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Entries in dessert (12)

Thursday
Apr052012

Ricotta Fritters

Easter is Sunday and nothing says "Easter" in an Italian-American household like ricotta cheese.

Why? I really don't know. BUT, I think it has something to do with the versatility of ricotta. You can make it savory or sweet, appetizer, entree or dessert. Or all three. Or five. But who's counting?

You are. And you should be. Just don't count the calories in these Ricotta Fritters. It's pointless. Between the ricotta cheese (full fat, please) and peanut oil you probably have enough to induce cardiac arrest in the newly risen Lord. 

Is that blasphemous? Not at all. Just the facts, here. 

So while there are many seasonal Italian desserts that would be appropriate for Easter (ex: Ricotta cheesecake, strufoli), the FACT of the matter is that these will induce multiple Hallelujah's from your Easter crowd. They're even small enough to hide in those plastic Easter eggs if you like.

What You Need:
8 oz Fresh Ricotta cheese
2 eggs
6 tablespoons flour
20 grams or 3/4 oz butter, softened to room temperature
Grated zest from 1 lemon
salt

For frying:
3 cups of peanut oil
An "ugly" pot
(An ugly pot is a cheap, deep pot reserved for unsightly tasks like frying. You really don't want to wreck one of your nicey-nice All-Clad variates with spitting hot peanut oil. Trust me.)
Thermometer (the oil should read 350 degrees)

Optional Toppings:
Honey with limoncello
Confectioners sugar

What To Do:
Put the ricotta in a bowl with the two eggs and mix until well combined.

Add the flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, working it into the ricotta with a whisk.

Add in the butter, lemon zest and a pinch of salt, mixing well. If the mixture is too runny, you can add another tablespoon of flour.

Set the batter aside and let it rest for 2 hours. We didn't do this. We have no patience.

Heat the peanut oil in your ugly pot to 350 degrees.

Test the heat by dropping a tiny ball of the batter into the oil. If it floats immediately to the surface and starts to turn golden brown, you are ready to rock and roll!

Drop the batter into the oil a tablespoon at a time, pushing the batter off of the spoon with a spatula.

Don't crowd your ugly pot! Fritters need room to breath and fry! Give 'em some space.

When the fritters are an even golden brown, fish them out of the oil with a slotted spoon.

Set them on some parchment paper to cool.

At this point, you can either dust them with confectioners sugar, or gently heat up some honey with a splash of limoncello in it. After your liquored-up honey is warm and runny, drizzle the fritters with it.

Eat these little babies immediately. I can't think of a reason not to...

Monday
Mar262012

"Juiced-Up" Italian Knot Cookies

'Round Iaciofano HQ we like to cook with liquor. Just a splash...or two...

Now, we're not really heavy drinkers. Marmo gets completely toasted from on glass of wine (I have to cut her off) and The Box, despite his size turns loopy after a couple of light beers (he used to have a preference for Tequiza before they discontinued the brand).

But a few dribbles, splashes or drops of liquor can really improve a recipe. Consider this one: Italian Knot Cookies. My family usually makes these around Christmas time. But they are light and fresh and colorful, so they remind me of springtime and Easter...and they are in cute little knots, so they're great for weddings or such celebratory feasts.

The cookie part is a soft, slightly sweet and yellow (lots of eggs!) batter - almost like a cookie version of a Challah bread. The icing is just a light, sweet coating, dribbling down the sides and into the crevices of the knots. It's generally just confectioners sugar and water, but Marmo and I "juiced" it up with – what else? – limoncello.

As we've discussed, limoncello is a traditional lemon flavored liquor, found in Southern Italy. It's an after dinner drink, sipped to ease digestion. It's sweet and intensely lemony. John and I experimented with making our own a while back – remember that?

If you don't want to make your own, you can certainly buy a nice bottle. Keep it stored in your freezer, as it's best served chilled. And then you can bust some out with these cookies and everyone will be feeling that warming spring air, right in their very bellies.

What You Need:

Cookies:
5 cups of flour
6 eggs - well beaten
1/2 lb of butter at room temperature
4 oz cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
5 teaspoons of baking powder

Icing:
1/2 cup Confectioners sugar - more if needed
1 teaspoon of Limoncello
water if needed

Garnish: multicolored, round sprinkles

What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slightly grease a cookie sheet, or line it with parchment.

Beat together butter, cream cheese and sugar in a standing or hand-held mixer until light and creamy.

Add in the eggs and the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and mix to combine.

Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet. You may have to add more flour if it's an especially humid day.

The dough should come together easily and not be too sticky. You need to be able to roll the dough and tie it into knots.

Start grabbing pinches of the dough right out of the bowl. Roll them on a board that is VERY lightly floured. Try not to add too much flour at this point. Roll them until the strands are about 1/2 inch thick and about 4 inches long.

Tie the the dough strands into simple knots and place on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes, until they are light golden in color and the bottoms are beginning to turn golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool.

For the icing:

Measure the Confectioners sugar into a small bowl. Pour the Limoncello over the sugar and whisk together until combined. You don't want this mixture to be too runny - it will zoom right off your cookie! If you need to thicken it, just add more Confectioners sugar. If you need to go a little thinner, add a touch of water (you don't want to overwhelm your cookie eaters with Limoncello at this point).

Drizzle the icing over the tops of the cookies and decorate with the multicolored sprinkles. The icing will dry so that you can store them all together in a happy little tin. Or take them to work with you in a plastic bag. Just don't accidentally sit on them like I did. Sat-on cookies don't have the same appeal. My co-workers still ate all of them, though....

Makes about 80 cookies (so you might want to share).

 

Monday
Mar192012

Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti

I'm making a push on the blog for more authentic Italian recipes. If John and I (this is Elana here) are purporting to tell you what quality Italian food should taste like and where to find it, we should perhaps tell you how to make it.

The "making it" falls into my department. John's department involves eating, restaurant reservations, hair styling tips and wallet losing. How many of you have lost your wallet recently? How many times have you lost your wallet in the past year? This is a serious question, people. Because if you lose your wallet you may just have to stay home and eat.

And if you stay home and eat, you may need to know what to make. We would like to be the place you come to for quality Italian recipes.

The above pictured photo of Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti are such an example. Biscotti are traditional Italian cookies so named because they are "twice cooked." You can stuff your biscotti with any number of add-ins. I felt as though the sweet-tart flavor of the Gran Gala soaked cranberries was perfectly complemented by the salty, crunchy pistachios.

Biscotti should be crunchy, not chewy. The make excellent dippers. Into hot chocolate, coffee, chai tea... They should be satisfying and dense. They (being a cookie) are also extremely portable. So you can take them on the go while you retrace your steps to find your lost wallet...

Anyway, here's how they go:

What You Need:
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sugar in the raw
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons anise seeds
8 ounces (1 cup) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cranberries soaked in 1/4 cup Gran Gala (an orange liquor - make sure to reserve this and not throw it away, as you will add it to the dough!)
1 cup salted pistachios, roughly chopped

Glaze: 2 egg whites, beaten until foamy

What To Do:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

With an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the the sugar in the raw, granulated sugar and anise seeds. Add this to the flour mixture.

With the mixer on low speed, add the chilled butter, mixing until the pieces are the size of large peas.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, Gran Gala (not including the cranberries - remove those and set them aside) and vanilla extract. Add these wet ingredients to the dough, mixing until just combined.

Add the pistachios and cranberries, blending them into the dough evenly.

The dough will feel sticky. Don't be alarmed! Let it rest for 15 to 30 minutes before shaping it.

Now onto the baking:

Line two large baking sheets with parchment. Cut the dough into quarters. Using as little flour as possible on your work surface, roll each quarter into a log that's 13 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, working out the air pockets as you go.

Set the logs on the lined baking sheet about 3 inches apart.

Brush the sides and top with the beaten egg whites. Bake until golden brown and firm in the center, about 35 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through the baking process.

Remove from the oven and set the cookies on their baking sheets to cool for about 30 minutes.

Baking Time Part the Second!

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. You can line the baking sheets with fresh parchment if needed.

With a serrated knife, slice the logs into 1/2 inch thick slices, cutting on a bias (slanted).

Lay the sliced cookies flat on the baking sheet.

Bake about 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets if needed.

Flip the cookies over and bake until both sides are a rich golden brown, another 10 to 15 minutes.

Set the baking sheets on racks to cool completely.

You can store them in an airtight container for up to two weeks. But they shouldn't last that long, as you will most likely eat them as soon as possible!

*Based on a recipe found in Fine Cooking Magazine. But we made it ours.

Wednesday
Oct262011

A Trio of Desserts at Dovetail

You know the saying, "Eat dessert first." The word "first" implies that you might need something (for example regular dinner) after because your dessert entree was not sufficient. Or not satisfying.

If this is the case, you have obviously been eating dessert first at the wrong establishments. Allow me to help you out with that.

I'm the type of eater that goes to a restaurant and immediately flips to the dessert menu. I want to see if I should plan my main meal around dessert.

Factors to consider include:

1. How hungry am I – if dessert looks really good, should I get an appetizer as well?

2. Who am I eating with? Are my co-diners likely to order dessert? Will I be able to steal some of theirs? Will they want to steal some of mine? (Back off, moochers!)

3. How much of the menu do I want to try — is it a new place, or somewhere I have been before?

4. How many of the desserts do I want to sample? Often more than one look appealing and if I can't count on anyone else to help me out with them, I must adjust my "real" dinner accordingly.

As you can see, there are many factors in play. Sometimes the desserts look so good you must give up on real dinner altogether and just go all in. For dessert.

Dovetail is just the restaurant for this kind of thing.

The above dessert is the Cinnamon Toast Panna Cotta. Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert translated as "cooked cream". It usually has a jello/pudding-like consistency with a creaminess that can't be beat.

In this case, the cream was accented by concord grapes, the teeniest cinnamon toast triangles, a smear of rich berry preserves and some fun foam. I really liked the foam. I'm not sure it tasted like anything, but it was cool. The rest of the dessert was fantastic - the cream was perfectly balanced by the intense flavor from the grapes, while the tiny toasts added a bit of crunch and spice.

Next up was the Frozen Pumpkin Pie. This was a deconstructed pie, as the various components of the "pie" were arranged linearly along a swash of cranberry reduction. It was a sight to behold, but not for long once my fork got a grip on its chocolatey accents (both from cracker pieces and moist, dark chunks of cake). The pumpkin scoop seemed like a combination of pie filling and ice cream as it had a heartier consistency than regular ice cream. Solid, pumpkiny and perfectly spiced. Cranberries and little marshmallow puffs accented the dish to give a blast of tang and sweetness.

The above was actually a little dessert "appetizer". I love it when I get dessert appetizers. Unexpected, pretty little treats. They make me feel special. Every girl wants to feel special, you know?

This little guy accomplished that with a dollop of celery sorbet atop cute cubes of yellow vanilla cake. I was a little obsessed with the celery sorbet. The celery flavor was so refreshing. Savory, but sweet at the same time, perhaps helped in that regard by the cake. Tiny, perfect, special.

There was also a Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflé that I could not photograph, as it left the table by way of fork-to-mouth so rapidly, a camera snap couldn't keep up.

A personal-sized ramekin of bittersweet chocolate was pierced gently with a knife by our server. Into this crevice was poured a fine caramel sauce of perfectly balanced sweetness. One small globe of chai ice cream was positioned on the perimeter, ripe for the dipping.

As you can see, there was no need for real dinner. This dessert dinner was more than enough. We left satisfied, happy, and very, very full. Of dessert.

Overall Dessert Eating Experience: The Dark Knight

Tuesday
Sep132011

My Favorite Summer into Fall Dessert – Peach Crostata

It's quite possible this is my favorite Marmo-baked dessert. This dessert accomplishes some fantastic things in the realm of taste and texture:

It's tangy (depending on which fruit you choose for the filling).

It's sweet – but not overdone.

It's crust is a buttery fantasy of golden brown deliciousness that surrounds the tangy fruit in a chewy and crispy envelope.

A magical thing happens with the fruit and crust in which the mushy fruit creates an ooey-chewy layer of dough right where the fruit and crust meet – Not unlike an L&B slice of pizza – yet the rest of the crust remains firm and fresh. It's magic.

Side Note #1: This is a good pie to eat at 2am for your second dessert. Or first breakfast...

Side Note #2: You could modify this with other fruits – apples! Berries! Cheese puffs! No, not the cheese puffs.

Side Note #3: This is a good "pie" to make if you are not good at crusts. You're allowed to be messy with this crust, as it's just a fold-over. No special trimming or arrangements involved.

So let's get down to how make it, because you are going to want to do that. Soon.

Fruit Crostata

What You Need for the Crust:
1 2/3 cup flour
3 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 c cornmeal
1 teaspoon grated orange peel – optional
14 tablespoon chilled unsalted butter
1/3 cup ice water.

What To Do for the Crust:
Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, orange peel and salt and blend in a food processor. Add butter using on/off pulse until butter is reduced to pea size pieces.

Add the water a little at a time until dough comes together. Gather dough together into a ball and chill for 15 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper to about 14 inches wide. 

Slide the parchment and dough combo onto a baking sheet.  Chill for another 15 minutes – no more!

What You Need for the Filling:

1/4 cup sugar
4-5 peaches or nectarines sliced and peeled
1/2 pint of raspberries
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg beaten

What You Do for The Filliing:

Stir sugar and cornstarch together in a large bowl.

Mix in fruit and vanilla extract.

Let this stand until juices are released – about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Spoon fruit onto the center of the dough, arranging it in a 10 inch diameter circle in the center of the dough. Lift the edges of the dough, fold them over the fruit center, and pinch them to form a seam. 

Brush the dough with egg and sprinkle with raw sugar.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake until crust is golden brown, about 55 minutes.