Crostata

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.” (Shakespeare, “Romeo and Juliet”)

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About 3 years ago, I shared a recipe for the Apple Thingamajig, the name resulting from the inability of Zia and myself to remember the dessert’s correct name. In the Comments, some suggested calling it a “galette”, still others called it a “crostata.”, and I’ve even heard it called an “open-faced” or “rustic” pie. We would never have called it a crostata, however, for reasons I had intended to reveal shortly thereafter. You see, I had planned to share today’s recipe that Christmas (2011). Having missed that opportunity, crostata was to be featured the following December (2012), and, having failed that, last December (2013) would most certainly see a crostata recipe published.  And, so, here it is 2014 and the crostata recipe is finally making it to the big time. Even so, and to get back to my original point, say “crostata” to my family and we think of a jam-covered tart very much like the ones pictured throughout today’s post.

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Mom's Crostata 1

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So why share the recipe now? Well, recently a good friend of the Bartolini Kitchens, Stefan of Stefan’s Gourmet Blog, shared his crostata recipe. (If you’ve not visited Stefan’s site, this is your chance. His is a fantastic blog filled with many wonderful recipes and you’ll find his Italian dishes as well-researched as they are delicious.) Seeing his crostata recipe lit a fire under me and I decided this would be the year to finally share the recipe for the benefit of the rest of the Clan. This time, though, I’d publish it ASAP, so, that there would be little chance of it being forgotten again in the rush towards Christmas.

We could always count on Mom preparing several treats for the Christmas holiday. Though she started making chocolate candies in her retirement, she always made sure that there were plenty of biscotti and a crostata for Christmas Day. For me, it wouldn’t have been Christmas without either being present, no matter what else she had prepared — the platter of ravioli notwithstanding.

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Crostata 1

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Not having any tart pans, Mom prepared her crostata on a small baking sheet. (In professional kitchens, it would be called a “quarter baking sheet”.) She would use 2 types of jam, with half of her crostata being coated with either strawberry or, very rarely, cherry, and, the other half peach. Mom didn’t start making jam and preserves until her retirement, so, she used store-bought jams for her crostata. She served it in little pieces, like those I’ve shown, presumably because the last thing we kids needed was more sugar on Christmas Day. Using a three-tiered serving dish, she was able to control how much we kids ate. When it was empty, there’d be no re-filling it for hours. Of course, when company was expected, the contents of that serving dish were strictly off-limits. Don’t worry. We still had our fill — just not from that tray.

With regards to this post, I didn’t feel right calling it “Mom’s Crostata”, for it really isn’t. Mom didn’t leave us a true cookbook. Yes, she gave us kids our own cookbooks but none were a complete listing of all of her recipes. I do have a couple of her notebooks but the recipes listed are in varying stages of completion. Some are fully written, while others are nothing more than a few notes. Today’s recipe falls into the latter category, though I remember watching her spread the jam over the pastry crust, my mouth-watering the entire time. The only real question that remained was what recipe to use for the shortbread crust — and Mom’s notes did specify a “shortbread crust”. The answer came from a surprising source.

Good Cooking CookbookDuring my last visit with Zia, she mentioned that she possessed a “Five Roses Flour” cookbook from 1938 that once belonged to her Mother-in-Law — the woman I’ve referred to as “Nonna” in earlier posts. While paging through it, I came across a shortbread recipe. Now, this is no ordinary shortbread. The recipe’s name is listed as “Prize Shortbread” and it’s noted that the recipe “has won many prizes at Fall Fairs and Exhibitions.” There was certainly no need to look any further for a shortbread recipe. Here, I’ve shared the recipe as it was originally written, although when I prepared the shortbread, I used my food processor and the resulting crust was quite good. (See below for a possible use for extra shortbread dough.)

Unlike Mom, I used my own jams for today’s crostate. In the first photo, strawberry jam with balsamic and black pepper, and, peach jam with white balsamic were used. The addition of balsamic vinegar is why both jams appear unusually dark in the photos. The 2nd crostata was made with tart cherry jam, to which a little bit of almond extract was added. Feel free to use whatever jam(s) you prefer.

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Crostata Recipe

Ingredients

for the pastry

  • 2 cups all-purpose (AP) flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • an egg yolk and water wash

for the filling

  • jam/preserves, amount depending upon the crostata’s size and whether 2 flavors are to be used.

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350˚ F (175˚ C).
  2. In a mixing bowl, use a spoon to mix the sugar, butter, salt, and egg yolk. Slowly add the flour and continue to mix until the spoon can no longer be used.
  3. Turn on to a lightly floured board and begin kneading, adding more flour until the dough begins to crack.
  4. Reserve a small portion of dough to be used for the lattice.
  5. Roll the dough between 2 sheets of wax paper until about 1/8 inch thick and slightly larger than the tart pan or baking sheet.
  6. Carefully remove one sheet of wax paper and place the dough on to the tart pan, dough-side down. Remove the remaining sheet of wax paper. Gently press the dough to fit the contours of the pan. Trim the excess dough and add to the reserve.
  7. Use an offset spatula to spread the jam, evenly covering the pastry dough.
  8. Roll out the reserved pastry dough as you did for the crust. Cut the dough into strips.
  9. Starting at one end, diagonally place the strips across the tart. Once completed, work from the other side placing strips diagonally in the opposite direction, creating a lattice in the process.
  10. Use the egg wash to lightly coat the lattice and any of the exposed crust.
  11. Bake in the lower third of a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes or until crust and lattice are lightly browned.
  12. Allow to cool before cutting. Serve at room temperature.

Shortbread pastry dough recipe found in “A Guide to Good Cooking” by the Five Rose Flour Co. (1938)

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Cherry Crostata 5

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Notes

The first time I prepared this crostata, I “blind baked” the tart shell for 8 minutes before filling it. This was a mistake, as you can see when looking at the first photo. The lattice is considerably lighter in color than the crust. After that attempt, I’ve no longer blind baked the crust and the finished tart’s shortbread appears more evenly baked.

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So, you’ve made a crostata and still have a little extra dough to burn …

I just couldn’t bring myself to discard the excess shortbread dough, nor was there enough to make another crostata. I was going to make a few shortbread cookies, a personal Shortbread Sandwichesfavorite, when I had an epiphany. Using a very small ice cream scoop, make equally sized balls of dough, placing them on a small baking sheet. Once the sheet was covered with evenly spaced dough balls, use the bottom of a glass to press each ball into a flat cookie. Bake in a pre-heated 350˚ F (175˚ C) oven until the edges just start to turn brown, about 15 minutes. Once cooled, use 2 cookies with a bit of Nutella in-between to make a single sandwich cookie. (You could just as easily use jam for the filling.) Like the crostate, these cookies were well-received by the taste testers that live above me. So well-received, in fact, that now I’m considering making a Nutella crostata.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

lumache-con-farfalle-1

This past Saturday is known as All Soul’s Day and in Marche, the Bartolini ancestral home, snails, lumache, are traditionally served.  I won’t say much more, for fear of stealing the post’s thunder, other than to mention that you can learn all about preparing this delicacy by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Osso Buco Preview

Osso Buco

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Oatmeal Cookies with Two Chocolates, Dried Cherries, and Almonds

Cherry Choc Chip 1

Despite today’s post and a few more on the schedule, I am no baker. I do not bake. It is a classic catch-22. I don’t bake because I make mistakes and I make mistakes because I don’t bake. My experience with today’s recipe is a perfect example.

Although I’ve prepared these cookies a number of times, I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes. Some weren’t so bad, like grabbing dark brown sugar instead of light or forgetting to add the salt. I wasn’t always so lucky, however, like the time I forgot the baking soda. Those little nuggets were tasty but hardly the cookies I had envisioned. Perhaps the worst, though, was the time I forgot to add the flour. Who forgets flour? You wouldn’t but I sure did. You can rest assured, knowing that I’ll never do that again. Even so, there has to be a better way to learn something without nearly ruining 2 baking sheets.

My lack of baking prowess — a.k.a common sense — aside, these are great cookies that freeze well. That’s important for me because if I don’t stash cookies in my basement freezer as soon as they’ve cooled, they’ll be gone within a day. I’ve absolutely no will power when it comes to freshly baked anything. (Yet another reason I so rarely bake.)

This recipe can easily be modified to suit your own kitchen and preferences. I’ve made these cookies using my food processor, as the original recipe directs, but I’ve also prepared them with my stand mixer. I’ve used dried cranberries instead of the cherries, and omitted the white chocolate altogether, doubling the amount of dark chocolate in its place. And if you like almond flavoring, try using almond extract instead of vanilla. In short, feel free to make whatever substitutions you like, just don’t forget the flour!

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Announcing …

It’s time once again for the Honey Man to open shop in Michigan’s Thumb. This means I’ll be closing the Kitchens so that I can make the yearly honey run. Normally, I’d reopen the Kitchens in 2 weeks but not this year. You see, honey won’t be the only precious cargo that I’ll be bringing back to Chicago. I’m very happy to say that I’ll be playing host to a most special Guest and the Kitchens will be closed for the entire visit, known affectionately in these parts as “The Visitation.” Rest assured, the Kitchens will reopen once I’ve returned my Guest to her Michigan home.

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Cherry Choc Chip 3*     *     *

Oatmeal Cookies with Two Chocolates and Dried Cherries Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup dried cherries
  • 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds. toasted

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375˚ F (190˚ C). Place 2 oven racks on the top and bottom thirds of the oven.
  2. Cream together the butter, 2 sugars, and vanilla in a food processor
  3. To the processor bowl, add the egg, baking soda, and salt. Process until combined.
  4. Add the flour and again process till combined.
  5. Add the oats and pulse a few times. The object is to mix without pulverizing the oats. Empty the contents of the processor bowl into a large mixing bowl.
  6. Add the almonds, cherries, and both chocolates to the mixing bowl and use a spoon to mix the contents.
  7. Use a large ice cream scoop or tablespoon to create evenly sized cookies. Place scoops of dough on 2 large, parchment-covered baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
  8. Bake for 6 minutes before turning and switching racks. Bake for another 6 or 7 minutes. Cookies should be lightly browned.
  9. Remove from oven and place cookies on a rack to cool.
  10. Store in an airtight container.

Adapted from a recipe on Epicurious

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Cherry Choc Chip 2*     *     *

Notes

Like the fried chicken of 2 weeks ago, these cookies are good for long car rides. Very good.

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The Colosseum and Forum of Rome

Just down the street from our flat was the Colosseum, one of the World’s few arena’s older than Wrigley Field. It is usually one of the first and last sights I see when I’m in Rome. As I’ve told my friends — ad nauseam, I’m sure — I’m a tactile person and only when I touch the Colosseum do I truly feel that I am in Rome.

(Click to enlarge any/all photos)

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Right outside of the stadium lie the ruins of Ludus Magnus, the best of the gladiator schools. Tunnels once connected it to the “basement” of the Colosseum, which housed everything from wild animals and gladiators to their unfortunate victims. The amphitheater itself is huge with seating estimates that surpass 45,000 people. Yet, it could be vacated in as few as 5 minutes in an emergency. Located around the arena are thick cement posts, of a sort. These were used to support a retractable roof that provided shade from the hot Roman sun, while the arena floor could be flooded to permit mock naval battles to be performed. When not flooded, the stadium floor featured numerous trap doors, allowing for the “introduction” of fierce animals into the arena. Like so much of Rome, history comes alive as you walk around the Colosseum.

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Inside the Colosseum    *     *     *

The heart of the ancient city, the Forum, was where Romans came to conduct business, shop, talk politics, and worship. On one side lay the Colosseum, easily the largest amphitheater of its time. On another, atop Palatine Hill, is where the emperors lived, as well as the Republic’s wealthiest citizens. Being slightly elevated, it was believed to be a bit cooler than the surrounding area and it gave the inhabitants the opportunity to literally look down upon the masses milling about the Forum. Following the main path through the Forum, the Via Sacra, you’ll pass the ruins of numerous temples, basilicas, and the Curia, where the Roman Senate met and where Julius Cæsar was assassinated. Speaking of which, you’ll also come across the altar used for Cæsar’s cremation. (The first time I visited the Forum was on March 17th quite a few years ago and red roses were strewn about the altar.)

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If you are at all interested in the Roman Empire and find yourself in Rome, you really must see the Colosseum and Forum. Words and photos cannot describe the sensation of walking along the Via Sacra, tracing the steps of people like Julius Cæsar, Tiberius, Augustus, and every Emperor that was to follow them, not to mention countless notables of the ancient civilization. It was, for me, the perfect way to end my holiday and this series.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Aglio e OlioToday’s blast form the past isn’t at all a seasonal dish, at its core, but you could make it one, if you wanted.  Aglio e Olio is so simple to prepare that it is a “late home from work” dish; a “we spent the night out with friends and need something quick to eat” dish; and/or a “my cupboard is bare and I’m hungry” dish. Aglio e Oilo can be all these things and so much more. You can learn all about it by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Roast Duck Ravioli PreviewRoast Duck Ravioli

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Pistachio Gelato

Gelato di Pistacchio

Pistachio Gelato 3Those of you that have followed this blog for a while will know that August means 2 things around here. First, it’s a birthday month for quite a few Bartolini (Mom would have been 90 on the 15th), as well as for many of the tasters and friends of the Kitchens.  Second, I normally schedule a visit with Zia sometime during the month but more about that later.

Mom really enjoyed ice cream and so, every August, I post at least one recipe in her honor and that of the rest of the August babies. Now, with so many memories of strolling about Florence, gelato in-hand, still-fresh in my mind, I decided that this month’s frozen treat would be a gelato, and, since Mom loved pistachio ice cream, deciding to make pistachio gelato was a no-brainer. Once I’d settled on the flavor, I knew exactly where to go for the recipe.

Last year, while in the middle of my moratorium on buying cookbooks, a blogging friend posted an ice cream recipe and referred me to a great book, Linda Tubby’s “Ices Italia.” I love this book but there is a problem. Although I remembered the book through the remainder of the moratorium, I’d completely forgotten the person who recommended it to me. Please identify yourself so that I might credit — and thank you — for leading me to the book and today’s recipe. The book is fantastic and the recipe a keeper, as you’ll soon see.

ETA: Since this recipe was posted, my friend and long-time supporter of this blog, Elaine, Le Petit Potager, has reminded me that it was she who introduced me to “Ices Italai”. We pistachio gelato lovers all thank you.

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As for my visit with Zia, I had intended to leave in the next day or two but my car had other plans. I will not bore you with the details but suffice it to say that my departure has been postponed until some time next week. The kitchens will be closed for the duration, reopening on Wednesday, August 27th.

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Pistachio Nuts

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Pistachio Gelato Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 heaping cup (160 g) pistachios, unsalted, roasted, skins removed  (see Notes)
  • 3/4 cup castor sugar (see Notes)
  • 1.5 cups (350 ml) whole, full-fat milk
  • 1.25 cups (300 ml) heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • additional pistachios, crushed, for garnish — optional

Directions

  1. Place shelled, roasted pistachios into a large food processor and grind until sand-like.
  2. Add sugar and continue to grind until very fine.
  3. Place milk and heavy cream into a medium saucepan and heat slowly until just before boiling. Small bubbles will appear where the dairy meets the pan’s side.
  4. Add some of the hot milk to the ground nuts and process until smooth.
  5. Continue to gradually add hot milk to the bowl, processing after each addition, until no more milk remains (see Notes).
  6. Add vanilla and salt, process to combine, and then add mixture to a large bowl
  7. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours.
  8. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for preparing ice cream.
  9. Place gelato in a freezer-proof container and store in the freezer. Ms. Tubby recommends waiting for 3 hours before serving.
  10. Garnish servings with optional crushed pistachios.

Recipe may be found in Linda Tubby’s excellent book “Ices Italia“.

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Pistachio Gelato 1*     *     *

Notes

According to Ms. Tubby, unlike ice cream, gelato isn’t meant to be served when frozen solid. Once frozen, place the opened container in your fridge for about 30 minutes before serving. This will result in a gelato just like those served in your favorite gelateria.

I was unable to find raw pistachio nuts and had to resort to using those that were already roasted. I found that a 12 oz (340 g) bag provided me with a little more than I needed for the recipe, once I shelled them and rubbed off the skins. I used the excess for garnish.

For this recipe, you want to use a finer sugar so that your gelato isn’t grainy, as may be the case if regular, white sugar is used. Castor sugar is that finer sugar but there’s no need to buy it if you haven’t any. Just place white sugar in your food processor and grind it until it is fine, like castor.

This recipe will produce a very smooth gelato. If you prefer a little more texture, just process the nut and sugar mixture for less time (Step 1) and/or add all the heated dairy to the processor bowl at once and process only until the mixture is combined.

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Variations

Raspberries*     *     *

Raspberries PureedI’ve a friend was recently released from hospital and faces some mighty tough dietary restrictions, while being told that he shouldn’t lose any more weight. Now, in the past, I would have delivered a tray of lasagna and a loaf of garlic bread to my friend, and that would have gone a long way towards at least maintaining his weight. Well, as incredible as it may sound, lasagna and garlic bread are not permitted on his diet. (I told you the restrictions were “mighty tough”.) He can eat ice cream, however, and that’s all I needed to know.

His favorite gelato flavor is raspberry, lampone, so, I took 12 oz (340 g) of raspberries, blitzed them in a food processor until broken down, and then strained the purée through a sieve to remove the seeds. For the dairy portion of the recipe, I reduced the quantity of whole milk to 3/4 cup (175 ml) and increased the amount of heavy cream to 2 cups Raspberry Gelato(475 ml). (There shall be no weight loss on my watch!) With no nuts to grind, I just added the heated dairy mixture to the sugar in the food processor, blitzed it long enough to melt the sugar, and then added the sieved raspberry purée, processing until blended. The mixture was chilled for 4 hours before my ice cream machine took over.

All who have taste it agree: this is one very good gelato.

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Piazza della Signoria, Florence

Like cities and towns throughout Europe, Florence’s cityscape is peppered with public squares, piazze. Some are so small as to be little more than some free space at the intersection of 2 minor streets. Others, Like the Piazza dell Republicca, are relatively vast spaces, lined on all 4 sides with cafes and trattorie. As a tourist, though the prices are high, there’s no better place to people watch than at one of these “ringside” establishments. Of all the piazze in Florence, however, the Piazza della Signoria is the grand dame of them all.

The city’s heart since Roman times, the Piazza serves as Florence’s civic center and political hub. When Zia and I visited Florence 12 years ago, there was a transit strike on the day of our departure from Florence. The Piazza was jammed with people carrying banners, placards, and bull horns. I thought we’d never get through the throng. This visit, things were quite a bit different, though there were more tourists about than I’ve ever seen in Florence. It seemed whenever I stopped to take a photo, suddenly an umbrella, pennant, or hat would appear in front of my lens, as a tour guide gathered his/her charges to explain one of the Piazza’s many features — and there are many features.

When you enter the Piazza, you cannot help but notice the massive structure and tower near a corner. This is the Palazzo della Signoria but is known as the Palazzo Vecchio, Old Palace. As if it’s not impressive enough in its own right, the entrance is flanked with 2 larger-than-life statues. This is the site where Michelangelo’s “David” originally stood and where a replica now stands guard. Joining him is a statue of Hercules. Moving around the Piazza, you’ll see a bronze statue of “Cosmo I” de Medici atop his steed. To Cosmo’s side, you’ll find the bronze and marble fountain of Neptune. (Sorry, I couldn’t get close enough to get a photo worth publishing.)

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To my eye, the most praiseworthy section of the Piazza is the Loggia dei Lanzi, so beautifully designed and constructed that Michelangelo urged the city to repeat the facade on all the Piazza’s buildings. (Be sure to take the link to see the entire structure.) It is home to some stunning pieces of sculpture, though be prepared for some obstructed viewing – and not just because of the crowds. In all the times I’ve been to the Loggia, I’ve yet to enjoy a completely scaffolding-free view. Even so, the Loggia dei Lanza is one site that you must see if you find yourself in Florence. Here is some of the statuary on display there. To begin, there are the Medici Lions on either side of the steps leading into the Loggia – now a restricted area, by the way.

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That concludes our tour of Florence. When I return, we’ll do a little touring in Rome

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

La BombaSince I shared a gelato recipe today, I thought it best to send you back to the Granddaddy of all of my ice cream recipes, the Spumoni Bomba. Yes, it’s spumoni but so much more. You can see step-by-step instructions for making this show stopping dessert simply by clicking HERE.

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Coming not too soon to a monitor near you …

Roast Duck PreviewRoast Duck

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Torte

Flourless Chocolate Torte 3I’ve made no secret of my inability to bake. I have burned sheet after sheet of misshapen cookies and pulled countless cakes from the oven that failed to rise. A few years ago, after yet another bundt cake that had somehow been Super Glued to the pan, I threw both pan and cake into the trash — a very liberating experience.

Then there was the Fall that I was going to teach myself to bake my favorite cake, the Black Forest Cake. Yum, right? The first attempt quite literally made me sick. I couldn’t get that thing to the trash quick enough. The next week brought another attempt. That “cake” was better — it wasn’t life-threatening — but was certainly nothing to be proud of. The third cake proved I was on the right track, though it was in no way good enough to share with anyone. I hit pay-dirt with my 4th and, what would prove to be, my last attempt. That cake was a delight. Good thing, too, because that was 6 years ago and it was the last Black Forest Cake that I’ve tasted. Oh, I’ve been tempted to have a piece but, when I am, there’s a rumble down under that convinces me that now is not the time.

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Perhaps it was my success with this torte that gave me the mistaken opinion that I could bake, leading me to the Black Forest Cake debacle. I first saw Jamie Oliver prepare the torte when he was known as The Naked Chef, so, this recipe has been around for some time. I’ve made it a number of times since without any problems whatsoever — not counting a misguided attempt to make it as a bundt cake with that accursed pan. Never mind that. Believe me. If I can bake this torte anyone can.

Now, a word about the recipe before proceeding. If you go searching for it on the web, you’ll find it titled a number of ways. Jamie Oliver’s: “Chocolate Torte”; “Flour-less Chocolate Torte”; and, “Two Nut Chocolate Torte”, are the most popular. Bear in mind that this recipe was demonstrated in an episode that aired in 2000, some time before most of us were aware of gluten-related issues. In fact, I’ve even see the recipe called “Flour-less” yet you’re instructed to grease and flour the pan before filling it with cake batter. Not to worry. This torte is gluten-free, hence the name change, and I coat the pan with powdered cocoa, not flour.

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Chocolate Torte X

As Jamie intended

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Torte Recipe

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 oz (155 g) shelled and peeled almonds
  • 5 1/2 oz (155 g) shelled walnuts, finely ground
  • 11 oz (310 g) semi-sweet chocolate (separated – 2/3 & 1/3)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 9 oz (255 g) butter
  • 3 1/2 oz (100 g) sugar
  • 6 large free-range eggs, separated
  • butter
  • cocoa powder
  • salt
  • powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375˚ F (190˚ C). Use butter to grease the bottom of an 8 to 10 inch spring-form pan before lining the bottom with a piece of parchment paper. Butter the paper and sides of the pan. Use cocoa powder to coat the greased pan.
  2. Place the almonds into a food processor and grind them until finely ground.
  3. Add the walnuts and continue processing until all are finely ground. (See Notes)
  4. Add a pinch of salt and 2/3 of the chocolate and process for 30 seconds. Remove the nut-chocolate mixture to a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add the butter and sugar to the food processor and run until the mixture is a pale yellow and fluffy.
  6. Add the egg yolks, one by one, and process until well-blended.
  7. Add the egg mixture to the bowl with the chocolate mixture and stir until well-combined.
  8. Add the egg whites to a mixing bowl with a pinch of salt.  Using a whisk, hand mixer, or stand mixer, beat the eggs until stiff peaks form. (See Notes)
  9. Take 1/3 of the beaten egg whites and fold them into the bowl with the eggs and chocolate. Once blended, add the remaining 2/3 of the egg whites and fold into the batter. Do not over mix. (See Notes)
  10. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  11. Place the remaining chocolate chunks into the top of the torte’s batter. Press them slightly into the batter, though no need to cover them with batter.
  12. Bake on the center rack of a pre-heated oven for about an hour. After 55 minutes, use a knife to check to see if the torte is finished. Place the knife into the center, wait a few seconds, and remove. The blade should be relatively clean.
  13. Once cooled, remove from pan, invert to remove the paper, and place on a cake platter. Dust with powdered sugar.
  14. Serve as-is or with a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraîche.

This is a recipe from Jamie Oliver, The Naked Chef

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Oven Ready

Ready for the oven

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Notes

Be sure to keep an eye on your nuts when using the food processor or you may end up with almond-walnut butter.

To remove the almond skins: Add raw, shelled almonds to a small sauce pan filled with boiling water. Remove from the water after 3 minutes, placing the blanched nuts into an ice water bath. Strain and wipe dry. Squeeze each almond between your thumb and index finger to easily remove the skin.

This is how I beat egg whites:

  • Bring eggs to room temperature before separating. Be sure no yolk remains in the whites.
  • Place the whites in a mixing bowl. Whether whisking by hand or using a mixer, begin slowly at first. After about 30 seconds, continue beating at medium speed.
  • Once the eggs begin to color, beat at a higher rate until beaten to the recipe’s needs.

The beaten egg whites provide lift for this torte. If they aren’t folded into the batter correctly, the torte will not rise. Here’s a quick video demonstrating the proper technique for folding egg whites into batter.

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For the chocoholics among us

Make a simple ganache.

  1. Place 8 oz (225 g) of chocolate pieces in a heat-resistant bowl – use whatever type of chocolate you prefer
  2. Heat 10 oz (300 ml) of heavy cream to the point of boiling.
  3. Pour the heated cream over the chocolate and let sit for a couple of minutes before stirring until smooth. As it cools, the ganache will thicken.
  4. If you prefer your ganache to be flavored, once the ganache is fully mixed, add 2 or more tbsp of:
      * Framboise for raspberry flavoring;
      * Grand Marnier or Cointreau for orange;
      * Amaretto for almond; or
      * Kahlúa for coffee.
  5. Either pour the ganache over the entire cake or each piece as it is served.

I usually make half the amount listed here and store the remainder in a sealed container in the fridge. I’ve no idea how long it will last because kitchen elves snack on it until it’s gone, usually within 48 hours — within 72 hours when Girl Scout cookies are atop the counter.

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Chocolate Chocolate Torte

As John wanted

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Carnivale ends today in Italy, as it does round the World. In the days leading up to Ash fiocchetti1Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, celebrations of all kinds take place, each with its own particular sweets and confections. In New Orleans, it’s King Cake. In Chicago, it’s fried donuts called Paczkis. In the Bartolini kitchens, it was fiocchetti, which we called angel wings. These fried dough crisps, in one form or another, are made throughout Italy this time of year and go by a number of names. You can learn how to make them just by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Pork Tenderloin - Plums 1

Pork Tenderloin with Plum Sauce

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See Quince? Make Jam First Then Jelly

OK. I’ll admit it. I didn’t know a thing about quince. I certainly didn’t hear about them while growing up, let alone see any of them. When I finally did see one, not all that long ago, I thought it to be a very odd-looking apple — and expensive, at that.

Things began to change, however, once I started blogging. Every Fall, quince jelly recipes began to circulate. Then, last August, my friend Celia posted her recipe for making quince jelly on her wonderful blog Fig Jam And Lime Cordial. (If you’re not familiar with her posts, this is your chance. Celia’s blog is one that has a little something for everyone and all of it good.) At the time, I told her that I wanted to make some and would let her know when I did. So, “Hey, Celia! I made quince jam & jelly!”

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Quince 1

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Once I purchased the quince, I searched for a recipe. Since quince has a high level of pectin within it, I decided to go without adding any more. This, unfortunately, ruled out Celia’s recipe. (Sorry, Celia.) I soon learned that the web is full of quince recipes, all pretty much the same. Quince, sugar, lemon juice, and water combine to eventually produce jelly. Well, I like jelly but I prefer jam. Looking a little further, I came upon a recipe that suited my needs. I settled on a Greek recipe for quince jam called Marmalatha Kythoni. Unlike all others, this one had 2 things going for it.

In the first place, the recipe gave a ratio of quince to sugar (2:1). This is so much more convenient than stating that 1 quart of quince is required. Just how many quince does it take to make a quart? With this ratio, you just buy the quince, peel, core, chop, and then weigh them. Whatever the weight, you’ll need half that amount in sugar. (You’ll note that in the recipe, I stated the quince amount in ounces (grams) to make the math easier.)

Secondly, water used to boil the quince in this recipe may be used to make quince jelly. Granted, you won’t be making a lot but you will get a little over a cup for your efforts. The same ratio (2:1) applies when making jelly, too. The difference being in this case, you use measures and not weight. So, I had 4 cups of quince liquid and used 2 cups of sugar to make a pint of jelly. It could not be easier.

The amount of lemon juice to be used is up to you. I like things a little tart, so, I added both lemon juice and zest when making the jam. For the jelly, I used lemon juice only. It’s my “control” and I’ll taste the jelly to determine whether I overdid the lemon when making the jam.

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Quince Jam 3

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Quince Jam Recipe

Ingredients

  • 52 oz (1474 g) quince, peeled, cored, and chopped (see Notes)
  • 26 oz (737 g) sugar
  • 1.25 cups (300 ml) water, divided
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

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Quince Jam 2

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Directions

  1. Place chopped quince in a large pot with a lid and add enough water to cover (see Notes). Place the lid on the pot and bring to a hard boil over high heat. Reduce to medium heat and continue to simmer for 30 minutes. Keep covered, shut off the heat, and let sit for another 30 minutes.
  2. Strain, reserving the liquid for the Quince Jelly Recipe, and place the chunks in a food processor, along with 1/4 cup (60 ml) of water.  Process until the quince is the consistency you prefer.
  3. Place the now-processed quince in a thick bottomed sauce pan along with the sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Bring to a boil over med-high heat before reducing to medium and simmer, stirring almost constantly to prevent scorching.
  4. Continue to simmer and stir until the jam is the consistency you prefer, from 30 to 60 minutes, maybe longer.
  5. Place jam in still hot, sterilized jars, place lids and seal — though not quite as tight as you can.
  6. Place jars on a rack in a boiling water bath deep enough so that there’s at least 1 inch of water over the top of the tallest jar. When the boil returns, process for 10 minutes.
  7. Remove jars from the pot and place on a baking sheet or counter, out of drafts. Be sure to cover the surface with a cloth to prevent the hot jars from shattering when they touch a cold surface. Do not move for at least 12 hours, though 24 is best, to give the jars a chance to seal and the jam to fully set.
  8. Preserved quince jam will keep for one year, though some degradation of taste and color may begin to occur after 6 months.  Best to enjoy your jam before that. (Source: Pick Your Own)

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Quince Jelly 3

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Quince Jelly Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (1000 ml) quince water reserved when making quince jam, recipe above.
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

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Quince Jelly 1

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Directions

  1. Place the reserved liquid, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over high heat.
  2. Stir constantly until the liquid reduces by about 2/3, developing a syrupy consistency. (it took mine about 40 minutes.)
  3. Use a large spoon to quickly remove any foam before filling the still-hot, sterile jars to 1/4 inch from the top. Follow canning instructions listed in the Quince Jam Recipe above, processing this jelly for 5 minutes in the hot water bath.
  4. Store jelly on a cool, dark shelf.

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Quince & Queso Manchego

Crostini with Quince Jam & Queso Manchego

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Notes

It took 8 quince that, after peeling, coring, and chopping, rendered the 26 oz used in the Jam recipe.

It is best to use ripe quince for this recipe. To check for ripeness, sniff either end of the fruit. Ripe quince will have a floral scent.

When cut, quince will brown. To prevent this, place the pieces in a large bowl of water. When ready to start cooking the quince, I used this water to cover the pieces in the pot, as indicated in step 1 of the Jam recipe.

If you plan to make jelly using the cooking liquid, you will need to strain it through a few layers of cheesecloth or, if none is available, muslin or coffee filters will work, too.

As you can see in the pictures, my jam is lighter than most. Granted, it darkened a bit as it cooked but never reached the deep color that I associate with quince jam. I was a bit concerned until I compared mine to the photos accompanying the original recipe. In that light, mine is quite similar to the original. Whew! My guess is that this jam recipe doesn’t cook the quince as long as the others, and that deep pink color needs a long cooking time to develop. As it was, my jam was thick enough that I had no choice but to pull it off the heat.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Baccalà

With Christmas approaching fast, for the next few weeks I’ll devote this section to some of our favorite holiday recipes. To kick things off, I thought we’d take a look back to our traditional Christmas Eve dish, Baccalà alla Marchigianna. In this preparation baccalà, once rinsed and rehydrated, is cooked in a tomato sauce with potatoes. Serve it with a chunk of bread and you’ll forget all about Santa’s coming in a few hours — well, at least until you’ve cleaned your plate. You can learn how to make this flavorful dish just by clicking  HERE

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Uova da Raviolo - Preview

Uova da Raviolo

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Aunt Mary’s Apple Cake

Torta di Mele di Zia Mariolla

Apple Cake

This is one of the recipes I brought home with me following my last visit with Zia but its path to this blog is nowhere near as direct as that statement makes it sound.

While having coffee with Zia, I mentioned that I baked a wonderful apple cake two years ago but have since lost the recipe. Try as I might, I can neither find nor duplicate that cake. My story reminded Zia of a slice of cake she was once served at her Daughter-in-Law’s home. She complimented my Cousin and asked for the recipe. Surprisingly, the recipe came from the other side of my family, my beautiful Zia Mariolla, who’s married to my Dad’s youngest Brother, Zio Leo. I’ve no idea how the recipe got to my Cousin’s cookbook but, lucky for us, it found its way into mine.

Perhaps what I like most about this cake is that it isn’t overly sweet and, in that regard, its lack of icing is a big plus. If you or your guests prefer a dessert that’s not too sweet, than serve them a piece of Zia’s cake just as she intended, with a dusting of powdered sugar on top. If, however, someone at the table would prefer something a bit more sweet, then have I got the thing for you, a salted caramel sauce. Within this post, I’ve included the recipe for the sauce  and you’ll find it the perfect accompaniment for Zia’s cake. See? With or without the sauce, you really can have your cake and eat it, too.

Now, as for the recipe itself, the original doesn’t specify the kind of apples, raisins, nor nuts to be used. Having just visited the Honey Man in Michigan, I had fresh Cortland apples and black walnuts at my disposal. I used golden raisins simply because I had them on-hand. That’s it. The rest of the ingredients are quite common and you should have little trouble preparing this cake.

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On the road again …

I’m leaving for this year’s last visit with Zia. The Kitchens will be closed while I’m gone and will be re-opened on Wednesday, November 20th.

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Apple Cake -2

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Aunt Mary’s Apple Cake Recipe

Ingredients

Apple Cake

  • 1-3/4 c sugar
  • 3/4 c oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cup AP flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 or 5 Cortland apples, peeled, cored, sliced thin
  • 1 cup chopped black walnuts, divided — any nuts may be substituted
  • 1 cup golden raisins (pre-soak in warm water for 30 minutes)
  • confectioners sugar (optional)
  • salted caramel sauce for serving (optional)

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tbsp butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature
  • 2 tsp kosher salt (see Notes)

Directions

To prepare the cake

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350˚ F (175˚ C).
  2. Place all ingredients — except apples, raisins, and nuts — in a large mixing bowl. Beat with a spoon until well-blended. Batter will be stiff.
  3. Add apples, raisins, and half the nuts to the bowl and stir till evenly distributed.
  4. Pour batter into a well-greased 9 X 13″ baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining nuts.
  5. Bake in pre-heated 350˚ oven for 45 minutes. A toothpick inserted into center should be clean upon removal.
  6. Allow to cool before dusting with confectioners (powdered) sugar and serving.

To prepare the salted caramel sauce

  1. Pour the sugar into a medium sauce pan (see Notes) over med-high heat.
  2. Stir the sugar as it begins to melt and continue to do so until it begins to boil. Stop stirring the moment it begins to boil. (see Notes)
  3. Once boiling, look for it to change to an amber color. If necessary, swirl liquid in the pan but do not stir.
  4. Once the sugar has turned amber in color, reduce heat to medium, add the butter and whisk vigorously until melted and fully blended.
  5. Remove from heat, gradually add the cream, whisking all the while. Once blended, add the salt and continue to whisk until fully mixed.
  6. Set aside to cool for a few minutes before pouring into a sealable container for storage in the fridge, where it will keep for a couple of weeks.
  7. Warm before serving with your favorite dessert.

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Apple Cake Preview

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Notes

The recipe will prepare salted caramel sauce. If you’re not a fan of salted caramel, reduce the amount of salt used, but do not eliminate all of it. A bit of salt is usually recommended with sweet preparations. I’d suggest using 1/8 or 1/4 tsp instead of the amount listed in the recipe.

Be sure to use a large enough saucepan. The sugar will boil and could boil over if your pan is too small.

You may stir the sugar as it melts but must stop stirring the moment it begins to boil. Failure to do so may result in sugar crystals ruining the texture of the finished sauce. Once almost all the sugar is melted, it’s best to put away the spoon and swirl the pan’s contents until all is melted, boiling, and begins to turn amber-colored.

Do not, I repeat DO NOT catch a dropped spoon that was used to stir the melting sugar. I can tell you from personal experience that the momentary joy you may feel for actually catching something with your left hand will be obliterated by the searing pain that only sugar burns can deliver.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Lumache ShellsLast Saturday, All Souls’ Day was observed in a number of Christian churches. In Marche, where the Bartolini are from, it’s traditional to serve snails, lumache, on that day. Although my family never observed that custom, we did, on very rare occasions, prepare and serve lumache. If you’re interested in learning how it’s done, just click HERE

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Green Tomato Relish 3

Green Tomato Relish

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Today’s Jam is a Real Plum, Damson Plum with Cardamom

My poor Damson plums. Way back in September, I bought 2 overflowing quarts of the diminutive beauties, planning to make and freeze cobblers. Yum, right? Well, this was the Saturday before I was to leave for Michigan and, as luck would have it, there was no time for making cobbler before I left. No problem. I’d bring them to Michigan with me and make cobblers for Zia. The night before I was to leave, I placed the bag of plums on my dining table, along with some of the parts to my ice cream machine. A few hours later, I finished loading the car and left for Michigan. Once there, I realized I had left everything on the table. Poor Zia. She got neither cobbler nor ice cream during my last visit.

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Damson Plum Jam 2

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Upon my return home, as I unpacked the car I passed by that bag of plums a few times. I really wasn’t in any hurry to look inside, figuring it would be an unsightly mess, at best. So, once everything was unpacked, and with my laundry going, I decided to brave the bag and have a peek. Unbelievably, they were pretty much as I had left them. I dumped them into a colander and, though a few were smashed, none were spoilt. I discarded those that were smashed and rinsed the rest. Now, what to do with them?

Sadly, the cobbler idea had lost its appeal. Having brought home plenty of apples, there were pies and apple cake (recipe forthcoming) in my future and I just wasn’t interested in making cobbler anymore. (A decision I’m sure to regret this Winter.) That meant my long-neglected plums would be used to make jam.

Damson plums are smaller than others and their peel ranges from dark blue to black, some with a hint of deep purple. (Sorry, I forgot to photograph them fresh. See? Neglected.) The flesh is greenish-yellow and the pits adhere to that flesh, something you’ll need to consider when using them in a recipe. When it comes to taste, the flesh is somewhat sweet while the skin is a bit tart. For me, this makes Damson plums perfect for jam. Use a little sugar for a tart jam, more for a sweeter taste.

Today’s recipe is a basic jam and no pectin is required. The only questionable part is the addition of the cardamom pods. If you want, you can just toss them into the pot and fish them out of the plums when you remove the pits. Personally, I don’t like that method. It’s far too likely for one to slip past me and, guaranteed, it will be in a jar that I give to a friend or family member. I much prefer to tie the pods in cheesecloth before placing them in the pot. Depending upon how much cardamom flavor you like, the pod package can be put back into the pot after the plum pits have been removed, an option not available if your use the pods alone. Other than the use of the cardamom pods, you’ll find the recipe to be straight-forward.

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Damson Plum Jam - 1

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Damson Plum with Cardamom Jam Recipe

Ingredients

  • 36 oz. (1 kg) damson plums
  • 3 c sugar
  • 1 c water
  • 5 cardamom pods (refer to above commentary and Notes)
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Rinse the plums, removing any stems in the process.
  2. Place the plums, cardamom pods, and water in a thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about an hour. Remove from heat and allow to cool to touch.
  3. Using your hands, squeeze each plum to remove the pit. Discard the pits as well as all the cardamom pods. Reserve everything else.
    1. Alternately, a food mill may be used to remove the pits and pods.
  4. Place the broken down plums back into the thick-bottomed pot. Add sugar, salt, and cook over medium to med-high heat until a temperature of 320˚ F (160˚ C) is reached.
  5. Test to see if jam is ready (See Notes).
  6. If your plums are jamming, place in sterile jars and seal.
    1. They may be refrigerated and will keep for about a month.
    2. They may be frozen and will keep up to a year. Once thawed, use within 3 weeks.
    3. If preserved/canned (see Notes), jam will keep up to a year if stored in a cool, dark place. Once opened, use within a month.
    4. Source: Home Center For Home Food Preservation
  7. Serve as you would your favorite jam and may be used to flavor roasts, particularly pork.

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Damson Plum Jam 4

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Notes

According to a number of sites, 5 cardamom pods would equal about 3/4 tsp of ground cardamom. I have not prepared this jam using ground cardamom, so, I’ve no idea whether it will have a stronger taste.

Though there are a few methods of testing to see if your fruit is jammin’, I prefer to use the plate test. While the fruit/berries are boiling on the stove top, place a dish in your freezer. When you think the jam is ready, take about a half-teaspoon of jam and place it on the now chilled plate. Allow the jam to rest a few minutes before using another spoon or your fingertip to see if the jam has set or is still too runny. If the latter, continue to simmer the jam while returning the plate to the freezer to await the next test.

Canning this jam is simple and not unlike other jams & jellies. Once the jam is ready, fill the sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Place lids on top of each jar, tightening until not quite as tight as possible. (I tighten mine fully and then unscrew the lid slightly.) Place each jar on a rack in a large pot of boiling water. Jars must not sit directly on the kettle bottom. Once the pot returns to the boil, begin timing. This jam will need to be processed (boiled) for 10 minutes, if using half-pint or smaller jars (235 ml or smaller). After 10 minutes, remove jars to a cloth-covered counter or baking sheet, away from any drafts. Do not move for at least 12 hours — 24 hours is best — so that the jars fully seal and the jam sets.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Roast Loin of Pork

Roast Loin of Pork

When our temperatures start to drop, I begin to think of preparing roasts for dinner. The oven brings welcome warmth to the kitchen and my house soon fills with the heavenly aroma of a roast in that oven. About a year ago, I posted a recipe for roast loin of pork that was butterflied, slathered with fig preserves and wrapped in pancetta before roasting. The result was a dinner fit for a holiday. You can see the recipe, along with step-by-step instructions, by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Roasted Arctic Char 3

 Roasted Arctic Char

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Blueberry-Lemon Slice

Blueberry-Lemon Slice

As many of you know, I spend some of my spare time watching a variety of cooking shows. (Note that I didn’t say the Food Network. Since they’ve gone to the dark side of broadcasting — a.k.a. “reality” TV — I watch that network far less.) Since I can not always watch them when broadcast, many of these programs end up recorded on my DVR. Then, on some rainy day or sleepless night, I’ll clear my DVR of these recordings, zipping through the programs hoping that something will catch my eye. That’s how I found today’s recipe and it was quite a catch, even if I do say so myself.

If you’re at all like me, you enjoy the combination of blueberry and lemon flavors. After all, a blueberry muffin without a hint of lemon is just a muffin. These slices have an abundance of both ingredients and the result is one delicious treat. It’s ridiculously easy to prepare and there are no exotic nor hard-to-find ingredients. If you don’t have fresh blueberries, go ahead and use frozen. In fact, I always buy and freeze blueberries at the peak of their season, so, that I can enjoy blueberry pie when the cold weather hits. This Winter I’ll have a slice, too. If you try this recipe, I bet I won’t be the only one.

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Blueberry-Lemon Slice Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose (AP) flour
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp water
  • zest & juice of 1 lemon
  • 10 tbsp butter, cubed and placed in freezer for about 30 minutes
  • 3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen may be used
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • pinch of salt

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This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350˚ F (177˚ C)
  2. Place flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest in a food processor. Process the ingredients till thoroughly mixed. Add the egg mixture and continue to whirl until combined.
  3. Place the very chilled butter cubes into the food processor. Pulse the ingredients, repeatedly, until the mixture looks like little pearls,
  4. Reserve 2 cups of the crumble mixture and use the rest to cover a greased 9 X 9″ baking dish. Press it down to form a crust.
  5. Meanwhile, place the blueberries, remaining sugar, lemon juice, corn starch, and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Gently stir until everything is evenly coated.
  6. Once the bottom crust has been formed in the baking dish, pour the blueberries into the baking dish, covering the crust.
  7. Use the reserved crumble to cover the blueberries.
  8. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 35 to 45 minutes. Blueberries should be soft and the crumble browned to your satisfaction.
  9. Allow to cool and set before cutting into squares.
  10. Serve as-is or with optional Lemon Cream & Limoncello Syrup. (See Notes)

Inspired by Clinton Kelly’s Blueberry Pucker Bars, on The Chew

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Blueberry-Lemon Slice

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Notes …

The sharp-eyed among you may notice that I used an 8 X 8″ baking dish and not the 9 X 9″ dish indicated in the recipe. My 9 X 9″ dish met an untimely end when it crashed into the floor. It was empty, thankfully.

Although I’ve never done so, it’s suggested these slices be served with a Lemon Cream & Limoncello Syrup. Here’s that recipe, also from The Chew:

Ingredients

1 cup limoncello
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup lemon curd

Directions

  1. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, reduce limoncello by half. Refrigerate until well-chilled.
  2. Meanwhile, whip together heavy cream with sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold in lemon curd.
  3. When ready to serve, place a dollop of the lemon cream mixture atop each slice, accompanied by a drizzle of the limoncello reduction.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

PuffballBack in our part of Michigan, it’s puffball season. Well, it’s supposed to be but you never really know until your find them. Sometime during October, these large, oblong-shaped funghi appear in areas that are mostly shaded from the sun. Up until a few years ago, 1 to 3 of them could be found behind Zia’s garage. Now, for reasons known only to Mother Nature, they’ve moved to its side. You needn’t worry about that, though, for you can find some, as well as learn how to prepare them,  by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Preview

Something Special to Commemorate Columbus Day

Octopus

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Tart Cherry Frozen Yogurt

Those of you who have followed my blog for some time know that August is Birthday Month for many of my friends and family. Mom and her Mother, Uncle and his Sister, Friends and Tasters, Nephews and a Boy Upstairs, and too many more to mention were all born in the 8th month. You might, also, recall, that Mom loved ice cream and to commemorate her birthday, I normally post ice cream recipes in August. Note the word “normally.”

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Tart Cherry Frozen Yogurt

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This year I though I would switch things up a bit. You see, about 20 years ago, I bought a fancy schmancy gelato maker and it broke long before the investment paid for itself in tasty frozen treats. Its recipe book survived, however, and one day I made a batch of “frozen yogurt.” Everyone loved it and marveled at the creaminess of this low-fat dessert. The only problem was that, just like the old Seinfeld episode, it wasn’t at all low-fat. There was just as much heavy cream in it as I use in normal ice cream. Yes, there was a little yogurt in the mix but nowhere near enough to justify it being called “frozen yogurt,” let alone “low-fat.” That was about 7 years ago and I’ve never attempted to make frozen yogurt again — until now.

With Birthday Month already underway, I turned to another recipe book for inspiration. I soon found it in the form of a tart cherry frozen yogurt. You see, on my return home following my last visit with Zia, I stopped at a farm and purchased 20 pounds of frozen, pitted tart cherries. (You may be interested to learn that Michigan produces as much as 70% of our country’s tart cherries.) Once home, I delivered some to a neighbor and the rest of the tarts are sitting pretty in my freezer.

So, with recipe and cherries in hand, I made my first batch of frozen yogurt. Unfortunately, it wasn’t at all what I had expected. Sure, the flavor was outstanding but its texture was very much like a sorbet rather than a creamy, frosted confection. Worse, I had doubled the recipe and now had 6 cups (1400 ml) of the stuff to eat — and eat it I did. Waste a frozen dessert in Mom’s Birthday Month? Never! Convinced I had made a mistake — not at all an uncommon occurrence in my kitchen — I tried it again, though this time I made a single batch. The result was the same and I had another 3 cups of frozen yogurt/sorbet to eat.  All the while, Birthday Month marched on.

Last week, having eaten 9 cups of the stuff during what had to have been the coolest August on record, I decided to try again. This time, I put aside the recipe book and borrowed a page from the old gelato maker’s recipes. I added heavy cream. That’s right, heavy cream and I played around with the other ingredient amounts, as well. The result? A frozen yogurt with a texture far closer to ice cream than sorbet and a tart cherry flavor that is oh, so very good. Not only that but since I made this dessert, Summer has returned and our temperatures have soared at least 10˚ F above normal for this time of year. Message received, Mom.

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Tart Cherries - 1

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In retrospect, I think the poor texture was due to the amount of liquid contained in the bags of frozen cherries. I bet if I had drained much of the liquid, the texture probably would have been less icy. It may have, also, been less flavorful. I guess the World will have to wait for the answer because I don’t think I’ll be making tart cherry yogurt again for quite some time — well, at least until next August, anyway.

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Tart Cherry Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (455 g) of tart cherries, pitted
  • 2/3 cup (135 g) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • a few drops almond extract
  • 1 cups (245 g) whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 4 oz (118 ml) heavy cream — the more the merrier

Directions

yield: a little less than 1 quart

  1. Place cherries and sugar in a medium sauce pan over med-high heat. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature.
  3. Add the almond extract and place the cherries and juice into a food processor or blender. Process until smooth.
  4. Place mixture in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  5. Once fully chilled, stir to combine the cherries, heavy cream, and Greek yogurt.
  6. Add the mixture to your ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  7. Serve or freeze until the yogurt is frozen to your satisfaction.

Originally inspired by David Lebovitz, “The Perfect Scoop”

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To make the chocolate sauce:

Melt 4 oz (110 g) in the top of a double boiler. Once melted, add 2 oz (60 ml) warmed heavy cream, a pinch of salt, and mix to combine. Take the chocolate off of the heat and add an 1/8 tsp of vanilla. Stir and serve.

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Variations

While I was in the throes of trying to eat all of this sorbet masquerading as yogurt, Sally, creator of the enchanting Bewitching Kitchen blog, posted a recipe for blackberry-cherry yogurt, In it, she used banana to smooth the texture. Not heavy cream but banana! I had intended to follow her lead but Birthday Month was coming to an end faster than was my supply of substandard frozen yogurt. Not only that but there was heavy cream in the fridge but no bananas on the counter. I will, however, keep her “solution” in mind the next time I attempt to freeze yogurt.

Notes

Nothing goes better together than cherries and almonds. Even so, too much almond extract will totally overpower the tart cherry flavor. Use almond extract sparingly, tasting as you go.

This recipe will yield just under a quart of frozen yogurt. Let’s face it, one scant quart of any frozen dessert is hardly worth the effort to make it. Double the recipe and be happy.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Nothing says "Happy Birthday!" like una bomba!

Nothing says “Happy Birthday!” like una bomba!

If we’re going to take a look back at the end of a frozen dessert post, there really is only one post deserving of mention, especially in August. For today’s blast from the past, I’m going to send you to the granddaddy ice cream post of them all. Yes, it’s the Spumoni Bomba. With layers of cherry, pistachio, and chocolate ice creams, this is one frozen treat your guests will never forget. All you need do is click HERE for the frosty details.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Pupster Peanut Butter

Pupster Peanut Butter

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This Plum Cobbler is Magical!

You may recall that I shared a peach cobbler recipe a few weeks ago. Somewhere along the line, I mentioned having another recipe for cobbler, one where the topping starts in the bottom of the baking dish but rises to the occasion during baking, giving you a perfectly formed topping to the rich fruit/berry filling. How can this be?

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Do you believe in magic?

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I’ve made this cobbler more than a few times over the years. Peaches, plums, strawberries you name it, I’ve used them all. It’s an easy recipe, a fast recipe, and one that is sure to please everyone at your table. Just bear in mind that the topping of this cobbler, unlike the peach cobbler recipe I shared HERE, is more cake-like than biscuit. I happen to like them both and now you’ll have a choice.

The recipe is as easy as 1, 2, 3 …

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Melt Butter in Baking Dish

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Add Batter – Do Not Mix

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Add Par-Cooked Filling – Do Not Mix

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Bake while singing “Abracadabra!” and … Ecco!

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Plum Cobbler Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup all-purpose (AP) flour
  • 2 cups sugar – divided
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 cups plums, pitted and chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ground cinnamon and/or nutmeg, to taste (optional)

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 F (190 C).
  2. Pour melted butter into a 9 x 13 x 3″ baking dish.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, with salt and mix well.
  4. Add the milk, mixing until just combined. Pour this batter into the baking dish containing the melted butter. Do NOT mix.
  5. In a medium saucepan, combine the plums, lemon juice, with  remaining cup of sugar and bring to a boil over med-high heat. Stir constantly. Remove from heat and add optional cinnamon and/or nutmeg.
  6. Carefully pour the plum mixture into the baking dish. Do NOT mix.
  7. Bake on a baking sheet in the center of a pre-heated oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Alternately, you can forget to set a timer and eventually find a cobbler in your oven resembling the one in the final picture above
  8. May be served warm or cold, garnished with ice cream or whipping cream.

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Variations

As mentioned, you can use whatever fruit or berry that you like for the filling. I’ve never used a thickening agent, like flour or cornstarch, for fear of it affecting the cake’s formation magic.

Although the recipe lists cinnamon and nutmeg as optional, I rarely use them. I find that they can easily overpower a dessert, so, I use them sparingly in my cobblers, if at all.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Today’s Blast from the Pasta, Spaghetti Aglio e Olio, is probably the most versatile of all pasta recipes. Prepared as written and you’ll be enjoying a delicious pasta dinner within minutes but that’s only part of the story. Saute some vegetables and you’ll have a great pasta primavera. Add some clams with a touch of white wine and you’ve got the classic pasta con vongole. The choices are endless and I prepare this dish, in one form or another, just about once a week. You can see the recipe by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Branzino al Cartoccio

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An Update

Although I’m the proud owner of some new, fancy schmancy equipment, I am still without a DSL. I have been promised, however, that service will be restored, better than ever, sometime this evening — and companies, especially very big companies, never ever lie.

Thanks for your comments and well-wishes.

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