Sfogliatelle (say what?)

  I grew up in a big Italian family where English was not spoken in the house. My big Italian family consisted of not only my parents but also my grandparents, 7 aunts and 7 uncles, all of whom were Italian immigrants just entering the US.  I was the first born American in our family.   As much as they reasoned that they wanted the children to all speak Italian, I believe it was more because no one knew a word of English.  I started learning English when I began school.  But it was not until I took Italian in college that I realized that whatever language I was speaking at home was not Italian! It was not only a mixture of Italian and Napolitano dialect but it was also consisted of English words said with a thick Italian accent.  I soon realized that so many words that I thought were Italian were actually English mispronunciations.  For instance, we lived in Poughkeepsie, but my Italian family insisted we lived in ‘Pookeepzz’.  The Italian teacher corrected me when I said river was translated to riviera in Italian.  Riviera is a riverbank. But my big Italian family were trying to say Hudson River in English and they would refer to it as Riviera. And then whenever we visited my grandmother, she would offer us kids ‘gookeez’.  No such word in Italian! They were speaking English and were offering us cookies!  I even thought that sandwich in Italian was san-gweecio.  I did not even realize I was saying san-gwich when ordering at the McDonald’s drive thru until my children brought it to my attention. After that I made sure I said SSSaaaannndddwhich while they snickered in the background.  When I think back to all the times my dad brought us to Italy to visit the family, it is no wonder my cousins had no clue what we were saying. So basically, we did not speak Italian and we did not speak English.  

 There was one time in fourth grade that my mother went to pick up my report card from Sister Mary Regis’ class.  I was an overall good student, but the teacher complained to my mom that my English could be better.  My mom was perplexed and asked her what she meant.  She proceeded to tell my mom that I should be able to pronounce ‘th’.  My mom explained that I never learned the ‘th’ sounds because it is not in the Italian language.  With a stern voice Sister Mary Regis said, “You live in America and Teresa needs to speak proper English!”   After that I made sure to pronounce all the ‘th’ words correctly while developing a stutter with every ‘th’ word.

   It was not until years later that I got a good handle on the ‘th’ sound minus for the occasional confusion with tong and thong. We were in Italy and I was 13.  My Italian cousins and I were sitting on the beach with their friends.  They all found great joy in having me say three thirty and three thousand over and over.  They were laughing hysterically.  For some reason hearing me pronounce the ‘th’ sound made for a quite entertaining afternoon for them.  It is no wonder that I still stutter over an occasional ‘th’ word.

   Alright already! I admit it I have the occasional speech issues leftover from my childhood.   But!  I can say sfogliatelle perfectly!   And even my children can say it right.  I made sure that they were able to pronounce words properly in the language they were speaking in.  I know this to be true because there was one time while in college my daughter and her college friends visited an Italian Bakery in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Everyone ordered either eclairs or cannoli.  When it became my daughters turn to order, she ordered her favorite sfogliatella in the proper Italian pronunciation.  The Italian shop owners did a double take and immediately focused all their attention on my daughter asking her name.  Their eyes glimmered as she told them her name was Adriana.  “Aaaahh, what a beautiful name! You are Italian!“, they rejoiced as they lovingly served her a delicious sfogliatella on a golden plate.  ……wink wink

How to pronounce Sfogliatelle

What is sfoglialtelle?

Sfogliatella is a crispy clam shaped pastry made from dozens of thin  layers of dough and filled with a citrusy sweet mixture of ricotta and semolina.  They are a symbol of the city of Naples in Italy.  What makes them so uniquely special is that as crunchy as the pastry is on the outside, the inside filling is a complete reverse and so smooth. Sfogliatelle are best served warm with the perfumes of the candied fruit and the cinnamon adding to the experience.

Legend has it that this pastry was invented in the 1600’s in the Covent of Santa Rosa on the Amalfi Coast. The Mother Superior, Clothilde, had some leftover semolina soaked in milk.  So instead of wasting it, the Mother Superior, made it into a sweetened filling mixing it with ricotta and placed it into dough shaped like the monk’s hood. It was so delicious that the convent began selling it and the rest is history. 

Wherever the Italian immigrants from Naples settled they brought their love of sfogliatelle to share. So it has come to be that when you go into an Italian Bakery anywhere in New York, they are most likely offering the Sfogliatelle.  As famous as the Sfogliatelle Riccia (crunchy pastry) is, there is also less known variety as the Sfogliatelle Frolle ( smooth pastry).   I have been trying to make Sfogliatelle Riccia in the last few years experimenting with different flours to get the perfect texture.  I found the best flour to use is the 00 flour.  If you can’t find 00 flour, pastry flour is a good alternative. The most time consuming part of this recipe is preparing the dough from a pasta roller.  I used the kitchen aide mixer with the pasta roller attachment to get the dough as thin as possible and rolled it into a log. If you enjoy a challenge this recipe is very rewarding!

Sflogliatelle Ricci

(makes about 16)

Dough

 Ingredients:

  • 1 pound 00 flour
  • 0.25 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 0.75 cup + 1 tablespoon water
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter

Filling

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • pinch salt
  • 5 ounces (generous 3/4 cup) semolina
  • 7 ounces (1 cup) ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces (generous 1/2 cup) sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 ounces (about 1/2 cup) candied citrus peels or candied cherries, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Procedure for the filling:

  1.   Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and add the salt.
  2. Bring the mixture to the boil. Sprinkle in the semolina, whisking gently all the while to keep lumps from forming.
  3. Cook the mixture for 2-3 minutes until it thickens to a paste-like consistency.
  4.    Remove it from the heat, pour it into a bowl and allow it to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, press the ricotta through a fine mesh strainer, again, to eliminate lumps.
  6.   Combine all the ingredients in a bowl….…and stir them together.
  7.   Cover the filling with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. It will store up to two days.

   

 To make the Sfogliatelle:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment combine the flour, the salt, the honey and the water.
  2. Let everything mix on medium speed for a good 10 minutes.
  3. Note that the dough will be kind of dry and crumbly. It will not form a ball. That is fine.
  4. Transfer the dough to a wooden board and start putting all the crumbs together to form a ball.
  5. Start kneading the dough until the ball comes together and it feels supple and  smooth. The kneading process will take about 10 minutes.
  6. Coat the dough with a thin coat of lard, wrap it in plastic paper and let it rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
  7. If you have a long table roll out a sheet of wax paper at least 9 feet long. Otherwise, no worries, do it in shorter length. 
  8. After 1 hour, take the dough and divide in half.
  9. Take one half and leave the other half in the plastic paper.
  10. Attach the pasta roller to your stand mixer or use any other pasta roller that you may have. Set the roller to the widest setting.
  11. With your hands flatten the dough as much as you can and begin to the pass it through the roller. The first few times the dough will rip, not to worry, keep folding the dough and keep passing it through the rollers. Eventually it will no longer rip and the dough will become smooth and velvety.

12. Once you have a sheet that is nice and smooth, set the pasta roller to next to the thinnest setting (on the Kitchen Aid I set it to 8).

13. Pass the dough through the roller and be careful to catch the thin layer of dough that will come out  Once you catch it, gently deposit it the sheet of dough on the wax paper that you laid on the table.

14. Starting from one end, put some lard on your fingers and spread it over the entire surface of the dough. Do it gently as you do not want to rip the dough.

15. Once you have covered the entire surface with lard, start from one end and begin to roll the dough into a log as tight as possible until you reach the other end.  If you table isn’t 9ft.  Just keep attaching the shorther lengths until you have a log  about 2 1/2 inches thick.

16. Apply a coating of lard over the entire log, wrap it in plastic paper and store it in the fridge.

17. Repeat the same process for the other half of the dough.

18. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 5 hours.

19. Pre-heat the oven to 400F.Take each log and cut it in slices of a little less than  1/2 inch. Take each slice and with your thumb press all around toward the center of the dough so that it spreads and forms a cone

20. Fill each cone with two teaspoons of filling, close the end and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

21. Once you have made all the sfogliatelle, bake them for 27-28 minutes.

22. Once they cool, you can optionally sprinkle them with powdered sugar and serve them.

Here’s how to shape the Sfogliatelle

  Buon Appetitto!

My Brilliant Mamma

      Since we are stuck at home, we have been watching the HBO series My Brilliant Friend. The show was created from Elena Ferrante’s four Neapolitan novels. The story line is about two girlfriends and the difficulty they experienced as women living in the 1950’s in Naples, Italy. My Brilliant Friend is the name of Elena Ferrante’s first novel. The show is not only spoken in Italian, but also in the Neapolitan dialect with English subtitles. Some of the scenes were even filmed on the island of Ischia located in the Bay of Naples. My sister lives there now and is also the island where my mom and her family grew up. I have read the first of Elena Ferrante novels, and had started reading the second book which I could not bring myself to finish. For some reason I decided to force myself to watch the HBO series during this quarantine. I thought that listening to the Neapolitan dialect would bring me comfort. As I watched the series, I realized why I stopped reading Elena Ferrante’s books. Her books are painfully too familiar.

    My mom was born in 1936 and moved to the US in 1955. My Brilliant Friend series is also set in the 1950’s. Mamma told me so many stories during her upbringing. My mom was the oldest of seven siblings. Her father was away as a medic during the war, and afterwards he went away again in search of a better place for his family to live. The family struggled whenever he was away. As a young child my mom was forced to grow up fast and strong. Her mom desperately relied on her. Mamma had to do a lot of things that would seem way too much for a young child to do. But her mom had no choice while taking care of 6 younger children. I listened to my mom and her stories of all the things she had to do, I just could not fathom the gravity of the situation until I heard the desperation of my grandmother’s words.

     One day as my Nonna (grandmother) stirred sugar into a cup of espresso she, told me of a time when she went to speak to her priest before Nonno (grandfather) went away to Argentina in 1949. My Nonna was the holiest person I have ever known. Her whole life was guided through the Lord and the Holy Spirit. She went to church every day. I knew that faith got her out of the darkest moments of her life. That day over espresso, she recollected a dilemma she experienced in minced words that I could not quite understand. I leaned forward so I can fully comprehend what she was trying to tell me. Her face was cringed in pain and her voice stammered as she tried to reveal her secret. My Nonna did not speak any English and she told me this in the Neapolitan dialect. Although I am basically fluent in Italian, some of the words, she used I never heard of. With my eyes wide, my mouth agape and at full attention, I listened. She proceeded to tell me that during the time before Nonno left for Argentina she went to confession to ask the priest for guidance. But I did not get it! I just nodded to reassure her I was listening. To this day I still wonder what she was trying to tell me. I did not understand the words she used to tell me what the priest had said.  How can I understand? I cannot even imagine what it was like living during that time, in that place, under those circumstances?  All I can tell you is what I saw in front of me as Nonna closed her eyes and lifted her hands as if in reverence and said she found out she was pregnant with her only son, her 7th child as Nonno sailed off to Argentina.  Nonno met his only son 3 years later when he finally came back from Argentina.   

    My Nonna was so burdened with her husband away, a child on the way, and 6 other children to feed, that she had no one else to rely on but my mom. Nonna kept all her other children under close watch. They did not have the freedom that my mom had to freely move throughout the island. My mom’s siblings were not allowed to go anywhere. My grandmother was extremely strict with them. I grew up understanding that Nonna was protective and overbearing. I used to hear whispers that my mom, as a child, was arrogant and spoiled. I often wonder if Mama’s sisters could have been jealous of her. But as I am rethinking about it now, how could they have not felt that way about my mom. They watched my mom have the freedom that they wished they had.

      Because of this responsibility, my mom ended up developing a strong character. My grandmother needed her to be that way. Money was so tight, and the family was starving. The money my grandfather would send from Argentina was not enough for the 8 of them. My grandmother would say to my mom…Here is 2 lire and a shopping list. See what you can do. As challenging as it was, my mom would embrace the task. She became good at bartering with the market people to get as much as she could with the little money that she had. Mamma was proud to go back home with everything on the list and watch intently to see if she could erase the worry off my grandmother’s face. Mamma was industrious too! Mamma proudly told me of the time she had to travel to Forio, (a town on the other side of the island) to learn how to make baskets. Nonna gave her enough money to buy all the material, too! When she got back home, she taught her mom and her sisters to make the baskets too. They all worked hard to make baskets to sell to the tourists. Another time, while my mom was out and about the town, a tourist asked where she could find a laundress. Mamma piped up that her mom is a laundress! Mom’s quick thinking added another monetary opportunity to put food on the table. Mamma told me countless stories of how it was when her father was away.

  That is how my brilliant mamma became who she was. But just as much as my mom had let go of her childhood, my grandmother also had to let go of some of her motherly instincts for the family to survive.

   I think about those times now as we all struggle with this pandemic. How strong my mom and her family had to be to endure all those hardships back then. I am confident that we all can overcome this hardship at this time! After all it is in our genes to overcome!

Grilled Chicken Marinated with Mint Pesto

This dish is a family favorite!  I can remember my grandfather starting the grill.  He didn’t use charcoal just wood in a barbecue pit. The mint pesto was made with his own white wine vinegar which was way stronger than commercial vinegar.  He used it whole chicken or fish. My version is adapted to make it a quick meal on your stove top. Enjoy!

Ingredients

2 Boneless chicken Breast pounded so it the same thickness throughout

½ cup fresh mint leaves

¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup of white wine vinegar

½ tsp of salt

2 cloves of garlic

Procedure

  • Blend the mint leaves, EVOO, vinegar salt and garlic together until just about chopped. Not smooth though. Blend for a few seconds to get all the ingredients in a rough chopped look.
  •  Add the mint pesto to the chicken to marinate for a half hour.
  • Preheat a cast iron pan on high heat on the stove top.
  • Grill chicken in a cast iron pan. With heat set to medium. Flip to cook both sides. The length of time that it takes depends on the thickness of the pounded chicken. It could be anywhere from 10 minutes to 20 minutes.
Grilling the Mint Chicken

Buon Appetito!

Easter Monday – Pasquetta

     Despite having all these limitations set in place, I hope you all were able to enjoy your Easter and Passover celebrations.  Practicing social distancing, I did manage to carefully carry on one Easter tradition. I made several Italian Easter Pies and dropped them off to our children, my sister and my mom.  Today is Easter Monday and it has always been celebrated throughout the world.  Even the White House used to have its own Easter Monday tradition with The Egg Roll on it’s the grounds.  But this year, this epidemic has made us all reminisce about Easter and Passovers and how it used to be.

     Growing up, my mom always referred to the Monday after Easter as Lunedi in Albis (Monday in White).  But as a national holiday throughout Italy, it’s called Pasquetta (Little Easter).  After the somber week of reflecting on Jesus dying for us and rising from the dead the Italians get together informally on the Monday after Easter. They head outdoors to enjoy the spring sunshine and warm breezes with family and friends, packing up the leftovers from the Easter feast into picnic baskets.

      In 1972 my dad wanted us all to experience Easter in Italy. We jetted out from NYC to Naples with a stopover in London on the brand new 747!  The trip wasn’t as glamorous as it sounds, though.  Having problems with connection flights we ended up staying 2 overnights in London. Two days of constant running between airline counters trying to get a flight to Naples was exhausting!  Unfortunately, we ended up missing part of Holy Week.  I was 13 years old and besides the memorable flight, there were a couple of other memories that stood out to me during our trip to Italy.  

     One memory was that I noticed how proud all the women were of their Panettones (Easter Bread) or as Napolitano’s call it, casatiello. The process was a huge undertaking because each of the matriarchs of the families baked enough for all their children, the children’s families and even the children’s in-laws.  Each family we visited during Easter week made sure to bring us to a special room where all the panettones were rising.  The women in their kerchiefs and aprons made elaborate gestures of removing the blankets to show off the many pans of bread. This really piqued my curiosity and I asked my mom why all this drama about the rising of this bread. She said they made their own yeast and it took longer to rise.  I remember thinking this bread was almost like Christ rising from the dead in three days. Is this why they all make Easter bread? So, after all the waiting the bread was ready to bake and we got to enjoy it on Easter Sunday and Monday.

     The second most memorable experience was Easter Monday, La Pasquetta.  My brother and I, along with my cousins had a picnic in one of Monte di Procida’s vineyards.  We brought dyed hard-boiled eggs, prosciutto and provolone cheese, bread, the Easter panettone, bottles of water and even a bottle of wine.  I enjoyed it all! Well except for the panettone and the wine.   The pannetone was dry and sweet.  Now that I remember correctly, my brother and my cousins ate the panettone with the wine. Hmmmm? Maybe that’s why my brother was rolling down the hill like an Easter egg.  I wasn’t a wine drinker back then.  I didn’t like it.  Imagine that?   I grew up drinking water with wine mixed in.  Forbidding underage drinking wasn’t a thing in the Italian culture.  Wine on the table was the norm.  Kids drank diluted wine.  I did not acquire a taste for it. When I finally turned eighteen in 1976 (the drinking age back then), it didn’t phase me.  If I wanted a drink, I could have had it long before I was 18.  So possibly the panettone didn’t taste as good to me because I refused to dunk it in wine!  My taste buds changed as I got older. I love panettone now! Especially when it’s dunked in wine!

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    I have attached a recipe for Cornetti (Italian croissants).  I am still daydreaming of sitting at a bar enjoying a cappuccino while dunking a cornetto. The Italian Cornetto and the French Croissant look similar but actually very different.

 1. The cornetto is much sweeter than the French croissant. The Cornetto contains more sugar, while the French version contains more butter, which makes it so much greasier

2. The cornetto is softer compared to the French croissant, which is crispier.

3. Italian cornetti usually have fillings. They are filled either with pastry cream, marmalade, honey, or chocolate (I love the ones filled with pastry cream!), while the ‘cornetto vuoto’ (an empty cornetto) is the pastry without any filling. The French version doesn’t traditionally have fillings.

 I tried a couple of different recipes for cornetti but this is my favorite.  I used brown sugar  because I didn’t have can sugar and it still came out perfect.  The texture is just what a remember about them.  Not greasy at all. I didn’t fill these with pastry cream but next time I will try filling them!

Cornetti (Italian Croissants)

Basic Dough

•             1 cup of water

•             1 tbs of honey

•             ¼ cup of  cane sugar or brown sugar

•             1 egg

•             1/3 cup melted butter

•             Zest of  1 lemon

•             1 cup of flour

•             1 cup of oo flour

•             1 envelope of yeast (preferably brewers yeast)

•             2 tsp of sugar

For the layers

•             ¼  cupof cane sugar or brown  sugar

•             1/8 cup of melted butter

For the finishing

•             1 egg yolk to brush before cooking

•             Warm honey to brush after cooking

Directions

1. In a bowl, add the flours, the envelope of brewers yeast and the two teaspoons of cane sugar that will serve to activate the yeast. Mix all the ingredients.

2. In another bowl pour the warm water and then add and a tablespoon of honey.

3. Into the bowl with warm water and honey, add the brown sugar, the grated lemon peel, the melted butter and the egg.

4.Mixing it all together with a fork, add the flour a little at a time.

5. Continue to work the dough with your hands and add the flour, until we get a dough with an elastic consistency.

6. Put the dough in a bowl, engrave in a cross with a knife and cover with cling wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place, until the volume doubles, it will take about 2 hours.

7. After it rises lightly work the dough and to form a long log. Divide it into 8 equal loaves of about 4 ounces each.

8. Prepare the pastry by rolling out the loaves to form 8 discs about 2mm thick (very thin!)

9. Spread the loaves one at a time, with the rolling pin and brush the melted butter and sprinkle the cane sugar on the surface. Continue laying out and overlapping all the discs.

10. After fixing the last disc we stretch with a rolling pin to get a round pastry, about half a centimeter thick (less than ¼ inch thick)

12. With a pizza cutter make 8 wedges and a small incision in the center of each wedge. Roll up the wedges to form the croissants and fix them in the baking tray, covered with parched paper. Cover with clingwrap and leave to rise for about 20 minutes.

12. Brush with egg yolk and bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for about 20 minutes.

13. As soon as  you take the cornetti out of the oven , lightly brush them with warm honey!

14.  And don’t forget to dunk it in a cappucino.  Or maybe wine!   hiccup!

Un’Caffe! Please!

In my last blog post I shared how disappointed I was that I couldn’t go visit my sister this spring.  I must tell you as much as I so wanted to see my sister there was one other thing that I was so looking forward to.  I have been dreaming about it!  I am drooling right now as I think about it.  No! It’s not Italian men! 

It’s the coffee!  Some of you know that I went to Italy this past fall. For some reason I became obsessed with the espresso.  Every morning I had a cappuccino.  In the afternoon I had an espresso after lunch.  In the late afternoon I had a macchiato.  By late afternoon I became very fluent with my Italian or so I thought as I hysterically waved and greeted every person I came across. I need to admit to you all that I have a caffeine problem.  For some reason it makes me talk nonstop.  My daughter always knows. When I go into a fast-long-winded story, she scolds me as I am panting out of breath, “You had coffee. Didn’t you?”

  But! OMG!  The coffee that was enjoying every day while I was in Ischia was delicious!  It wasn’t acidic or burnt tasting.  It was so smoooooth and creammmmy!  And I am not talking about the cappuccino. Just plain espresso is thick and creamy.  They only fill those little espresso cups half-way.  That’s why at the coffee bars in Italy there are no seats.

  • People go in.
  • Stand at the bar with no stools.
  • Order un’caffe.
  • Down the espresso.
  • Share a greeting with the barista and fellow coffee drinkers.
  • Out the door they go!

The morning is the only time the cappuccino is enjoyed by Italians.  They won’t drink it after 11.  If you order a cappuccino during the day, they will exclaim, “Pffttt Americano!”.  I was very careful not to order one because I wanted to be inconspicuous ( yeah right, as I hysterically wave and greet)! But I did order a macchiato.  The macchiato was heaven!  There was a little but more in the cup than espresso with a thick foamy caramel colored top. Not like a cappuccino at all.  The cappuccino is served in a large cup with a 3/ 4 filled cup of white foam.  The macchiato is served in an espresso cup with ¼ of the cup filled with a dark caramel colored foam.  Such a thick and creamy espresso drink.  If I had my way I would have asked for a triple.  I don’t think my sister, her husband and the rest of the people in the bar would have been happy with me.

Ever since I got back from Italy, I keep searching for the perfect espresso drink.  I tried all the chains from low end to high end.  I went directly to coffee roasters to try their espresso, restaurants that tout their espresso drinks, and bakeries.  I even bought high end coffee beans and would grind them myself. I just can’t replicate that delicious taste.  I started researching and reading.  Some say it’s the way they roast the coffee bean.  They said that in the US we over roast the coffee bean to get the bean extra dark which is a mistake. Others say it’s the water.

As I sit here with my cup of espresso made with my moka pot, dunking an S shaped Italian cookie into the espresso, I pretend I am gazing at the Mediterranean Sea alongside my sister. I really do miss her so. Maybe it wasn’t the espresso. I think it was my sister’s company!

Italian S Cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

      Egg Wash

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon milk

2 teaspoons demerara sugar for sprinkling on egg wash

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350℉.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs on medium-high speed until nice and frothy (about 3-4 minutes).
  5. Slowly add sugar. Continue to whisk until well combined and slightly thickened (about 2 minutes).
  6. Add the oil, extract, and the zest. Combine well.
  7. Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix with wooden spoon until well combined, dough will be soft.
  8. Scoop dough with medium sized cookie scoop and drop on a lightly floured surface (about 2 tablespoons).
  9. Roll out each piece in a 4-5 inch strand about 1/2 inch in diameter.
  10. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet and form into an S shape.
  11. Brush tops of cookies with egg yolk mixture.
  12. Sprinkle with demerara sugar
  13. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned (this is a pale cookie).
  14. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.

Let’s bake while we wait!

     It’s been such a whirlwind of a few months.  I am writing this blog post today sitting at my desk.  But if all was right with the world, I would it to be sitting under a lemon tree on the Island of Ischia in Italy with my beautiful sister.  In January while the news from China was just coming out about the Coronavirus, my daughter and I oblivious to the severity of the situation planned a fun trip to trip to Europe.  Our first stop was to be in Lisbon, Portugal and then we were flying to Naples to finish our trip visiting my sister Giovanna who lives in Ischia. Alas, a few days after I booked the trip the news started to get more and more serious.  My daughter, my sister and I started to become obsessed with watching the news. It was the strangest thing.  Like a snowball rolling down a hill this coronavirus epidemic was becoming bigger and bigger each day. We didn’t even need to make the decision to cancel the trip. Every week the flight kept changing. First the flight’s destination was changed to land in Rome instead of Naples. Then as Italy put in more restrictions the flight’s destination was changed to Lisbon.  Finally, 5 days before we were to leave all flights were suspended. 

     As we followed whatever was going on in Italy, we knew it would be a matter of time that we would be the doing the same thing here in the states.  When US advised us to limit our gatherings to 10 people, I hurried up and finished my sauce deliveries not knowing if they were going to close travel between states like the provinces of Italy. I even made a last run to stock up my grown children who live in Connecticut and Westchester with the 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce, 825 MAIN Pizza Margherita Sauce and pasta.

    Because I was so preoccupied with keeping up with the news and tying up loose ends, I inadvertently forgot about St. Josephs Day on March 19th.  Not only is St. Joseph the national Italian holiday for Father’s Day but we always celebrated the holiday because Joseph was my dad’s name, followed by my son and husband whose middle name is Joseph. We all celebrated by making zeppole. aka Sfingi di San Giuseppe, aka Cream Puffs.

     Since I am settling in at home now, I am catching up with my baking.  So, I made St. Josephs Cream Puffs!  Here is an easy recipe that I used for the Cream Puff and the Pastry Cream.  I hope you enjoy making it and eating it as much as my husband and I did!  Stay safe while we are making history!

Cream Puffs

Ingredients:

  •  1 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 to 4 eggs, plus 1 egg for egg wash

Directions:

  1. To make the cream puffs: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt, and granulated sugar to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, immediately take the pan off the heat. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add all the flour at once and stir hard until all the flour is incorporated, 30 to 60 seconds
  2. Scrape the mixture into a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix at medium speed. With the mixer running, and working 1 egg at a time, add 3 of the eggs, stopping after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix until the dough is smooth and glossy, and the eggs are completely incorporated. The dough should be thick but should fall slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift them out of the bowl. If the dough is still clinging to the beaters, add the remaining egg and mix until incorporated.
  3. You can use a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, pipe the dough onto the baking sheet lined with parchment paper, in 2-inch diameter rounds or balls.  But I used a tablespoon and dropped the dough on the baking. Whisk the remaining egg with 1 1/2 teaspoons water. Brush the surface of the rounds with the egg wash to knock down the points (you may not use all the egg wash). Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and bake until puffed up, and light golden brown, about 20 minutes more. Try not to open the oven door too often during the baking. Let cool on the baking sheet.
  4. To fill the cream puffs, place a pastry tip on your finger and poke a hole in the bottom of each puff.  Or you can slice the cream puff and insert pastry cream by a spoon.

Pastry Cream

Ingredients:

  •  2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise or 1 tsp of pure vanilla
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pinch salt

      

Directions:

  1. Place the milk, half the sugar and the vanilla bean in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Combine the egg yolks and the remaining sugar in a bowl and whisk until light in color. Add in the flour and the salt, mix to combine.
  3. When the milk just begins to boil, remove from heat and remove vanilla bean.
  4. Very slowly dribble the hot milk into the yolk mixture, stirring all the time. When about half of the milk has been added, place all the yolk mixture into the saucepan over medium heat.
  5. Using a spatula or a whisk, mix the pastry cream as it heats, making sure to reach all the corners of the pan when you stir. Bring the mixture to a boil. Let boil for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. The mixture will be thick.
  6. Remove from heat and add the butter. Strain if you wish for a smoother cream. Place into a bowl and cover directly with plastic wrap to stop a skin from forming on the cream. Chill and use within a few days.

Cured Green Olive Recipe

Fresh Green Olives

Fresh Green Olives found at your area farm market. I got my fresh green olives at Adams Fairacre Farm in Poughkeepsie, New York

I grew up watching my grandparents on both sides of the family, can all kinds of produce besides just tomatoes.  Vegetables were marinated and jarred for the winter.  Peaches were peeled and halved in a sugary syrup. My family would also cure olives.  They were jarred in a salty brine and cured for months.  In the last few years since I retired from my life in the restaurant, I have had time to relive my upbringing.  I kept seeing raw green olives at Adams Fairacre Farms, our local farm market. I decided to try to cure my own olives.  One year I tried the saltwater brine version, while changing the water for months and fretting every time I forgot to! So, then the next year I found an easy recipe that cured olives in vinegar and to let it sit in extra virgin olive oil for 2 months.  The olives were delicious!  And what was surprisingly good was even the oil from the olives. My family and I just loved spreading it on crusty Italian bread! I couldn’t wait to do it again this year.   I decided to share my olive curing journey and hope you will try a hand at it too since olives are in season.

Cured Green Olives

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh green olives
  • 1 carrot, finely dices
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely diced
  • 1 qt white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of sea salt
  • ½ cup water
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil to cover the olive

Procedure:

  1. Wash and dry the olives making sure they are all firm and no bruises.  It’s if your green olives have a slight purplish tint.  They are just beginning to ripen.

2.     Make 4 incisions lengthwise on each olive spacing evenly.

3.      Place olives in a bowl or large jar.  Whatever you use make sure it’s not reactive. Add celery and carrots.  Then add the salt, water and vinegar solution to cover all the olives.

4.     Mix well and add a paper napkin on top to keep olives submerged.
5.       Stir the contents in the bowl once or twice a day.
6.      After 4 days the olives should have darkened slightly and become soft but not mushy.  If they are still hard wait another day.

7.       After 4th or 5th day drain olive mixture in a colander. Toss to get rid of all the liquid.
8.    Put the drained olive mixture in a clean jar or jars and cover the olive oil mixture with the extra virgin olive oil.  The olives need to be completely submerged in the olive oil.

9.      Place the jar of olives in a cool dark place.  I put mine in the fridge! Let them rest for 2 months before tasting.
10.       The olives will have a pleasant vinegary taste.  And don’t throw out the extra virgin olive oil.  It’s delicious!  Since it’s in the fridge it will thicken like butter and you can spread it like butter!!  Yum!