Wednesday, April 04, 2007


I'm back, once again, with a savory bread for Easter. In Campania there are basically two savory breads for Pasqua: tortano and casatiello. The main difference between the two is that to qualify as a casatiello the bread needs to be decorated with 6 raw eggs on the shell which will be secured on top of the bread before baking with a cross of dough.
I have followed the recipe that Maria Letizia published on Gennarino forum, living out not just the eggs on top but also the salame and the pepper in the dough. Salame in cooking is very "napoletano" and I really don't like the taste of cooked salame. In general, I am sorry to say, cucina napoletana is not in my likings, I really find it too heavy and greasy. And I have a strange relationship with pepper, I like spicy food but I am very sensitive to pepper, it spoils the taste of food, for me, I only like it on mussels!
Maria Letizia recipe has the peculiarity to spead the lard and give turns to the dough to achieve a semi puff pastry effect. I have seen other recipes where this is not done and in the filling, just to lighten up the dough, apart from grated cheeses, cubed cheese, cracklings and salame there are also boil eggs in wedges evenly distributed on the dough before rolling.

You will need

600 g of bread flour
25 g of fresh cake yeast or 2 and half teaspoons of instant yeast
225 g lard (good lard!)
1 scanty tablespoon of salt
grated pecorino and parmigiano
150 g of provolone ( I used a caciocavallo)
If you decide to go with Maria Letizia recipe you'll need also 100 g of cubed salame napoletano to add with the cubed cheese, pepper and 6 eggs to secure on top of the bread.

Sift the flour add the yeast, 1 tablespoon salt, 50 g of soft lard and enough water to make a soft dough (about 350 g of water, more or less). Let proof in a warm spot until it doubles in bulk

I rolled out the dough to 1 cm thickness and spread 1/4 of the remaining lard with a spatula, sprinkle with grated pecorino and parmigiano.

I folded the dough in 3, like for puff pastry and let rest 20-30 minutes in the fridge. And you basically keep rolling the dough and folding until the lard it is used up, I manage in four times.

When you roll the dough out the 4th time, after spreading the lard, distribute on top the cubed cheese. And roll up tightly starting from the longer side.

Lenghten the roll to fit a 26 cm diameter (measured on top) tubed pan.

Let proof until it reaches the top of the mold. Brush with egg wash and bake in a preaheated oven at 180 C. Covering it with aluminum if it gets dark too quickly. It with take about 50 minutes, test the doness with a long skewer.

Let cool 5 minutes before unmolding and completly cool on a wrack before slicing.

Here how it come out

My impressions: the crust if really flaky, like for puff pastry, the crumb is really tender, soft, very good. But it is very, very rich. I tried it for the sake of trying a traditional food but to my taste is not something I could eat every day.

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

Monday, February 26, 2007

Fugazza or Fugassa vicentina

Fugazza or fugassa, not to be confused with the ligurian savory focaccia, is not well known as pandoro di Verona.
In the past was prepared mainly for Easter, nowadays it is possible to find it in pasticceria at all times.

This has been my first attempt to fugassa. It's not as buttery and rich as pandoro but a good breakfast option. I didn't have any vanilla sugar so I boiled a vanilla stick in the water for the initial starter and I really think the vanilla sugar would have been a better choice. Anyway, I am really pleased with the result, not bad at all.

You will need

380 g of bread flour
140 g vanilla sugar
90 g butter
25 g of fresh cake yeast (or 2 and half teaspoons of instant yeast, I used the gold saf instant)
lemon and orange zest (I read that it was used Spumador, a liquor with orange and lemon flavor, impossible for me to find)
1 teaspoon salt

For topping
extra granulated sugar, 10X sugar and almond slices

First dough
I combined 130 g of flour with 1 and half teaspoons of instant yeast, added enough lukewarm water to make a stiff dough, put to rise in a warm place for half an hour.

Second dough
Whip one egg with 40 g of vanilla sugar and 30 g of soft butter, add 120 g of flour. In the stand mixer I kneaded this second dough, with the first one, added in chunks. Let rise for 1 and half hours in a warm spot.

Third dough

Whip one egg with 50 g of vanilla sugar and 30 g of soft butter, add 120 flour. In the mixer incorporate the second dough in chunks fot the third dough. Let rise for 2 and half hours.

Fourth dough
Mix one teaspoon of instant yeas, 10 g of flour and a little bit of water. Whip one yolk (reserve the white) with 50 g of sugar and 30 g of soft butter, add lemon and orange zest and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the yeast mixture. Incorporate in the mixer the third dough in chunks. Let rise for one hour.

Punch down, work the dough a little bit and form a tight ball. Put on a buttered and floured pan, make a dip cross with a sharp knife and surround the dough with a 20 cm ring (I used a spring form pan ring). cover loosely and let proof for about 2 and half to 3 hours.

Slightly whip the reserved egg white and brush the top of the dough, dust with granulated sugar and afterwords x10, sprinkle with shaved almonds. I should have used pearl sugar but sometimes I have an hard time to find it, in Italy you can buy in any supermarket. Here I used a coarser sugar than granulated (the kind suggested for jams) and 10 X, it worked fine anyway.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180 Celsius for about 40 minutes, cover with foil if it gets too dark. Check the cooking with a long skewer.

Edited to add this: Federica, a friend from an Italian cooking forum, told me that in fact-as I suspected-the fugazza traditionally it's not baked in a mold but it has a round shape. Apart from the shape I still think that this bread tastes really good.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Riso con la zucca

This month on Egullet we are talking about food from Veneto. A lot of recipes with rice.

I decided to start with risotto con la zucca. I took the inspiration from Oretta Zanini De Vita and her collection of regional recipes. I decided to cook part of the squash in the rice, part saute' in the pan and added to the finish plate for decoration. Look nicer and I like to feel the different consistency of the squash, soft with the rice and and firmer the saute' one.

Sweat some finely chopped white onion with oil and butter (a tablespoon a person) add some small diced squash (I used kabocha since I didn't have the chioggia squash) and the rice (80-100 g) a person, toast the rice for some minutes, it should not get any color, start adding chichen stock and keep stirring, adding more hot stock when the previous have been absorbed. Meanwhile, in a small pan, saute' some more diced squash, adjusting salt at the end.
When the rice is almost done add a little bit of chopped parsley and little grana padano. Leave the rice "all'onda", add some butter for "mantecare" and let rest a couple minutes.
Plate the risotto and top with some of the saute' squash, if you like dust with a tenuos quantity of cinnamon.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


By the name of sanguinaccio is often meant a chocolate cake with pork blood, in Naples it refers to a chocolate cream that nowadays doesn't cointain any blood, only chocolate. It's often served with chiacchiere around Carnevale.

This recipe was posted on the Cucina Italian forum by Lydia Capasso from Naples.

1.1 l milk
400g sugar (for my taste is too much I use 260 grams)
100g bitter cocoa powder
100g bittersweet chocolate
75g wheat starch (or cornstarch)
2 tablespoons of flour
vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of butter
dark rum half a small liquor glass

Dissolve the starch and the flour with a little bit of cold milk, taken from the total (separately), then pour into a pot, add the sifted cocoa, the remaining milk and the chocolate in pieces, the sugar and butter. Bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk, let cook 5 minutes. I pass it through a chinoise or a tamis, and when lukewarm I add the vanilla and rum.

Stir to let cool and then refrigerate.

I serve it in small liquor glassed with a dust of white chocolate.


Yesterday I had friends over for dinner and I took the chance to make chiacchiere for the year (chi sound in Italian is ki). They are so good an addictive that I only make once a year, in fact they are a classical fried threat for Carnevale.

Chiacchiere means chit chats, my idea is because they are crunchy and when you eat them they produce a noise that make you think of chit chatting. The name varies all around Italy, I am not even sure I can recall all of them: bugie, frappe, sfrappe, crostoli, galani, cenci.

The recipe I follow was posted by Sergio Salomoni on the Cucina Italiana forum some years ago.

500g Flour 00 type (you could use also a AP flour, better with low protein content)
50g sugar
50g softened butter
3 small eggs (or 2 large eggs and 1 yolk)
a small glass of grappa (or even white wine, as I did this time)
a small glass of dry marsala
a pinch of salt

I halved the recipe using 1 egg and one yolk and I manage to fry a big tray of chiacchiere

Work the ingredients adding the grappa and marsala a little at the time to adjust the necessary liquid content to get to a smooth, pretty stiff dough. Should be like a pasta dough.

Let rest covered for one hour. After the resting time, cut and roll the dough with the imperia (or pasta) machine. I like to stop at the third last thickness, or second last of my pasta machine. Some people like it thinner. I do not let dry the sheets of dough but immediately go on cutting and frying.

With a serrated pastry wheel I cut rectangles of about 4 inches x 2.5 (10 cm x6 cm) and cut in the middle of each rectangles without getting to the hedges, lengthwise. But you can cut longer and thin strips and tie them, or you can be creative.

Deep fry in planty of oil ( I use peanut oil), but many Italians for Carnival, where excesses are permitted, will use lard, because fried stuff come out perfectly dry and not oily. I find that if you do that you need a very good lard, otherwise you'll have an aftertaste.

Chiacchiere are very easy to make, you need to be just a little careful in frying, the oil should be hot but not to the point where the chiacchiere will burn as soon as you put them in. So, not french fries temperature, maybe around 160 C. My suggestion is to fry no more then 3 chiacchiere at the time and turn them after few seconds, they should be of a nice golden colour, not dark.

Drain them on paper and when they are all done dust with powdered sugar. If you plan to eat them immediately they don't need to be covered, I do only if I want to keep for several days. Do not refrigerate.

Before trying them wait until they are cold and powdered with sugar.

You can serve with sanguinaccio, as they do in Naples