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Pastries

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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This is a recipe I got to bake few days ago, but I did not have the time to post it till today 🙂 My life has been hectic lately (well, hectic is not the right word maybe…let’s say I had a lot in my mind to wonder about. This 2013 is going to end in an unexpected way, much better than what I thought it was possibile…so I guess that I have to celebrate this with one of my favourite Italian treats: bignè (pronounced Bee/nyeh – nothing to do with Beignets, which come from France and are deep fried). Those little round puffs filled with pastry or chantilly cream are a masterpiece in every pasticceria (pastry shop) all over Italy. It is easy to make them, as long as you follow few tips during their making of! They are the perfect dessert for one of those incoming Christmas dinners and if you say they are home made you are sure none of them will be left on the tray!

Italian-Bigne-Tray

Ingredients_

For the dough:
2 cups cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup water
6 large eggs

For the pastry cream:
4 cups milk
3/4 cup + other 3/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 lemon zest (not grated but peeled off)
1 vanilla bean
8 egg yolks
1 cup cake flour

Directions_

  1. Make the pastry cream: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until they turn a pale gold colour. Whisk in the flour and set aside.
  2. Place the milk, vanilla bean (previously cut alongside) and lemon zest in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently. Remove lemon zest and let cool for 30 seconds.
  3. Slowly pour half of the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking all the time, then return the mixture to the remaining milk in the pan. It is important to slowly pour the hot milk onto the cold eggs before you return the mixture to the pan to prevent the eggs from scrambling.
  4. Bring the mixture back to the boil and simmer for one minute, whisking continuously, or until smooth.
  5. Pour the cream into a clean bowl and dust with icing sugar to prevent a skin forming. Cool as quickly as possible, by sitting the bowl of pastry cream in another larger bowl of ice water. When cooled, refrigerate until needed.
  6. Make the dough: Put the butter, salt and water in a saucepan. Heat gently until the butter has melted, then bring to the boil.
  7. As soon as the water boils, remove the pan from the heat and quickly tip in the flour all at once. Beat with a wooden spoon until the ingredients bind together into a dough.
  8. Return the pan to a low heat and continue to beat until the dough is a smooth, dry ball in the centre of the pan.
  9. Allow to cool for 2–3 minutes, then gradually beat in the eggs to make a smooth, shiny paste. Beat vigourously.
  10. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a baking tray with parchment papaer. Spoon 25-30 teaspoonsful of the mixture onto tray, about 1,5 inches apart. Alternatively, use a pastry bag fitted with a plain piping nozzle to pipe the bignè onto the baking tray. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the bignè are puffed and golden.
  11. Turn the oven off and pull the try slighlty out of it, but try not to completely remove it form there. Using a skewer or a small knife, pierce the base (or top) of each bingè to release the steam. Leave them in the oven for 15 minutes to dry out and then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  12. Assembling: Use a pastry bag fitted with a plain piping nozzle and fill it with the pastry cream.
  13. Make a tiny cut on the side of each bignè using a sharp knife or scissors and then put the nozzle in it and pipe the pastry cream.
  14. To guarnish you can use melted chocolate or some sugar powder mixed with few drops of water (you will get a quite liquid spread that will solidify in few minutes).

Italian-Bigne-Cream

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