Friday, March 29, 2013

Pani di Pasqua

Pani di Pasqua
 (Italian Easter Bread)
makes 6 individual loaves*

This is a favourite of my childhood, every Easter my family would get together at my grandfather's and the aunts and uncles would bring these to the delight of the children.  Happy Easter!


1 package Rapid Rise (instant) yeast (about 2-1/4 teaspoons)
1 ¼  cups milk
 pinch of salt
1/3 cup butter
1 teaspoon anise extract
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
grated zest of 2 oranges
½ cup mixed candied fruit, chopped (optional)  
3 ½ cups flour
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
6 dyed Easter eggs
multi-coloured sugar sprinkles or multi-coloured sugar pearls  


prepare the Easter eggs:

Cook 6 eggs in your normal manner and die them bright colours of your choice.

prepare the bread dough:

In a small saucepan, warm the milk, anise and butter together, just till butter melts. In a large mixer bowl, combine yeast, salt, eggs, orange zest and sugar.  Add the warm (not hot - it will kill the yeast) milk and butter and the chopped candied fruit if used. Add about half the flour and beat until smooth with dough hook.   Slowly add the remaining flour to form a stiff dough.  Don't worry about how much flour it ends up being, just keep adding until the dough is not sticky anymore.  Knead until smooth with either dough hook attachment or turn out on floured board and knead.  Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.

form the loaves:

Punch dough down, divide into 12 pieces.  Roll each piece to form a 1 inch thick rope about 14 inches long and, taking two pieces, twist to form a "braid", pinching the ends,  and loop into a circle.  Divide the loaves between two baking sheets lined with parchment paper,   cover with tea clothes and allow to rise until they double, about another hour.   When the loaves have doubled, brush each loaf with some of the beaten egg wash.  Sprinkle with the coloured sprinkles and place one of the coloured Easter eggs in the middle.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

bake the loaves:

Bake in the preheated oven until golden, about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven, place on the rack and allow to cool.


Serve to the delight of your family and friends just use common sense about the hard boiled eggs, if they sit out for too long they may not be safe to eat.

Note: * this recipe will also make 1 large, braided loaf and make 7 coloured Easter eggs, one for the middle and 6 around the ring, the Easter eggs do not need to be hard boiled.  They cook when the bread bakes.  Dye the eggs raw without hard boiling them.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bocca di Nona

Bocca di Nona
(Gandmother Kisses)
makes 28 cookie sandwiches
These are delicious, delicate and lacy cookies from the neighborhood panetterias of the Brooklyn of my youth.  Similar to lacy Florentines, this version is filled with a luscious Bergamont flavoured ganache derived from Earl Grey tea bags . . . to make these even more elegant make extra ganache and dip 1/2 of each cookie sandwich in it.


2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups finely ground blanched almonds
Earl Grey Ganache ( see recipe below)

Earl Grey ganache:

1/3 cup whipping cream
4 Earl Grey tea bags
4 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped


prepare the cookie batter:

In a small bowl, stir together flour and cocoa powder to thoroughly combine; set aside.   Beat the softened butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds in a large bowl. Add the sugar and the vanilla and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Beat in the ground almonds.  Add the flour and beat in until mixture is just combined.  Cover and chill dough about 1 hour or until it is easy to handle.

 Preheat oven to 350° F.

bake the cookies:

Prepare one or more cookie sheets by lining each with parchment paper and set them aside. Working quickly, shape the chilled dough into 56 1-inch balls and place the balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet gently pressing each ball to flatten slightly.  Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until firm. Cool the cookies while still on the cookie sheet.  Construct the cookie sandwiches by removing a cooled cookie from the cookie sheet, and holding it with flat side up, spread it with about 1 teaspoon of the Earl Grey ganache, top with the remaining cookie, flat sides down and place on a serving plate.  Continue until all the cookies and ganache are used.  

Earl Grey ganache:

After the cookies have been baked, create the ganache.   Bring 1/3 cup whipping cream to boiling in a small saucepan. After the cream comes to a boil remove from heat. Add the Earl Grey tea bags to the hot cream, cover and allow to seep for 15 minutes. After the cream/tea has seeped for 15 minutes remove the tea bags squeezing each tea bag as it is removed to  release any residual liquid in it. Return the pan containing the cream to the stove and return it to the boil.  When the tea infused cream returns to a boil remove it from the heat and immediately add the finely chopped milk chocolate. Stir until chocolate completely melts and mixture is shiny and smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature before using.


Serve the Bocca di Nona in the Italian way accompanied by a demitasse cup of espresso coffee spike with a splash of Anisette liquor.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Linguine al Limone

Linguine al Limone
(Lemon Linguine)
serves 4 to 8
Parmesan cheese and the subtle, bright flavour of lemon combine in this dish to transport the diner to the sunny slops of the Amalfi coast.
                                                                                  Prep time:  3 minutes
                                                                                  Cook time:  10 minutes
                                                                                  Total time: 10 minutes

2 pounds linguine
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 lemon, zested
 juice of ½ lemon, plus more juice, to taste
Kosher or sea salt, to taste, to taste
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 to 3 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley leaves


prepare the linguine:

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and cook the linguine according to package directions until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes.

 prepare the sauce:

When the linguine has been cooking for about 5 minutes you can begin the sauce.  In a medium size bowl whisk the egg yolks until they turn a pale yellow and frothy.  Whisk in the cream, Parmesan, and lemon zest.  When they are incorporated, add ½ of the lemon juice, taste the sauce and add more lemon if you desire and some salt if needed.

bring it all together:

Once you are satisfied that the Linguine is al dente, reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta.  Toss the cooked pasta back into the still warm pot, which you have taken off the heat.  Add the butter and toss to melt and coat the linguine with it.  Add the lemon/egg sauce and again toss to coat the pasta, if the pasta looks too tight (dry) slowly add a little of the reserved pasta cooking water, about a tablespoon at a time, we don’t want to much liquid.


Divide the pasta amongst 4 service plates and garnish each with some of the chopped parsley as both a garnish and as a flavouring, not too much as we don’t want to overwhelm the subtle flavour of the lemon sauce.

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