mercoledì 28 maggio 2008

Daring Bakers go out: a night at the Opéra

All my efforts are dedicated to Barbara and to her A Taste of Yellow – LiveStrong event: Thank you Barbara, for you bravery, your perseverance and for many things I’m just not able to put into words (especially English words!)

I have to admit that my first challenge with the Daring Bakers has blown gently for nearly an entire month in my kitchen, as an "aria" from my beloved Turandot, since I discovered which was the recipe I was supposed to bake…
I printed carefully the recipe and the rules and pinned both in my kitchen and then passed days and days speaking nothing but Opéra Cake (and I really appreciate your patience, my dear husband): trying to figure out how to prepare buttercream, flavour syrup and mousse, bake joconde and spread glaze (and I appreciate your “What’s?” and “Aha, indeed”, my dear husband, even if I suspect a hint, just a hint, of lack of attention)… and thinking perhaps I had dared too much, enrolling myself for the Daring Bakers Community (and thank you sooo much for your supportive “All this butter in a single recipe?!" and "13-I say-13 eggs!??!”, my dear etc…)!
I’ve never done before a buttercream, so my first attempt was a plain one, no flavour except vanilla. It came out well, indeed, but a little too buttery for my family (and for me, too, I have to admit)… so I went through another recipe, with egg withes instead, but it simply didn’t work: the cream separated and become grainy… perhaps because of the diced strawberries I put in…
So, nearly in panic now, I returned to the original recipe (in the meantime changed by the hosts in a less buttery one, which I really prefer…), with the hot syrup made with strawberry juice instead of water and, finally, it turns out beautifully!!!! At last the way was mapped out: I had decided for a strawberry flavoured Opéra Cake!
I prepared beforehand the buttercream (a week before, then frozen), the syrup (a week before, kept covered in the fridge), the day before I made mousse and joconde and all it turned out very well (I think that a nice stay in the fridge helps mousse and buttercream to set), even if my assembling really needs some practice!
I brought the cake to a dinner with my colleagues and it has been a successful “prima”, with a standing ovation for the orchestra…
And even my dear husband appreciate the Opéra Cake… even with "all-this- butter" and "13-I say-13 eggs"... (but I want to stress that the recipe claims 20 servings!!!)
So I’m very proud to introduce you, for the first time in this kitchen:

Almond Joconde
Strawberry syrup
Strawberry buttercream
Mousse au chocolat blanc
White chocolate glaze.
(Not a “daring” choice of flavours, I agreed, but for my first Opéra, I thought best stay with the Classics!!! Ah, and the recipe has been a happy choice of Fran and Shea and Lis and Ivonne: thank you, dear: I never have attempt on such a challenge without your spur).

And now… musica!

A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake
This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.
For the joconde
(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 cups ground blanched almonds
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.
2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).
3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.
4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.
5.If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.
6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).
7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.
8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold. 10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.
For the syrup
(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)
½ cup water
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)
1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.
2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
For the buttercream
(Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)
What you’ll need: a candy or instant-read thermometer
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water seeds of one vanilla bean (split a vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds) or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (Note: If you are flavouring your buttercream and do not want to use the vanilla, you do not have to. Vanilla will often enhance other flavours but if you want an intense, one-flavoured buttercream, then by all means leave it out!)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.)
1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.
2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: Original recipe indicates a temperature of 255◦F (124◦C), however, when testing the recipe I found that this was too high so we heated to 225◦F and it worked fine] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.
3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.
4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!
5.Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).
6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.
7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.
8.At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.
9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).
For the white chocolate ganache/mousse
(Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)
7 ounces white chocolate1 cup plus
3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)
1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.
For the glaze
(Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)
14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)
1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3.Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.
Assembling the Opéra Cake
Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.
Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.
Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.
Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.
Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).
Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.
Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.
Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

lunedì 26 maggio 2008

BBD #10: Breakfast Bread! Sweet Dough by Richard Bertinet

Really really thank to Melissa for hosting this month BBD and I am really grateful to her for choosing such a delicious theme!

I found this recipe in the Gourmet site, with a really helpful video, too!

Here you can find the original recipe and here the video, featuring Richard Bertinet. I just add that it is really wonderful: texture, taste,.. it has been, since my discovering the recipe, my favourite breakfast bread, with just a hint of sweetness (not too much, however), perfect with my homemade plum jam.
With such a breakfast bread, it can't be a bad day, even on Mondays!!

I offer to you the recipe, converted in metric mesurement, but I strongly suggest to check the video: it really helps!


240 ml whole milk
14 g fresh yeast
500 g bread flour
56 g unsalted butter, softened
45 g superfine granulated sugar
10 g teaspoons salt
2 large eggs

a flexible plastic bowl scraper

heat milk until just warm. Rub yeast into flour in a large bowl, then rub in butter. Stir in sugar and salt. Fold in milk and eggs with bowl scraper, rotating bowl, until liquid is absorbed and a wet, sticky dough forms. (Dough will be wetter than most you’ve encountered).
Scrape dough out onto an unfloured surface.
(Dough will be a sticky mess. Don’t be tempted to add more flour. By working the dough through a process of repeatedly stretching and folding it over onto itself, trapping air, dough will become cohesive and supple.).
Slide your fingers underneath both sides of dough with your thumbs on top. Lift dough up (to about chest level) with your thumbs toward you, letting dough hang slightly. In a continuous motion, swing dough down, slapping bottom of dough onto surface, then stretch dough up and back over itself in an arc to trap in air. Repeat lifting, slapping, and stretching, scraping surface with flat side of bowl scraper as needed, until dough is supple, cohesive, and starts to bounce slightly off of surface without sticking, about 8 minutes.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured clean surface. Form into a ball by folding each edge, in turn, into center of dough and pressing down well with your thumb, rotating ball as you go. Turn ball over and transfer to a lightly floured bowl and cover with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth). Let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, about 1 hour."

Then pre-heat the oven to 200 °C (392°F), shape the dough as you prefer (I usually shape braid) and bake them until lighlty brown, about 20 minutes.

Enjoy the delicious smell in your kitchen, then open a jar of the best jam you own - but chocolate cream, for instance nutella, will be just as effective ;) - and indulge!

sabato 24 maggio 2008

Storia di una bomboniera... anzi due!

La nostra storia inizia un luminoso pomeriggio d’inverno… era il 22 gennaio 2007 e stavo andando alla mia prima lezione di patchwork: che emozione! Avevo ammirato il quilt della mia nuova vicina (quella nuova ero io ;)…) appeso in ingresso e quelli bellissimi portati a IdeaNatale dall’associazione La Zampa dell’Orso e così ero arrivata al negozio di patchwork BaLù, a Udine. Da lì a innamorarmi a prima vista di questa forma di artigianato artistico era stato tutt’uno. E così eccomi alla prima lezione del primo corso…
Dopo una rapida introduzione la nostra insegnante ci invitò a scorrazzare per il negozio per scegliere le stoffe con le quali avremmo (con un po’ di pazienza) confezionato la nostra prima coperta. Che meraviglia! Il negozio era fornitissimo e i colori, la consistenza, le fantasie… ah beh, una bella fatica per Cecilia riportarci al tavolo di lavoro! E ancora più fatica poi mettere in ordine, immagino!
Comunque tornai a casa entusiasta, con una borsa piena di stoffe ed un compito per casa: una piastrella Log Cabin da 31,5 x 31,5 cm
Ovviamente fuori dall’ambiente protetto del corso andai un po’ in panico: mi sembrava sacrilego rovinare quelle belle stoffe… e la paura di sbagliare e pasticciare era forte (con quello che costano, poi!!). Così scovai delle stoffe americane in offerta al Brico, scelsi dei colori che mi piacevano (e che risentivano molto del natale appena trascorso: un rosso, due verdi, un bordeaux, e due crema) e decisi di fare delle prove… Grazie all’innegabile capacità di Cecilia di insegnare uscirono 2 log cabin incredibilmente vicine alle misure che dovevamo rispettare… insomma, niente male per essere la prima volta (o quasi)!
Ripetei questa trafila per altre 2 lezioni… e così adesso avevo le mie piastrelle “ufficiali” e altre 6 piastrelle tutto sommato decorose di cui non sapevo cosa fare…
Pensa che ti ripensa, mi venne un’idea assolutamente FOLLE: se avessi confezionato altre 2 coperte, magari leggermente più piccole, da regalare a mia mamma e alla mia futura suocera come bomboniere per il matrimonio?!
Eh si, perché dopo 10 anni di convivenza avevamo deciso di sposarci e la data fatidica (in realtà già posticipata a causa di un incidente…) era stata fissata per il 07/07/’07 (era troppo bella per lasciarla passare!)
Mia suocera aveva visto i quilt di IdeaNatale e quando aveva saputo che facevo il corso aveva scherzato dicendomi “Me ne farai uno, vero?!” Beh, l’avrei presa in parola…
Così mi misi al lavoro in gran segreto: se non ci fossi riuscita almeno nessuno ci sarebbe rimasto male!

Fu un periodo intenso: una delle ultime lezioni dovevamo portare 3 piastrelle e per me questo significava doverne fare 9!!!
Comunque, riducendo un po’ il numero di piastrelle finali da 15 a 12 riuscii a terminare i top… si trattava ora di quiltarli. Esclusa l’ipotesi di farlo a mano mi iscrissi ad un corso per imparare a quiltare in free motion e lì mi venne l’illuminazione: avrei personalizzato il mio lavoro non solo con l’etichetta, ma anche con una quiltatura speciale: i nostri nomi e la data del nostro matrimonio!!!
Un lavoraccio!!! E tutto doppio!!!! Avevo riportato su carta la data e la scritta, ritagliato i pezzi e spillati sulla coperta; al termine, con santa pazienza, prima cucivo sopra la carta e poi pian piano la strappavo, in modo che restasse sulla stoffa solo la cucitura… Quando le ho portate al negozio delle bomboniere per farmele confezionare, la commessa ha preso in mano le coperte come se fossero oro!
Alla fine tutto era pronto in tempo, mancava solo la faccia delle due mamme… beh, non farete fatica a credere che è stato uno dei momenti più emozionanti di tutto il mio matrimonio!!!

lunedì 19 maggio 2008

Tornare in corriera...

Dopo l'incidente in moto la strada mi fa più paura...

Sono stata fortunata: ho rotto una spalla e tre costole, ho avuto un pneumotorace con versamento, mi hanno letteralmente aperto una caviglia (ci sono voluti 8-mesi-8 per chiudere la ferita) e ho fatto un po' di giorni in Terapia Intensiva e quasi un mese in ospedale...

Però le gambe sono ancora tutte e due le mie... e anche mio marito, che ha rotto la tibia, cammina sulle sue, di gambe... e sulle sue gambe è tornato a fare scialpinismo, bontà sua...

Chi va in moto sa che una delle conseguenze più diffuse dello scontro laterale macchina-moto è che il/la motociclista ci rimette un pezzo di gamba... di solito dal ginocchio in giù... "E' un classico" hanno detto i fisioterapisti, che davvero ne vedono di tutti i colori e per i motivi più svariati...

Fatto sta che sia per questo motivo, che per motivi strettamente ecologici (lavoriamo entrambi nella stessa città e spesso iniziamo alla stessa ora), abbiamo deciso di andare a lavorare assieme con una macchina, poi io torno in corriera (i nostri orari coincidono meno spesso che all'andata)... almeno se non devo fare la spesa.

E per passare il tempo in corriera mi porto l'MP3... ma così avevo "assolutamente" bisogno di un porta-MP3, naturalmente... tutte le quilters sanno cosa significa quell' "assolutamente"... e anche lo sanno le cuoche dilettanti (come me): vuol dire che dovrai infilarti in un negozio di stoffe/articoli da cucina e portarti a casa l'occorrente per cucire/decorare una torta, etc.

E così ho fatto... per fortuna che un libro con dei progetti interessanti di borse e trousse lo avevo già (non ridete: è in giapponese, guardo solo le figure, grazie al cielo molto chiare!), così ho evitato almeno quella, di spesa...

Poi ho pensato che il mio MP3 è uguale a quello della "creatura" sedicenne... e così ne ho fatto uno anche per lei...

Siccome il libro era giapponese, anche la stoffa che ho preso è giapponese... adesso è molto più piacevole tirare fuori dalla borsa il mio MP3, nella sua custodia home-made e pure personalizzata col mio nome... adoro il patchwork!

venerdì 16 maggio 2008


Una ricettina molto nordica, ideale per far mangiare il pesce a chi non lo ama, da farsi con pesci molto “carnosi” (se così si può dire!), come il merluzzo, l’haddock (previsto dalla ricetta originale) o, come nel mio caso, il pangasio.

Ingredienti per 4 persone:
300 g di filetti di pangasio, latte, 3 patate, aglio, timo, rosmarino e olio d’oliva (si intende extra-vergine)

Cuocete le patate in acqua leggermente salata (o a vapore, se preferite), poi sbucciatele e schiacciatele grossolanamente con una forchetta.
Mettete dell’olio a scaldare (meglio se a bagnomaria) con un rametto di timo, uno di rosmarino e dell’aglio (a piacere, la ricetta originale ne chiedeva 3 spicchi, io ne ho messo solo uno) e lasciatelo andare per una quindicina di minuti, facendo molta attenzione che le erbe non si brucino.
Nel frattempo scaldate il forno a 180°, mettete i filetti di pangasio in una casseruola da forno e versatevi sopra il latte, in modo da coprirli a filo, cuoceteli per 15-20 minuti e poi tirate fuori la pentola e lasciate raffreddare il pesce nel latte.
Scolate i filetti di pesce, spezzettateli con una forchetta e uniteli alle patate.
Condite il tutto con l’olio, filtrato con un colino.
Eventualmente aggiungete del liquido di cottura del pesce per rendere la brandade più morbida.
Regolate di sale e servite.

(Poor) English, please:

A “nordic” recipe, suitable for big fish as codfish, haddock,..

300 g haddock’s fillets, 3 potatoes, some milk, garlic, thyme, rosemary, extra virgin olive oil.

Pre-heat the oven at 180°C (356°F). Let cook potatoes in slightly salted water, then peel them and squash them with a fork.
Put some oil in a pan (better in water bath) and warm thyme, rosemary and a clove of garlic for about 15 minutes, but be very careful not burning the herbs!
In the meantime, put the fillets in a baking pan and pour enough milk to cover them, cook the fillets in the oven for 15-20 minutes, then take them out and let cool the fish in the milk.
Drain the fillets, dice them with a fork and add them to the potatoes.
Dress the brandade with the aromatic oil, strained (if it seems too dry, you can add some of the remnant milk). Season with salt.
Serves 4.

sabato 3 maggio 2008

Valli del Natisone in bicicletta

(English version, see down)

Ieri una giornata di vera Primavera! Finalmente!!

Così con i nostri amici abbiamo deciso un'uscita da casa nostra fino a Pulfero, circa 25 km da noi. Per testare anche un po' la nostra forma fisica, in previsione della gita lungo la ciclabile della Salzkammergut prevista per il ponte del 2 giugno...

Siamo partiti da casa con un bel sole e tanta voglia di pedalare e siamo stati ripagati da un giro bellissimo, con pochi tratti di strada trafficata: per la maggior parte abbiamo pedalato su strade secondarie. Consiglio in particolare, per chi volesse provarlo, la strada parallela alla statale delle Valli del Natisone, che scorre a fianco del fiume, tra borghi e boschi di rara bellezza!