Flavoured salts – part two

salts2-7

[Updated]

In the first part of this series on flavoured salt mixes, I explained a little about the types of salts available, where they come from, how they’re harvested, what gives tinted salts their colours and how to select salts for different uses. So, if you missed that post I do encourage you to read it first before continuing here as it gives the full background and a much better understanding. You can access flavoured salt mixes part one here.

In this second part I’ve included a couple of absolute classics – Italian and French herbs. However, the Italian mix does include the optional addition of adding dried tomato paste. This kicks the mix up a couple of notches if you can be bothered to try drying tomato paste – I recommend you do try. It’s also a great way of elongating the shelf life of an opened can, tube or jar of tomato paste as it can just be sprinkled into foods while cooking.

On a slightly madder theme I’ve included a “recipe” that involved DRIED MARMITE! Yes, I actually spent one afternoon inventing the perfect dried Marmite. I wanted to include that ultimate umami taste in a salt mix, but of course I couldn’t include it in its normal gooey state. This is an AWESOME mix – I use on tons of things. You’d never know that it is entirely vegetarian! It’s particularly great to give an intense BBQ flavour to vegetarian foods and it brings out an incredible flavour on chicken and steak in particular. There is a BBQ mix on the part one post, which is entirely lovely, but this one knocks your socks off.

Almost equally mad, but not because of an individual ingredient, rather the whole mix is the English Summer Sweet mix. Sweet and salt is not a new flavour combination, but it’s still rather unusual in this form and takes some getting used to. This is a beautiful looking mix, full of pinks, blues and yellows. The trick is to use it for taste but not waste it’s good looks buried inside a dish. It is lovely in a short pastry tart, sprinkled over the top of a pavlova or meringue kisses before they go in the oven or in an ice cream. It also goes nicely sprinkled on the top of a pasta ripiena/pasta in brodo dish or on tapas or similar.

Do you have any salt mixes that you have created yourself, or is there any that you think you’d like to see? Perhaps you use sme pre-made ones, such as those from the Cornish Salt Co, but are itching to have a go at creating your own. Please let me know in the comments below 💙

Notes

  • Anything you add to a salt needs to be dry – very dry! Although that comes with a caveat – in my English Summer Sweet mix below I’ve found that both calendula petals and lavender flowers are perfectly fine putting into a salt mix fresh – the only other thing I’ve found so far that will work fresh is chopped up rosemary leaves. Everything else needs to be dried. Either start with pre-dried herbs or dry out your own ingredients in your oven or de-humidifier. I’ve given the timings and temps for ingredients I use where I can
  • Buy a high quality base salt for these, as cheaper salts do tend to have added extra ingredients (mostly to enable the salt to stay free flowing) and are more processed, thus taking out or negating any beneficial additional minerals
  • I’ve given ingredients and ratios for a typical flavoured salt, but if you’re aiming to use a lot less salt in your cooking then don’t add quite so much as I’ve given
  • Think what you’ll use the flavoured salt for – most typically these will be as a last garnish to a dish. For most of these it will be best to buy a rock or crystal salt, but if you’re using the flavouring within the early stages of a recipe there’s less need for an expensive crystal salt as it will dissolve
  • You can store these in anything that will keep moisture out, such as a click lock plastic tub but they do look really gorgeous in tiny Kilner jars. However, if you’re leaving a salt out on the dining table as a pinch pot, then it really doesn’t matter what you store it in (an old cleaned out jam jar for instance), just present it in a nice little bowl on your table

Equipment

For each ‘recipe’ you’ll need measuring spoons or a digital scale, a small bowl and a sterilised jam jar or Kilner jar. Most will need a pestle and mortar and some other ‘recipes’ need an extra item which will be explained in each method.

Sterilising glass jars

Put pre-washed clean glass jars in the oven at about 130˚C for 20 minutes or put them through a dishwasher cycle on your hottest setting

Be careful handling the hot jars out when done

NB:  don’t put any rubber seal in the oven; it’ll just melt. Wash these in hand-hot water and leave to dry on a kitchen towel or clean tea towel

Drying the herbs

Dried herbs are easy to get hold of and it’s likely that a keen cook will have most of these in their cupboard already. For the unusual herbs that you’ve grown yourself, it’s best to let herbs dry naturally in a sunny, dry spot (I hang mine in my little green house or my kitchen window). However, you can dry them out in your oven enough for these salt mixes. Place a single layer of the herbs you need on a baking tray: that is, don’t overlap them and it doesn’t matter if there are different types of herbs in one go. Bake on the lowest setting for an hour and test to see how dry the herbs are – herbs will dry out at different rates. Leave any in for another hour that have not dried yet. Crush in a pestle and mortar or a quick whizz in a blender (both before adding to the salt).

Tip: if any herbs are proving difficult to crush, add a little of the rock salt or salt crystals to the pestle and mortar. The salt acts as an additional surface to tear the herbs more effectively. Don’t tip all the salt in though, or you will pound this to a fine dust along with the herbs, and you want to keep the integrity of the salt (otherwise you may as well use fine table salt).

“Recipes” – all are vegetarian

salts2-6

Italian herbs

Ingredients are:

  • Rock salt or crystal sea salt – 2 tablespoons
  • oregano – 1 teaspoon
  • rosemary – 1 teaspoon
  • fennel or fennel seeds – 1/4 teaspoon
  • basil – 1 teaspoon
  • thyme – 1 teaspoon
  • lemon balm – 1/2 teaspoon
  • black pepper (freshly ground) – several turns of the grinder to taste
  • dried tomato puree – 1 teaspoon (optional but well worth the effort)

Method: Smooth two tablespoons of tomato puree as thinly as possible on a sheet of greaseproof paper and place on a baking tray. Bake in the oven at 70C for 1 hour. If after this time there are still some ‘rubbery’ bits of tomato puree then put it back in the oven for another 30 minutes and try again. The tomato puree with crisp up and go almost black. When fully baked, leave to cool and then crush or chop finely.

When the herbs and the tomato puree are dried, mix them with the salt and place in your container.

Some uses: in bread baking, for savoury pastry, pasta dishes, risotto and its also a nice addition to most meats and casserole-style meals.

salts2-9

Umami / intense BBQ

Notes: There is a BBQ salt recipe on the part one post, but though that is good, this one is awesome, highly unusual and includes my unique mad-kitchen-scientist dried Marmite powder. It tastes very meaty and rich, but it’s entirely vegetarian (and as such I throw it copiously on any appropriate veggie meals I make).

Ingredients are:

  • smoked sea salt – 2 tablespoons
  • vegetable bouillon – 1 teaspoon
  • garlic granules – 1 teaspoon
  • onion granules – 1 teaspoon
  • smoked paprika – 1 teaspoon
  • soft brown sugar – 1 teaspoon
  • parsley – 1 teaspoon
  • dried Marmite – 1 teaspoon
  • smokey chipotle powder (optional) – 1 teaspoon

Method: spread two tablespoons of Marmite on to a sheet of baking paper and then place on a tray in the oven. Bake at 70ºC fan / 90ºC conventional for about 25 minutes. It will puff up and it’ll really smell (fine if you love Marmite!) – don’t panic: it’s fine! Leave to cool then crumble (with dry fingers) before mixing with the other herbs and spices and the stock cube in a pestle and mortar.

NB: With this salt mix it is better to have finer salt particles that match the other particles of the mix ingredients. I ground the smoked salt with a pestle and mortar. If you don’t have smoked salt, you may as well use normal table salt here, then you don’t have to grind or crush anyway.

Some uses: great as a dry rub, or with a little oil as a wet rub. Also lovely in a chilli, in jambalaya etc, for other Cajun dishes (especially those with prawns) or to brush over meats (mixed into oil) for the barbecue. Just on almost anything savoury and great for livening up vegetarian dishes… this is my total favourite salt mix.

Also – this one is fabulous when mixed in with cornmeal or polenta (ration about 10:1) and used as a crispy coating on chicken or for wedges!

salts2-8

French herbs

Ingredients are:

  • Sea salt flakes/crystals or sel gris – 1 tablespoon
  • tarragon – 1/2 teaspoon
  • rosemary – 1 teaspoon
  • parsley – 1 teaspoon
  • thyme – 1 teaspoon
  • bay – 1/2 teaspoon
  • chives – 1 teaspoon

Method: Chop a dried bay leaf into tiny pieces (it won’t crush with a pestle and mortar well). The other dried herbs need crushing together (take the leaves off the woody stalks of the rosemary and thyme first) before adding to the salt. If you need to dry your herbs quickly see the note above.

Some uses: use in place of bouquet garni or Herbes de Provence. Also useful for fish, lamb and beef (especially steak) dishes.

English summer salt mix recipe e- Lynn Clark / Inksugarspice

English Summer Sweet

Notes: I’ve purposely kept the salt low in ratio as compared to the other ingredients, because of the uses of this mix. Dried borage flowers and rose petals are easily obtained from a Turkish or Middle-Eastern supermarket or online, if you don’t grow them yourself (they are also more tricky to dry successfully in an oven than other herbal ingredients – if you have a dehydrator this would not be an issue. If you don’t have much luck drying these yourself as they’re so tricky, do buy pre-dried).

Ingredients are:

  • Himalayan pink salt, fine sea salt flakes or a good quality table salt – 1 teaspoon
  • calendula petals (edible marigolds) (need not be dried first – see method) – 1 teaspoon
  • dried rose petals – 1 teaspoon
  • dried borage flowers – 1 teaspoon
  • lemon zest (need not be dried fully first – see method) – 1 teaspoon
  • lavender flowers (need not be dried first – see method) – 1/2 teaspoon

Method: the calendula petals and lavender flowers do not need to be dried in an oven, as they are dried by the salt in the pot. The lemon zest can be dried in a 50C oven for 30 minutes at least or just leave it overnight between two sheets of kitchen paper which you have weighed down with a book or other weight. The rose petals and borage flowers need to be oven dried as per the lemon zest (or bought pre-dried) as they are more delicate and are prone to either making the other ingredients wet or looking very dishevelled if you don’t dry them first. Mix all lightly together so as not to crush the delicate ingredients before potting up.

NB:  This is another salt where it is better to have finer salt particles (the hit of crunching into a large piece of salt would be too overpowering in a sweet mix). I actually have a salt grinder with Himalayan salt in, so I just ground the right amount. Also you can use a pestle and mortar. Alternatively, use normal free-running table salt here.

Some uses: sparingly in things like ice cream or meringue. Sprinkle a little on fruit or desserts or use in sweet pastry baking, such as tart cases or shortbreads. Gives a twist to savoury dishes nd particularly good with pasta and fish or sprinkled over salads or tapas for a pretty finish.


You are welcome to use these recipes for your home cooking (that’s why I write these things up online so others can try!)


However, please do not recreate them as a recipe anywhere or pass them off as your own (specially relevant for commercial use eg chefs, cooks, Home Eds, food stylists, restaurants etc). If you show them anywhere on social media you must credit me @inksugarspice.


salts2-5

Fizz & Sizzle with Filippo Berio

I’ve been to a few cookery classes and up to now have come away feeling underwhelmed and disappointed with most of the content. An enjoyable time cooking, but did I learn anything new? Probably not. The vast majority of cookery classes seemed aimed at introducing people to new skills and feel dumbed down (sadly on one occasion because it appeared to be the tutor’s own level). It’s a delicate balance between catering for those who are new and those who want to improve existing skills. Of course, there are classes which specifically direct themselves at a particular skill level (such as “improver”), but a course focusing on one cuisine or food type has to work harder in general for more appeal. However, I was excited for this event as it combined Italian food, recipes for al fresco dining and my obsession with olive oils. I was not disappointed.

Links relating to this evening are featured at the bottom of the post 💙

IMG_0012.jpg

The ‘Fizz and sizzle’ evening at London’s only Italian cookery school, La Cucina Caldesi, and organised by Filippo Berio was effortless in being inclusive to beginner and advanced cooks alike. Each recipe was fairly simple (as the event focused on a menu for a barbecue or outdoor food) but because there was such an array of dishes from salads, to meat to desserts, the breadth of skills required to complete them was varied and offered a chance to learn new skills. For every dish we were to make (and enjoy later) there was a perfect oil from Filippo Berio. Much like pairing wine or beer, choose an oil (or vinegar for that matter) for its particular strength, richness, stage of pressing, taste, aroma and cooking properties to your food and you will create something amazing – incredibly useful knowledge for the home cook. As I work with olive oil more and more I’ve come to realise the potential for each oil and have been choosing carefully for each recipe I make, and still there was plenty of new advice to learn on the oils during this evening.

The cookery school is in a gorgeous part of Marylebone, with a mix of Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and 20th century buildings situated on meandering streets filled with small retailers, restaurants (not least Caffé Caldesi itself on Marylebone Lane with La Cucina Caldesi nestled behind) and bars making the area lively, attractive and photo-worthy (there were a number of selfie-takers in every direction when I arrived).

IMG_0030.jpg

La Cucina Caldesi is an intimate space, perfectly suited to about 20 attendees plus the knowledgeable and helpful staff. On the warm June evening I attended, the huge doors (I imagine the building must have been a manufacturing workshop or perhaps a merchant’s stores in the past) were flung open as I arrived. It was a friendly sight, with both La Cucina Caldesi and Filippo Berio staff clearly already at ease, chatting to early arriving guests (all delightedly sipping an Aperol spritz or Prosecco) and keen to warmly welcome you and help you settle in.

IMG_0029

On arrival, we were introduced to everyone and to help us (and the chefs) given aprons with name tags on. I always find this helpful and am amazed such a simple aide doesn’t get used everywhere. We tucked in to focaccia, various Italian cheeses and peered excitedly at the boxes of ingredients and recipes already laid out. During this time I had a peek about. The wall of Caldesi cookery books is beautiful. The kitchen section is incredibly well anointed and there’s a backroom kitchen and washing up area to ease the traffic and business of the teaching space. Two ruby red Kitchen Aids and an espresso machine gleamed and there was a huge variety of covetable antipasto boards and serveware.

IMG_0036.jpg

With Aperol spritz still in hand, we all avidly took in an introduction by head chef Stefano Borella. These dishes we would learn to create would help us to bring a little bit of Italian al fresco dining to our own outdoor summer evenings.

Much of Italian cuisine is about simplicity: a perfect pairing of flavours to create a dish. This simplicity does mean that obtaining the best quality or freshest produce will make that much difference. The produce chosen for the recipes in itself looked stunning, and of course there was an incredible range of oils and balsamic vinegars to choose from.

 

Chef Stefano explained the salad, bruschetta and dessert recipes in brief and talked about the properties of the olive oils, remarking on the health benefits of olive oil, it’s cooking properties and explaining the variety of oils from the distinctive, robust and gorgeously tasty Gusto Fruttato, to the delicate Toscano Gran Cru through to the Organic and Mild and Light Oils.

 

We each chose an area to work in, selecting the type of dish we wanted to work on the most. I headed straight for my comfort zone: ricciarelli biscuits, but others settled down to prepare a chilled mascarpone and strawberry dessert, bruschetta, broad bean puree, salads and more. We were following the written recipes but not left alone, Stefano and his team (Angela and Stefano) were deftly helping where needed or observing and commenting where they clearly saw someone was doing well and helping select the right oil for the recipe, which was really important in particular in the salads.

IMG_0076.jpg

The amazing and seemingly endless menu for Filippo Berio’s Fizz and Sizzle event at La Cucina Caldesi was:

  • Bruschetta con pure di fave e menta (Bruschetta with board bean and mint puree)
  • Bruschetta al pomodoro e basilico (Bruschetta with tomato and basil)
  • Pollo al mattone (chicken under a brick)
  • Tagliata di manzo con rucola, parmigiano e aceto balsamico (Steak tagliata with rocket, parmesan and balsamic vinegar)
  • Agnello alla griglia con salsa di alici (Lamb on the grill with anchovy dressing)
  • Tonno alla griglia con salmoriglio (Grilled tuna with Salmoriglio sauce)
  • Italian sausages
  • Asparagi e insalata di patate novelle con vinaigrette di olio di noci (Asparagus and new potato salad with walnut oil viniagrette)
  • Insalta di avocado e arance (Advocado and orange salad)
  • Insalata di cuscus da Mandranova (Citrus couscous salad from Mandranova)
  • Insalata di lattuga con gorgonzola dolce e vinaigrette calda con bacon (Whole lettuce salad with gorgonzola dolce and hot bacon viniagrette)
  • Ricotta montata con rum con fragole e balsamico (Whipped ricotta with strawberries and balsamic vinegar)
  • Ricciarelli (Sienese almond biscuits)

We picked up a number of tips throughout the evening, including letting tomatoes drain before topping bruschetta with them, so that the bread does not go soggy. Another was to use a piece of cling film around the bowl of your stand mixer to stop the ingredients splashing everywhere (as normally the skirts or covers supplied just aren’t good enough and get in the way) and the use of a house brick (covered in kitchen foil!) to hold down a spatchcocked poussin so that it browns and cooks better.

IMG_0065.jpg

After we’d prepared most of these dishes, chef Stefano gathered us round to explain the meat courses. Pollo al mattone (or “chicken a la brick”), trimmed lamb chops, Italian sausage and seared tuna steak. Anyone who wanted to swap round and try a different skill or to cook the meat was encouraged to move and join in elsewhere from the dish they’d started on, so we could learn more than one new skill. The biscuits I was preparing proved popular as they needed shaping using a quenelle method with two spoons, so after I’d made a few I happily stepped back and moved on to helping on salads.

The menu quickly came together and we gathered round to enjoy what we’d prepared. A wonderful addition to the evening was that Italian wine expert, Luisa Welch, joined us to explain wine pairings with the four courses and to enable us to try a selection of wines from Zonin 1821.

To pair with the bruschetta, which was topped with tomatoes or the broad bean pate, we tried a Prosecco. Now, I have a terrible palette for wine. Normally I can’t taste any of the notes, tastes or smell that people are telling me are there. With this Prosecco though, I could get the fresh apples that Luisa described. When the next wine, another sparkling white but this time a Falanghina from Puglia, was poured I could distinguish between the two wines very clearly indeed. This was a revelation to me: never before have I been able to get taste profiles or tell the difference between what I thought to be similar wines. Luisa also took time to explain the grape varieties, how the process and bottling methods varied and the regions the wines came from.

IMG_0096.jpg

One thing that was apparent throughout the night when talking to the other attendees was that most of them were returners, having attended Filippo Berio’s supper clubs at La Cucina Caldesi before. Around 75 per cent of the attendees had been before. What greater endorsement can you have? Clearly my fellow attendees enjoy these events so much they’re coming back time after time.

The team of chefs at La Cucina Caldesi were amazing: keen to help, able to explain without dumbing down and all done with a great sense of humour (I also particularly liked the added authenticity of them only speaking to each other in Italiano, and as a language learner this was extra interesting). The Filippo Berio staff also need a mention: Lisa, Clodagh and Louisa had organised a fabulous event and were themselves helpful with information about the oils and also got stuck in cooking – and, of course, joined in with devouring the food. Finally, a mention for our wine expert Luisa who actually, genuinely helped me to experience a wine tasting without it being wasted on me. That was a first! And, as a last incentive to anyone thinking about booking on a Filippo Berio cooking event, there’s always a bag of goodies to take home including two of my favourites at the moment: the chilli flavoured olive oil and the tomato and ricotta pesto. A mini bottle of Zonin 1821 Prosecco and a set of barbecue tools (relevant for this al fresco food event) were welcome additions too.

IMG_0033.jpg

 

Filippo Berio invited me to attend this event in order to write a review and take photos.

Links

For more information and booking please see the Filippo Berio events webpage


La Cucina Caldesi Cookery School

Louisa Welch

Zonin 1821 wines

Pistacchio Garibaldi biscuits

Garibaldi1After I posted these on Instagram, someone pointed out to me that a comedian called Alexei Sayle did a sketch on ‘Revolutionary Biscuits‘ (I found this on YouTube: it’s definitely 80’s angry comedy). He says something like “You’ve got your Garibaldi – Italian dictator, you’ve got your Bourbon – French revolutionaries and of course you’ve got your Peak Frean Trotsky Assortment”.

I’m thinking there’s a whole new scope for dictator-named biscuit snacks. Who wouldn’t like to bite into a Pol Pot gingerbread? There’s sadly been that many dictators over time that you could fill a whole Christmas assortment box of biscuits.

I didn’t have any intention in posting this recipe, but I had a few enquiries about it from Instagram and, after raising a cursory question who’d like to try them, I got quite a few raised hands (which was delightful thank you!). So, here we are, recipe at the ready.

I remember Garibaldis from my childhood and they were old fashioned then, let alone now (even though you can still buy them I see, but clearly not in superior pistacchio flavour!). Sometimes a vintage bake is just the thing to hit the spot. My dear old Dad used to call them dead fly biscuits when I was tiny, which actually put me off eating them till he stopped teasing me. I didn’t really think there were dead flies in them, just that the association made me go “Euwww” too much to face trying them till I got older.

I’m sure that I remember my mum buying packs of ‘luxury’ versions covered with chocolate on one side. No one else around my age group I’ve asked remembers chocolate-covered Garibaldis and now they all think I’ve gone loopy. Whether my recollection can be relied on or not, I bet these biscuits would be even lovelier draped in a layer of milk choc, and I may well be doing this soon.

Notes

There are a couple of specialist ingredients in this bake: pistacchio paste and caramel syrup. Here in the UK you can buy the paste in any M&S food hall or it can be found in deli’s or online (see my resources page). It lasts for ages and is gorgeous and can be used in a lot of things, including savoury. Frankly, I’m never without a jar in the fridge, but then I’m a pistacchio addict. The syrup should be slightly easier to get hold of, but it’s probably not where you’d think it should be in the baking/ingredient section. It’ll be in the coffee product aisle in your supermarket as it’s primarily sold as one a coffee syrup, but I bet you’ll soon be using it in a lot of your baking! Alternatively, you can make something akin to this syrup by putting 100g of granulated sugar and a tablespoon of golden syrup in a saucepan, adding just enough water to soak through (and no more) and boil till it caramelises/is golden brown. Remember no stirring once it starts to bubble or it will crystallise. If it’s too thick once cooled but the the right colour, carefully add a teaspoon or two at a time of water and stir through until thinned enough to ‘baste’ with.

Makes one giant slab of biscuits – about 40cm x 30cm. Be warned – the first time I made these I tried to get them all in one large baking sheet. All the edges browned much faster because they were in contact with the conducted heat of the rim of the baking sheet. It’s much better to cut the slab of biscuits in half and bake on two trays as I’ve described in the recipe.

Don’t separate the biscuits, when you cut leave the them as they are as they’ll bake with sharp edges where you can see the raisins and pistacchios peeking out. If you separate them, the biscuits want to spread and you’ll get softer edges (not the Garibaldi way).

The pistacchio pasta frolla on its own makes excellent shortbread-style biscuits or is a great pie crust. In fact it can substituted for most sweet shortcrust pastry/pâte sucrée.

Prep time: about 20 mins | Resting time: 2 x 15 mins at least | Baking time: <20mins

Total make time: 1hr 10 roughly (well, it all depends on your own work speed in the kitchen!)

Makes about 24-30 (depending on the size of cut biscuits)

Garibaldi2 - ingredients

Equipment

  • Two large baking sheets
  • Baking parchment or paper
  • Rolling pin
  • Large bowl
  • Pastry cutter or table knives (you’ll see later)
  • Pizza wheel (ideally) or long sharp knife
  • Pastry brush
  • Spoons, scales, measuring jugs and spoons and a table fork

Ingredients for the pasta frolla (Italian sweet short pastry)

  • 00 flour – 300g
  • Caster sugar – 125g
  • Unsalted butter, kept cold – 200g
  • Pistacchio paste – 20g
  • Fine salt – a pinch
  • Eggs, large – 1 whole egg plus 1 yolk
  • Lemon juice – 1 teaspoon

Inclusions and caramel glaze

  • Pistacchios, shelled and slightly crushed – 125g (or thereabouts)
  • Raisins – 150g (ish)
  • Caramel syrup, such as Monin’s – about 50 – 60 ml

Additional

  • Extra flour for dusting

Method – pasta frolla

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients together: that’s the flour, sugar and salt
  2. Cut the butter into small cubes
  3. Add the butter and pistacchio paste to the dry ingredients and cut it in, using either a pastry cutter, a couple of kitchen knives (in a two handed chopping action) or rub in with your fingers. (I’ve suggested using a cutter as the pistacchio paste is quite sticky but you can rub it in)
  4. Add the egg and egg yolk and the lemon juice and briefly knead until it’s all evenly distributed. You should not need more liquid – this is quite a solid pastry, but add a tiny amount if you really think it’s needed (this is most likely caused by a smaller size of eggs or a lower humidity in your kitchen)
  5. Leave to rest in your fridge for 15 minutes

Method – construction and baking

  1. When rested, halve the dough and roll both out in to as perfect a rectangle as you can on a lightly floured surface. It’s also best to slightly flour the rolling pin
  2. The rectangles don’t have to be perfect, but they should be as close a match to each other as possible
  3. Aim to roll out to about 3-4mm thick
  4. Transfer one of the dough rectangles on to a large sheet of baking parchment/paper
  5. Only slightly dampen the pastry brush and use it to moisten the top of this rectangle of dough
  6. Scatter the crushed pistacchios and raisins over this layer of dough and lightly roll over with the rolling pin
  7. Place the second dough rectangle over the first. Roll over with the rolling pin to press down – you don’t need to be really firm or you’ll end up with the pistacchios poking through the top. This creates that indented, mottled top to the Garibaldis which is really characteristic and helps gel both layers together around the nuts and raisins
  8. Using a fork, dock the biscuit dough all over, as you would when blind baking a pastry case. This may not be easy in some places because of the hard pistacchios! This stops the pastry from puffing up too much
  9. Using a pizza wheel or large sharp knife, cut the rectangle in half and slide one half of the biscuit dough away from the other slightly. Cut the baking parchment/paper along this gap you’ve created
  10. For each slab of biscuit dough, cut the dough using the pizza cutter or knife into rectangles: they should be about 4cm x 3cm. You’ll get about 12-15 from each half of dough, so about 24-30 in total
  11. Picking up one side of the baking paper, which now has one half of the sliced, unbaked biscuits on and place on a baking tray. Repeat with the other paper/dough onto a separate baking tray, so that the paper you rolled and cut them on becomes the baking tray paper
  12. Do not separate out the biscuits
  13. Take your pastry brush again and spread the caramel syrup all over the tops of both sheets of unbaked biscuits
  14. Leave the baking trays of unbaked biscuits to rest, ideally in the fridge (or somewhere cool if you can’t get the trays in the fridge) for 15 minutes
  15. Put your oven on to 170C fan / 190C conventional (about 325 F)
  16. When the oven is ready, bake for 18 – 20 minutes (you may need to turn half way through)
  17. Leave to cool in the trays for a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. They can be stored for 3 – 4 days in an airtight container

Garibaldi5

Pane di Pasqua – Easter bread

FullSizeRenderA highly seasonal sweet bread, Easter bread has a long tradition across much of Europe developing from communion bread. Pane di Pasqua is not only symbolic, seasonal and delicious but is really fun to make because you can really be elaborate with the colourings for the eggs. It’s something that can easily be done with children: a bit of egg painting and then a delicious bread appears too!

Now I’m not religious but I appreciate the significance of this, so I’m not trying to make too light of it. It’s a bread with a lot of meaning for those who believe and for the rest of us it’s a fabulous sharing bread that can involve children, helping to interest them in learning to bake.

Notes

  • As this recipe uses tipo 00 or plain flour it will not rise much during the resting periods
  • Also, for the same reason, you will not have to knead the dough for quite as long as you do when using strong bread flour
  • If you have some cake release spray, you can use this instead of the butter and flour method of preparing the tin
  • This bread is a brioche-style bread, light and fluffy with a lovely taste of citrus. It’s nice eaten with a little butter, or toasted and slathered with a chocolate and hazelnut (gianduja) spread. The eggs can be lifted out, cracked open and eaten as per boiled eggs. Also, if it’s not eaten before it’s started to go stale, then it makes a lovely bread pudding, or simply warmed with custard and extra fruit.

Takes about 1 hour 40 minutes of preparation (of which 1 hour is totally hands off) and 35 minutes baking.

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Knife or dough cutter
  • A 21-23cm cake tin, ideally springform
  • Pastry brush
  • Small bowls (one for each colour you wish to dye your eggs)
  • Additionally, you may want to use some art masking fluid to achieve the two-colour patterns. You can purchase this online, in a stationer’s or art supply shop

Ingredients

  • 4 medium sized eggs
  • 30g unsalted butter, softened but not melted
  • 30ml Classic mild olive oil
  • 360g plain flour, tipo 00 (or plain ‘cake’ flour will do)
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 150ml warm milk
  • 4g fast acting dried yeast
  • 60g candied mixed peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of fine salt

Additional items

  • 1 additional egg for coating the bread
  • 1 or more food-safe colours
  • Extra butter, oil and flour

Method – dyeing the eggs

Dye three eggs – this can be done in advance. For each colour use a separate bowl and dissolve a little food colouring in enough water to cover the egg. I’d suggest one capful if you are using liquid colouring and, if you are using gel colouring, scoop out a little mound of the colour using the ‘wrong’ end of teaspoon (this should be about the right amount).

Leave for at least two hours and ideally overnight. Don’t place the eggs in the dough unless they are thoroughly dry or the dye will run across your bread.

FullSizeRender(5)

To achieve the look of the eggs in the image, I first painted the eggs with art masking fluid. Wait until the masking fluid is dry and then dye as below. Once the eggs are dyed and are touch-dry, rub off the masking fluid to reveal the shell colour below.

FullSizeRender(4)

Method

  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk
  2. Put the flour, sugar, butter, olive oil, salt and extract in the bowl, and make a well in the middle
  3. Pour in the milk and yeast and mix together a little, then add in one egg
  4. When the ingredients have come together, tip out onto a clean worksurface to begin kneading
  5. This dough is quite wet and sticky, but does not need any extra flour. You will find you are ‘scraping’ at the dough with your fingers more than traditional kneading for the first 2 minutes or so – persevere as it does quickly get much easier
  6. After about 2-3 minutes the dough will start to come together and keep its shape, picking up all the stickier bits of dough left on your worksurface
  7. Knead for 5-6 minutes, the dough will be smooth and still a little tacky
  8. Lightly oil the bowl, putting the dough in it. Cover with a linen tea towel or some cling film
  9. Leave to rest for 30 mins. This dough will not rise much
  10. While the dough is resting, prepare the cake tin by brushing on melted butter and tipping a little flour into the tin and swirling round
  11. After the dough is rested, knead in the fruit, making sure it is spread out evenly throughout the dough
  12. Divide the dough into three and roll each out into a long strand. The easiest way to ensure your strands are long enough to plait is to make sure they fit round the outside of your cake tin and the ends just meet
  13. Make a simple three strand plait. It’s easiest to make a neat plait if you start in the middle, work towards one end then repeat from the middle to the other end
  14. Pick up your plait gently and lay in the cake tin (as below)FullSizeRender(6)
  15. Match up the ends into the design of the plait as neatly as you can
  16. Gently tease open a section of the plait a little and place one of the eggs into this gap. Be careful as at this stage the eggs are still raw
  17. Repeat with the remaining two eggs, spacing them equally apartFullSizeRender(3)
  18. Cover the tin and leave for 30 minutes in a warm spot
  19. Turn your oven on to 200°C fan / 220°C conventional / 425°F
  20. After 30 minutes (again, the bread will not have risen much) place in the oven
  21. Whisk up the additional egg briefly and use it to brush the tops of the bread plait – do not paint the eggs though!
  22. Bake for 10 minutes and turn the oven down to 180°C fan / 200°C conventional / 400° F
  23. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes more until it’s a lovely golden brown. If the bread looks like it’s browning too quickly, you can cover the top with foil
  24. Leave to coolFullSizeRender(1)

Pan d’oro – using fresh and sourdough yeast

pandoro, Pan d'Oro sourdough recipe by ink sugar spiceThis is my worked-out recipe for pan d’oro, or gold bread. It’s an Italian sweet yeasted bread but it’s unlike the more commonly known Pannettone, but nonetheless delicious. I have added saffron to mine to make it even more golden and to enhance the vanilla taste.

Pan d’oro (or as some have concatenated it, ‘pandoro’) is a laminated bake, occupying a unique spot between a bread, a croissant and a cake. It’s a festive Italian speciality and is a mammoth baking endurance test, yet the results are worth it. It will take the best part of two days to complete, though thankfully you won’t be not hands on for all that time!

I have added a couple of links at the end to wine pairing websites that list pan d’oro – as this creation deserves the right Christmas tipple to serve it with.

There are recipes for ‘quick’ pan d’oro out there and yet others still that are more of a cake. These, I’m sure, are all delicious recipes but are not the traditional, multi-stage lamination bake.

I have tried to time my bake and recipe around my working day, so that you can get on with normal life as I have had to!

Now that I’ve conquered a recipe for it I do feel like I’ve got over a major hurdle or ticked something off a life list! It has been one of my “must bake” items for several years now. I eventually baked it five times, tweaking here and there and ensuring you don’t have to stay in the house for two days to make it (that’s a lot of my life devoted to pan d’oro). And it meant a lot of pan d’oro eating – though much has gone into the freezer and some made a nice chocolate bread and butter pudding.

I used a number of references for the recipe – several very old baking books I own (pre-70s) that I have wrested from second hand shops on holiday and some archives I found. In all the recipes the instructions for the latter stages are identical processes – well, it’s the physical method that makes this bake what it is; ie proving, laminating, resting, more proving and finally a slow bake. So it makes sense they would be unlikely to differ – but ingredient quantities do alter considerably between the recipes I looked at, even if you account for different sizes. I came to my recipe by examining the ratios of ingredients across a number of old recipes and took a sort of ‘mean average’ (that’s sort of the best way to describe it). I can imagine that because of the long development and proving processes that as long as you’ve got roughly those sorts of ingredients (and providing the ratios between them are all sound) the results would be good whatever. Anyway, with a few tweaks after bake one, the second and third bake both came out marvellously.

This recipe uses both fresh yeast and some sourdough starter. I tried to do it this way because I often use this halfway house method for my breads. Being a busy working mum I can’t always afford the time to make sourdough and I am not sniffy or stuck up about the use of quick dried yeast. Boo to those who are snobs about this. For those people who have the luxury of enough time to bake solely sourdough then I tip my hat to you as that’s simply awesome. However, there are some bread makers out there that come across as looking down their noses at those who don’t only do sour. Besides, sometimes I like a good springy normal white loaf – especially as my bacon sammich.

I do often like making my ‘mid week’ bread with about 75% of the stated dried yeast and then adding a small ladleful of my starter. I get the convenience and I get some of that wonderful taste. Plus, this tactic also uses up my starter and forces me to refresh and feed it, when otherwise I may not use it from one weekend to the next. Because this technique affords a lovely taste and crumb structure I wanted to use this for the pan d’oro.

Equipment

  • 500g pan d’oro tin (I bought mine online from Bakery Bits)
  • Two bowls – one very large
  • Saucepan
  • Spatula/flexible dough scraper
  • Wooden spoon
  • Pastry brush (for greasing the tin)
  • Cling film and/or tea towel
  • Wire rack
  • Small sieve for icing sugar dusting
  • Sharp bread knife

Ingredients – stage 1

  • Fresh yeast – 10g
  • Saffron – about 10-15 strands
  • Milk (full fat), warmed – 70 ml
  • Sourdough starter – 20g
  • Plain flour (I used 00 type) – 70g
  • Egg yolk, from a large egg – 1 (please try and use free range, not only are they higher welfare anyway, this better environment for the hens affords the eggs a more yellow hue, great for ensuring the goldeness of pan d’oro)
  • Caster sugar – 20g

Ingredients – stage 2

  • Caster sugar – 100g
  • Eggs, whole – 2
  • Flour (as before) – 200g
  • Unsalted butter, softened – 30 g
  • Vanilla seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod
  • Milk, warmed  – 60 ml

Ingredients – stage 3

  • Flour (as before) – 200g
  • Egg, whole – 1
  • Salt – 1 tsp

Ingredients – stage 4

  • Unsalted butter, room temperature but not too soft – 140g

Additional –

  • Light oil for greasing the bowls etc
  • Melted butter for greasing the final dough/mould
  • Icing sugar for dusting
  • Extra plain flour for dusting

Stage 1 method

Stage 1,2 and 3 can be started late afternoon/early evening – you will need about 4 hours of time (though not all of it is hands on) for all three stages

  1. Warm the 70ml milk (do NOT boil!) in a saucepan with the saffron. Leave to infuse for 5 minutes
  2. After this time, strain the milk to remove the saffron strands. If the milk is now cold, warm it again slightly (although it may well be warm enough to use now)
  3. Add in the egg yolk, 20g  of caster, 20 grams of starter and the 70g of plain flour – mix gently but thoroughly and cover with a clean tea towel or some cling film.
  4. Leave to bubble away and double in size. This should be about a couple of hours

Stage 2 method

  1. Crumble the 10g of fresh yeast in the additional 60ml of milk and stir until the yeast has dispersed
  2. Add this to the bowl of ingredients from stage 1
  3. Also add in 100g caster sugar, two whole eggs, 200g plain flour, 30g of softened unsalted butter and the vanilla seeds
  4. Mix this all together with a wooden or metal spoon, and then cover as before
  5. Again, leave to double in size – this should be about an hour

Stage 3 method

  1. Add the final ‘body’ ingredients to the bowl – this is the last 200g of flour, 1 more egg and a teaspoon (5g) of salt
  2. Mix
  3. Grease a clean large bowl and transfer the dough to it
  4. Cover and leave to rest overnight somewhere cool but not freezing

Stage 4 method

Stage 4 and the first prep stage can be started early morning on day two (for example, before going to work) – you will need about an hour, so you may have to get up earlier than normal, but it can be done.

  1. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a square and dot the 140g butter on to it, as if there were a diamond shape in the middle of the dough square
  2. Fold in each of the corner of the dough to meet in the middle, like a simple envelope
  3. Pinch all the edges together to seal the dough up and encase the butter (so it doesn’t leak out)
  4. Dust the top of the dough with flour and then, using a heavy rolling pin, roll our the dough so that it is a long rectangle (only roll it so it stretches away and towards you, not side to side)
  5. ‘Brochure’ fold the dough – that is, fold the top third over the middle third and then the bottom third over them both, similar to making puff or croissant pastry
  6. Cover the dough with cling film or place in a large food bag and stick in the freezer for 5 minutes
  7. Take the dough out and with an edge of pastry towards you where you can see the folds, roll our to another rectangle and then make another book fold
  8. Chill again for another 5 minutes in the freezer

Final prep stage

  1. Warm some butter and lightly grease the pan d’oro tin – don’t use too much or it will pool in the bottom
  2. Bring the dough out of the freezer and squash the corners up and in to make a ball shape
  3. With the smooth centre at the bottom and the raggy ends upwards, drop the ball into the pan d’oro tin
  4. Leave to rest somewhere cool but not too cold (ie not in the fridge unless it is a very hot day) while you go to work – or about 7 – 8 hours

Baking stage

Baking and finishing can be done in the evening of day two

  1. The pan d’oro is ready when it has risen just above the top of the tin. Like bread, it will spring back when press lightly with a finger
  2. Put your oven on to 150C fan / 170C conventional
  3. Bake on a low shelf for about 1 hour 10 minutes
  4. The top should be golden

Finishing

  1. Leave to cool a little in the tin
  2. Turn out on to a wire rack
  3. Before serving, dust liberally with icing sugar and cut the cake horizontally into several slices – turn the slices so that the star points resemble a Christmas tree

pandoro1.jpg

Finally…

After all that, go put your feet up, have a nice slice of what you’ve just created with a glass of Asti or Moscato spumante. Or you just may want to know the right wine pairing to serve to your Christmas guests.

Wine pairing websites that mention matches for pan d’oro:

http://vinoinlove.com/dessert-and-wine-pairing-suggestions/

http://www.seriousaboutfood.eu/how-to-choose-panettone-or-pandoro/

Pistacchio baci di dama

baci5Lady’s kisses – baci di dama – are tiny bite-sized sandwich biscuits. These mini morsels are traditionally made with fresh ground hazelnuts, and originate from the Piedmont area of Italy, where there is an abundance of hazelnut trees and a long history of hazelnut cultivation.

It’s possible that these biscuits were the Piedmont hazelnut alternative to the almond-based amaretti. They are made in pairs sandwiched together with chocolate ganache and area meant to either look like a set of pouting lips puckering up for a kiss or to represent two people kissing.

I have made the classic version before, but here I have substituted 50% of the hazelnuts for pistachios (or pistacchios if you want the correct Italian spelling) to add a slightly different taste and give the biscuits a little green sheen.


Also – you may have noticed! – I’ve had fun playing around with the shapes. Normally, you’d make little rounds only but I’ve gone one step further with a play on their name and made pairs of lips and hearts.

Notes

  • Makes 16 sandwiched biscuits (32 individual biscuit pieces)
  • Please see my additional notes on grinding nuts below

Equipment

  • Bowls – 1 large, 1 medium
  • Large baking tray (or two smaller) lined with baking paper or parchment
  • Small saucepan
  • Tablespoon measuring spoon

Ingredients – biscuits

  • Hazelnuts, ground (see note below) – 50g
  • Pistachios, skins removed and ground (see note below) – 50g
  • Unsalted butter – 72g
  • Plain flour – 100g
  • Caster sugar – 72g
  • Fine salt – a pinch
  • and if you have it – a few drops of hazelnut extract

Ingredients – chocolate ganache

  • Good quality chocolate – 100g (use either a high cocoa content milk or a mild dark chocolate – something around 60 – 70% as these biscuits I feel are best without the chocolate being too bitter)
  • Double cream – 50ml

Notes on preparing the ground nuts

  • It’s best to freshly grind your own nuts if you can (and also it can be difficult to get hold of pre-ground hazelnuts and pistachios anyway)
  • To remove the skins, gently roast the nuts on a baking tray at a low heat (about 120C) for 15 minutes. You do not want to brown them, just crisp the skins (although this also adds a nice toasty element and brings out the nuts’ flavours)
  • To remove the skins, put a handful of the toasted nuts at a time in a teatowel and bunch it up then rub furiously together – repeat with all the nuts
  • It doesn’t matter if you leave a few bits of skin – it can give the biscuits a nice speckled look
  • Grind the nuts in a coffee bean grinder or blender but it’s better to pulse on/off and check frequently. Grinding nuts for too long will result in a nut butter (which can be useful for other recipes!) But you don’t want to get to that stage for baci di dama – you need the nuts to be like coarse flour

Method

  1. Turn on your oven to 160C fan or 175C conventional
  2. Mix all the ingredients for the baci biscuits in the large bowl and bring together – you do not need to perform any rubbing in etc. Just make sure all the ingredients are evenly distributed then stop (always wise not to over-knead biscuits)
  3. Break off tablespoon-sized amounts of the mixture. In fact, use a tablespoon measure to scoop out the right amount of mixture and then level it off. This ensures your baci are the same size without laborious weighing
  4. Roll each piece between the palms of your hands and then flatten one side so you have a dome
  5. You can leave the baci in this traditional domed form if you prefer
  6. To make kisses and lips take two of the domes at a time (this way ensures you have all pairs and no single biscuit left over)
  7. Shape both pieces of dough into either separate lips or hearts and eye them in together so that they look pretty much the same (so you can match these later when sandwiching them together)
  8. Repeat for all the mixture – making sure you have even numbers of lips, hearts and domes (or whatever combination you’ve chosen)
  9. Bake or about 14 minutes
  10. These biscuits are fragile, especially when warm so leave to cool thoroughly on the baking trays before moving them
  11. To make the ganache
  12. Break up the chocolate into the smaller bowl
  13. Pour the cream into the saucepan and bring it to just boiling over a medium heat (stirring all the time)
  14. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until it is all combined
  15. Leave the ganache to cool
  16. When cool enough, pop in the fridge for 15 minutes
  17. To assemble,lay out matching pairs of baci
  18. Place a scant teaspoon of ganache on the underside of one baci and squash down with its twin
  19. Should keep for a few days in an airtight container – and pop in the fridge if it is warm as otherwise the ganache may start to melt and soften the biscuits
  20. These are better the day after (although that doesn’t mean they’re not nice straight away!)

Gluten free Italian orange polenta cake with a citrus, honey and anise syrup

POlentaOrangeCakeThis is a totally gluten free cake. It’s moist, delicious and makes a fabulous dessert served with cream, crème fraîche or ice cream as well as being a highly eat-able cake. I’ve also made it without baking powder, but rather bicarbonate of soda and vinegar.

It had been a while since I last made a polenta cake, and I really do love them. There is a trend at the moment to make layer cakes as elaborate as possible at home, which are impressive and wonderful (and I’m not adverse to succumbing to this level of showstopping-baking myself when I have the time), but sometimes you just want a really perfect, ‘proper’ old school single layer cake. One that’s so rich it can double as dessert. Yes, I could’ve made a loaf cake or a ‘granny cake’ (as one of my friends refers to cakes like cherry and Dundee) but I referred to an old Italian recipe I’ve had for years. I had just dragged a (reusable) bag full of lovely-looking oranges and lemons back from the greengrocers so it seemed fortuitous to make one. As I’m prone to playing about with standard recipes, I thought I’d ‘up’ the syrup a little by adding in the anise and honey.

For anyone interested in the chemistry of baking, I have substituted the customary baking powder for bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. I felt this was more authentic to the base vintage Italian recipe – at the time this was noted down baking powder was not available, or at least a rarity. Bicarb and vinegar produce the chemical reaction needed to raise your cake: traditionally baking powder is bicarb + cream of tartar (or substitutes). As long as you have the right ratio this soda and acid combination will do the trick of chemical leavening. Follow my recipe as I’ve written it and it will work, or alternatively just use 1 teaspoon baking powder and omit the soda and vinegar.

Notes

Makes a 20cm cake, so enough for eight very hungry people or ten more typically-indulgent diners.

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Citrus zester/microplane and juice squeezer
  • 20cm cake tin with a loose bottom, greased and lined with baking parchment
  • Food processor
  • Heavy based medium saucepan
  • Skewer

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter – 220g
  • Caster sugar – 220g
  • Ground almonds – 130g
  • Fine polenta – 150g
  • Bicarbonate of soda – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Cider or white wine vinegar – 2 teaspoons
  • Blanched (ie skinless almonds) – 60g
  • Eggs, large – 3
  • Orange zest – zest from 1 orange

Ingredients for the syrup

  • Lemon juice – juice from 1 fresh lemon (minus pips!)
  • Orange juice – juice from 2 fresh oranges (minus any pips too!)
  • Orange – one orange sliced thinly and any pips removed
  • Honey – 1 tablespoon of your choice of honey
  • Star anise – 1 whole pod

Plus a few rosemary flowers to decorate

Method

  1. Put the oven on to 180C fan / 190C conventional
  2. Whip the butter and sugar together until fluffy and lightened in colour
  3. Whizz up the blanched almonds in your food processor – you want them in small pieces but not as fine as the ground almonds (doesn’t matter if a bit of it becomes very fine)
  4. Add the ground almonds and your chopped/processed almonds, polenta and bicarbonate of soda and fold together
  5. Now add the vinegar and orange zest and fold again
  6. You must now act fairly quickly – do not walk off between the last step and getting the cake in the oven, as the vinegar and bicarb will be already starting to react
  7. Spoon into the prepared tin and smooth the top over as level as possible
  8. Pop straight into the oven for 30 minutes
  9. After 30 minutes,  turn down the temperature to 150C fan / 170C conventional and bake for about another 30 minutes (test after 20 minutes), until the cake is firm but not solid (it shouldn’t spring back quite as much as a ‘normal’ sponge cake but will have a little bounce)
  10. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin
  11. Prepare the syrup by placing the sliced oranges in the bottom of the saucepan and covering with the orange and lemon juice and pop in the star anise pod
  12. Turn the hob up to a medium-high heat
  13. After a minute or two, add the honey – the reason I say to wait is that because the juice is now warm and it will be easier to put the honey in. The heat will allow the honey to slide cleanly off the spoon
  14. Turn up to allow the liquid to boil and let it boil for 2 – 3 minutes until it is reduced
  15. Remove the orange slices and leave to cool on a plate for a minute or two
  16. Remove the star anise pod and discard
  17. Spike some holes in the cake (all over the top) with a skewer to allow the syrup to sink into the cake
  18. Pour half of the syrup onto the cake, allowing it to drain into the holes
  19. Arrange the orange slices on the top of the cake and pour over the rest of the syrup
  20. Add the rosemary flowers if using
  21. Once the cake is cooled, remove from the tin
  22. Serve as you would any other cake or turn it into a delicious dessert by serving with a generous helping of ice cream (or should that be gelato?), crème fraîche or clotted cream