put in on a flat surface to knead).

Put the dough in a big bowl with a bit of flour sprinkled on the bottom. Cover with a kitchen towel and put in a warm place (I usually put it in the oven or in the corner of the kitchen counter.)

Note: the cook of my school (an Italian, of course) always tells me that the dough needs NOT to be moved at all while it’s rising. So find a place where the bowl will not be in your way and let it sit there until double in bulk (1 to 2 hours depending on the yeast and the level of humidity).

When the dough has doubled, rolled it out in the shape you have decided to make it and top it or fill it with our favorite toppings. 

Bake the pizza at 350F degrees. It will take 20 to 40 minutes depending on whether you are making a round pizza or pizza rolls. If you are making pizza rolls, make sure to roll out the dough very thin and to cook it for at least 30 minutes or the dough inside will not be thoroughly cooked,

Have a sweet day!