Thursday, December 31, 2009

My New Year's Eve with RICK BAYLESS

On my New Year's Eve date, I am the one who is infatuated and he is the one who probably can't even remember meeting me. OK, truth: I had the enviable opportunity to spend a New Year's Eve meal at Frontera Grill (one of three incredible restaurants belonging to Master Chef Rick Bayless) in Chicago, while visiting my husband's generous parents.
It was a pre fixe meal and my in-laws were a little concerned that it might mean a "less than" experience (flavor-wise) and one of those rushed "get you in, get you out" evenings. We arrived to energetic music being played by Mariachi Guadalajara who according to Chef Bayless have been playing their New Year's celebrations for 20 years!

We were seated right away by an attentive, informed and lovely server who also gave us all the trimmings for celebration: tiara, horns and streamers. The whole restaurant had that feeling of being surrounded by strangers who were merely "friends we haven't met yet."

Then the food parade began - at least 6 appetizers without a loser among them. We ate Lamb Chorizo Enchilada, Black Cod Cocktail with Plaintain chip, Delicata Squash Soup w/Lobster and Shrimp, Fresh Guacamole, and Porcini Empanadas.

The entree was the one portion of the meal left to our choosing, but it wasn't a choice from just 2 things that felt like "leftovers from this week's CSA box". There were about 6-8 choices that included Shrimp with lime, Flank Steak, Chile Relleno, Rubbed Duck with Mole, Salmon; more than I can even remember (did I mention how great the Ginger Mojitos were?) There were 5 of us at the table and we all chose completely different meals and, of course, tasted each other's dishes. Again, not a bad one in the ranks. When does that happen?

I had left messages on Twitter to @Rick_Bayless for weeks about visiting Chicago, and he (or someone close to him) even answered me on occasion. This afternoon, just for fun, I left a twitter message to his site - "We have rezzies for 5 ppl tonight at 6:15 at Frontera, will I see you there?" No more than a couple hours later HE answered with "YES." So, I took him up on it and between courses asked one of the beautiful hostesses about Chef Bayless having time to meet and greet.

A picture is worth a thousand words: Can ya tell I'm happy?
Is there a sweeter Chef? And speaking of sweet; the dessert was no less impressive. There were THREE different and delicious servings PER person.
I want to thank Chef Rick Bayless (for allowing me to swoon over him and his talents), Chef Richard for setting up such an amazing selection, and the very talented cooks and staff at Frontera Grill. I don't usually do "reviews" of restaurants, just raves and recommendations and I absolutely suggest you travel, reserve and plan on a visit to this place. Tell my pal, Rick Bayless, that Cathy at ShowFoodChef sent you and give him a hug from me. He'll know who I am. :D

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Gingerbread is in the HOUSE! (Daring Bakers Dec. 2009)

I almost didn't do this month's Daring Baker's Challenge: 1) It was December, the busiest month of the year for almost everyone. 2) It was December, the busiest month of the year for ME. 3) It was a Gingerbread House.

I had never made a Gingerbread House and it seemed a little much to fit-in while prepping my own real-life house for guests, Christmas and several wonderful, but huge catering gigs. I'm so completely happy that I gave it a go because I now have a NEW TRADITION; It was that easy and FUN!!
The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes. There are so many recipes for gingerbread and it's success seems to depend on humidity and handling. In this post I'll include the links that were really helpful; given by our hosts. I'll also include the recipe that I used and I have to say was remarkably easy, moist, problem-free and I highly recommend it. It comes from Allison at SOMEONE'S IN THE KITCHEN. A big thank you to her for being so generous in sharing her family's traditional Gingerbread. The MOST wonderful thing about my Gingerbread Day was having my daughter spend time with me and create her own incredible Mid-Century version. We laughed, we ate, we laughed and we ate...and we turned out a couple of real beauties (in our own humble opinions.) I loved the little touch of the doggy and the yellow snow; she cracks me up. Here'a another link that I found really cool. It's a short video about a Gingerbread House of the Smithsonian Castle. Smithsonian Castle Gingerbread House

Here are the recipes, directions and links for a great time making your Gingerbread House. Anna's Notes: If you don't have an awful lot of time, the doughs can easily be frozen and then thawed when you are ready to roll it. The baked pieces can also be tightly wrapped in plastic and frozen for assembly later.

Anna's Recipe: Spicy Gingerbread Dough (from Good Housekeeping)

Y's Notes: I found this slideshow very helpful:

Y's Recipe:
Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

Allison's recipe and info: "The recipe that I use is a tried and true recipe that my mother and I have made for many years. Keep in mind that this recipe makes enough dough for 4 or 5 houses using the template that will be posted on my blog during the reveal. If you don't want that many houses, you can always make cookies for decorating too. I've made this dough and kept it in the fridge for weeks before working with it and had no problems."

Gingerbread House Recipe

Recipe By :Sullivan County Extension Homemakers Club

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
7 Cups Sifted All Purpose Flour -- 7-8 cups
1 Teaspoon Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
3 Teaspoons Ginger
1 Cup Shortening
1 Cup Sugar
1 1/2 Cups Unsulphered Molasses
2 Each Eggs
1 Cup Additional Flour -- 1-2 cups
Royal Icing:
3 Each Eggs Whites -- room temp
4 Cups Confectioner's Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Cream of Tarter

Sift together first 5 ingredients. Blend together molasses, shortening, sugar and eggs. Stir dry ingredients into molasses mixture. Add enough of the additional flour to make a dough stiff enough to be shaped into a disc. Refrigerate overnight for easier handling. Can be frozen.

Will make 4-5 small gingerbread house using this pattern.

Roll to about 1/4" thickness on a floured cookie sheet. Trace the house pattern pieces onto typing paper and cut out. Arrange pattern pieces on cookie dough and carefully cut around each pattern being certain to allow 1/2" space between pieces to allow the dough to expand as it bakes.

Cut the dough with a sharp paring knife or the edge of a metal pancake turner. Be certain the walls and roof are the same size as the patterns. Remove scraps leaving house pieces on the cookie sheet. Do not attempt to shift pieces once they have been cut out. This will stretch the dough and distort the shape. Bake at 350 12-15 mins.

Carefully loosen then remove each piece with a metal pancake turner. Cool on a wire rack. When the walls are completely cooled, place a sheet of aluminum foil on the cookie sheet shiney side up. Arrange the walls on the foil. With a hammer, pulverize a few pieces of hard clear candy in a plastic bag. Spoon some of the crushed candy into each window. Return the cookie sheet to the oven and bake a few mins in order to melt the candy. Watch carefully, the candy melts quickly. Remove pieces from the cookie sheet and cool on a rack. When completely cooled (don't rush this cooling step) peel the foil from the backs of each wall. The foil will peel easily from the window if it has cooled sufficiently.

Assemble using Royal Icing as "glue". Glue the walls together first. When icing has hardened (about 15 mins) then glue on the roof. Glue on the chimney and door. When icing has hardened you may begin decorating the house with additional icing and candy.

Suggested candies: cinnamon red hots, starlight peppermints, candy canes, gum drops, miniature marshmallows, M&M's, sweettarts, silver dragees.

Make a larger house by increasing the size of the pattern pieces. As you assemble a larger house, stuff a small string of miniature Christmas lights inside the house with the cord sticking out. Your gingerbread house can glow with the lights are plugged in. Make a gingerbread house for your pet. Use yellow, pink, or orange hard clear candies for the windows.

Royal Icing: Purchase Wilton Meringue Powder where cake decorating supplies are sold and follow the recipe on the can for Royal Icing. Or, use the scratch recipe above. Do NOT use a shortening based frosting. When making Royal Icing, it is essential that all mixing utensiils are grease free. The slightest bit of oil or grease will case the Royal Icing to break down. Royal Icing dries quickly so keep the bowl covered with a damp cloth at all times. Can be refrigerated.

Beat all icing ingredients at high speed for 7-10 mins. Add more sugar for a stiffer consistency if necessary. Makes 2-1/2 cups.


I'd love to hear about other ideas for decor and design. Hope you all had amazing Holidays!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gotcha Covered: Pork/Turkey/Wild Mushroom in Thyme Pastry - Daring Cooks December

Whether your family is you and your room-mate OR enough kids to make up your own sports team, this Pork/Turkey/Wild Mushroom en croute (wrapped in pastry) is a great GO-TO dish. It's very economical, it looks far more difficult that it actually is, the thyme-encrusted pastry covering gives you moist slices and it freezes well. Quick, go pull out the ingredients; I'll wait.

The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.

The mandatory part of this challenge was cooking something inside of pastry. Well, no one has to twist my arm to cover ANY food in a golden, butter dotted, flaky pastry shell.
There has been so much rain here in California that my usual trip to the Farmer's Market (where I could buy a great piece of fresh Salmon) was postponed. I decided to add to my challenge by using ingredients that I already had in the house; Ground Turkey, Ground Pork, a few Wild Mushrooms from last Farmer's Market, and some onions were really the foundation.

Then, since I'm always developing party fare for my Artisanal Catering biz; I also turned this recipe into some very popular tiny pies for appetizers. The meat is cooked and once it's covered in pastry I just put those bad boys in the freezer. I brought them to a Holiday Party last night and they were gone before I got back with a pair of tongs for serving them.
The basic directions after cooking the meat filling (Recipe below), and chilling the Short Crust Pastry (recipe below) is:

1) Roll out 1/2 of the pastry to a long rectangle approx. 12x6 inches
2) Roll out the second half of the pastry to a long rectangle approx. 13x7 inches
3) Mound the meat filling on the 12x6 inch pastry, leaving about 1 1/2 inches around the edges
4) Cover the filling with the larger rectangle pastry and trim with shears or a knife to just inside the edges.

5) Roll the edges over and crimp with a fork.
6 Use the scraps to cut our decorations to your liking
7) Prick the pastry shell all over with a fork, and brush with a mixture of 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbls. water.
8) Bake in the oven at 350F for 40 minutes (turning pan once for even browning)
9) Let cool for 5 minutes before cutting slices.

Turkey/Pork/Wild Mushroom en Croute
(Short Crust pastry; see below)

1/2 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground turkey
8 oz. mixed Wild Mushrooms (wood ears work well, baby bells, etc.)
1 small onion chopped
2 clove garlic minced
2 Tbls. Soy Sauce
1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
1 1/2 cups shredded Emmental Cheese/ Gruyere/ or other mild cheese
1 egg
2 Tbls. olive oil

In a large skillet, cook the onions and garlic on low until they are tender. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Remove these from the skillet and hold. In the same pan, cook the pork on Med/High until browned and crumbled. Add the turkey and continue cooking for about 3-4 minutes. Drain the meats and add them to the onion/garlic/mushroom mixture in the skillet, again. Also add the Soy Sauce, Red Pepper flakes, the egg and cheese. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. Let cool before using in the pastry.

Shortcrust pastry
450 gr (15.8 ounces or 3.2 cups ) of plain all purpose flour
200 gr ( 7 ounce) cold butter

(ADDITION - 1 Tbls. Fresh Thyme leaves)
pinch of salt

Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Stir in the salt, (and thyme) then add 2-3 tbsp of water and mix to a firm dough. Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface. Wrap in cling film and chill while preparing the filling or for about 1 hour.

For best results make sure the butter is very cold.

ALSO for your enjoyment; I'm including the generous recipe for the Salmon that we could use on Daring Cooks this month. If you enjoy cooking and experimenting with culinaria; think about joining the Daring Kitchens. It keeps your skills growing and you meet a lot of fabulous folks online who like having fun and challenging themselves in the kitchen.

Salmon en croute:
Mascarpone or creamcheese 5.2 ounces/150 gr
Watercress, rocket (arugula) and spinach - 0.6 cup/4.2 ounces/120 gr
Shortcrust pastry - 17.6 ounces, 500 gr. Use a butterversion such as Jus-rol which is frozen or dorset pastry. or... make your own!
Salmon fillet (skinless)- 17.6 ounce/500 gr
egg - 1 medium sized

1.Heat the oven to 200°C/390 F. Put the mascarpone or cream cheese in a food processor with the watercress, spinach and rocket and whizz the lot until you have a creamy green puree. Season well.
2. Roll the pastry out so you can wrap the salmon in it completely (approx. 2-3 mm thick) and lay it on a buttered or oiled baking sheet (it will hang over the edges). Put the salmon in the middle. If it has a thinner tail end, tuck it under. Spoon half of the watercress mixture onto the salmon. Now fold the pastry over into a neat parcel (the join will be at the top, so trim the edge neatly), making sure you don’t have any thick lumps of pastry as these won’t cook through properly. Trim off any excess as you need to. Make 3 neat cuts in the pastry to allow steam to escape and make some decorations with the off-cuts to disguise the join if you like. Brush with the egg glaze.
3. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and browned. To test wether the salmon is cooked, push a sharp knife through one of the cuts into the flesh, wait for 3 seconds then test it against the inside of your wrist; if it is hot, the salmon is cooked. Serve with the rest of the watercress puree as a sauce.

Some video tutorials to watch:
Rolling out pastry

Making shortcrust pastry

Making salmon en croute

Also check out the website of BBC Good Food as it has tons of information and other video tutorials as well

Friday, December 4, 2009

Left-Over Left-Overs for #LetsLunch

Let me tell you what I did with my left-over Turkey and fixin's from Thanksgiving: We reheated and ate a complete Thanksgiving meal all over again. I know, I know - if the Macy's Day parade was the day AFTER the holiday I could've been a one-ton float that needed cable and six people to pull it down the street. However; life is about balance for me. So, I used the "left-over left-overs" to create a healthy Curry Turkey SALAD.


Ok, so it has a tiny spoonful of mayonnaise (you could use yogurt). Let's face it, compared to the day before, I'm starving myself.

1 cup of chopped, cooked turkey
1 TBLS curry powder (even better if you toast it in a skillet for a moment before using)
1 TBLS (or to your palate) Dijon Mustard (don't use any less flavorful mustard - you need the ummph)
1 TBLS (or less) of Mayonaise (home-made is best, but organic is good)
a dash of olive oil
a handful of grapes
a sprinkling of chopped nuts
a sprinkling of blu cheese
Mache (or mixed baby or arugula would be great)

1) First mix the curry, mustard and mayonaise together; then toss the turkey in to the mix. If you like it a little smoother, add the dash of olive oil.
2) Add the grapes and adjust seasoning.
3) If you like your greens dressed, try just a sprinkling of olive oil and balsamic or leave dry. Mound them on the plate. Add a scoop of the Turkey Curry Salad to the center.
4) Sprinkle with nuts and cheese.
5) I also sprinkled a little bit of toasted left-over dressing (don't judge, I'm weak).

I served this to my husband and teenage son and they loved it. I had to laugh, though, because my husband thought it was the "Salad before the meal". I think he's still sitting at the table waiting.

This posting was another wonderful idea by Cheryl at A Tiger In The Kitchen for our Twitter group called #LetsLunch. Every month or so a few of us (click on these: Cowgirl Chef, A Tiger In The Kitchen, for other delightful leftover ideas) post together as a kinda Virtual-Lunch. You are welcome to join us by posting or by following. Just let me know in the comments, or on twitter: @ShowFoodChef.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Fennel takes on Beet 'n Squash

Let's just admit it, I'm a sucker for a Challenge. I'm still new at blogging, so the whole thing is challenging for me. Earlier today, on Twitter, I read about a Vegetable Challenge that was started by She Simmers and Bouchon for 2; called Beets 'n Squash. For this month, the pick was fennel. They may as well have said my name out loud. I LOVE fennel. I've made muffins, omelets, jam, salads, and even ice cream from this Anise-flavored bulb. But the day to post was less than 24 hours from the time I read about it. Of course, I had fennel in the refrigerator, heh heh; and I was itching to use it. So, here's my draw, and let the Challenge begin:

FENNEL 'n ONION SOUP w/Calvados and Melted Gruyere SOUP SHOOTERFennel is a misunderstood vegetable, I think. A lot of folks think they don't like it because they've heard it has a hint of licorice-like taste and that's enough, it looks like celery and then doesn't taste like celery, or they've eaten it when it was limp and old. If you happen to be one of those peeps, I encourage you to give it another try; at least ROAST it with some olive oil/salt/pepper until it gets a little browned. Almost ANYTHING tastes good caramelized, right?


1/2 large bulb fennel
1/2 large onion
1 TBLS. fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBLs. olive oil
2 TBLs. butter
1/4 cup Calvados (or another Apple Brandy, optional: use apple juice)
16 oz. Beef stock (or vegetable stock)
Several slices of French Bread (can be day old)
1/2 cup grated cheese (gruyere preferred)

Makes 4 1/2 cups servings or 8 mini cups

[I made these little soup shooters in espresso cups and melted the cheese on top with a cook's torch (little hand held gadget, smaller than a hairdryer).]

1) Start with a half bulb of fennel, trimmed and cored, a half large onion, a little fresh thyme, and 4 cloves of garlic.
2) Slice the onion and the fennel in long, thin strips. Strip the thyme branch to use the leaves. Mince the garlic.

3) Put the onions, fennel, 1TBL olive oil, 2TBL butter into a large saucepan and sweat (cook on low) slowly for about 20 minutes. Cook and stir often until the onions and fennel take on a caramelized color. The color builds depth of flavor, so don't rush this part.
4) Deglaze the pan with a shot of Calvados, add the thyme and garlic. Stir while continuing to cook for about 2 minutes.
5) Add the beef stock (or vegetable stock) into the saucepan and cover. Cook on low for about 45 minutes.
6) Toast the French Bread pieces (cut to the size of your serving vessel) on both sides.
7) Ladle soup into bowls (or for a party appetizer into small cups), top with toasted bread, cover in grated cheese and either torch or put under broiler for just a few minutes.

**Optional: serve by the fire and follow with a glass of wine **

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Post Your Trainer Doesn't Want You To See: NUTELLA PETS De SOEURS

I just may lose a few folks with this post, but the ones that stay obviously have a sense of humor. I was discussing the history of various spices and pastries (food geek that I am) with a Canadian friend the other week and she giggled as she told me about Pets De Soeurs. It seems these little crispy balls of light fried sweet bliss actually translate to mean "Farts of Nuns".
Now, having grown-up beside my grandparent's survival farm in NC, I assumed I had heard just about every un-savory term for food ever used, but I was wrong. A quest followed.

I researched the history of...these little...puffed fartlettes and it took me to some very odd places.

The French verb meaning "to fart" is
peter; thus; Pets. The french word Soeur means Sisters (or Nuns in this usage, and they are sometimes called Pets De Nonne). To some of you, this is old news, but it wasn't to me. I decided making these were a must and since it involved Choux Paste and I didn't really want to look up a recipe, I went to Ruhlman's Ratios.

Ironically, if there were two people who would definitely laugh at a fart, it would be "the bad boys of the kitchen": Michael Ruhlman and Anthony Bourdain. I'm giant fans of those two, both their cooking and their natures. Ruhlman, especially, because he actually looks like he's safe, bad (in a good way). Of course, on, there was not only an extensive posting on Choux Paste, it even mentioned these Pets de Soeur, and ranted about how easy it is to make your own choux pastry.

I used the ratio: 2 part liquid: 1 part butter: 1 part flour: 2 part eggs to make about a dozen of these. I added a little zest and a bit of vanilla bean to the pastry when I beat the eggs in. When the dough was pasty and thick, I dropped small scoops (using an ice-cream scoop) of the dough into oil that had heated to 350F. That's when I discovered the possible reason for calling these things something that would mean holy farts.

About half-way through the process of caramelizing and turning crisp on the outside, these little tuffs of dough give off a tiny explosion of air and double in size.
It made me laugh. Okay, I already admitted I'm a geek, but ya gotta laugh, right? How often does food "pet" in the pan?

And while I'm on a roll, here's another fun fact I got side-tracked with: In the late 1800's there was a talented Vaudeville performer named, Joseph Pujol, who became world famous as Le Petomane (Pets you know, and mane meaning maniac.) You can probably guess his stage talent, but get this; he was professionally a BAKER. Seriously, don't ya just love our world? Here's a poster from his show:

And now, the Nutella Part (and I swear I'm just sticking to food-talk for the rest of the post)
I'm always going over new ways to use Nutella, mostly because of joining this Nutella Challenge idea that Paula at Bell'Alimento came up with a few months ago. So, every month I'm looking for a new way to incorporate that chocolate/hazelnut crazy-good spread (besides just eating it by the spoonful which I also do). Once I tasted these light and crispy puffs I had made, the serious food work started as I began filling them with Nutella. Great idea! What followed was the not so great idea of eating about 4 of them myself. The rest were consumed by my family so fast I only had a picture to remember them by.

I hope you'll try these, Pets de Soeur or call 'em Nutella Puff Balls if ya want. They'll be eaten faster than you can tell'em what they're called, anyway.

Here's the Technique (and while you're cooking them, don't be afraid to laugh):


In a saucepan, heat and melt a stick of butter (4oz) in 8oz. water (and a pinch of salt).
When it starts to simmer, add 4 oz. flour and stir with a wooden spoon very fast. When the dough starts to gather away from the sides of the saucepan, keep stirring for about 2 minutes until the dough gets a bit dryer.
Put your dough into your mixing bowl and let it cool for a few minutes. Then add about 4 eggs (each egg is about 2 oz.) just one egg at a time. Inbetween each egg, stir rapidly to really incorporate the egg. Also, add in 1/2 vanilla bean grains stripped (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract) and 1/2 tsp. orange zest after the eggs. Stir, again to incorporate. The dough should look thick and pasty.

Heat a deep saucepan with about 3-4 inches of oil and bring oil to 350F. Drop spoonfuls of dough gently into the oil and monitor temperature of oil. Carefully, using a long utensil, turn dough over to fully cook on all sides. Wait for it, and it will pop to incorporate the air the steam has caused while cooking the butter. Remove Cream Puffs to drain. After a few moments, cut a small opening in one side and using a pastry bag or just a spoon, fill with Nutella. Sprinkle with Powdered Sugar to garnish and enjoy while warm. Just writing this has made me so hungry. Good Grief, I really am a food geek.

This ratio also makes Gougere: just add loosley grated gruyere cheese (instead of vanilla or zest), mix in throughly and bake the scoops on a parchment lined baking sheet for about 15mins at 400F.

Also - think about what else you could fill them with... hmmm?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Che Belli CANNOLI - DB

I am not worthy...I am not worthy. That was my first thought when I read that Cannoli was the pastry for the November Daring Baker's challenge. I am fortunate enough to have visited Italy and tasted these pastries made the way they should be eaten...oh, I'm swooning just thinking about them, AND the whole Italian experience. Can you tell: I'm a little in love with all things Italian. I have studied the language for a few years (on and off), visited all regions (every year for 5 years) and value my beloved Italian teacher (now good friend), Lorena Bignamini - and another one of my best friends, Erika Nadir, who teaches Italian at UCLA. I live in giant gratitude for the opportunities to travel to this amazing country and the friends that have come into my life as a result of my...well, frankly, obsession.

But fear not, readers and friends. If a young woman like myself (hey, it's the internet I can say whatever I feel like saying) can take a little flour, sugar, red wine and seasonings, and (with a bit of hot oil) create this flaky, bubbled, crispy sweet round tube packed with whipped delishiousness - SO CAN YOU.

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

I couldn't launch into this Cannoli-making adventure without finding out a little about the Who/What/Where regarding these pastries. It was no surprise to learn that the Arab influence during Medieval times actually began the process. Before the Arabs brought sugar to Sicily, most pastries were sweetened with honey. The first time a Chef or cook tasted sugar cane and then started experimenting with it must have been like a carnival in the kitchen. In fact, research offers that the first time Cannoli were served was during Carnivale in Italy. The name, Cannoli, is from the word Canna - similar to Cane in Sugar Cane. Guess why. Like the tubes that are used for forming the Cannoli pastry, the first cooks wrapped the pastry around SUGAR CANES before cooking them in oil and filling them with the mixture of Spring Season fresh Sheep's Ricotta cheese and Sugar whipped together. The classic Cannoli is filled with Ricotta, Sugar and often candied fruits and nuts. The Italians love their endings to words (ie. piccolo and bacione) that means something is litte or huge. Canna plus the ending that would make it cute and small; olo. The plural adds the i instead of o = Cannoli!

The tubes for making Cannoli are not hard to find online or in a baking shop and aren't so expensive, but you can also use short wooden dowels (like cut broom handles).

The directions that we were given are below; along with a few pics to show the process and expected colors, etc. The fillings are up to you. I did the classic Ricotta, but with chipped chocolate, a Cinnamon Pumpkin Filling with Candied Ginger, and a Rose Pastry Cream.

Go for it! Then, save/plan/stretch/beg and borrow til you find yourself sitting on a little patio in the world's most friendly country, sipping a real caffe and closing your eyes every time you bite into a hand-rolled Cannoli. Che Buono!

2 cups (250 grams/8.82 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
Confectioners' sugar

1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.

2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.

3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

Pasta Machine method:
1. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Starting at the middle setting, run one of the pieces of dough through the rollers of a pasta machine. Lightly dust the dough with flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Pass the dough through the machine repeatedly, until you reach the highest or second highest setting. The dough should be about 4 inches wide and thin enough to see your hand through

2. Continue rolling out the remaining dough. If you do not have enough cannoli tubes for all of the dough, lay the pieces of dough on sheets of plastic wrap and keep them covered until you are ready to use them.

3, Roll, cut out and fry the cannoli shells as according to the directions above.

For stacked cannoli:
1. Heat 2-inches of oil in a saucepan or deep sauté pan, to 350-375°F (176 - 190 °C).

2. Cut out desired shapes with cutters or a sharp knife. Deep fry until golden brown and blistered on each side, about 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oil with wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, then place on paper towels or bags until dry and grease free. If they balloon up in the hot oil, dock them lightly prior to frying. Place on cooling rack until ready to stack with filling.

2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios

Note - If you want chocolate ricotta filling, add a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder to the above recipe, and thin it out with a few drops of warm water if too thick to pipe.

1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.

2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

1. When ready to serve..fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.

2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The $84.00 Friendship Bread

Maybe you've heard of Friendship Bread? Basically, it's a "starter" dough that one person feeds, according to a recipe, then uses some of the starter to bake their bread and passes the rest along to a "friend". That friend feeds the starter til it grows and ferments and becomes ready to use in baking; then takes a little of the starter and passes the rest to the next "friend" and so on, and so on. When I was in college we had one that made it's way around the whole campus and back again. Frankly, it can be fun - or it can be a pain (and NOT the french word for bread.)
My mom, in North Carolina, was given one of these cups of starter by my sister-in-law a few months ago. I got a phone call when my mom was worried about what to do with the rest of the starter she had fed.

[Read the following with a sweet ultra-southern accent] "Cathy, I don't have any friends that want to make this friendly bread, I can't give it back; that would be rude, and I've cooked just about as much of this, and in as many ways as my brain can come up with. I've frozen it, I've fried it, I've made it to muffins, and I'm just sick of my friend bread. There's nobody that wants mine."

My mom is a soft southern 76-year-old with a sing song accent, but I would describe her as either 3 years old or 99 years old. She lives alone and has for years and years. Lots of times she seems like she's MY kid; pouty with a little girl's tiny voice asking for a favor. Other times she seems like she's wise beyond time, but somehow barely hanging on because of this ailment or the other. A common phrase of hers is "well...with my horrible bad luck..." Now, before you think I'm just being mean about my mom, let me assure you; I love this lady with all my heart. She was a single Mom (Dad, not so great) in the 70's to my brother and me. She worked as many jobs as possible. She gave up her own bedroom in our 2 bedroom apt. so I could have my teenage room to myself while she slept on the fold-out couch. She was at every play, majorette parade, and show I ever performed in as a kid. She's also crazy as a salted June Bug, sometimes.

My mom still lives in the small little city she was born in and most of her friends have moved on (one way or the other). She is a child of the Depression and now lives on a fixed income of less than 12,000 dollars a YEAR. The idea of wasting anything, even a cup of starter dough is beyond sinful to her. And, let's face it; who could deal with that little pleading voice telling you that "nobody wants mine". So, I did what every good daughter would do; I told her to send it to me.
I live in Southern California. I visit Mom about every 3 months and my amazingly wonderful brother lives near her and is constantly helping. I'm often searching for ways that I can be of service since I'm the one who "left" town. So, in my mind, I just wanted to fix the emotional. I didn't need to knead bread, ya know? Mom seemed convinced that this AMISH FRIENDSHIP bread was a "secret starter dough". She almost whispered it, "If it stops, nobody knows how to make it again. It started with those Amish people many years ago." To be honest, I probably half listened. I was just bent on fixing the problem. "Oh, yeah that's cool, so just send it to me and I'll make a loaf and that way I can be a part of your Amish Friendship bread thing, too. Is that good?" As I do constantly, I waited to hear how I, wonderful me, had solved all her worry and NOW she was happy. But, her worry became about how to get it to the Post Office, it can't go but 24 hours before the next recipe step, and how she just couldn't pay for that. "No problem, Mom, whatever it is - and how bad can it be - I'll just send you the money back, right away." And that was that. It did make her excited that I would be participating. She started giving me ideas of how she added chocolate chips to it, how important it was to massage the plastic bag of starter exactly as the recipe stated. She was really into the idea. It was great. She would send me a cup of starter, over-night-it, as soon as it got to the sharing point of the recipe again.

A week later, I had just completed a giant project that had me working every day, my youngest son was on school break and my husband had a rare day off; we were taking a holiday at a nice hotel. I was sitting by the pool sipping a Pina Colada, taking in the sun and pretending this was my everyday life. I was in a zone. My cell phone rang and it was Mom. "Cathy, honey, I hope this was okay - I just left the Fed-Ex place and sent off your Amish Starter, but honey it was a lot. Are you sure that was okay, it will make a lot of loaves, but still and all - your brother said you were crazy, but I told him you said to do it, so honey, I did...and it was 84 Dollars."

I spit my half-chewed rum soaked pineapple out of my mouth. 84 DOLLARS? For bread? I could hear her child-like panic that somehow she had done something wrong and worse it had to do with money. "Well, I thought that was a lot, but I figured you knew what you said, did I mess up?" I knew it wasn't her fault, she just did what I so "cooly" told her to do. My brother was right; I was crazy. I tried to pass off my shock by calling it mild surprise at the delivery rates our country is charging these days, yada, yada, yada.
So, story mostly over except this extra salt in the wound. If you google - "Amish Friendship Bread" - you will find hundreds of starter recipes just like the one I paid 84 Dollars to use. When I got the bag and read through the daily instructions I got a giant laugh. After 10 days of massaging and feeding the starter the recipe for the bread began. One of the ingredients was powdered Vanilla Pudding, like from a box? I'm not sure, but I doubt the age old traditions of the Amish actually included boxed Vanilla Pudding Mix. I left that part out; forever destroying the secret Amish starter.
I have to admit, this made an amazingly moist caramel bread. It had that sweetness that comes only with fermenting and maybe a little bit of humble pie.

Starter Recipe given is one that I've tweaked from many sources to give you one that is simple and fun to start your own Friendship Bread.


1 TBL. dry active yeast
1 cup warm water
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup warm milk

In a non-metallic bowl; sprinkle yeast over 1 cup of warm water (110F). Stir to dissolve yeast and wait about 5 minutes til frothy.

Add sugar, flour and warm milk. Stir to combine, then pour mixture into a sturdy ziplock bag and keep at room temp. for 10 days while you follow these directions.

Days 1,2,3,4 - Release pressure in bag and massage ingredients in bag.
Day 5 - Add 1 cup each of flour, sugar and milk. Close bag, massage and hold again.
Days 6,7,8,9 - Release pressure in bag and massage ingredients.
Day 10 - Add 1 cup each of flour, sugar and milk. Massage ingredients and pour into a non-metallic bowl.

Use 1 cup of batter for making your own 2 loaves of bread. You will have about 3 cups of batter left (2 to share and 1 to keep for your next 10 days/ or 3 to share).


1 cup of starter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
*optional: pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg/ caramel chips, choc.chips, nuts, raisins
**optional: 1 small box of vanilla pudding

Mix together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl.
In another bowl - beat eggs with oil, vanilla and starter, then add in the dry ingredient mix and optionals.

Pour batter into 2 well buttered loaf pans (or you may choose muffin tins). Bake at 325F for 1 hour (muffins require less time.)

Don't forget to give the recipes and instructions when you share your Friendship Bread. This makes a very fun gift for the holidays.