Tag Archives: dessert

The Super Sweet Blogging Award

Super Sweet Blogging AwardLast Christmas Eve, Fae of Fae’s Twist & Tango decided to play Santa and put something super sweet under our Christmas tree. 🙂 We want to thank Fae for passing on to us this lovely award. Fae is a very special lady of exotic origin who has been travelling the world since… forever! Her blog is much more than extraordinary recipes. She opens the door to new worlds taking her readers on a fascinating journey through amazing different cultures. You may want to check her blog out when you got a chance. I promise you won’t regret it! 🙂

The rules of the award are:

1 Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.
2 Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back.
3 Answer the “Super Sweet” questions.
4 Nominate a “Baker’s Dozen” (12) blogs for the award, add a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.
5 Copy and paste the award on your blog somewhere.

The Super Sweet Questions are:

1. Cookies or Cake? Cookies

2. Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate

3. What is your favorite sweet treat? Hazelnut dark chocolate

4. When do you crave sweet things the most? In the morning

5. If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be? If someone would give me a sweet nickname, I would suggest that he or she sign up for therapy sessions! 😉

My nominees are (in no particular order):

1. Sweet Precision because Heather was born with the baking gene.
2. lovely buns because temptation must be rewarded.
3, 4, 5 & 6. Tortore, The Greedy Frog, Dans Ta Kitchenette and Ma Cuisine et Vous because everybody talks about Italians but when it comes to baking, let’s be honest, French do it better 😉
7. Bam’s Kitchen because of that unique exotic twist Bobbi always manages to put in.
8. piesandeyes because he believes that food should look good in addition to taste good.
9. Maria Dernikos because her baking skills are amazing.
10. at350degrees because of Carissa’s “bake-ology”.
11. The pancake princess and the protein prince because Erika makes me crave sweets even if I do not have a sweet tooth.
12. apuginthekitchen because of her extraordinary creativity.

Congratulations to all the nominees – you are all very well deserving!

Merry Christmas!

Shrimp CocktailHere we go! Christmas Eve… for my family, it is even more important than Christmas Day. We have been talking about this night for weeks. We have invited friends, my mom and I have decided the table setting and selected the dishes and Stefano has chosen the bubbly and the still wines for tonight.

My parents brought delicious treats from Rome and Stefano brought traditional sweets from Milan and Genoa.

To make you understand how much work and planning went into the preparations for this magical night and to give you a flavor of an Italian Christmas Eve, we decided we would share with you the pictures of some of the food that will be served. We follow the Catholic tradition, so you won’t see any meat around!

Smoked Salmon CrostiniWe’ll start with a shrimp cocktail, some eggs au gratin, a broccoli quiche, a potato frittata, smoked salmon crostini, blue cheese puffs with fontina sauce and cauliflower au gratin. With these, Stefano is going to serve a Ferghettina, Franciacorta Brut DOCG S.A., a Classic Method Italian spumante aged 24 months on its lees.

We’ll continue with spaghetti with clams and a truffle risotto. Afterwards, we’ll serve branzino fillets with vegetables. The wines that Stefano paired with these main courses are an Argiolas, Vermentino di Sardegna Costamolino DOC 2011 and a Vigneti Massa, Colli Tortonesi Timorasso Derthona DOC 2009 for the truffle risotto.

Black TrufflesFor dessert, we’ll have some fruit (grapes and cherries) and lots and lots of sweets: panettone (a traditional Christmas sweet bread loaf originally from Milan), pandolce (a traditional Christmas cake from Genoa), dried figs, chocolate-coated torrone and chocolate torrone with hazelnuts that my mom bought in Vatican City, marrons glacés from Cova (one of the most famous patisseries in Milan), chocolate orangettes, marzipan fruits and chocolates, all hand-made, from Viganotti (one of the oldest and best chocolate stores in Genoa, who make all their chocolate and marzipan masterpieces in the workshop adjoining the store, using only the best, freshest ingredients: if you are ever going to be in Genoa make sure you pay them a visit – you will not regret it). With the dessert, Stefano is going to serve Le Colture, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry DOCG, a Charmat-Martinotti Method spumante, and for the chocolate a Lustau, Pedro Ximenez Sherry San Emilio – Solera Reserva DO.

Collection of Christmas sweetsHopefully, after all this food and wine, we are still going to function!  😉

Chocolate-coated torrone, chocolate torrone with hazelnuts and marrons glacésAll of us at Flora’s Table wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas! May Santa make your dreams come true tonight!!!Milanese panettone with chocolate-dipped orange wedges

Chocolate Cake

Francesca's Chocolate CakeMy parents will be arriving today from Rome to spend the holidays with us. They will be at our house at around 4 pm and the first thing my mother is going to ask for is an espresso macchiato and something sweet to eat. She is chocolate crazy like my daughter. I truly believe that the sweet tooth skipped a generation with me! 🙂 Am I the only one who would choose pizza or nachos with cheese cream (for the record, I go totally crazy about those that are sold at movie theaters) over a slice of cake or a little chocolate without even thinking about it? Anyway… since Christmas is upon us and at Christmas anyone should be on their best behavior, I decided to bake a chocolate cake to make her happy and celebrate her arrival.

Before we talk ingredients and procedure, let me just thank my mother-in-law, Laura. This delicious recipe comes from her and she was gracious enough to share it with me. Thank you, Laura! 🙂

Ingredients:

4 eggs
3/4 of 1 cup, sugar
11 Tbsp, butter, softened
6.5 oz, dark chocolate
1/3 of 1 cup, flour
Powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:

Fill a medium-sized pot with hot tap water and put it on a very low heat on the stove. Put the chocolate in a small pot or a heatproof bowl (if you are using a chocolate tablet, reduce it to small pieces). When the water is about to boil, fit securely the small pot or the bowl over the larger pot. Let the chocolate melt, stirring occasionally and being very careful not to let the water come into contact with the chocolate, until you obtain a smooth sauce.

In the meanwhile, separate the egg yolks from the whites and put the latter aside in a separate bowl.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the sugar and the egg yolks and mix until they are perfectly blended. Add the butter and beat until the butter is completely blended with the egg mixture. Add the melted chocolate and mix for a few minutes. Add the flour and mix until well blended. Stop and scrape the bowl.

With a hand mixer, start beating the egg whites that you previously set aside. Start at a low speed and gradually increase the speed of the hand mixer until you obtain a thick and foamy mixture.

With the help of a spatula, slowly add the foamy mixture to the chocolate mixture, moving the spatula from the bottom to the top.

Pour the mixture into a greased and floured 10-inch round baking pan. Bake for 25/30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake completely cool and remove it for the pan. Put the cake on a big round serving plate and dust its top with the powdered sugar.

Enjoy! 🙂

Francesca's Chocolate Cake

Melba Sauce

Yup! Nicole is right. I like to finish my meals with fruit. However, I allow myself to indulge in something sweet once in a while and her rich, creamy and delicious cheesecake is my exception to the rule. Just to keep the fruit in the equation, I like to complement her cheesecake with some Melba Sauce.

Now, I know I’m going straight to the guillottine with this recipe 😉 but what’s life without taking a little risk? The Melba sauce is indeed a French masterpiece. It was created by the famous French chef August Escoffier to honor the Australian soprano Nellie Melba at the end of the 19th century. I can totally see the frowning foreheads of our French readers (led by my French teacher) asking themselves: has she lost her mind?

Well, I tell you what: of course I do not have Escoffier’s recipe nor has any French ever taught me how to make this gorgeous sauce, but I’m a huge believer in constructive criticism. Therefore, I invite you all (regardless of your citizenship) to comment, correct and/or complete my recipe as you see fit!

After all, what are bloggers for? 😉

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh raspberries
1 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar
1/8 Tsp lemon juice

Directions:

Rinse the raspberries with water, put them in a strainer over a bowl and let them drain fully.

Transfer the raspberries, the sugar and the lemon juice in a blender or a food processor and blend until you obtain a creamy mixture.

Place a small strainer over a soup bowl. Pour some of the raspberry mixture in the strainer and, with the back of a spoon, push the mixture through the strainer so that the seeds remain in the strainer. Repeat the same procedure with the rest of the raspberry mixture.

Pour the sauce in a little pitcher and serve it.

Et voilà, simple et délicieuse! Vive la France! 🙂

Cheesecake, as promised

I promised that with Francesca’s Prosciutto and Fennel Salad and the Asparagus Baked Pasta that you had a dinner party.  Well, almost. In my humble opinion, no dinner party is complete without dessert. Francesca would say fruit, but I think dessert. I promised a cheesecake and so you will have one. This is one has two layers and isn’t in need of anything else but if you like, you can serve it with some macerated strawberries or the Melba Sauce shown in the photo. (Francesca will follow this post with a recipe for the Melba Sauce)   You do need to bake this the night before you want to serve it.

I wouldn’t be me without an opinion or two.  Stop laughing, Francesca!  Springform pans: I don’t like them coated with non-stick finish, I don’t like dark ones, and I especially I don’t like the ones with the elevated bottom and big one inch foot on the outside as you can’t put them on a cake stand and they take up a lot of room in the fridge.  I like them shiny, with a bumpy bottom that sits in a groove inside the bottom of the ring.  Treat them right by washing gently so as not to bend them and drying them right away and reassembling and they will last a long time.  If you let them air dry, they will pit and rust.

Ingredients – Graham Cracker Crust:

1 & 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
6 TBS butter, melted

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and toss until thoroughly moistened. Press evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a 10″ springform pan with a spatula.  Set aside.

Ingredients – Cheesecake:

(4) 8 oz Packages of Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature
1 & 1/3 cups granulated sugar
(6) large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp almond extract

Ingredients – Topping:

1 pint of sour cream
6 TBS granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set rack in just below the middle of the oven.

Place the first package of cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer and cream on low speed.  Add remaining packages of cream cheese, one at a time, creaming until soft.  Turn the mixer up slightly and slowly add the sugar. Beat until the sugar is dissolved (Note: don’t beat at too high a speed.  Incorporating air will cause your cheesecake to fall and crack later on.) Scrape down the bowl as you need to.

Turn the mixer up to about medium and beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl in between.  Pour in the almond extract and give it one last mix.

Pour the cheesecake mix into the 10″ springform pan with the graham cracker crust. Bake for 50 minutes at 350 degrees. Cheesecake should be set with a slightly jiggly center. Remove from oven and maintain oven temperature.

In a small bowl mix the topping. Wisk until sugar is dissolved.  Pour over cheesecake and bake in oven for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Allow to cook until the pan can be handled (it will still be warm).  Cover with an inverted 12 inch dinner plate or a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The cheesecake will set up in the fridge.  When you are ready to serve it, run a thin knife around the perimeter of the pan and release the sides.  When serving, cut two slices the first time and serve pull one out with a pie server or spatula.  You should end up with a good result.

A Heavenly Cake

I’m NOT a morning person! Never have been and never will be. Anyone who knows me (teachers, bosses, friends) can vouch for me. I think that the last time I got up early was when I was breastfeeding and, let’s be honest, I was not happy. If asked, I don’t even think I would be able to tell you exactly what is the color of the sky in the early morning. In the place where I live, this is such a big no no, but I can’t help it. That’s just who I am.

I no longer work in an office, but I still have a teeny problem: my daughter has to go to school. Every morning, after I manage in a way or another to send my daughter to school, my only neuron awake wanders across my mind begging only for two things: caffeine and something sweet. All the years I spent in the United States have not changed my breakfast habits: my palate loathes cereals and any kind of proteins and craves croissants, pastries, cookies or… a slice of cake.

The recipe I’m sharing with you today is of a cake that was one of Stefano’s favorites in his childhood. Growing up in Genoa, he loved to eat this cake on any occasion he could lay his hands on one. When we happen to be there visiting his family, we always make sure we stop by a pastry store called “Bar Magenta” where they make a version of this cake that is really to die for. So, if you are planning a trip to Genoa, just drop us an email if you need the address and then pay them a visit: you won’t regret it!

By the way, I wish I could take credit for this recipe! Although (please forgive my modesty) I do take credit for a pretty good execution of it 😉 Well, anyway, the recipe comes from lovely Patrizia, the daughter-in-law of the wife of my father-in-law… does this sound too complicated to follow? Yeah, it probably is, but the thing is – we are a pretty complicated family which found its own way to get along… but this is another story 🙂

Too much digression. Back to the recipe.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cup, powdered sugar
¾ of 1 cup, blanched almonds
4 eggs
12 and ½ Tbsp, butter, softened
½ cup, flour
⅓ cup, potato starch flour
1 pinch, salt
1 Tbsp, baking powder
½ Tsp, almond extract
Powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:

Put the almonds in a food processor or a blender and blend them until you obtain a smooth powder.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the sugar and the almond powder and mix until they are perfectly blended. Add the eggs and mix until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Add the butter and beat until the butter is completely blended with the egg mixture. Add the flour, the potato starch flour and the salt and mix for a few minutes. Finally, add the almond extract and the baking powder and mix until well blended. Stop and scrape the bowl.

Pour the mixture into a greased and floured 9-inch round baking pan. Do NOT preheat the oven. Bake at 350 F for 30/35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake completely cool and remove it for the pan. Put the cake on a big round serving plate and dust its top with the powdered sugar.

A few more words: I happen to have a sweet tooth only in the mornings. I usually finish my other meals with fruit (that’s what most people do in Italy). That does not mean that you cannot eat or serve this cake at dinner time. If you would like that Stefano suggest you a wine to go with it, just leave a comment below or drop him an email and he’ll be glad to!