Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitary

Still traveling through Italy, loving every moment and taking zillion of pictures which, upon my return home, will take me a long time to organize. For now I hope you will enjoy my entries for this week Photo Challenge: solitary
Within the myriad of colori (colors), suoni (sounds), aromi (aromas), and sapori (flavors) of Italy, here there are my few instants of solitude.
20120929-010141.jpg
The 15th century arches of the cloister of Rectory of Santa Maria in Novara – Piemonte
20120929-014339.jpg
After the rain, Venice.

20120929-011831.jpg
The bridge to Civita di Bagnoregio – Umbria

20120929-015200.jpg
Row boat on Lake D’Orta – Piemonte

Until next week ciao from Italy!

Note: All photos taken with my iPhone.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Everyday Life

I had lately considered participating in the Word Press weekly photo challenge but, me being me, I have been procrastinating. Being currently in Italy, however, this challenge provides me an opportunity to publish some quick posts which give you a glimpse of what I will be sharing upon my return to the States.
During a morning walk through Milan’s busy streets, I took some photographs with my iPhone; I think few of these respond to this week challenge: everyday life.

20120921-000645.jpg

20120921-000839.jpg

20120921-000953.jpg

Until next week challenge…Ciao from
Italy!

Delizia al Limoncello . . . a cake fit for celebrations!

In three days I will be flying to Italy and I cannot tell you how excited I am, however, I could not leave without sharing with you another moment of excitement in my adventure as a blogger.

I am celebrating 10,000 views on my blog . . . I am ecstatic!

Coincidentally, I hit the 10,000 mark exactly 9 months after my very first post which I thought was pretty cool.

Early Saturday morning I realized that I was close to the magic number so I decided that this time I would celebrate in style – Italian style of course – with a cake.

Back in July, I visited Fante Kitchen Shop in Philadelphia’s Italian Market. The store is like candy land for cooks. I only needed a Fusilli iron but I came out with much more, including a hemisphere cake pan.

As soon as I saw this dome shaped pan I knew what I wanted to bake: A Delizia al Limoncello!

Since July, however, I hadn’t had a chance to bake my Delizia, among other reasons I had to wait for my homemade Limoncello to be ready – for my Limoncello recipe click here.

What better occasion than my 10,000 views to inaugurate my new pan and experiment with a new recipe?!

The original name of this dessert is Delizie al limone (delizie is plural of delizia); it’s the youngest dessert of the Campania region. The dessert has quickly become the symbol of the Amalfi coast, where in 1978, chef Carmine Marzuillo presented this delicacy for the first time.

Generally, the delizie are prepared as individual servings, in the shape of a small dome and they are often arranged in a cluster to allow for a large, more dramatic presentation. I decided to utilize my large hemisphere cake pan to create one big Delizia. Also, I call my dessert Delizia al Limoncello, because, unlike the original recipe, I use Limoncello in every element of the cakes.

So, I celebrate another milestone of my adventure sharing this recipe with all of you.

It’s my way to say THANK YOU to all of you for following me, leaving kind comments, and showing your support.

Please keep visiting and sharing with the world my little piece of Italy.

NOTES:

  • You can bake as individual serving using half sphere baking pan – I just found a silicone mold that seems great on Amazon – or muffins pan.
  • For a more kids friendly version, you can substitute the limoncello with equal amount of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  • You can substitute the potato starch with cornstarch. In this case use only 2 tablespoon of cornstarch and increase the flour by 2 tablespoons.

Ricetta

DELIZIA AL LIMONCELLO

Cosa serve (What you need)

For the Pan di Spagna (Italian sponge cake)

5 eggs (yolk and white separated)

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup all purpose flour

¼ cup potato starch (you can substitute with cornstarch – see note above)

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 pinch of salt

1 teaspoon limoncello

For the pastry cream filling

¾ cup flour (sifted)

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

2 cups whole milk

Grated zest from 2 lemons (best quality and organic)

1 cup heavy whipping cream

¼ cup limoncello

For the pastry cream to cover the cake

2 cups whole milk

¾ cup sugar

3 teaspoons cornstarch

Grated zest from 2 lemons (best quality and organic)

1/3 cup limoncello

1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

For the syrup

1-1/2 cup sugar

½ cup water

zest of 1 lemon

¼ cup limoncello

Cosa fare (What to do)

Step 1: making the cake

  • Pre heat oven at 350 degrees. Butter and floured the cake pan.
  • Sift together the flour, potato starch and ¼ teaspoon salt.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer, with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites and a pinch of salt and beat until stiff peaks form.

  • Transfer to another bowl.
  • Rinse and dry the bowl of the standing mixer, switch to the paddle attachment and add the egg yolks and sugar. Beat until light, fluffy and creamy at least15 minutes.
  • Add the grated lemon zest and limoncello and blend into the mixture.
  • Slowly add the egg whites meringue. Make sure you are working on low speed during this step.
  • When the egg whites are blended into the mixture start adding the sifted flour. Blend the ingredients always working on low speed.
  • Pour the mixture into the cake pan.

  • Bake for 40 minutes. Test: a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean when the cake is done.
  • Turn the oven off but leave the cake inside for 5 minutes.
  • Remove from oven, let stand in the pan for additional 5 minutes.
  • Carefully remove from pan (upside down) and cool completely on a cooling rack.

Step 2: making the filling and topping creams

In a pan add all the milk (4 cups) and the grated lemon zest of the 4 lemons. When is about to boil turn the heat off, cover with a lid and let rest for 30 minutes. Then filter through a sieve and divide the milk into two equal parts (you will use each half for each cream).

For the Limoncello cream filling:

  • In a pan add the eggs and the sugar and with a hand held mixer beat until light, fluffy and creamy.
  • Add the sifted flour and mix well with the aid of a whisker.
  • Slowly add the one half of the filtered milk (2 cups). Mix well to blend.
  • Move the pan on the stove and on low heat – while stirring – cook until cream is dense.
  • Remove from heat, cover with plastic wrap and let cool completely. TIP: place the plastic wrap directly on the cream to avoid forming the skin.

  • In the bowl of the standing mixer, with the whisk attachment, whip the entire heavy whipping cream (2-1/2 cups total).
  • When the cream is cold, stir until smooth, add ¼ cup of limoncello and fold in 1/3 of the previously whipped cream.

For the Limoncello topping cream:

  • In a pan add the sugar and cornstarch. Slowly add the second half of the filtered milk (2 cups) and mix well with a whisk.
  • Move the pan on the stove and on low heat – while stirring – cook until cream starts to become dense.

  • Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  • When the cream is cold add 1/3 cup of limoncello and fold in the remaining whipped cream. This cream should result fluid and not very dense.

Step 3: making the Limoncello syrup:

  • In a small pan add the water, sugar and zest of 1 lemon. Bring to boil and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  • When cold add the limoncello.

Step 4: Assembling the cake:

  • When the cake is completely cool you can cut the base. Do not discard the base; you will use it later. Tip: To avoid flattening the dome top, I set my cake over a small bowl.

  • Leaving a ½ inch edge, (I used a small bowl as template), using a spoon, carve out the inside of the cake.

  • Splash the interior and top edge with the syrup.

  • Pour the filling cream into the carved cake.

  • Top with the base that you had previously. Splash the base with syrup.

  • Place your serving dish over the base of the cake and carefully turn upside down.

  • Splash the dome with the syrup and then cover with the topping cream. Make sure you are using a large serving plate. Remember, the cream should be fluid and will run all around the base of the cake.

  • Let set for 5 minutes and then decorate the base with whipped cream.

  • You can decorate the top with candied lemon or, as I did, with thin lemon zest ribbons.

Step 5:

HAVE A BIG SLICE AND ENJOY!!!

NOTES:

  • You might have some extra filling cream, use it to make a thin layer into each individual serving plates . . . a little bed for you wonderful slice of cake.
  • If you bake small individual cakes, you can arrange them in a large dish and cover with the topping cream. You will then spoon out into individual serving plates.

This recipe has many steps and requires some time but it is a wonderful treat for a special occasion.

I will be in Sorrento in two weeks and I will sure enjoy a delizia there, but in a meanwhile my family and I have been enjoying My Delizia al Limoncello very much!

Which is your favorite cake for a special occasion?

The recipe for Pan di Spagna is adapted from my old cookbook, Il libro dei dolci.

The recipes of the creams are adapted for gennarino.org

From an Old Cookbook . . .

An almost forgotten simple, sweet recipe.

Last week while doing some housekeeping, I came across an old, little cookbook: il libro dei dolci (the dessert book).

I had not seen the book in years, as it got lost among my boxes full of magazines and loose recipes. It was a free insert of Insieme, an Italian magazine for new moms and moms to be. The publication was from 1991, the year my first second son was born. I am not exactly sure why a new mom would need a cake/biscotti cookbook for her new baby, however, there are some nice recipes for kids and adults alike. On the very first page I had also jotted down a couple of recipes: the brioche and the zeppole but I will share those at a later time.

Browsing through the book I could not believe that I forgot about one my kids favorite breakfast cakes: la ciambella dei 7 vasetti. Let me explain, ciambella is a ring shaped cake, vasetti are little jars. So the translation would be something like “the ring shaped cake of the 7 small jars” . . . it sounds so much better in Italian!

The name comes from the fact that you can measure everything with a yogurt tub as a measuring cup.

So, this past Sunday night I decided to bake the ciambella for a quiet Labor Day breakfast with my husband. I made very few variations to the recipe and I will list them below.

I guess you realized that one of the ingredients is yogurt. When I used to bake this ciambella for my kids I used yogurt’s flavors that they enjoyed such as strawberry or peach. This time I decided to use lemon flavored Greek yogurt, which I thought it sounded more grown up. The original recipe lists whole yogurt, however, I used low fat. You can also use plain unsweetened yogurt, which I am sure would be delicious as well. Also, there is not butter in this cake, which makes it a little lighter and healthier . . . yeah, I know it’s still a cake, but don’t we all need an excuse to have dessert? Hey, no butter seems a good excuse to me!

The butter is substituted with vegetable oil. My next experiment will be to try  plain Greek yogurt and extra virgin olive oil, I think this combination will achieve a more tangy flavor that I might enjoy . . . I will keep you posted.

Another small variation in my recipe is the use of vanilla sugar instead of regular sugar. I made my own vanilla sugar some time ago; it is probably the simplest thing to make in the kitchen. You just need 1 vanilla bean, 2 cups of sugar and an airtight container. The vanilla beans can be fresh, but you can also use the beans after scraping the inside for a different recipe. If you are using a fresh bean, just pour the sugar in the container, split the vanilla bean and scrape into the sugar. Stir and then bury the bean into the sugar. Seal tight and let sit for two weeks. Replenish with sugar as you use it.

Also, since in my pantry I had some packets of Italian vanilla flavored baking powder, that’s what I used. It’s called “Lievito Pane degli Angeli ” (Angels’ bread yeast) and it is flavored with vanilla. In the recipe below, however, I have listed baking powder and baking soda.

NOTE: I used a bundt pan instead of a ring pan. So, may be I could call it “7 jars bundt cake“, what do you think?

 Ricetta

CIAMBELLA DEI SETTE VASETTI

(Adapted from il libro dei dolci)

Cosa ti serve – What you need

3 extra large eggs

1 tub of yogurt (your favorite flavor or plain)

2 tubs of vanilla sugar (or regular granulated sugar) Tip: use only 1-1/2 tub if using sweetened yogurt

3 tubs of flour sifted together with ½ teaspoon baking powder and ¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 tub of vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (not on original recipe)

Zest of one lemon

Powder sugar

Oil and flour to grease and dust the pan

Come si fa (How you do it)

Preheat oven at 350 degree. Oil and floured the bundt pan.

Pour the yogurt in a large bowl. Rinse and dry the yogurt tub and use it as measuring cup. Add 2 tubs of sugar to the yogurt.

Whisk to blend the ingredients. While whisking add the eggs one at the time.

Also add the salt and the lemon zest.

Slowly add the sifted flour, whisk to incorporate all the flour carefully avoiding any lumps.

Lastly, pour the oil very slowly. Keep whisking until all the oil is has been absorbed into the batter.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 50-55 minutes. Test: an inserted toothpick comes out clean when the cake is done.

Remove from the oven and transfer the pan on a cooling rack.

Let rest for 5 minutes, carefully remove from pan and allow the cake to cool completely on the cooling rack. Before serving dust it with powdered sugar.

Since the ciambella had not butter, I served it with apricots butter, a 5 minutes preparation that I had seen on one of the Barefoot Contessa shows. You just need to blend together, in a food processor, 8 tablespoon of butter and 4 tablespoon of apricots preserve . . . heaven in 15 seconds!

APRICOTS BUTTER

I AM READY FOR BREAKFAST!

MY SLICE . . .

Store the cake at room temperature and cover with a plastic wrap to keep it moist.

Do you have a favorite breakfast cake? Please share!