Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Cookies - Spitzbuben

Long before the season was in full swing I announced that I would not be baking as many cookies as I usually do for Christmas. I had decided with full conviction that I would bake two batches of the most popular cookies and that would be it. But as the season approached, the pull of baking one or two more cookies - new cookies that I had not baked before - was too great to resist and so I found myself leafing through seasonal magazines yet again for new recipes. One of these recipes was for Spitzbuben, a sandwiched cookies that I had always wanted to bake. I had even bought the proper cookie cutter.

The ingredients for the dough consist of your basic sugar cookie dough; butter, icing sugar, egg yolks, flour and salt. Once the dough is mixed it is wrapped and refrigerated for one hour. The dough is then divided into six even pieces and each piece is rolled out to a 9" square. Using a 2" round cookie cutter cut out circles of dough, then you cut an equal amount of circles with a special insert to the cookie cutter that cuts a decorative hole in the centre. The dough is baked and cooled.

Meanwhile seedless raspberry jam is heated in a small pot to thicken and reduce by one quarter and because there are chocoholics in the family I decided to make a chocolate ganache as well to fill the cookies.

About a teaspoon of filling is spread over a cookie and another cookie, with the decorative hole, is dusted with icing sugar and placed on top. It takes a bit of time to put these cookies together but in the end you are rewarded with a really pretty cookie that tastes really good.

I've also baked Cinnamon Rugelach, Lora Brody's Rugelach, Kifli, French Macaroons and Pecan Tarts and made White Chocolate Bark with Pistachios and Cranberries and Truffles. So much for two batches only - maybe next year.

A tin of cookies ready for giving.
Merry Christmas everyone!


3/4 lb. butter, softened (3 sticks)

1-1/2 cup icing sugar

3 egg yolks

3-1/2 cups flour

Pinch of salt

1 cup seedless raspberry jam

Icing sugar for dusting

Beat butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time beating until smooth after each addition. Mix flour and salt together and then add flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time beating between additions. Scrape the dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Press into a 9" x 11" rectangle and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325 F. Place two racks evenly spaced in the centre fo the oven. Divide chilled dough into 6 even pieces, then rewrap 5 pieces and put back in fridge.

On a lightly floured surface, work one dough piece at a time. Keeping surface and dough floured, roll dough into a 9" square. Using a to 2" round cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough and transfer them to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing cookies about 1" apart (reserve dough scraps for rerolling later). Repeat process with remaining chilled dough pieces, then combine leftover scraps into a ball, reroll and continue circles until most of the dough is gone. Using small star cookie cutter punch a hole in the centre of half of the circles - these will become the tops. Bake all cookies in batches, rotating pans on racks halfway through, until cookies are a pale-golden colour, about 15 minutes. Let cookies cool.
Pour raspberry jam into a samll pot and heat over medium until it comes to a boil, stirring every so often. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, still stirring, until thickened and reduced by one-quarter, about 5 minutes. Transfer jam to a bowl and cool.

Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust cookie tops with icing sugar. Turn whole cookies upside down and spoon about 1 teaspoon of jam onto each cookie. Using a small spatuala, spread jam to 1/8" of the edges leaving a small mound of jam in the centre of the cookie. Cover each with a cookie top. Serve cookies immediately or store between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container at room temperature or freeze.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tiramisu Cake

Tiramisu is probably my all time favourite dessert, with strawberry shortcake and trifle coming in at a close second. A few years ago I came across a recipe for a Tiramisu Cake in a magazine. Instead of layering the tiramisu with lady fingers and mascarpone cream, you use layers of a plain yellow cake. I was so intrigued with this new method that I just had to make it. That was a few years ago but it had been on my mind so I thought I would make it again for my husband Randy’s birthday.

The recipe calls for a cake mix (what’s a cake mix? – sounds like a compilation of music my daughter would burn on a CD to bake my cake by). I baked my own cake from a recipe that I found in The Good Housekeeping Cookbook many years ago for Yellow Cake, which is an exceptionally easy cake to make and tastes pretty good as well. You certainly could use a génoise for this recipe – as a matter of fact it would probably be ideal for this cake. It is also advisable to bake the cake a day before, otherwise you’ll be in the kitchen most of the day baking and assembling the cake.

The cake is baked in two 8” round pans and once they are baked you use only one of the cakes and put the other away for another use. The cake is then sliced in half so that you have two layers.
The cream mixture is mixed as any other tiramisu recipe: beat the egg yolks with sugar over simmering water until very light and when cooled add the mascarpone and whipped cream.
You need lady fingers to decorate the sides of the cake and you can buy them at the bakery if you can find the soft kind but I decided to make my own. I used the recipe from the Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Making lady fingers is pretty easy — you need a piping bag and parchment with lines three inches apart penciled in to keep the ladyfingers uniform. Just flip the parchment so you aren’t piping on the pencil marks.

The cake is brushed with a coffee-liqueur mixture (I used cognac), layered with mascarpone, another cake layer, again brushing with coffee-liqueur mixture and another layer of mascarpone. Then you grate chocolate curls and generously sprinkle them on the top. The ladyfingers are placed on the sides of the cake as a finishing touch and voila, you have a Tiramisu Cake.

I refrigerated the cake overnight and brought it over to my parent’s house so that we could celebrate Randy’s birthday with everyone and celebrate Father’s Day as well. The cake was delicious and was enjoyed by all.
A few days later I made a strawberry shortcake with the remaining cake layer.

I’ll be in Italy for the next couple of weeks but I look forward to reading your comments on my return.

Tiramisu Cake

1 box (18.25 oz.) yellow cake mix or make your own from scratch
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar, divided
¾ cup chilled heavy cream
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 containers (8 oz. each) mascarpone, softened
1 cup cold espresso or strong coffee with 2 tbsp. cognac or favourite liquor.
1 cup grated dark chocolate
1 pkg. Store-bought ladyfingers (about 24) or make your own from scratch (recipe below)

In small bowl with electric beater, beat egg yolks and 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar until mixture is thick and pale yellow, about 2 minutes.
Place bowl with egg and sugar mixture over saucepan of simmering water, and whisk until mixture reaches 160 F. Remove from heat and cool.
In a small bowl with electric beater, beat heavy cream until frothy. Add vanilla and remaining 1 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar, and continue beating until soft peaks form.
Place mascarpone in a large bowl, then fold in egg and sugar mixture to incorporate completely. Follow by gently folding in freshly whipped cream.
Slice one of the cooled cakes into two layers horizontally. (Freeze remaining cake to use later.)
Place first cake layer on cake plate. Brush layer with 1/2 cup espresso and cognac. Spread ½ of the whipped cream mixture over that. Place the second layer of cake over the cream and brush with remaining coffee and top with remaining cream. Sprinkle top with grated chocolate.
Press ladyfingers gently into side of cake so that they stand upright and are evenly spaced around its perimeter. Cover cake with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 8 hours or, if possible, overnight

Yellow Cake
Good Housekeeping Cookbook

2-1/4 cups cake flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
¾ cup shortening
¾ cup milk
3 large eggs
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Combine all ingredients in large bowl of electric mixer. Mix for 1 minute at low speed then for 5 minutes at high speed. Place in a bundt, tube or 2 9-inch round cake pans. Bake large cake 35 – 45 minutes; round cakes 30 minutes.
Note: This is a good all purpose cake. It makes a delicious strawberry shortcake.

Biscuit a la Cuilliere - Lady Fingers
The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
6 large eaggs, separated
¾ cup sugar
2-1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1 tbsp. warm water
1-1/2 cups sifted cake flour
¾ tsp. Cream of tartar
Two large baking sheet, lined with parchment and lined with piping guides (parallel lines 3 inches apart).

Preheat oven to 400 F.
In a large mixing bowl beat the yolks and ½ cup sugar on high speed for 5 minutes or until the mixture is very thick and ribbons when dropped from the beater. Lower the speed and beat in the vanilla and water. Increase to high speed and beat for 30 seconds or until thick again. Sift the flour over the yolk mixture without mixing in and set aside.
In another large mixing bowl beat the whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar, and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in the remaining ¼ cup sugar, beating until very stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Add 1/3 of the whites to the yolk mixture and with a skimmer or rubber spatula fold until all the flour is incorporated. Gently fold in the remaining white.
Scoop batter into the pastry bag and pipe out 3-inch by 1-1/2 inch side-by-side “fingers.” Be sure to hold the pastry tube high enough above the surface of the sheet so that the batter can fall feely from the tube and not get flattened by the edge of the tube. There should be a ¼-icnh space between the “fingers” as they spread sideways as they are piped. Sift the powered sugar completely over the fingers. After a few seconds the batter will dissolve and absorb some of the sugar. For a pearled effect, sprinkle with a second coat. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown and springy to the touch. Remove the sheets to racks and cool slightly. To prevent cracking, remove from the sheets while still warm with a long, thin spatula or pancake turner.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Blueberry Poppy Loaf

Have you ever come across an interesting recipe in a book that you have owned forever and wondered why you hadn’t noticed it before? Well that’s what happened with the Blueberry Poppy Loaf I came across while flipping through More of Canada’s Best Bread Machine Recipes by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt. I can’t tell you why I had missed it all this time, especially since I leaf through this book often.
The interesting part of this recipe is that the bread’s only liquid is sour cream. I love sour cream and I love the flavour and richness it imparts in cakes, but making yeasted bread with it would be a first for me. It also had dried blueberries along with poppy seeds which sounded like a pretty good combination, and one you normally don’t see in bread.

I had seen dried blueberries in the bulk store and remembered that they were quite expensive but I only needed half a cup so really that couldn’t add up to much, right? Well I set off to the grocery store and headed straight to the bulk foods section and there in a bin were tiny little dark blue dried wild blueberries. The price was just over $4.00 for 100 grams so I scooped a little more than I needed and figured that amount would cost only a few dollars. I picked up some other things I needed and went to the check out. It wasn`t until I got to the car that I checked the bill to see just how much the blueberries had come to and it was a good thing I was seated in the car because had I been on a chair I probably would have fallen off of it. The dried blueberries cost $18.00! Even if I only used half the blueberries I bought that still would be a lot. Well I thought this better be really good bread for that price. I shudder to think what they would charge for this bread in a bakery. Anyway I was still looking forward to making this bread.

It was super simple to put together especially since I just had to throw all the ingredients into the bread machine pan and let it do all the mixing. The recipe called for ½ cup of poppy seeds but I thought that seemed like an awful lot so I just used ¼ cup. The dough mixed up quite nicely and I let it rise in the pan. When it was doubled I divided the dough in two portions and shaped them into batards. I allowed the shaped dough to rise again until doubled and then baked them in a preheated oven. As I’ve mentioned before I never bake bread in the bread machine.
The loaves baked up beautifully and I couldn’t wait to try this million dollar bread. When they were just cool enough I sliced into a loaf to try it out. It was excellent! The crust was tender crisp as you would expect with the high fat content of all the sour cream in the recipe – a full two cups.

I was glad I had cut the amount of poppy seeds in the recipes because there were plenty in the crumb and I honestly think the full amount would have been far too much. The blueberries were plump with an intense blueberry flavour. I thought the bread was delicious and that making it once in a while given the cost of the blueberries was a justifiable indulgence. I had it the next morning toasted with butter and it was a real treat. I’ll definitely make this bread again even if I have to mortgage the house.
Submitted to Yeastspotting.
Blueberry Poppy Loaf
Make 2 loaves
2 cups sour cream
2 tsp. lemon zest
1-1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1 tsp. bread machine yeast
1/2 cup dried blueberries
Measure all ingredients expect dried blueberries into baking pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Insert pan into the oven chamber. Select Sweet Cycle. Add dried blueberries at "add ingredient" signal.
Set the machine to dough cycle. When the cycle is complete allow the dough to rise until doubled.
Divide the dough into two pieces and shape each piece into a batard or free form loaf. Allow to rise until double and bake in a preheated 400 F. oven.
If you don't have a bread machine you can use a mixer.
Combine sour cream, lemon zest, salt, sugar and yeast. Add the flour and poppy seeds and mix using dough hook for about 5 minutes. Remove the dough from bowl and on a lightly floured roll out the dough and add the blueberries. Roll the dough up and knead for a few minutes to incorporate the blueberries. Place in a greased bowl and allow to rise until doubled. Divide the dough into two and shape into free form loaves. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled. Preheat oven 30 minutes before baking. Bake the loaves for about 30 to 40 minutes or until deep golden brown.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Grammy's Chocolate Cookies

My daughter Andrea is giving her best friend Eryn a bridal shower at the end of July, just a week after I get back from Italy, and Andrea has asked me to help her out. I won’t give away everything we are making for the shower just in case Eryn reads this, but I can say that I will be baking some cookies for the event. As well, my friend and neighbour Maria asked if I would bake some cookies for her son’s fiancé’s shower, taking place the day after I get back. So I will hit two birds with one stone by baking big batches of cookies ahead of time for both parties. I asked Andrea, while she was on the phone with Eryn one day, to ask her what kind of cookies she likes and without any hesitation Eryn said “anything with chocolate”.

As I flipped through my binder of recipes for cakes and cookies I’ve collected over the years I came across a chocolate cookie that would fit this bill. Grammy's Chocolate Cookies are chocolaty crisp cookies that would satisfy any chocolate lover as the recipe has a generous ¾ cup of cocoa powder and it yields over 100 cookies, plenty for both showers.

I can just picture Grandma baking up a batch of this easy cookie for all her grandchildren when they come to visit and I can picture all her grandchildren dunking these delicious cookies in their glasses of milk and devouring every single bite.

They really are very simple to whip up. Mix the butter, sugar and eggs until light a fluffy and gradually add a mixture of dry ingredients, flour, baking powder, cocoa, salt into the egg mixture. Refrigerate the dough for one hour and then roll the dough into one inch balls and dip the top of th cookie into a bit of granulated sugar. Place the balls onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. The little balls of dough flatten out as they bake. I placed them into freezer bags to keep for the shower.

Grammy’s Chocolate Cookies
Makes about 100

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar, plus more for dipping
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Sift together flour, coco powder, baking soda, and slat. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar, and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix to combine. Gradually add dry ingredients, and combine with mixer on low speed. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and chill until dough is firm, about 1 hour.
3. Heat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Dip top of each ball into sugar. Place on prepared baking sheets about 1-1/2 inches apart. Bake until set, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Cool on Baking Sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool

Friday, May 28, 2010


Many years ago on CityLine - Canada's longest running lifestyle show - Sandra Pittana, the fashion expert who is a regular guest on the show, deviated from the norm of fashionista and from her kitchen showed how she made her favourite recipe for biscotti. This particular recipe yields quite of lot of cookies so the dough can be divided into two or three bowls to which you can add different ingredients such as almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, cranberries, dried cherries, chocolate chips or any combination thereof, and end up with three different flavoured biscotti. Of course I knew that I would try this recipe, and although I’d been making biscotti for a while, after trying these any prior recipe became history and this one became my favourite. Until recently.

As Ontarians we have to buy our liquor from the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). Yes, our government has total control of the liquor sold here, and why would they give that up to privatization? After all, the LCBO is a cash cow for them. Now that I got that off my chest, I will say that the LCBO has two pluses: one is that the stores are really beautiful and wonderful to shop from (not like the old dowdy establishments they use to run years ago, where you would hand a requisition with a list of liquor you wanted to purchase to a clerk who in turn would go to the back to retrieve your bottles) with well stocked aisles of every kind of liquor and wine you might want, including a vintage section. Some of the stores offer taste samples and run cooking classes as well. The second is that they put out the Food and Drink magazine about six times a year, a beautiful glossy magazine with great recipes and gorgeous mouth watering photos to whet your appetite and it’s free. You can check out their website http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo-ear/RecipeController?action=search&language=1&recipeType=1 for all their past issues’ recipes.

In the recent “Early Summer 2010” issue in the Techniques 101 section of the magazine was a recipe for Biscotti. The photos begged to be made and it was an easy recipe to put together as well. This recipe called for dried cherries but since I’m not so crazy about them, I thought I would substitute them with cranberries which I prefer. When I started the recipe, I realized I didn’t have any on hand, so I opted for currants instead which I like as well and thankfully had on hand.
You basically mix the dry ingredients along with the nuts and fruit in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another and mix the two together. The dough is slightly wetter than the one in Sandra Pittana’s recipe so I found that rubbing some oil on your hands before shaping helps to keep all the sticky dough off your hands. After you have shaped them into two ovals along the width of the sheet pan you bake them for about 35 minutes. After cooling slightly you cut them into 1/2” slices and bake again to dry them, very easy. The biscotti were delicious and a couple of days later I made them again with cranberries. This time I shaped the dough along the length of the pan so that when you sliced the loaves the biscotti were a bit smaller in length. They were also very good.
So now I have two recipes for biscotti that I love. One yields more biscotti and you can easily divide the dough to add different nuts and fruit or chocolate to have a variety of flavours. The other is just slightly easier to mix together because you use oil instead of butter. I’ve included recipes for both.
Best Biscotti
Sandra Pittana

4 eggs
2 tbsp. liqueur (brandy, amaretto, etc)
2 tbsp. vanilla
4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

Wisk together eggs, liqueur and vanilla.

Sift together, flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Gradually beat in egg
mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in flour mixture. Divide into 3 or 4 equal

Add flavourings to each individual dough, enough that there are lots of chunks but not so much that the dough can’t hold together. (Between ¾ cup and 1 cup total per dough if divided in four pieces 1-1/3 cups if divided into three pieces.)

On two parchment-lined baking sheets, shape into 12 by 1-1/2 inch logs for 4 pieces, or 16 x 1-1/2 inch logs for 3 pieces.
Bake in a preheated 325 F. oven for 30 minutes or until firm and golden. Let cool on baking sheet 15 minutes; transfer to a cutting board.
Cut diagonally into ½ inch thick slices using a serrated knife. Lay cookies flat in baking sheets; bake about 25 minutes longer or until golden brown and crisp, turning once during baking.
Makes about 5 dozen biscotti.

Suggested flavours for additions:

• Pistachio, dried cranberries or cherries, white chocolate and orange zest.

• Orange zest, cinnamon, dried cranberries and toasted pecans.

• Almonds, white and dark chocolate chunks or chips.

• Orange zest, almonds or pecans, and cranberries.

Cherry Almond Biscotti
Food & Drink Magazine
Butter, to grease cookie sheet (I used parchment paper)
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup coarsely chopped almonds
½ cup dried cherries (cranberries, currants, chocolate)
1 tbsp. grated orange rind
3 large eggs
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup fresh orange juice or amaretto
1 egg, beaten
Pinch of Salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Butter and flour a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, chopped almonds, cherries, and orange rind.
3. Whisk together eggs and olive oil. Stir in orange juice. Make a well in middle of dry ingredients and slowly stir in liquid ingredients to form a dough.
4. Divide dough and place on cookie sheet. Shape into 2 loaves, about 9 x 5 inches. Brush on beaten egg and sprinkle with salt and sugar. Bake for 30 minutes or until dough is a golden colour with cracks on top. It will not be firm to the touch.
5. Cool on racks for 20 minutes, then cut into ½-inch slices. Place on cookie sheets and bake for 15 minutes on each side or until golden brown and dried out. Cool on racks.
Makes 24 pieces.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Nonna's Lasagna

Without doubt or bias my mother’s lasagna is the best darn lasagna you will ever taste and that’s not just my opinion. Just ask anyone who has had the pleasure of savouring a plate of this stuff and they will salivate at any mention of it. My son always asks his grandmother if lasagna will be served for a special dinner, though he need not ask as it always is the first course of a celebration dinner. On the rare occasions that lasagna isn’t served, my husband has become quite indignant at its absence. My son and my nephew, both huge fans of this dish, will gladly forego the second course for a second helping.

My mother will gladly share her recipe, with pride, to anyone who asks, and as a matter of fact she might just volunteer to show you how. She doesn't have this recipe written anywhere, and as a matter of fact, unlike me, she rarely cooks with a recipe. My nephew Rob and his girlfriend Chantal recently went over for a lesson and wrote all about it http://petitpear.wordpress.com/2009/09/12/a-family-cookbook-lasagna/. You can just imagine how happy my mother was when after she taught them how, they volunteered to make lasagna for Thanksgiving dinner. It was delicious! So where did my mother learn to make such amazing lasagna? The story I was told long, long ago was that my uncle, a pastry chef, who lived with us at the time, had a chef friend who came over for dinner and volunteered to cook a lasagna for dinner for us. Not a bad little deal, and in the process my mother learned to make it.
This lasagna is made up of four components; the pasta, a really simple but flavourful bolognese sauce, a bechamel sauce, and two cheeses, parmigiano and mozzerella.
What really surprised me was that she had never heard of lasagna when she lived in Italy over 55 years ago. Maybe it was a southern Italian specialty that just hadn't made it up north at that time. With my curiosity peaked, I googled “origins of lasagna” and was surprised that a recipe for loseyn, pronounced lasan was found in what is believed to be the first cookbook written in England back in the 14th century, a dish of layers of pasta, sauce, and meat. There would not have been a tomato based sauce here as the tomato would not be imported to England for another two hundred years. Did the English really have pasta back then? It is highly unlikely that it all started in England as there is evidence of similar layering of pasta and cheese recipes prior to the 14th century from Italy. The latin word lasanum translates to cooking chamber and the dish that was prepared in it later took the name of the vessel in which it was cooked in.

However it came to be I’m just glad that the chef who came over all those years ago decided to make lasagna for us because we have been enjoying it ever since. I don't make lasagna nearly as often as my mother does, but I made this one a few weeks ago and although my son insists that nobody makes it like Nonna, it didn't stop him from going for seconds.

Nonna's Lasagna

2 pkg. Lasagna Noodles
1 recipe of meat sauce
1 recipe of Béchamel sauce
1b. Mozzarella cheese
Parmigiano cheese
2 tbsp. butter

Bolognese Sauce

2 oz. Olive oil
1 Onion, chopped
2 Cloves garlic, minced
1 Stalk celery, diced
1 Carrot, chopped very fine
2 lbs. Ground beef, veal and pork
2 tbsp. Tomato paste
2 Bay leaves
Pinch Nutmeg
6 oz. Red wine
3 – 28 oz cans Peeled tomatoes, crushed
1 cup Beef stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot and sauté the onion, garlic, celery and carrot for about 5 minutes. Add the meat and cook until browned. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in tomato paste. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer over low heat for 1 hour.

Béchamel Sauce

4 tbsp. Butter
4 tbsp. Flour
1/8 tsp. Nutmeg
2 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan melt butter and add the flour stirring for a few minutes. Do not allow to brown or you will have to start over again. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper and add milk stirring constantly with a whisk to eliminate lumps. When the sauce is thickened and bubbly remove from the heat. If the sauce thicken as it sits just add more milk.

Cook the lasagna noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water until cooked to desired doneness.
Drain in colander and rinse with cold water and lay out noodles on a piece of parchment paper or waxed paper or a clean tablecloth.

Grease a 9” x 13” baking pan. Lightly coat the bottom with a few spoonfuls of sauce. Then top with a single layer of lasagna then a light coat of béchamel sauce and a few tablespoon of meat sauce to cover pasta evenly and top the sauce with a sprinkling of grated mozzarella cheese and parmigiano cheese. Continue this layering until you reach the top of the pan ending with sauce and a light sprinkling of cheese and then dot with butter. At this point it can be covered and refrigerated until ready to bake or covered with plastic and aluminum foil and put into the freezer.
Remove from freezer remove the plastic and thaw before baking.

Bake at 350 F. for about 1 hour.

Let cool ten minutes so that it doesn’t fall apart when serving.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Raisin Focaccia

I recently discovered Yeastspotting, a site to showcase your recently baked bread. This is the brainchild of Susan of http://www.wildyeastblog.com and each Friday a new line up of all types of breads are featured. What a wonderful resource to find new bread recipes! It is here that I saw a raisin focaccia by baker Sandra of My Daily Bread http://aromigolosi.weebly.com/my-daily-bread.html and my mouth watered. I love anything made with raisins and I’ve been making savoury versions of focaccia for too long to remember, so why didn’t I ever think of this combination for a sweet version of focaccia? I left a comment on Sandra’s blog only to find out that this recipe is in Peter Reinhart’s The Baker’s Apprentice which I have. Focaccia originated in the Ligurian region on the north west coast of Italy, where you will find the picturesque port or Portofino and the Ligurian capital of Genoa. Peter Reinhart writes, “ that there is a strong tradition of sweet, or breakfast-style, focaccia in Liguria”. It is mentioned as a variation to his herbed focaccia on the side bar, but I hadn’t noticed it before, but with fairness to me, I haven’t made this particular focaccia as I have another recipe for focaccia that has always worked for me and have stuck to. On Saturday I had whipped up a batch of dough to make carmelized onion and rosemary focaccia which I’ve already blogged about. Only this time, just as Sandra had done, I divided the dough in two; one for the onion focaccia and one for the raisin focaccia.

It was very simple; just knead in plenty of raisins to the dough and let it rise until doubled. Punch the dough down and after a brief rest shape the dough out flat on a baking sheet, cover with plastic and allow to rise until doubled. I sprinkled some turbando sugar on top and baked it at 400F. for about 20 minutes.

To say I love this thin, sweet focaccia loaded with raisins would be an understatement. I love love love this focaccia! It satisfies my sweet tooth without being overwhelmingly sweet. It hits the spot for a snack or as an accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee. Come to think of it a combination of raisins and cranberries would be a great in this focaccia as well.

A week later having devoured this excellent foccaccia and wishing I had more to snack on I mixed up another batch of dough to make more. Only this time, again dividing the dough, I made one with potatoes and onions on my son's request and one with raisins and cranberries. The Potato focaccia turned out really well even though I forgot to add some fresh rosemary. The Raisin Cranberry version was also delicious.

I liked how Sandra arranged her slices of raisin focaccia for her photo that I took a photo of mine similarly arranged. I hope she doesn’t mind. I’m glad that she posted this on yeastspotting otherwise I may not have discovered it in The Baker’s Apprentice for quite awhile.

You will find the dough recipe in the Carmelized Onions Focaccia blog. If you make a full recipe just add about three cups of raisins to the dough in the last few minutes of kneading. Let the dough rise until doubled. Stretch it out in a 12 x 17 inch sheet pan. Let is rise and sprinkle with turbando sugar and bake at 400F for about 20 minutes.

Potato Focaccia
adapted from Jim Lahey Potato Pizza

2 potatoes
1/2 onion sliced thinly
1 tsp. salt, divided
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
olive oil to drizzle over potatoes

Make dough (see Carmelized Onion Focaccia blog) while the dough rests prepare potato topping.

Slice potatoes very thin using a knife or a mandoline. Then soak them in water to remove excess starch and prevent discolouration. Drain slices in a colander, toss with 1/2 tsp. salt, and set aside for ten minutes; drain any accumulated water. In a medium bowl, combine potatoes, sliced onions, rosemary and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and set aside.
Stretch out dough on a prepared rimmed baking sheet and let it rise for about one hour. Evenly spread potatoes over the surface of the dough up to the very edge, or about 1 inch from the edge if you desire a crust on your focaccia. Season with remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and olive oil.
Bake at 425 F. for about 30 minutes.