Monthly Archives: October 2013

Aka: Flowers are beautiful, but I did not know they could also taste so good!

Mini Tarts Pastry Cream Apple Roses

There are two things I have been asked to bake constantly: apple pie and pastry cream. My mom totally loves apple pie, because she says it is a healthy and cozy treat; my dad instead is fond of pastry cream in all its forms (with whipped cream, flavored, and so on). So I decided to make everybody happy matching these two things, adding also a ‘glamorous’ twist…apple roses! I remember I saw a pic of a wonderful tart on pinterest that had beautiful apple roses on top, but unfortunately there was no link to the recipe. I did not get discouraged though and I put together two of my fave recipes for tart crust and pastry cream and I create my own version! To add traditional apple pie taste I mixed cinnamon and nutmeg with apple peels. I brought these mini tarts to Sunday lunch at my parent’s and it was a success 🙂 The idea to make individual portions is perfect to keep roses intact, as you will not have to cut the mini tarts into slices to serve. The ‘Oooooh effect’ is guaranteed!!!


For the dough:

1 1/2 cup cake flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 stick butter
1 egg
1 organic lemon (grated zest)

For the filling:
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tbs cake flour

2/3 cup milk
2 apples (not necessarily baking apples)
2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/3 tsp grated nutmeg
1 1/2  tbs brown sugar
1 tbs lemon juice


  1. Make the dough: Put the flour and sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, add cold butter cut into small pieces, egg and lemon zest . Process until large moist crumbs form(dough should hold together when squeezed).
    Form a ball with the dough, wrap it in plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out 6 circles of about 4-5 inches in diameter, using a cookie cutter. With each circle, coat 6 mini tart tins previously greased and floured. Prick their bottom with a fork , then put them in the freezer. Let mini tart tins rest there for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Prepare apples: Wash apples and start peeling them with a sharp knife or a peeler. Keep on doing that not only with apple skin, but also with the flash of the fruit. Put apple pieces (about 2 inches long) in a bowl and toss cinnamon powder, grated nutmeg, brown sugar and lemon juice. Stir gently and let them set asaid.
  3. Prepare the cream: In an electric mixer whisk together egg yolk and sugar till they get light yellow and fluffy, then incorporate the flour. Stir again until mixture is smooth. Meanwhile heat up milk in a pan, then pour it into the mixture, stirring well to avoid lumps (mixer on low). Put everythingback into the saucepan, then cook the cream over medium heat for about 6-7 minutes, whisking constantly without stopping. The cream is ready when it begins to thicken, so you can remove it from the fire.
  4. Set up and bake: Preheat oven to 350° F and take mini tart tins out from freezer. Put a good amount of cream in each tin (about 2 tbs) and level with a spoon, slightly wet if necessary. Take apple peels and place them on the pastry cream of each tart, starting to form concentric circles till reaching the center. Cook mini tarts for about 10 – 15 mins: they have to be slightly colored but not brown. Remove from oven and let them cool before serving
Mini Tarts with Pastry Cream and Apple Roses
Mini Tarts with Pastry Cream and Apple Roses

I have always had a love-hate relationship with French meringues. I am totally in love with their fluffy consistency, but hate to make them because one out of two times I mess them up! Luckily, I discovered a very useful article where the author (an Italian chemist) reveals all the secrets for a perfect result. You would say: ‘ A chemist???’. Yup! Cause cooking is chemistry (and love, and passion, and creativity). I translated few tips from the article that will make your meringues turn amazing (read below). To obtain a different flavor I added dessiccated coconut, which can be skipped if you prefer to have your meringues the tradional way. They match perfectly with a cup of hot chocolate and some whipped cream…oh so yummy!!!

Italian Coconut Meringue


– 2 egg whites
– 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
– 1/3 cup + 1 tbs white sugar
– 2/3 cup dessiccated coconut*
– vanilla essence (optional)


  1. Place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk. Whisk on a low speed for 1 minute, then increase the speed to medium and whisk for another 2-3 minutes, or until the egg whites form stiff peaks. Then, while continuing to whisk, gradually add the sugar and dessiccated coconut (plus vanilla essence, if desired) a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is stiff and glossy – this may take 5-10 minutes.
  2. Line a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and preheat oven 200 F. Using a pastry bag fitted with a star tip pipe the meringue into 1½-inch diameter cookies, spacing them about ½ inch apart. Bake meringues for 40-45 minutes (they don’t have to change colour becoming brown). Let the meringues cool down inside the oven, with the door slightly cracked.

Tips: To get the most volume from beaten egg whites, it’s best to start with whites at room temperature. Submerge them in their shells in a bowl of lukewarm (not hot) water for about 5 minutes before using.

Copper, stainless-steel or glass bowls work best for making meringues. Avoid plastic bowls for whipping egg whites as they can often harbor traces of grease or fat, which prevents the whites from getting stiff.Do not add sugar before whipping the egg whites. Do not add any salt (even if some recipes call for it, just don’t!). Instead use cream of tartar or some lemon drops to obtain stiff peaks (acid components do that).

Italian Coconut Meringue


Keeping on defrosting my mom’s freezers I discovered another wonderful piece of meat: veal cheek. Ok, I know it could sound not really appealing but trust me, it is worth it to give it a try! This cut is incredibly cheap, as it is almost considered a scrap…but for the ones who know, it is a great alternative, soft and very tasty. As long as the weather changed and temperatures went down lately, I was craving something warm and comforting…so I decided to make a Goulash Soup! This is a traditional Hungarian dish, which is basically a stew made with beef or veal, tomatoes, potatoes and paprika (a lot of paprika!!). Stews usually take a long time to be cooked but I am always in a hurry…that’s why I cheated a bit using a pressure cooker 🙂 It took me half time but the result was excellent anyway! To serve my Goulash I used some mini-cocottes (French cast-iron casseroles)…because looks also counts!

Goulash Soup made with pressure cooker

Goulash Soup made with pressure cooker_ Paprika Red


  • 1,5 pound veal cheek (or beef for stew)
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 4 tbs oil
  • 1 big onion
  • 16 oz canned tomatoes (or 2 cups fresh, then squeezed)
  • 1 tbs paprika (2 if you like it hot)
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (or 1 clove fresh garlic)
  • 1 tbs all purpose flour
  • 3 potatoes chopped
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Let butter and oil melt in your pressure cooker. In the meantime chop veal cheeks into big chunks (about 1x1inch) and mince the onion. Put them into the pressure cooker and make them brown slightly (2-3 min)
  2. Sprinkle with flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Add paprika, cumin, garlic powder and tomatoes. Adjust with salt (don’t be afraid to add a good amount of it!) and add half cup of water. Close the pressure cooker and count 30 minutes from the whistle.
  3. Additional: In the meantime peel and cut potatoes and once meat is ready open the pressure cooker (be careful and respect the procedure to do that) and add potatoes. Close again and count 5 min from the whistle.
  4. Once ready, if the consistency is still too liquid make it go on medium heat, stirring until you reach the right result. If you desire an even creamier soup add a tablespoon of corn starch, previously melted in little cold water and stir on heat for about 2-3 min.

Lately my mother asked me to help cleaning her freezers (yeah plural, cause she has two of them!). It could sound effortless but, trust me, they are full of everything and it’s kinda titanic trying to clear them up. That meant she started pulling out some huge pieces of frozen meat and I had to cook them. As long as I’m not ‘the master of meat cooking’ I picked an easy thing to do: polpette (the Italian name for meatballs)! I preferred to cook a lighter version, so I opted for a baked recipe. I know, fried polpette are amazing but: 1) I hate frying cause of the stink 2) It’s really not healthy 3) If I have to become fat, I prefer eating a big piece of cake ;)I didn’t want to follow the traditional version slavishly, so I cut off parsley and added some curry. Despite what one could think, these meatballs taste really yummy and are crunchy on the outside even if they aren’t fried. They are really good either hot or at room temperature and, of course, with some tomatoes sauce!




– 4 slices white sandwich bread, torn into small cubes
– 4 tablespoons milk
– 1,3 pound ground beef
– 3 eggs, lightly beaten
– 4 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
– 1 teaspoon curry
– 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (if desired)

– 1/2 cup Bread crumbs

– Salt to taste

– Olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a roasting pan or a baking sheet with parchment. Place the bread and milk into a small bowl, mix together and set aside.
  2. Place the meatloaf mix into a large bowl and add the egg (previously slightly beaten), Parmesan cheese, curry and garlic powder. Add some salt to taste (be careful though: Parmesan is already salty!). Mix together using your hands or a wooden spoon.
  3. Squeeze any excess milk from the bread and crumble it into tiny pieces. Add the bread to the meat mixture and mix again. –> If you think the mix looks too wet add some bread crumbs, till you reach a good consistency and can easily form a ball.
  4. Take the right amount of meat to form a golf ball and roll your meatballs. Place them on the greased pan and sprinkle with bread crumbs; add a drizzle of olive oil on each one and bake for 20 minutes, until meatballs are browned and cooked through.



It’s not a real cake (it doesn’t even need to be baked) and it’s probably the unhealthier treat I’ve ever made, BUT it’s incredibly good! The so called ‘Mars Cake’ was a staple in every children party I took part in when I was a kid. This treat was all-present for different reasons: kids love everything that tastes like chocolate bars, one can easily make a ton of it and it’s stain-proof (just try to figure out a horde of 20 kiddos running around the house with a double layer cake filled with chocolate and whipped cream in their hands…Mars Cake is a safer solution for couches, curtains and carpets!). I would also suggest you to involve your children (but definitely not 20 of them!) while making this cake. No mess, no stress but lots of fun for both of you, I guarantee! It takes no more than 10 minutes to make plus 20 more to cool down in the fridge, and you will have a great result with no effort at all! To obtain a crispier version of Mars Cake use Rice Krispies instead of normal puffed rice, like I did.


– 3 oz puffed rice (or Rice Krispies)
– 1/3 cup butter
– 6 Mars Bars


  1. Cut Mars Bars and butter into chunks and put them into a saucepan.
  2. Heat on medium until melted (or use the microwave max power 10-20 seconds intervals, stirring each time until melted).
  3. Once Mars and butter are completely melted and smooth remove from heat and add puff rice/Rice Krispies. Mix gently with a wooden spoon.
  4. Press the mixture into a lined shallow tray or cake tin with the back of a metal spoon.
  5. Chill Mars Cake in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, then cut into squares (or slices).
  6. Extra kick: Before refrigerating, melt some chocolate and pour over the mixture, chill in the fridge for at least an hour then cut to serve.


First thing first: The real Lady’s Kisses have nothing to do with cookies in the picture I posted. I come from the land where Baci di Dama (the Italian name for these cookies) were born and I can tell what I baked is nowhere near…:D

That said, the story of these Modified Lady’s Kisses started two days ago when a friend of mine told me last cookies I baked (Choco Almonds Horns) looked like the ones from a pastry shop. So I thought it would have been challenging to see if also my home made Lady’s Kisses would have looked as good. Between a thousand recipes I chose the one from Martha Stewart book ‘Cookies’…Yeah ok, I should have known better: it’s like asking an Italian to make Banana Bread or Carrot cake. But my unfailing trust in her made me think it was a good idea! I started whisking eggs whites, stirring cocoa, sugar and almonds…and then I thought: ‘Where’s the flour?…and BUTTER???!!!’. With my big surprise there was no butter in the recipe. No Sir. Not even a spoonful…I suddenly realized what I was baking sounded more like a meringue with some almonds in it. But I was already half way, so I decided to go on. I opted for a different filling to add a twist (and basically cause I had to kill those 10 strawberries I had in the fridge). Beside my personal odissey, I would say they turned out really good and matched perfectly with the strawberry cream cheese filling, but Lady’s Kisses are far cry from them. Never mind, I’ll try a different recipe soon!



For the cookies:

– 2 large egg whites
– 1 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
– 1 1/2 medium-finely ground blanched almonds

For the filling:

– 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
– 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 8-10 strawberries (or same weight in raspberries)


  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Make cookies: Place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until egg whites form stiff peaks . Add the sugar slowly; continue beating until egg whites are very thick, 2 to 3 minutes (adding a pinch of salt at the beggining usually helps to have a thicker result). Beat in cocoa until combined. Stir in almonds; mix until completely blended. Batter should be quite thick and sticky.
  3. Transfer to a heavy pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch sound tip (I used Ateco #846, but it is up to you). Pipe teaspoon-size, peaked mounds onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing about 2 inches apart.
  4. Bake until slightly cracked, 15-17 minutes, rotating sheers halfway through. Let cool on sheets several minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  5. Make the filling: Place cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl. Soften cream cheese beating. Sift in confectioners’ sugar, and continue beating until smooth. Add vanilla, and stir to combine.
  6. Chop strawberryes and fold them in to the cream cheese. Gently stir them with a spatula.
  7. Turn half the cookies over, bottom side up; dollop each with about 1 teaspoon chilled cream-cheese filling. Top with remaining cookies, pressing gently to spread filling to edges.
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