Follow/Be a Fan

Follow

Honeymoon Ravioli

Nutella Bread for Dessert or for Breakfast!

 

Learn to Make Fresh Pasta (with a video!)

Easy Italian Pulled Pork

I love to sew - come on over and see what I'm making!

Make Homemade Limoncello

 

Harvest Grape Bread

Tips for Homemade Marinara Sauce

Breakfast Fruit Walkaway is a family favorite

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Love knitting? Come read my knitting blog, Italian Dish Knits.

A Delicious Vegetarian Dish: Pasta alla Norma

Eating Our Way Through the Amalfi Coast

My Camera Bag that does not look like a Camera Bag!

Make Whipped Cream Firm

My Favorite Chocolate Cake Recipe

SUBSCRIBE for free and never miss a post:

 

 

or Use Key Words to Search this Site

Italian Easter Bread

Cacio e Pepe

Lemon Cake from Capri

Thoughts About Making Espresso

 Thanks, Mom!

 

Learn to Make Arancini

 

Bucatini all' Amatraciana

Learn How to Make Artisan Bread with no Kneading for Pennies

 

Strawberry Cheesecake Parfaits Require No Baking

Make Pie Dough in 60 Seconds!

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

 

Spicy Bucatini all'Amatriciana - a Roman Classic

My Mom's Pork Chops

Chocolate Panna Cotta

 


My Five Inexpensive Kitchen Essentials

Beet Ravioli with Goat Cheese

Wednesday
Aug272008

Daring Bakers - Chocolate Eclairs


It's time for the Daring Baker's Challenge! I recently joined this incredible group of food bloggers who challenge themselves to create the same recipe every month. It's a group that was formed by Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice. This group has grown to over a thousand members! We all make the same recipe each month, which is kept a secret, and then at the end of the month, on the same day, we all post our creations. It's interesting to see the differences in all the dishes, even though they are the same recipe.


This month's hosts are Tony Tahhan and Meetka of What's For Lunch, Honey? in Germany. They have chosen the recipe of Chocolate Eclairs from the book by the world renowned pastry chef, Pierre Herme called "Chocolate Desserts", written by Dorie Greenspan. I was relieved to see this as the baking challenge because for eclairs you need to make pâte a choux dough, which I have made many times before, using Julia Child's recipe. I was interested to see how Pierre Herme's recipe would differ. It was a little different with the ingredients, but the technique was exactly the same. Pate a choux dough is very easy to make. Don't be afraid to try it! I usually make the dough into round cream puffs , bake, split in half and fill with ice cream and drizzle chocolate sauce all over. Easy. This recipe is much more complicated to make the eclairs with the filling and the glaze, but the dough is still very easy.

Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé

 

Recipe from "Chocolate Desserts" by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• Choux Pastry Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

Instructions:

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.


Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.
The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

 

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.

Notes:
1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40 degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.

Notes:
1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

for the Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough

Ingredients:
• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

 

Instructions:

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

Notes:
1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

for the Chocolate Pastry Cream

Ingredients:
• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

 

Instructions:

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

Notes:
1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

for the Chocolate Glaze


(makes 1 cup or 300g)
Ingredients:

 

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

Instructions:

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

Notes:
1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

for the Chocolate Sauce
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

Ingredients:

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

Instructions:

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

Notes:
1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.


 

Monday
Aug112008

Pasta Puttanesca

This pasta is a great dish when you don't know what to make for dinner, you don't have anything defrosted and you want something that can be made from ingredients right out of your pantry. Well, I can make it on any given day with what I have in my pantry, which always contains canned tomatoes, capers, anchovies and olives - and your pantry should always have these items, too. They add great flavor to many dishes.  And don't be afraid of the anchovies - remember my post about using anchovies - they just add a depth of flavor to the dish that you will not get without them.

If you're wondering what the name "puttanesca" means, we'll get that right out of the way. It means whore. There. This is "pasta, whore style". How this dish got this name is unknown - there are many stories about that. Mostly having to do with prostitutes in Naples. But no matter. It's quick, easy, salty and spicy and we love it.

The proper pasta to use in this dish is spaghetti, but of course you can use whatever you want. I want to take this opportunity to talk about how to cook pasta properly. Many people do not know what a proper "al dente" texture for pasta is. If you have been to Italy, you know how the Italians cook their pasta. If you have not, I want to show you what that texture is. So the next time you are making spaghetti, I want you to buy Barilla brand thin spaghetti. Bring the water to a boil and add the spaghetti. When the water returns to the boil, time the spaghetti to cook for exactly three and a half minutes. That's it. I don't care what the box says - I think they write those instructions for the American market. Toss the spaghetti thoroughly with your sauce. The spaghetti continues to cook for a little bit after you take it out of the pot - something people do not take into consideration. Now you have perfectly cooked al dente pasta. This will probably be a new taste for you, since even good Italian restaurants in this country can't seem to cook pasta properly.

 

Pasta Puttanesca 

 

for printer friendly recipe, click here

Ingredients:

  •  2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large pinches of red hot chili pepper (or to your taste)
  • 6-8 anchovies
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • about 3 cups of whole peeled canned tomatoes
  • 3 Tablespoons olives, sliced
  • 3 Tablespoons capers, rinsed (packed in salt, not vinegar!)
  • 1 pound thin spaghetti


Instructions:

Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil.

In a skillet over medium heat, add garlic, chili pepper and anchovies to the olive oil. Cook, stirring, until the anchovies melt and dissolve. Do not burn garlic. Add the tomatoes with their juices and break up the tomatoes with a spoon (I use my hands and squish them!). Let this cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes at just a simmer. Add the olives and capers. Turn off the heat under the sauce.

If you are using Barilla thin spaghetti, take the spaghetti out with tongs (don't drain) after boiling for exactly three and a half minutes and put the spaghetti right into the skillet. Toss well with the sauce. Add a little pasta water if sauce is too thick. Serve immediately.

 

Saturday
Aug022008

Italian Party Flank Steak


Today I just finished reading Michael Ruhlman's book "The Soul of a Chef" and I had to laugh when I thought about last week's post, which addressed the habit of American restaurants undercooking vegetables. That exact topic popped up a couple of times in the book. Ruhlman was taught at the Culinary Institute of America that undercooking vegetables, especially green vegetables, was a no-no. And Thomas Keller talks about how to perfectly cook vegetables. It's a great read and has a lot of great behind the scenes stuff at The French Laundry, which was just fascinating to read.

This dish I am posting is an outstanding summer recipe because it's absolutely fantastic on the grill. It's a butterflied flank steak that is marinated and then stuffed with prosciutto, basil, peppers and Parmesan cheese. It's a great recipe, too, for a party because you can butterfly the steak and fill it and tie it way ahead of time and just keep it in the fridge until you're ready to throw it on the grill. And it is so delicious!

Italian Party Flank Steak

 

for a printer friendly recipe, click here.

Ingredients:

 for the Marinade:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper ( I use Montreal Steak Seasoning)
  • 1 flank steak, butterflied

for the stuffing:

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 6-8 thin slices of prosciutto
  • a couple dozen fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

 

Instructions:

to butterfly a flank steak:


Run a sharp knife through the middle thickness of the meat, leaving about 1/2 inch at the long end to make a "hinge." Flip meat open to resemble a butterfly. Place plastic wrap over meat. Lightly pound flat.

Combine marinade ingredients in a gallon size ziploc bag and add butterflied steak and let it marinate for 2 hours at room temperature.

Preheat broiler. Halve peppers lengthwise; remove seeds. Place, skin-side up on foil lined sheet. Broil until skins are charred black.

Put peppers in a paper or plastic bag for about 10 minutes to steam. Slip off skins.

After 2 hours, remove steak from marinade . Lay meat opened on a long piece of aluminm foil on a flat surface. Reserve marinade.

Place the 4 pepper halves on top of steak to cover it. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoon of parsley. Cover with prosciutto slices. Arrange basil leaves in a single layer over complete surface of prosciutto. Sprinkle the surface with grated Parmesan, a little salt and black pepper.

With the long side of the layered steak facing you, lift it from the foil and roll it tightly away from you. (I did it without the foil but if you have never done this before, the foil helps you along.) It should look like a jelly roll.

Tie the roll with kitchen string.

Grill the steak for about 15-20 minutes, depending on how you like the steak, turning every few minutes and basting with the reserved marinade.

Let steak sit for a few minutes before cutting off string and slicing.