Thursday, 27 October 2011

Povitica - Daring Bakers

Light travels at its own speed, and can therefore choose when to arrive. That morning it had decided that it would be quite lazy – it was Sunday, after all; and even light needs a bit of time off sometimes. So it happened that when Divine Cherry awoke, the world was still shrouded in darkness. Naturally, that may have been due to the early hour at which she awoke, but mainly it was caused by the light's unwillingness to get out of bed. It felt rebellious at core, that day. Exactly how light can even conceive of the idea of rebelling against anything is a different matter altogether, and is incidentally quite minutely recorded in the bestseller Helios - An Auto-biopsy.
Be that as it may, Divine Cherry rose in darkness. But with darkness come nightmares as well. And there's nothing better than waking nightmares, for they carry in them the single most minuscule molecule in all the universes: ideas. (Named after the long-dead scientist I. D. Endasoup who discovered it at the bottom of his bowl).
Although it is still unknown what Divine Cherry's benign nightmare actually was, we can be certain that it contained dough, nuts, cocoa, dates and the willingness to spend hours on end preparing the most outrageously delicious thing ever: the povitica.
Here is what the world still remembers of that light-slow day:

The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

Ingredients (for 2 cakes)

Yeast activation: 

- a teaspoon of sugar
- ½ teaspoon flour
- 60 ml warm water
- 1 package dry yeast

- 240 ml milk 
- 85 g sugar 
- 1 and ½ teaspoon salt 
- 2 large eggs
- 60 g unsalted butter, melted
- 560g flour

Walnut filling (traditional filling): 

- 280 g coarsely chopped walnuts 
- 60 ml milk
- 58 g butter
- 1 large 
- ½ packet of vanillin
- 115 g sugar
- ½teaspoon of cocoa 
- 1 pinch of cinnamon powder

Cocoa and dates Filling:
- 270 g dates
- 130 g nuts 
- 1 large egg
- 80 ml milk
- 50 g butter
- 115 g sugar
- ½ packet of vanillin
- 3 teaspoons cocoa

Activate yeast

Put sugar, flour, and the dry yeast in a small bowl. Pour over the warm water and let rest for 5 minutes, until bubbles are formed on the surface.


Put the milk in a bowl and heat in the microwave (it must not boil!). Mix in a large bowl the hot milk, sugar and salt. Add the beaten eggs, the yeast mixture and a quarter of the flour. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon (in planetary low speed K hook). Add the flour gradually. You probably do not need to add all the flour. Stop adding it when the mixture is smooth but still a bit sticky (not liquid but of a certain consistency).
Knead the mass on a floured surface (in the planetary with the kneading hook) , add flour as you knead, but do not overdo it, just enough to work the dough. Do not add more flour than the quantity in the indicated recipe.
Divide the dough into two equal parts and place them in two slightly greased bowls. Let rise until doubled (2 hours). Prepare the filling in the meantime.

1. Streched dough

Finely chop the dry fruits with a knife. Mix sugar, chopped dates and nuts, vanilla and cocoa in a big bowl. Heat the milk with the butter in a soucepan. When boiling, pour the milk over the dry ingredients into the bowl. Stir and add the beaten egg. The filling should have the consistency of heavy honey.

Form the Povitica and cook
When the dough is ready, place it on a floured tablecloth (you will need space, it's better to work on a table for 6 people).  
2. Filling spread on the dough
With a rolling pin, start pulling the dough from the center. Continue to stretch the dough with your hands. It needs to be so thin that you can see through it (photo 1).
Constantly lift the dough off the table to make sure that it does not stick (that is also why it is better to work on a tablecloth).
 The mixture should now be a large thin rectangle: pour over the filling and spread evenly over the entire surface (photo 2).

Roll the dough and as you roll up, wipe the flour off. Put the roll, folding it on itself, in a cake mould (photo 3).

Let it rest for 15 minutes, no more.

3. Rolling the Povitica
Bake in hot oven (180°C) for 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 150°C and cook 45 minutes or until golden brown and cooked.

Note: The passage of pulling the dough seems complicated, but it is not: the dough is easy to work with, and does not oppose resistance if you did not add too much flour before.

Ricetta in Italiano

Povitica (dosi per 2 dolci)

Attivazione lievito:
-un cucchiaino di zucchero
-½ cucchiaino farina
-60 ml acqua tiepida
-1 bustina lievito secco

-240 ml latte
-85 g zucchero
-1 e ½ cucchiaino sale
-2 uova grandi
-60 g burro non salato sciolto
-560g farina 

Ripieno alle noci (ripieno tradizionale)
-280 g noci tritate grossolanamente
-60 ml latte
-58 g burro
-1 tuorlo (uovo taglia L)
-½ bustina di vanillina
-115 g zucchero
-1 punta di cacao
-1 punta di cannella in polvere 

Ripieno al cacao e datteri
-270 g datteri
-130 g noci
-1 uovo grande
-80 ml latte
-50 g burro
-115 g zucchero
-½ bustina di vanillina
-3 cucchiaini da caffe’ di cacao

Attivazione lievito
In una ciotolina mettere lo zucchero, la farina,e il lievito, versare l’acque tiepida sopra e far riposare per 5 minuti circa, finche si formeranno delle bollicine in superficie.

Mettere il latte in una ciotola e scaldarlo in micronde (non deve bollire!). Mescolare in una grande ciotola il latte caldo, lo zucchero e il sale. Aggiungere le uova precedentemente sbattute, il miscuglio con il lievito e un quarto della farina. Amalgamare bene il tutto con un cucchiaio di legno ( in planetaria, gancio K bassa velocita’).Aggiungere pian piano la farina. Probabailmente non vi servira’ tutta la farina, fermatevi quando il composto e’ liscio ma ancora un po’ appiccicoso  (non liquido ma con una certa consistanza).
Impastate la massa (gancio a uncino in planetaria) sbattendola e staccandola dal ripiano infarinato  aiutandovi con una spatola se necessario, aggiungete farina man mano che impastate ma non esagerate, solo il necessario per lavorare l’impasto. Non aggiungere comunque piu’ farina di quella indicata nella ricetta.
Dividere l’impasto in due parti uguali e riporli in due ciotole leggermente unte. Lasciate lievitare fino al raddoppio (2 ore circa).
Preprate nel frattempo il ripieno.

Procedimento per il ripieno
1. Streched dough
Tritare al coltello abbastanza finemente la frutta secca. In una ciotola mescolare zucchero, datteri e noci tritate, vanillina e cacao. A parte scaldare il latte con il burro, quando bolle, versarlo nella ciotola sopra agli ingredienti secchi. Mescolare e aggiungere l’uovo, il ripieno deve avere la consistenza di miele pesante.

Formazione  e cottura dolce
2. Filling spread on the dough
Quando l’impasto e’ lievitato, appoggiarlo su una tovaglia infarinata (servira’ spazio, meglio lavorare su un tavolo da 6 persone).  Con un mattarello iniziare a tirare la pasta cominciando dal centro. Continuare a tirare la pasta aiutandosi con le mani. Dovra’ risultare cosi sottile da poterci vedere attraverso (foto1). Sollevare continuamente la pasta dal tavolo in modo da assicurarsi che non si appiccichi (per questo e’ meglio lavorare su una tovaglia).

L’impasto ora e’ un grande sottile rettangolo: versare il ripieno sopra e spalmarlo uniformemente su tutta la superficie (foto 2).

3. Rolling the Povitica
Arrotolare l’impasto, mentre lo si arrotola, pulirlo dalla farina(foto 3). Adagiare il salsicciotto, ripiegandolo su se stesso, in una teglia da plum cake o rotonda .
Lasciarlo riposare 15 minuti, non di piu’.
Infornare a forno caldo (180C) per 15 minuti, abbassare la temperatura a 150 C e portare a cottura in 45 minuti o finche’ e’ cotto.

 NB: Il passaggio della stiratura sembra complicato, ma non lo e’: la pasta e’ facilmente lavorabile e non opporra’ resistenza se non avete aggiunto troppa farina prima.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Profiteroles aux Pistaches

Drip, drop. Drip, drop. The lonely rain on the low rooftops hammered on. Drip, drop. Drip, drop. Divine Cherry was sitting in her kitchen. She was reading. Drip, drop, went the rain on the windowpane. Drip, drop. Small Perfect Cloud, immobile and silent, watched the fleeting tears of heaven slide down the glass. Drip, drop.
'Remember when you were young?' asked Celestial Dragon from behind her. 'You shone like the sun.'
Divine Cherry woke up from her rêverie. She looked Celestial Dragon in the eyes.
'Remember when you melted the sun? We were still young,' she said. Small Perfect Cloud lifted its head.
Aeons ago, Celestial Dragon had melted the sun around a cloud and thus created the first chou – or at least, the idea of the chou. Small Perfect Cloud opened its eyes. Now, on this rainy day, Divine Cherry recalled it for the first time. The world had been greener back then. The sky was green, the clouds were green, all the flowers were green, the water was green. It must be said, however, that back then not every colour was born yet. Small Perfect Cloud got up. Most of the colours still lay dormant in the rainbow. That hadn't fully shown itself either yet. But green was different. It always had been. Divine Cherry got up and had a look at her cupboard. Contrary to popular belief, and despite of what those funky ancient Greeks thought, Hope didn't leave Pandora's box last. And it wasn't even Curiosity that drove her to open the box in the first place either. It was Hope itself. The world was green, back then, the colour of Hope. Hope was everything. And Pandora had hoped that there'd be something else in the box: she had never liked green.
Divine Cherry found a stash of pistachios. Small Perfect Cloud started walking towards the door.
'I'm hoping for the sun,' said Divine Cherry to no one in particular (except maybe for the window who, in cowardly surprise, started urging the raindrops on it to slide down faster). 'And I've therefore decided to make Profitéroles aux Pistaches.'
This is how she did it:

Profitéroles aux Pistaches
Ingredients for puffs (quantities and recipe taken from Stefania)
makes 36 choux
-74ml of water
-10ml of milk
-66gr of butter (unsalted)
-70gr of flour
-2-3 medium-sized eggs
-a pinch of salt

Put the milk, water and diced butter in a pan. Melt the butter on low heat and bring it to boil. When it boils add the entire flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon in order to well mix it all. The dough will naturally form a ball. Continue stirring the mixture on the heat for 3-4mins to let it dry a little.
Transfer the dough into a large bowl. Now add the eggs one by one, making sure to have well incorporated one egg before adding the next. You will know it will be ready when the mixture will be shiny and fall off the spoon in long drips. Stop adding eggs at this point. (A piece of advice: crack the eggs in a small bowl beforehand and beat them lightly with a fork. That way you will be able to add exactly as much as you need).
Now put the mixture into a piping bag and, on a greased baking tray, form many small mounds - well apart from each other. Smooth the tops of the piles with humid fingers. (If they're not humid, your finger will stick to the dough. Unpleasant). Put them in a preheated oven at 200°C. After the first 15mins I opened the oven to let out the steam, but also turned the trays and quickly closed the oven door again. However, do not open the oven door before at least 15mins have passed. The choux will be ready when they'll be golden brown on the surface. You need to cook them well or they will deflate easily.
Once they have cooled down, you may even freeze them before actually using them. To defrost, put them still frozen in a preheated oven at 220°C for 3-4mins.

Ingredients for filling
for 12 choux
-250g of crème patissière (see here)
-45g of pistachio paste

Add the pistachio paste to the crème patissière when the latter is still in the pan in order to melt it properly.

Ingredients for pistachio paste
-50g of pistachios
-25g of icing sugar
-12.5g of ground almonds

Put the pistachios in a large bowl. Pour over boiling water (100°C) and leave them immersed for 5mins. Doing so will facilitate the peeling: the skin will come off very easily. Dry the pistachios well and chop them finely in a blender. Transfer the chopped pistachios in a bowl, add the remaining ingredients and stir with a spoon. Add a few drops of water in order to give a bit more consistency to the paste. Form a ball, cover with cling film and store in the fridge.

Ingredients for frosting (Pierre Herme)
-100g of white chocolate
-25g of single cream
-22.5g of pistachio paste

Heat the cream and add the pistachio paste, stirring with a spoon in order to dissolve them well. In a bowl, finely chop the chocolate, pour over the pistachio-cream mixture and stir well.

Final Steps
Place the flavoured crème patissière in a piping bag. Pierce a small hole at the back of the choux and fill them with the cream. Then plunge them quickly, head first, into to frosting and let them subsequently cool in the fridge so as to dry and solidify the frosting.

Ricetta in Italiano
Profitéroles aux Pistaches
Ingredienti per i bignè (dosi e ricetta addattati da Stefania)
per 36 piccoli bignè

-74ml di acqua
-10ml di latte
-66gr di burro
-70gr di farina
-2-3 uova medie
-Un pizzico di sale

In un pentolino mettere l’acqua, il latte e il burro a tocchetti. A fuoco basso far sciogliere il burro e portare il tutto a ebollizione. Quando bolle aggiungere la farina in una volta sola e mescolare con un cucchiaio di legno per far amalgamare il tutto. L’impasto formerà naturalmente una palla. Continuare a girare l’ammasso sul fuoco per 3-4 minuti in modo da farlo asciugare un pò.
Trasferire l’impasto in una ciotola capiente. Agiungere le uova una ad una e assicurarsi di aver ben incorporato l’uovo precedente prima di aggiungere il successivo. Quando l’impasto risulterà lucido e ricadrà dal cucchiaio formando lunghe punte è pronto ed è il momento di fermarsi dall’aggiungere altre uova. Consiglio di rompere le uova in una ciotolina a parte e sbatterle leggermente con una forchetta, in modo da poter aggiungere anche solo mezzo uovo per volta se necessario.

Mettere l’impasto in una sac  a poche e formare tanti piccoli mucchietti ben distanziati su una teglia imburrata, con le mani umide arrotondare la cima dei mucchietti. Infornare a forno caldo (200°C).  Dopo il primo quarto d’ora ho aperto lo sportello per far uscire il vapore, ho girato le teglie e richiuso. Non aprire lo sportello prime che siano trascorsi almeno 15 minuti. I bignè sono pronti quando saranno ben dorati in superficie. Bisogna cuocerli bene o si sgonfieranno facilemente.
Una volta raffreddati si possono congelare fino al momento di utilizzarli. Vanno messi in forno caldo (220°C) ancora congelati per 3-4 minuti.

Ingredienti per farcitura 
per 12 bignè
-250g di crema pasticcera (ricetta in quest'altro post)
-45g di pasta di pistacchio

Aggiungere la pasta di pistacchio quando la crema e’ ancora sul fuoco in modo da scioglierla bene.

Pasta di pistacchio (100g)
-50g di pistacchi sgusciati
-25g di zucchero a velo
-12.5g di mandorle in povere

Mettere i pistacchi in una ciotola capiente. Versarci sopra dell’acqua bollente (100°C), lasciare i pistacchi immersi 5 minuti. In questo modo la sottile buccia verrà via molto facilmente, semplicemente passando i pistacchi tra le dita. Asciugare bene i pistacchi e tritarli molto finemente in un mixer. Trasferire i pistacchi tritati in una ciotola, aggiungere gli altri ingredienti e mescolare con un cucchiaio. Aggiungere poche gocce d’acqua in modo da dare consistenza alla pasta. Formare una palla e riporla in frigo coperta da pellicola.

Ingredienti per glassa (Pierre Herme)
-100g di cioccolato bianco
-25g di panna
-22.5g di pasta di pistacchio.

Scaldare la panna e aggiungerci la pasta di pistacchio, scioglierla bene girando con un cucchiaio. In una ciotola, spezzettare finemente il cioccolato, versarci sopra la panna bollente e mescolare.

Mettere la crema pasticcera aromatizzata in una sac a posche, formare dei buchini sul retro dei bignè e farcirli con la crema. Tuffarli rapidamente nella glassa e farli raffreddare in frigo in modo da asciugare la glassa.

And Spread the Mess

Thursday, 13 October 2011


"Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this son of yolk", as Shakespeare did not quite write. But discontent was indeed in Divine Cherry's heart, and eggs were truly in her hands. Her dissatisfaction came from Small Perfect Cloud's newfound habit of chewing and gnawing at the herbs she and Celestial Dragon had planted earlier that century – not unlike a mouse, which is odd for a cat. And the eggs in her hands came from the supermarket. So there she was. What to do, what to do? It so happened that Divine Cherry was curious to try something new. It also so happened that Celestial Dragon had recently brought form one of his innumerable travels a small and quite delicious delicacy he claimed was called "small ovens". Figures.
But as Desire is Despair's twin, and Delight its younger sister, Divine Cherry took her discontent and her eggs and set about to transform them, to transmute them, to transcend them even by replicating one of the loveliest "small ovens" (or petit fours in French) of all times: the Visitandines. It was exactly what she needed: their softness appealed to her; their sweetness gladdened her spirit; their fluffiness warmed the cockles of her heart; and their sheer deliciousness induced in her imagination such a forceful ecstasy that she could refrain herself no more. She therefore produced forth her trusty grimoire and set about to prepare these petit fours (which were later also used to perfume the palace).
This is how she did it:

Visitandines (recipe taken from "Le Larousse des Desserts" by Pierre Hermé)
-4 egg whites (from medium-sized eggs)
-40g of flour
-185g of butter
-125g of granulated sugar
-125g of almond flour (or extremely finely grounded almonds)

Preheat the oven at 200°C. Put 3 egg whites in a bowl and whisk them to snow – but not too firm. Leave the remaining egg white in the fridge. Mix the sugar with the ground almonds, then add the flour and the 3 beaten whites. Incorporate the (previously) molten butter. Now vigorously whip the last egg white to firm snow and add it carefully to the mixture.

Grease 12 muffin moulds (or 6 normal muffin moulds and 12 mini-muffin moulds in order to get smaller visitandines like the ones shown in the picture) with butter, fill them with the mixture and put them in the oven for 8-10mins. You know they're ready when they're golden on the outside and still soft on the inside.

Ricetta in italiano:
Visitandines  (Ricetta tratta da "Le Larousse des Desserts" di Pierre Hermé)
-4 albumi (uova medie)
-40g farina
-185g burro
-125g zucchero semolato
-125g farina di mandorle

Accendere il forno a 220° C. Mettere in una ciotola 3 albumi e sbatterli senza montarli completamente. Lasciare l'altro albume in frigorifero. Mescolare lo zucchero con le mandorle ridotte in polvere, aggiungere la farina e i 3 albumi sbattuti. Incorporare il burro fuso aglia altri ingredienti. A parte montare a neve molto ferma l'albume rimasto e aggiungerlo con delicatezza al composto.

Imburrare 12 stampini da muffin (o 6 da muffin e 12 da mini-muffin per avere delle tortine piu' piccole come ho fatto io), versare il composto e infornare per 8-10 minuti, finche' risulteranno dorati all'esterno e ancora morbidi all'interno.

And Spread the Mess

Monday, 10 October 2011

Aubergine boats

The world was afloat. Heavy clouds hung low on the horizon, and grey waters splashed the sidewalks. The tall buildings of tomorrow had fallen already. Distant ships fought against rising waves, and a dimmed sun glowed coldly in the ashen sky. It was dreadful. It was horrible. It was a nightmare. Celestial Dragon woke up with a start. Panicked and sweating, he looked blankly at the ceiling. Divine Cherry was still sleeping. Celestial Dragon looked at her in the twilight of the early hours. She was beautiful; divine, really. 'No kidding,' he thought. Soon after Divine Cherry woke up as well.
'I've had a dream,' she said.
'Well all have,' Celestial Dragon replied.
'Maybe, but mine was made of aubergine.'
Celestial Dragon left it at that.
Six hours later, when Celestial Dragon returned to his palace, he found Divine Cherry at the grips with a just-out-of-the oven boat-like aubergine. And he saw that it was good. And when they sat down to partake of the meal Divine Cherry had laid out for them, he knew that it was very good.
'How did you do it?' asked Celestial Dragon in wonder.
And this is what Divine Cherry replied:

'First, I cut the two aubergines in half and carved them, grid-like. However, I made sure to leave about half a centimetre around the rim intact. I then, with a spoon, gauged out the inside of the aubergines, which, due to the cuts I had made previously, fell out in cute little cubes. Again, however, I made sure to leave about half a cm of flesh on the bottom of my little veggie-bowl. I then salted the aubergines, sprayed them with a bit of olive oil and put them in the preheated oven at 200°C for 20mins. Another way of doing it, if for some reasons one would have trouble with the number "20", would be to leave them in the oven until the flesh on the inside of aubergine is well cooked.
While the veggie-boats – and aren't they cute? – were roasting in the oven, I chopped half an onion and lightly fried it in a pan with some olive oil. You know, standard procedure. I also cut the carrot and the celery stick, but not too small, for I wanted for you to be able to taste them at the end. I then added everything to the slowly simmering onions and lightly fried them as well. I also added a bit of water when I saw that they were kind of drying out. Anyway, once they were nearly done, I added the scooped out aubergine flesh as well as the olives I had already cut. In another pan, I prepared the tomato sauce. Do you remember that dish you made, long ago, where you added a bit of vegetable stock to the milk? Well I used that one, I hope you don't mind. I put the tomato sauce to simmer with a bit of oil and added a bit of warm milk with a fragment of melted stock as well. Now once the vegetables were good and done, I simply added the tomato sauce in there and stirred well.
By now, the veggie-boats were ready as well. The next step should be obvious. Yes, I filled them with the vegetables-in-tomato-sauce. I then generously sprinkled the cheese on top of them and shoved them in the oven for another 15mins, et voilà. I hope you like it.'

Celestial Dragon nodded in sincere approval. He was sure that no nightmare would come to haunt his dreams that night. He looked at his plate, lifted his fork, observed it, and smiled at Divine Cherry.

Ingredients (serves 2):
-2 aubergines
-half a carrot
-half a stick of celery
-half an onion
-a glass of tomato sauce (to which you add a tbsp of milk with vegetable stock)
-10 green olives
-a generous helping of Parmigiano
-a piece of mild Cheddar (or any easily melting cheese with not too strong a flavour)

See above for the recipe.

Ricetta in italiano
Per 2 persone
-2 melanzane
-Mezza carota
-Mezza costa di sedano
-Mezza cipolla
-Un bicchiere di sugo al pomodoro (+un cucchiaio di latte e un frammento di dado vegetale)
-10 olive verdi
-Abbondante parmigiano
-Un pezzo di cheddar (o formaggio che si fonde facilmente dal sapore non troppo forte)

Tagliare a meta’ le melanzane nel senso della lunghezza e inciderle a griglia (fare delle incisioni con il coltello in diagonale prima in un senso e poi nell’altro) . Lasciando intatto circa mezzo centrimetro intorno al bordo. Scavare la parte centrale della melanzana. La polpa a questo punto si stacchera’ gia’ a cubetti. Avere cura di lasciare uno strato di polpa di almeno mezzo centrimetro abbondante attaccata alla buccia. Salare le barchette di melanzana, cospargere un filo d’olio e infornare a forno caldo a 200°C per 20 minuti (o fino a quando la polpa sara’ ben cotta).
Nel frattempo tagliare la cipolla a fettine e metterla in una padella con un po’ d’olio. Tagliare anche le carote e il sedano a fettine sottili (ma non tritare, i pezzettini alla fine si dovranno sentire). Aggiungere queste verdure alla cipolla e portare a cottura aggiungendo anche mezza tazzina d’acqua se le verdure di dovessero asciugare troppo. Quando le altre verdure sono quasi pronte aggiungere i cubetti di melanzana e le olive tagliate a pezzetti e rosolare. A parte praparare il sugo: mescolare alla passata un cucchiaio di latte caldo in cui avrete fatto sciogliere una puntina di dado vegetale granulare (in realta’ questo sugo era una avanzo ed era gia’ preparato cosi. Poiche per la ricetta vi serve poco pomodoro, potete farne di piu’ e metterlo via o usare anche voi della salsa di pomodoro avanzata in precedenza). Quando le verdure sono cotte, aggiungere il sugo di pomodoro e ultimare la cottura.
Farcite le barchette di melanzana con la padellata. Tritare grossolanamente il formaggio e versarlo sulle barchette farcite, spolverizzare di parmigiano grattuggiato e infornare per 15 minuti finche’ il formaggio avra’ un bel colore dorato.

And Spread the Mess

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Caramel Chantilly Puffs

Imagine a garden. Imagine the gentle green hill on which there is this garden. Imagine also all the flowers, all the trees. Visualise, on the top of the hill, in the middle of the garden, a white Roman-style bench with white, soft, fluffy cushions; and next to it, facing the vastness beyond, the Venus of Milo. She's eating an apple. You can feel the sleepiness that permeates the place, the gentle lushness of the senses that fills the seconds with fragments of eternity. Visualise the birds as well – hear them singing Nessun Dorma: a very popular tune with Nightingales – and the fireflies that glow in vain in the mid-afternoon light. Picture Divine Cherry on the bench, her eyes closed, watching the sky (because she can). And picture Celestial Dragon too: he is standing next to her, a cloud in one hand, a sun in the other. Now focus your gaze on Celestial Dragon. Zoom in, closer, closer, there. See what he is doing? No? Why, he's being curious: he is trying to stuff the sun with a cloud. Or vice versa. Just to see what happens.
And then it hits him (literally). The rest of the Venus of Milo's apple has performed a high arch in the blue blue sky and has fallen on Celestial Dragon's head. Incidentally, at that very same moment, Celestial Dragon was also hit by an idea (so precise was the timing that he could later not recall what had come first: the blow or the thought). Still in that same instant, Divine Cherry opened her eyes and saw, in a flash, the ultimate truth: namely that the blow and the thought are one and the same thing. But Celestial Dragon's idea was actually a good one. In effect, he kept the cloud firmly in one hand and poured, with his other hand, liquid sun on it. He then blew on it until it solidified, and then poured the hottest sun-juice on the solid surface in order to give a bit of sheen and varnish. And that is how the idea of the Chou Au Caramel was born. The rest is just magic. And hunger.

Puffs coated with caramel and filled with Chantilly cream.

Puffs (the recipe is from Cavoletto. I write it down here without major changes):
- 150 g  plain flour
- 5-6 medium eggs
- 125 g milk
- 125 g water
- 100 g butter
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2,5 g (half teaspoon) of salt

In a saucepan, mix the milk with water. Add butter, a teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt. Bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the flour all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball. Bring on the fire again and cook a few minutes in order to dry the dough.

Transfer the cooled ball in a bowl and add one egg at a time, stirring well before adding the next egg. Continue adding eggs until the dough will fall from the wooden spoon forming long peaks. This usually happens after 4 or 5 eggs have been added (for this amount of dough).

Put the dough in a piping bag with smooth nozzle and form lumps the size of walnuts on a greased baking sheet. Use a wet finger to smooth the top of the puffs. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 200°C until the lumps are puffed and golden.

Chantilly Cream: 250g of crème patissière mixed with 85 g of whipped cream.

Crème Patissière (Recipe taken from "Le Larousse des Desserts" by Pierre Hermé)
- 2 egg yolks
- 175g milk
- 40 g sugar
- 15 g cornflour
- 1 vanilla pod
- 17g butter

In a saucepan, bring to boil the milk with the cornflour, half of the sugar and the seeds of a vanilla pod. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk in order to avoid lumps. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar for a few minutes until you obtain a pale yellow mixture. Move the milk from the heat and add the egg yolks mixture, stir and bring back on the fire. Continue cooking, stirring with a whisk until it will have thickened. Once the cream is thick enough, transfer the pan into a bowl filled with iced water so as to quickly lower the temperature. Add now the piece of butter (the cream will be warm) and stir to melt.
Transfer the cooled crème into a bowl and cover with cling film until ready to use.

- The crème should be consumed within 12 hours of making because after this time it loses flavour.
- When preparing the Chantilly cream custard, I would advice to make it denser than usual, because adding the cream liquefies it a bit.

Whipped cream:
-  85 g fresh cream

Whip the cream with electric whisks. In order for it to work, the cream, the bowl and the whisks must be very cold.
The cream should be cold from the fridge, while and the whisks and the bowl can be put in the freezer half hour before use.
I do not add sugar to the whipped cream, but in case you prefer it sweeter, add 8g of sugar when the cream is "half-whipped" and then continue beating.

Caramel and assembly:

In a saucepan, put 2 tablespoons of sugar and melt over medium-high heat without ever turning (this is very important: if you mix it, the sugar will form crystals and the caramel will be ruined).
Dip the head of the puffs rapidly in the hot caramel and place on a wire rack to cool.
Make a small hole to on the back of the puffs with a piping bag and fill them with the Chantilly cream.
The cream puffs are ready to be eaten!

- The puffs should be filled at the last minute and eaten within a few hours.
- The empty puffs can be prepared in advance and subsequently frozen. They should then be placed, still frozen, into a very hot oven (220°C) before using them.

Ricetta in italiano:

Bignè ricoperti al caramello e farciti di crema Chantilly

Bignè (ricetta tratta dal Cavoletto che riporto qui senza grosse variazioni)
- 150 g farina
-  5-6 uova medie
- 125 g latte
- 125 g acqua
- 100 g burro
- 1 cucchiaino zucchero
- 2.5 g ( mezzo cucchiaino) di sale

In un pentolino mescolare il latte con l'acqua, Aggiungere il burro, il cucchiaino di zucchero e il pizzico di sale. Portare la miscela a ebollizione. A questo punto spostare dal fuoco e aggiungere la farina in una volta sola, mescolando con un mestolo di legno finché si formerà una palla. Riportare sul fuoco e cuocere qualche minuto l'impasto per asciugarlo.
Trasferire la palla intiepidita in una ciotola capiente e aggiungere un uovo alla volta, mescolando bene con il cucchiaio di legno prima di aggiungere l'uovo successivo. Continuare ad aggiungere uova finché l'impasto non cadrà dal mestolo formando lunghe punte. Questo di solito succede dopo aver aggiunto 4 o 5 uova per questo quantitativo di impasto.
Mettere l'impasto in una sac a poche a bocchetta liscia e formare dei mucchietti grandi come noci su una teglia da forno imburrata. Con un dito inumidito di acqua arrotondare i bignè (cioè' abbassare le svirgolata sulla testa del bignè formata dalla sac a poche). Infornare a forno calco a 200°C per 10 minuti fino a quando i bignè sono gonfi e dorati.
Crema Chantilly
250g di Crema Pasticcera a cui ho mescolato 85 g di panna montata.
Crema Pasticcera  (Ricetta tratta da “Le Larousse des Dessert” di Pierre Hermé)
- 2 tuorli
- 175g di latte
- 40g zucchero
- 15g fecola
- 1 bacca di vaniglia
- 17g burro
In un pentolino mettere a scaldare il latte con la fecola, metà dello zucchero e i semini di una bacca di vaniglia. Portare a ebollizione mescolando continuamente con una frusta per evitare la formazione di grumi. A parte mescolare con una frusta a mano i tuorli con il resto dello zucchero per qualche minuto in modo da ottenere una miscela giallo pallido. Spostare il latte dal fuoco e aggiungere i tuorli con lo zucchero, mescolare e riportare sul fuoco.  Continuare la cottura senza smettere di mescolare con la frusta fino a che si sarà addensato. Una volta terminata la cottura trasferire il pentolino in un recipiente riempito di acqua ghiacciata per far abbassare velocemente la temperatura e a questo punto aggiungere il pezzetto di burro (la crema sarà tiepida) e mescolare per farlo sciogliere.
Trasferire la crema raffreddata in una ciotola e coprire con pellicola fino al momento di utilizzarla. La crema pasticcera va consumata entro 12 ore perché passato questo tempo perde di sapore.
Per fare la crema chantilly consiglio di fare una crema pasticcera più densa del solito, perché addizionando la panna diventa un pò più liquida.
Panna montata
-85 g panna fresca
Montare la panna con le fruste elettriche. Per riuscire, sia la panna che il recipiente che la contiene e le fruste devono essere molto fredde. La panna quindi dev’essere fredda da frigo e le fruste e il recipiente si possono mettere in freezer mezz'ora prima dell’utilizzo. Io per la crema chantilly non aggiungo zucchero alla panna montata ma in caso la si volesse più dolce aggiungere 8g di zucchero quando la panna è semi montata e poi continuare a sbattere.
Caramello e montaggio:
In un pentolino mettere 2 cucchiai di zucchero e farli sciogliere a fuoco medio-alto senza girare mai (questo è molto importante: se si cede alla tentazione di mescolare il caramello impazzirà formano cristalli di zucchero e  non sarà piu' utilizzabile). Tuffare rapidamente la testa dei bignè nel caramello caldo e porli su una griglia a raffreddare.
Con una sac a poche fare un buchino sul retro dei bignè e riempirli di crema Chantilly. 
I vostri bignè sono pronti!
- I bignè vanno farciti solo all'ultimo momento e mangiati entro qualche ora altrimenti si afflosciano. 
- I bignè vuoti si possono preparare in anticipo e congelare. Vanno poi messi ancora congelati in forno molto caldo (220°C) prima dell'utilizzo.

And Spread the Mess

Monday, 3 October 2011

Focaccia Pugliese

Would you look at that: Small Perfect Clouds is pacing up and down on the terrace. Nothing particularly interesting, you might say, but look closer. It is pensive, restless, but not agitated. It is calm, yet somehow disturbed. Something is the matter. It treads up and down, down and up; light-footed and light-minded. Small Perfect Cloud is at a loss. Something is missing, or something is feeling different. Somehow, Small Perfect Cloud is not itself today. And that is because it has had a dream. As any felinologist will tell you: a dreaming cat is a worried cat (especially since most cats dream of taking over the world but find it increasingly hard to actually do it due to the ever-expanding, all-encompassing Mouse Conspiracy that rules the underground). But the true reason why they're so worried is that cats' dreams are not like other, normal dreams. As opposed to most other beings, cats dream truths, not fictions and fantasies. That's the reason why they are the wisest animals in the world: after all, they sleep up to 16 hours a day; and 16 hours a day of truth will tell you quite a bit about the world. You may even discover why frogs don't fly. Or why lollipops never smell like fireworks.
But Small Perfect Cloud is not concerned with such petty, insignificant matters. Small Perfect Cloud's dream was far more profound. It namely dreamt that it was walking on something it had never seen before, and it was softer than anything it had ever touched before. Also, it smelled better than anything it had ever smelled before, and would it have been able to taste it (a cat's tastebuds are sadly really quite underdeveloped), I'm sure that it would have tasted better than -you've guessed it- anything it had ever tasted before.
'What's the matter with you today?' asked Divine Cherry. A worried look crossed her face, and then it brightened. 'Never mind. I have a surprise for you. Not long ago, Celestial Dragon gave me a recipe he found on one of his travels in the Land of Red Dirt and Dripping Olives. I'm going to make it for you. You'll feel much better, you'll see.' Of course, those were not Divine Cherry's actual words; but I think we're pretty close. Be that as it may, this is what Divine Cherry did:

First, she boiled the potatoes in unsalted water, leaving the skin on them. She then drained the potatoes, peeled them and mashed them in a large bowl with a fork. However, she didn't throw the water from the potatoes away, but kept 250g of it in which she melted a tbsp of coarse sea salt (she's adamant on this: do not try to be creative at this point, do follow the instructions). When this water has then cooled down and has become lukewarm, melt, in another glass with 60g of water in it, a tsp of yeast, as well as a tsp of sugar and a large tbsp of flour (taken from the total amount needed). Divine Cherry now had a drink and left it all to rest for 15mins. You should do the same. (Ed. A white Martini with double olive and lemon zest is particularly well-suited.)
After this wee refreshment, Divine Cherry turned her attention to the bowl in which she had previously smashed the potatoes and, following Celestial Dragon's recipe, poured the rest of the flour in it. In the middle of the bowl she then also poured the glass of water with the yeast. Then she started mixing it all, adding little by little the salted water as well. Divine Cherry added 2 tbsp of olive oil (extra virgin, naturally) at the end of the mixing process only. You should do the same. The next 20mins were spent on working and kneading the dough by hand (Robin the All-Rounder pointed out that 10mins in the electric kneader (i.e. itself) would be sufficient too). The consistency of the dough will remain rather soft, and that's the way it should be. Divine Cherry then transferred the dough into another bowl and covered it with cling film, leaving it to raise until it has almost tripled its size and volume. You may also leave it to raise in the fridge for an entire night, it's really six and half a dozen. In the meantime, take the tomatoes, cut them in slices, salt them and garnish them with a bit of olive oil and a tbsp of water. When the dough has risen enough, pour it gently on a with olive oil covered baking tray. Divine Cherry now awoke the little girl in her and, child-like, began poking holes in the dough at regular intervals. She then garnished it with cut cherry tomatoes as well as the rest of the previously prepared tomatoes (including, obviously, the oil from the bowl). You may find it necessary to add a bit of oil. In case you do, do it. Eventually, add a few grains of coarse sea salt (remember the first admonition) and a bit or rosemary if you like it. Divine Cherry now left it all to rest for another hour. Lastly, after the last waiting time was up, Divine Cherry put the prepared and garnished dough in a preheated oven at 230°C for exactly 24.5671253 minutes. Because she can.
Small Perfect Cloud's truth-dream had (quite naturally) come true.

Again: -Adapted from a Celestial Dragon's family recipe
-300g of strong flour
-200g of plain four
-250g of lukewarm water
-60g of lukewarm water for the yeast
-25g of yeast
-2tsbp of olive oil (extra virgin)
-3 small potatoes or 2 medium ones
-2tsp of coarse sea salt
-1tsp of sugar
-a handful of cherry tomatoes

Boil the potatoes (with the skin) in a bit of unsalted water. Drain them, peel them and mash them with a fork in a large bowl. Don't throw the water away, instead take from it 250g in which you'll melt a tbsp of coarse salt. When the water has cooled down a bit, take another glass out of it (60g of water) and melt in it the yeast, a tsp of sugar and a large spoon of flour (taken from the whole amount). Leave all to rest for 15mins.
Take the bowl with the mashed potatoes and add the flour to it. Also pour the glass with the yeast in the centre of it and mix well, gradually adding the salted water too. Add the 2tbsp of olive oil only at the end of the mixing. Work and knead the dough for 20mins by hand (or 10mins in the electric kneader). The consistency should remain soft. Put the dough in another bowl and cover it with cling film. Let it raise until it has tripled in size (it takes 2 hours usually a room temperature). You may also leave it to prove overnight in the fridge. Now take the tomatoes and cut them in slices, salt them and garnish them with a bit of olive oil and a tsp of water. Let it rest. When the dough has risen, pour it on baking tray which has been previously greased with olive oil. Poke it with you fingers so as to create small holes all over it (see picture). Garnish it with the cherry tomatoes and also pour the tomatoes' condiment on the dough. You may need to add a bit more oil on it. Stray a few grains of sea salt on it and add the rosemary to taste. Let it all rest for one more hour. Eventually, put it in a preheated oven at 230°C for approx. 25mins. Eat cold.

FOCACCIA PUGLIESE-  Adattata da una ricetta di famiglia di Celestial Dragon
-300g farina forte
-200g farina debole (quella normale per intendersi)
-250g acqua tiepida
-60g acqua tiepida per il lievito
-25g lievito di birra
-2 cucchiai d'olio evo
-3 patate piccole o 2 medie
-2 cucchiaini di sale grosso
-1 cucchiaino di zucchero
-una manciata di pomodorini

Lessare le patate con la buccia in un po' d'acqua non salata. Scolare le patate, sbucciarle e schiacciarle con una forchetta dentro ad una ciotola capiente. Non buttare l'acqua delle patate ma prendere da questa 250 g in cui sciogliere un cucchiaio di sale grosso. Quando l'acqua delle patate è diventata tiepida, prenderne un altro bicchiere (60 g di acqua) e scioglierci il lievito con un cucchiaino di zucchero e un cucchiaio abbondante di farina (presa dal totale). Lasciare il bicchiere a riposo per un quarto d'ora.
Nella ciotola dove si trovano le patate schiacciate aggiungere la farina, versare al centro il bicchiere con il lievito e l'acqua e mescolare aggiungendo l'acqua salata gradualmente. Aggiungere alla fine i 2 cucchiai d'olio evo. Impastare 20 minuti a mano (o 10 minuti in planetaria con il gancio). La consistenza rimane piuttosto soffice. Mettere l'impasto in una ciotola e coprire con la pellicola. Lasciare lievitare fino a triplicare il volume iniziale, ci vorranno almeno 2 ore. Si puo' anche lasciare lievitare in frigo per una notte.
Preparare i pomodori: tagliarli a fettine, salarli e condirli con un giro d'olio e un cucchiaio d'acqua. Lasciarli riposare.
Quando l'impasto è lievitato versarlo su una teglia unta abbondantemente con olio.  Con le dita formare delle buchette sulla superficie della focaccia, appoggiare qualche fettina di pomodoro e versare anche tutto il condimento dei pomodori, emulsionato, sulla superficie della focaccia, aggiungere un po' d'olio se necessario. Spargere qualche granello di sale grosso e il rosmarino se piace.  Lasciar riposare un'altra ora. Infornare in forno caldo al massimo ( 230°C) per 25 minuti circa.

And Spread the Mess