Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Pizza al formaggio di Pasqua

This year I decided to go on the Easter sweat and savory bread marathon. I finally succeed in getting a good pizza al formaggio. This cheese bread is very common in Umbria and Marche. I think something similar is also baked in Abruzzi (fiadone) and in Toscana (ciaccia, in Val D'Orcia with saffron and mixed spices). From what I read, this bread is called torta al formaggio in Umbria it's slightly denser in texture and traditionally without cubed cheese in it, just a mix of grated pecorino and parmigiano, in Marche it is called pizza al formaggio or crescia di Pasqua, it has more open crumbs and pieces of cheese which give the distinctive eyes to the crumb.

I think the recipe I come out with it closer to the marchigiana version. I didn't have the proper mold, which would be a tall tin cake mold with a bigger diameter at the top (kind of a charlotte mold) so I used a regular cakes spring form 20 cm in diameter with a parchment paper collar. For a 20 cm diameter mold I noticed that the amount of flour I should use it's in the range of the 350 g flour. As a preamble I should also add that as starter I have been using a biga which I have been refreshing daily for the last 20 days, it not like a stiff wild starter but it's working fine. If you don't have a wild starter, or a biga like mine sitting in your kitchen, you could make 12 hours before a "biga" starter mixing about 50 g strong flour and 30 g water and the tip of a knife of yeast, and let it proof covered at room temperature overnight

330 g strong bread flour (the one I used had a 12,9% protein content)
80 g biga refreshed daily (or at least a 12 hour biga)
70 g grated cheese grana or parmigiano and pecorino
65 g of emmental cheese (or better a young pecorino) cubed
2 whole eggs
1 yolk
30 g lard (if you don't have it make a mix of butter and oil)
15 g oil
25 g butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Saf Gold or other yeast (if you use fresh caked yeast about 10 g)

I kneaded the biga in chunks with 80 g of flour and enough water to make a medium soft dough. Left to double in bulk (it took about 2 and half hours). Meanwhile I beated the eggs and the yolk with the grated cheeses and the salt. Left to rest at room temperature. I soften the butter and lard and mixed with the oil.
Once the dough was doubled in bulk I put it in the stand mixer in chunks with the remaining flour, the egg mixture, the fats and the yeast, I had to add more water, sorry I didn't measure. When it was almost ready I added to the running machine the cheese in cubes.

As I previously said I used a regular spring form, buttered and reinforced with a parchment collar. The dough before rising was a little less the half of the height of the mold.
I covered loosely with wrap and let it proof in a warm place until it reached the rim of the mold. It took 6 hours.

I covered it looosely with foil and baked in a preheated oven at 170 C with vent (I don't have a static option) after 30 minutes I uncovered and let it cook and get a nice golden color about other 15 minutes. I tested the cooking with a long skewers. Let cool on a rack.

It is usually eaten on Easter with salumi or by its own.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Pizza dolce di Pasqua from Pesaro

Another sweat bread for Easter. This recipe is from Pesaro in the Marche region. I saved this recipe quite a few years ago from the forum of la Cucina Italiana, posted by Gisellla Mancini. I scaled down the recipe a little bit to adjust it to my limited consumption.
Gisella explains that traditionally the fat used was lard, she usually prepares it on Good Friday to be eaten for Pasqua.

330 g of flour (I used one with 9.5 protein contempt)
2 large eggs
50 g of old dough (or make a "biga" starter the night before with some flour water and the very tip of a knife of yeast)
70 ml milk
1 and 3/4 of a teaspoon of instant yeast (I use Saf gold, but you can use 15 g of fresh cake yeast)
1/3 of a glass wine of dry marsala
lemon zest
25-30 g of rasins
25-30 g of chopped candied fruit (optional)
70 g of coarsely chopped walnuts
100 g sugar
50 g of extra virgin oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Gisella didn't give many directions on the execution. I basically sifted the flour, added the instant yeast, salt, sugar, the old dough in chunks, all other ingredients exect raisin and walnuts in my stand mixer, when the dough roughly combined added the walnuts and raisin. It's like a dense cake batter. I poured the content in a spring for pan, 20 cm diameter, and, just to be safe, I made a collar with parchment paper. It took maybe 3 hours to get to the rim, it doubled in bulk, I baked it in a preheated oven a 170 C (I have a ventilated oven!), after 10 minutes I covered it to prevent fast browing. It took maybe 40 minutes to be fully cooked, I tested with a long skewer. I let it cool on a grate and waited one day to cut it.

It tastes more like a cake, than a brioche dough, not too sweet, a very pronounced hint from Marsala, I don't mind it but I would consider cutting it down.

Edited to add this: I exchanged some e-mails with Gisella, very likely I misunderstood her directions and I should have been a little more conservative with the liquids, it's more like a soft brioche dough. Maybe next time I will cut a little bit on marsala and add only the milk necessary. To compliment me, Gisella told me that my pizza dolce looks better than hers!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Tagliatelle con il ragu'

I am talking about ragu' alla bolognese. This ragu' is not meant to be cooked with spaghetti!

This is something so obvious to me. Any sauce will have a better kind of pasta to go with...the roughness of egg pasta and tagliatelle is the perfect match for this sauce.

This is how I make it.

First of all I use a very large saute' pan for starting the sauce, in order to sweat and brown all the ingredients properly.

I prep a good quantity of onions, carrots and celery. For about 800 g of meat I use 2 medium onions, some amount of carrots and half of the celery, everything in macedoine size (.5 cm).
I start sweating the onion with evoo and a knot of butter, as soon as it soften, I add the celery, and after a couple minutes the carrots. I like to add a little bit of minced pancetta. Here, it really makes a difference to use some chicken liver in the ragu'. Clean a couple livers from tough parts and chop with a chef knife. Since the liver has the tendency to tie up to other ingredients, push the vegetables on the side and add the liver in the center of the pan. As soon as it changes color, make sure to break it with the wooden spoon, mix with the other ingredients.
Again I push the vegetables on the sides and start browning the meat in the center. I keep my heat on high, make sure I have enough fat to brown the meat. I like a mix of pork and ground beef. If the pan is large enough the meat will not release its own juice. As soon as I see it browning I break with the spoon any lumps and mix it with the other ingredients. I usually start with half of the meat, brown, mix with the vegetagles, put at at sides and keep going with the rest of it.

At this poing I add a little bit of tomato paste, like a couple tablespoons and brown. This is something my chef instructor at the FCI used to do and I kept the habit: he tought that browing the tomato paste will avoid the metallic taste that often this industrial tomato paste has. Then I deglaze with red wine (warm), making sure to scrape all the "sucs" from the bottom of the pan. I would add something like 400 ml of hot whole milk, a little at a time, more or less dipends if I feel I need more. When it looks nice and creamy, I pour the sauce in a taller pot, I add a big can of peeled tomatoes (whick I usually crush by hand), if I feel I need the sauce to be a little more runny I add some hot water. I add some coarse salt and a bay leaf. I bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 2 to 3 hours

For tagliatelle.

Usually there is the rule of 100 g flour to one egg. But I find so much difference in the protein levels of flour that i usually beat the eggs on the side and start adding to the flour the 90% of it. Then I usually wet my hands in the remaining eggs while I am kneaking the dough. Tagliatelle dough, in particular, should feel pretty stiff.
I wrap the dough in plastic paper and let rest for half an hour. The most of the times I use the imperia machine to roll my dough. If I find the dough too humid, I will dust it with rice starch or any other starch rather than flour. Let rest the sheet of pasta until it doesn't feel any more humid but not dry to the point it will crumble. It is better to let it rest on a pasta board. Cut in tagliatelle leave to dry a little bit before forming the nests