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Cocotte Pear Choco

We all have a recipe – even more than one, actually – that we keep on baking over and over again. To experiment is good, but when you have short time and people demanding a cake for breakfast, you want to go for something that won’t fail.

That is the exact situation I was experiencing few days ago, when I was at my mom’s home and the whole family (dogs included) was claming for some cake for breakfast. I had many things to do, as I came back just for few days, but I still wanted to satisfy their sweet tooth. Therefore I started thinking about something quick, breakfast-friendly (aka not too heavy) and…reliable! But I was dithering: to bake exactly the same cake without changing a thing is like going on a trip to see always the same place. You might get bored! That’s why I thought to make a “variation on the theme” of a trusted cake I already had posted months and months ago (Apple, Cranberry and Pine Nut Loaf, find recipe here).

I thought it would have been nice to have a kind of mono-portion, but bigger than a regular muffin tin (when my family has breakfast, they take it seriously and a regular slice of cake is usually a king size one!). Thearfore I thought about baking some mini cakes into few some cast-iron casseroles or cocottes, à la francais! I used three of them and made two with apples, following exactly my previous recipe and for the last one I used pears and chocolate chips.

 It was a success and the pear and choco version was really much appreciated! But more important, no one thought it was ‘the same old recipe’…it is true then: we do eat with our eyes! 🙂

 

Cocotte Apple Raisin

 

 

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This is a last minute – super easy- salty cake, with an unexpected twist: beet greens! All began yesterday around lunchtime when, looking into my fridge I discovered a shortcrust pastry package, which would have expired in few days. Thereupon I started thinking about what to do with it and I thought about a classic spinach and ricotta salty cake. I opened the freezer and took out the package of what I thought it was frozen spinach, but…with my big surprise at the supermarket I got Beet Greens by mistake! I had a blurry memory they had a really bitter taste and I was not sure of the result. But I had already opened the shortcrust pastry package and now I had to cook it! To tone down the taste I thought to add a consistent amount of sweet onion which, mixed with ricotta cheese and some sunflower seeds, made the miracle 🙂 The taste was still a bit bitter, but surprisingly pleasant. If you like it sweeter, you could always add a handful of raisins. It is a quick and nice idea and it is also perfect for a lunch box, as it can be eaten either hot or cold. Enjoy!

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Ingredients

  • 1 Shortcrust Pastry package
  • 450g/20oz frozen beet greens (or spinach leaves in alternative)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 Tbs sunflower seeds
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g/3/4cup parmigiano cheese, grated
  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • Pepper
  • Salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Line a pie plate with parchment paper and lay down the pastry. In a large skillet, put the oil and the chopped onion and let it cook for 3 minutes. Then add the beet greens, add some salt and pepper and let them cook for 15 minutes and anyway until tender (no water should remain on the bottom of the skillet).
  2. Remove the skillet from the stove. Take a large bowl and toss beet greens into it, then add ricotta cheese, sunflower seeds, eggs, parmigiano (save 3 tbs) and some more pepper. Stir all together until well combined and -just in case- adjust with some more salt. Spoon into prepared crust and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  3. Bake 30 minutes or until the crust is well baked (slightly brown). Let stand 10 minutes before cutting. Yield: 8 servings.

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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!!!

Ingredients_

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

Directions_

  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

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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.

Ingredients

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

Directions

  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.

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Lately I experimented a couple of recipes for frostings and icings. Today I was going to make a ‘seven-minute’ frosting but I realized I didn’t have enough eggs to make it!! I had 24 cupcakes waiting to be frosted, so I opened the fridge and looked for a ‘last minute’ solution. I had some sour cream (cupcakes recipe leftover), greek yogurt and heavy cream…I mixed together greek yogurt, sour cream, some sugar powder and 1 tsp and a half of instant coffee powder. I whipped the heavy cream adding some natural red food color and then added it to the yougurt mixture. It turned out (incredibly) good. Don’t ask me why I used pink color….maybe cause I was inspired by the paper cases (a lovely gift from my aunt btw).

Anyway, everybody had two of them at the end of our Sunday lunch. I guess they liked them 😉

Immagine

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup freshly brewed espresso
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder (not instant coffee)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cake flour and cocoa.

2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter until smooth and light. Add the brown sugar and eggs; beat until fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add the vanilla, baking soda, and salt; beat to combine thoroughly.

3. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of sour cream, and beating until just combined after each. Mix together brewed espresso and espresso powder; add to batter, and beat until smooth.

4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, about 22 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes and proceeding to frost them.

5. For the frosting: make a seven-minute frosting (this version doesn’t require to be cooked!) adding some natural red food color while whipping the heavy cream.

Summer is not the best season to bake, specially if you live in a little 3 rooms appartament (like I do!). But this recipe was waiting for me since last June and I couldn’t wait anymore, so I turned the oven on.
What I love the most about this bread is its consistency: very soft inside and crunchy outside…plus it looks really great (I made other bread experiments in the past: great taste but awful look….but this one, oh my!!).
It is not a real quick recipe, as you have to let the yeast acting for 1 hr plus 40 mins, but bread needs its time to turn out the amazing thing it is. So, be patient but I promise the waiting will be worth it (specially if you cut a slice, spread a layer of mustard and some smoked prosciutto on it!)

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Ingredients

  • 21/2 cups buttermilk (warm)
  • 2 tbsps honey
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 51/2 cups whole wheat flour (fine grind)
  • 11/4 cups bread flour (unbleached)
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsps unsalted butter (soft)
  • 1 egg white (mixed with a tablespoon of water)
  • 1 water

directions:

  1. Warm the buttermilk to body temperature. In other words when you stick a finger into it you shouldn’t feel it.
  2. Place the buttermilk in a large bowl. Add the tablespoon of yeast and the honey to it. Let the yeast dissolve either by whisking it or letting it bloom. Add the whole wheat flour, 1 cup of bread flour, egg and salt.
  3. Using a thick handled wooden spoon mix the dough in a circular fashion adding the softened butter once the dough has started to form. Once the dough has formed remove it from the bowl to a clean counter top and knead the dough until it is smooth, elastic and the gluten has formed. Consider this your workout for the day. Roll the dough into a tight ball.
  4. Place the dough back into the bowl , cover it with a damp warm towel and set it in a warm place. Set a timer for 1 hour.
  5. At the end of the hour punch down the dough and set the timer for another hour. At the end of this hour the dough should be doubled in size.
  6. Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Roll it into two balls
  7. Place the balls into prepared pans (a round cake pan with parchment will work just fine).. Cover with a warm damp towel and let the dough rise for 40 minutes to an hour.
  8. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Once the dough have doubled brush it with the egg wash. You can also dust the tops with flour but if you do this don’t use the egg wash.
  9. Bake in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes rotating them halfway through baking.
  10. Remove the pans from the oven and remove them from the bread pans to a rack and let them cool.

A couple of days ago I bought some frozen blueberries. I usually prefer to use fresh fruit for my treats, but I had to give them a chance! I didn’t have in mind what to do with them, but yesterday I decided to make some muffins for morning breakfast. It literally took me 10 minutes to make them (plus 20 to bake) and the result was a moist, soft, fluffy consistency I really loved!

BBMuffins

Ingredients

– 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for tins
– 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
– 3 teaspoons baking powder
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 1/4 cups sugar, plus more for sprinkling
– 1 large egg
– 2 large egg yolks
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 1 cup milk
– 1 3/4 cups blueberries

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter large (3 3/4 inches) or small (2 3/4 inches) muffin tins, and set aside. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg, egg yolks, and vanilla; mix until well combined. Reduce speed to low; alternate adding reserved flour mixture and milk to mixer, beginning and ending with flour. Remove bowl from mixer; gently fold in berries by hand. Divide batter among muffin tins; sprinkle generously with sugar. Bake until light golden, about 45 minutes for large muffins, about 30 minutes for small muffins. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Remove from pan; transfer to wire rack, and let cool completely
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