Italian Amaretto Sweet Bread
Traditionally served in Venice on New Year Day, a faintly sweet and fragrant bread with a light texture. Eat it toasted or naked, with dark roast coffee and fresh grapes.
1 TBSP (1 Pkg) active dry yeast
1/4 c. Warm water 105-110º
1 c. Warm whole milk 105-110º
4 oz. unsalted butter, melted
1/3 c. granulated/castor sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 med eggs
3 TBSP Amaretto Liqueur OR sub 3/4 -1 tsp. pure almond extract.
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 large orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
4 c. Unbleached all-purpose flour
Almond Paste Topping
1/2 c. quality Almond Paste, -not marzipan- room temperature
(Wholefoods carries Odense Brand or order online from Olive Nation
3 TBSP granulated/castor sugar
2 egg whites
1/3 c/ sliced almonds, can be blanched or dry-roasted
3 TBSP sifted-powdered/confectioners sugar
dissolve yeast in small bowl with 1/4 c. warm water
In large bowl, or mixer, combine warm milk, melted butter, 1/3 c.sugar and salt. Add eggs, liqueur/almond extract, vanilla extract, orange and lemon zests. Add 1 cup of the flour. Beat until smooth and creamy, about one minute, add the yeast mixture. Beat one minute; add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms that just clears the side of the bowl.
On a clean and lightly floured work surface, knead until smooth and springy adding ONLY one TBSP of flour at a time to prevent sticking. Dough should remain soft.
Place in a deep greased container, cover, (with parchment paper 1st and a towel on top, or plastic wrap) and let rise until doubled in size. Approximately 2 hours.
Turn dough out onto a clean and lightly floured work surface; divide dough into two equal parts. (if unsure weigh on a scale.) Form each portion into a tight round ball and place into one of two greased and floured 7-8” cake pan-preferably spring form pans with side extended with 4” aluminum foil/parchment paper collars. Cover loosely, let rise until doubled, about 45 mins- 1 hour.
As the dough rises, in a mixer bowl beat together room temperature almond paste-if it is too cool it will create lumps, 3 TBSP granulated sugar, egg whites until creamy and of a spreadable consistency. Set aside. (If chilled bring back to a spreadable consistency prior to using.) Twenty minutes before baking PREHEAT oven to 350º and very gently spread the surface of each risen loaf with HALF of the topping, taking care not to deflate the dough.
Sprinkle each loaf with half of the almond slices. Dust with powdered sugar. Bake in the center of the oven until loaves are browned and sound hollow, 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven, let stand ten minutes in the pans. Cool COMPLETELY before slicing.
Gianduia Stracciattella Gelato
a rich hazelnut gelato flecked with shards of dark chocolate
1 1/2 cups (185 g) hazelnuts, toasted
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
4 ounces (115 g) milk chocolate, finely chopped
4 ounces (115 g) dark chocolate, 73-85% darkness
5 large egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*Stracciattella has fine bits of chocolate throughout, which results in a smooth texture with just the slightest crunch in every bite.
1 Toasting Nuts: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C)
Spread the nuts in an even layer on an ungreased baking sheet.
2 Bake the nuts in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring them once or twice while baking so they toast evenly. To see if they're done, snap one in half: it should be lightly golden brown throughout.
3 Let the nuts cool completely before using unless the recipe indicates otherwise. Rub the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel to remove as much of the papery skins as possible, then finely chop them in a food processor or blender.
4 Warm the milk with 1 cup (250 mI) of the cream, sugar, and salt in a saucepan.
5 Once warm, remove from the heat and add the chopped hazelnuts. Cover and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
6 Put the milk chocolate pieces in a large bowl. Heat the remaining 1 cup (250 ml) cream in a medium saucepan until it just begins to boil. Pour it over the milk chocolate pieces and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Set a mesh strainer over the top.
7 Pour the hazelnut-infused milk through a strainer into a medium saucepan, squeezing the nuts firmly with your hands to extract as much of the flavorful liquid as possible. Discard the hazelnuts.
8 Rewarm the hazelnut-infused mixture. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm hazelnut mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
9 Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the milk chocolate mixture. Add the vanilla and stir until cool over an ice bath.
10 Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions- usually 25-30 minutes.
11 Stracciattella, during the final stages of churning, carefully melt the dark chocolate in microwave or in a small pan on low heat so that it becomes liquid. Slowly drizzling chocolate in a thin stream which hardens on contact and will get broken up as it churns. Once all the chocolate has been added and is broken up, stop the machine and spoon contents into an airtight container, preferably a low rectangular container, and place in the freezer. Let gelato sit for at least an hour before serving.
Adapted from David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop
Almond Orange Cake
A simple cake, easy to make, fresh with orange and almonds and gluten-free to boot.
oranges 2 large
Granulated or caster sugar 200g/ 1 cup
baking powder 1 tsp
ground almonds roasted, unsalted 250g - 1 large cup
(Optional labneh, a thick yogurt or unsweetened whipped cream)
Wash and gently boil the oranges whole for 1½ hours or until they are very soft.
When cool enough to handle, cut them open, remove the seed-pips, and puree the oranges, including the peels, in a food processor.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar.
Add the baking powder and almonds-use hand grinder or food processor to create bread crumb-size, and mix well.
Then mix thoroughly with the orange puree and pour into a buttered and floured cake pan-preferably non stick and with a removable base.
I used an 8” pan.
Bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Use toothpick to test doneness, toothpick should come out clean.
If not, continue to bake, up to 60 minutes total.
Let it cool before turning out. Serves 12
Serve with dollop of unsweetened whipped cream or labneh, a thick yogurt.
Adapted from A New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Pine Nut Rosemary Bars
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c. finely ground yellow cornmeal
3 tsp grated orange zest
1 c. granulated sugar
1 TBSP fresh rosemary, chopped fine
1 c. pine nuts/ pignoli
16 oz salted butter, softened, (set two oz. aside), if using unsalted add 1 tsp ground sea salt
3 TBSP good quality honey
Heat oven to 325º, use lower mid-rack.
Line a 9x13 pan with foil, leaving 'tabs" outside the pan that will be used to remove the cookies in one movement after cooled.
Measure flour and cornmeal, mix together
In medium bowl, using fingers, mix orange zest with sugar until moist. Add in rosemary.
Using mixer blend 14 oz of soft butter with the sugar mixture on medium speed, 3-5 minutes until night and fluffy.
Add the flour-cornmeal mixture and quickly blend together, 30 seconds, until a crumbly dough forms.
Pat dough into pan with buttered hands or use non-stick spray on a spatula, to even out dough. Top with pine nuts.
Melt remaining two tsp butter, mix in honey until thoroughly blended. Pour over dough evenly and place in 325º oven. Bake for 40 -45 minutes until golden brown and pine nuts look a bit toasted.
Remove form oven, let cool at least 15 minutes. Carefully lift cookies out of pan taking hold of foil.
Adapted from a Cooks Illustrated recipe.
Because I have no square-ish pan, I used an angel food pan, more complicated to remove, but pretty and easy to slice into triangles. And I added an extra teaspoon orange zest.