Archive for the ‘Italian Cooking’ Category

Mascarpone Love

September 7, 2010

While very common, tiramisu is not “old school” Italian fare by any means. A quick wiki search shows that the layered dessert is maybe thirty, forty years old max. Which means that when my Gram and I decided to make this, we did not have a family recipe to refer to. Based on everyone’s feedback, I think we managed just fine with Gale Gand’s recipe. It’s ridiculously good. Coffee, whipped cream, chocolate, mascarpone, KAHLUA… I mean how can you go wrong? And the best part is, you don’t even have to turn on your oven. Just get you hand/stand mixers ready. Make this for people you really REALLY like.
Recipe barely adapted from Gale Gand’s for the Food Network. WARNING, this recipe uses RAW eggs, and lots of ’em. You MUST splurge on the pasteurized, salmonella-free eggs at your grocery store. No poisoning people, K?  Also, the gelatin won’t add any flavor to the tiramisu, but it will help your mousse set, so don’t skip it!

7 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 cups mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 Tablespoons unflavored gelatin powder
4 1/2 Tablespoons water
3 egg whites
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 1/4 cup, cooled espresso or strongly brewed coffee
1/4 cup Kahlua
20-24 ladyfingers
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2- 3/4 cup dark chocolate shavings

Using a hand or stand mixer, beat together the egg yolks and one cup of the sugar until color pales and “ribbon stage” is reached.  This is at the point in beating when a spatula drawn through the yolks will leave a trail that lasts a few moments.  Add mascarpone and mix until combined, set aside.

In a small heat-safe bowl combine gelatin and water.  Let sit for 15 minutes.  The gelatin will firm.  Fill a slightly larger, microwave-safe bowl with an inch or two of water.  Heat in microwave until water is boiling, about two minutes.  Remove from microwave, placing smaller bowl with gelatin in larger one, creating a double boiler.  Stir gelatin well.  Gelatin will begin to soften, and then liquefy.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks and then mix in 1/4 cup of sugar.  Slowly add gelatin.  Whip egg whites to stiff, glossy peaks.  Gently fold in whipped cream, and then the egg yolk mixture until combined.  Now you’re ready to assemble your tiramisu.

In a small bowl, combine Kahlua and espresso.  Quickly dip both sides of the ladyfingers into the espresso mixture and arrange in the bottom of an 8″x10″ pan in a single layer.  Ladyfingers should be close to each other, using 10-12 in the first layer.  Cover the ladyfingers with half of the mascarpone mixture.  With a sifter, dust the layer with 1/2 cup of cocoa powder.  Then create a second layer with 10-12 more espresso soaked ladyfingers and the rest of the mascarpone.  Sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Chill in the fridge 2-3 hours until the layers have set.

Sooooo good.  Thanks Gram for making it with me!


Biscotti = Awesome

October 7, 2009

My Gram = Totally awesome.

So I’ve been traveling quite a bit.  I’m now in Peoria, IL–just three hours south of Chicago.  Just for a few days.  This is my first trip here, but I’m liking it.  The Illinois river is very pretty and we found a great place for dinner last nite, One World Cafe.  If you’re ever in Peoria, be sure to stop by!  I had some amazing BBQ chicken with andouille sausage stuffing.  Seriously yum.  And great service too.  Go there!

But back to my Gram.  This past weekend I was actually home for a few days so I got to spend a bunch of time with my family & friends.  It was really great–I did laundry (boo) and saw Zombieland (yay Woody Harrelson) AND baked biscotti with my Gram (double yay–yay yay?).  This is my favorite biscotti recipe, especially since I don’t do nuts.  Feel free to add them though, especially pistachios as that’s what the recipe originally calls for.  But don’t even think about making this without the orange zest.  Even if you don’t like oranges.  Really.  It makes the cookie.

Thanks Gram for sharing the recipe and baking with me.  And thanks Grandpa for entertaining us with war stories and glass-cutting techniques.  And helping me stylize my biscotti photo shoot.  You guys are the best!

Chocolate Chip Biscotti

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for “sprinkling”
5 large eggs
zest of one large orange
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
white from 1 large egg, slightly beaten

Beat butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs, orange zest and vanilla until combined.  Add your flour and baking powder gradually until smooth.  Batter will be very sticky.  Stir in chocolate chips.

To make the dough more manageable, we’re going to divide and chill it.  Grease a flat-bottomed roasting pan or cookie sheet. Spoon batter onto greased sheet, creating three separate piles of batter of equal size. Cover and chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours until firm.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease two cookies sheets.

On a floured surface, with floured hands, shape each pile of dough into a 12” long log.  Place two of the logs 4” – 6” apart on one baking sheet, and the third log on the other baking sheet.  Flatten the tops just a bit with your hand.  The logs will be narrow, and not biscotti-shaped at all.  These things really spread out when baked!

Brush the tops and sides of logs with the egg white and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake 30-35 minutes, rotating your two pans halfway through baking.  Start checking your logs at about minute 25.  When your logs are done the top will be golden and firm, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out completely dry.  They will have flattened out as well…

Remove from oven and let logs cool for 10 minutes, covered with a dish towel.  Do not turn off your oven!

Move cooled logs onto cutting board and slice on the diagonal to your desired size biscotti (mine were about 3/4” – 1” wide).  Place slices on clean cookie sheets.  It doesn’t matter if the cookies are touching at this point, pack ’em in.

Bake the slices for another 8-12 minutes, flipping once halfway through.  Cookies will be slightly toasted and completely dry when done.  Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Serve with coffee or tea and enjoy!  Oh, and you can turn off your oven now.

Cooking with Gram

July 27, 2009

I have a great family. They’re pretty awesome. And quite a few of them are pretty awesome cooks/bakers. And way more awesome than me. Which works out, because they can teach me how to make all kinds of delicious things. Like Braciole, for instance. You can use a lot of things to add flavor to pasta sauce, but to me, my Grandma does it best with lots of meat. So vegetarians beware, today I learned how to make…

Flo’s Braciole with Pasta Sauce

I was surprised how easy this was to make. Almost all of the cooking time is unattended and the end result is so impressive and yummy. The ingredients are simple so the fresh herbs really add a lot here. Stay away from dried basil and parsley if you can.

1 pound country style ribs, with or without the bone (optional)
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound flank steak, ask your butcher to butterfly it–you want it thin
4 heaping teaspoons grated parmesan
4 teaspoons breadcrumbs
1/4 onion, sliced very thin & chopped into 1” long pieces
4 sprigs fresh parsley
2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 handful fresh basil
Round toothpicks

To make the Braciole, you need the flank steak to be very thin. So even after having the butcher butterfly it, pound the steak with a meat tenderizer to get it about a 1/4″ thick. You can also use round steak, but my Gram recommends the flank–more flavor.

Once you have the steak nice and thin, cut it into 3-4″ wide strips. You can get 3-4 pieces with 1 pound of meat.

In the middle of each piece, layer 1 heaping tsp of cheese, 1 tsp bread crumbs, a few slivers of onion, and a sprig of parsley. It will look something like this…

Pretty! Then, pushing the filling into the meat, begin tightly rolling the steak and secure with two toothpicks. Repeat with the other pieces of meat until they’re all rolled. Put aside.

If you’re using the ribs in your sauce, place in a large, heavy-bottomed pot with the olive oil and garlic. Brown over medium heat, turning once. Then remove from pot.

Place the rolled steak pieces in the hot pot and cook, turning occasionally, until brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Add the ribs back into the pot along with the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and basil. Bring to a boil, and then simmer, 3-4 hours. Make sure to stir the sauce every once in awhile, careful not to break your braciole. Spend that 3-4 hours watching a Cubs game with your family or listening to sweet stories about your Great Grandpa Ben.

Enjoy with your favorite pasta, sprinkled with more grated parm.