Sunday Slow Bakers Archives

May 18, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers-Hazelnut and Grape Tart


This week's selection was Hazelnut and Grape Tart, from Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma. I was intrigued to make this tart. I've not baked with grapes before, and I love hazelnuts, so I was ready to see what type of flavor and texture experiences this would offer. Most of the ingredients were pretty basic-eggs, sugar, orange zest, vanilla, grapes. Then the hazelnuts and grappa. Luckily my Safeway carries hazelnuts in the bulk section. They are quite pricey, so this tart isn't inexpensive to make. But I didn't know how inexpensive until I went to the liquor store to buy grappa. Now the only time I've ever had grappa was when my husband and I were in Italy having a wonderful dinner with Gloria and Marcel. We decided we had to try the common after dinner drink. If I remember correctly, Gloria was smart and ordered lemoncello. I only managed a sip or two of the grappa, and I thought it was the nastiest stuff I've ever tasted. Not an easy taste to get out of your mind either. Okay, back to the liquor store. They had 4 selections-1 was from California, so I wasn't buying that. One was 1/2 the price of the others, so that was out also-thought it might be close to the one I tasted in Italy. That left two-they were within a couple of dollars of each other, so I chose the more expensive (but it was a larger bottle). But the cost? $63! I hestitated for a long time about buying, with the taste of the grappa I had coming back.. But I thought it would be different-how could so many great recipes in this cookbook call for it if it didn't add to the flavor. So I splurged. And I was sorry. Tasted a sip when I got home, and although it wasn't as bad as the first, I did not like it. But I was still hopeful that it was just the strong alcohol taste, and still hoping that a tablespoon to toss with the grapes would add to the flavor. Wrong again. When the tart was completed and I tasted it, each bite of grape I got had a flavor I just did not like. Guess that saved me calories, because a friend ended up with most of the tart. If you like grappa, then by all means try the tart. If you don't, then do as others have suggested, and substitute an orange liquor.

Here's the process of making the tart:
THE CRUST: I love Gina's Sweet Tart Crust recipe. It's easy to work with, and has a nice hint of orange flavor. It's quick to make in the food processor. Pulse together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, zest of an orange. Then pulse in cold butter. Next add a mixture of eggs, vanilla, and heavy cream. Knead a little, chill, then roll.

Pastry Rolled Out in Circle
I love to roll out pastry on my large silpat silicon pad.

Placing Pastry into Tart Pan

Trimming Edges off Tart Crust

THE FILLING: Egg yolks, sugar, orange zest, and salt are mixed together. Hazelnuts are ground together with sugar and folded into mixture. Egg whites are whipped until soft peaks form, then are folded into hazelnut mixture.

Folding in the Egg Whites

Filling is poured into prepared crust. Grapes are cut in half, and tossed with sugar and grappa. Then they are placed cut side down in concentric circles to completely cover tart. (Note: buy as large of grapes as you can find. The small ones take much longer to place on tart, and when tart bakes they sink into the filling.

Unbaked Tart

The tart is then baked for 35-40 minutes, and you have a beautiful golden tart.

May 25, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers: Zucchini-Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Crunch Glaze


This week's selection from Dolce Italiano was Zucchini-Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Crunch Glaze. I grew up eating lots of zucchini bread, and I wondered if the recipe would be similar. I thought it was very similar in taste, although the glaze makes it extra-special. The recipe starts with sifting together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In another bowl, eggs, sugar, olive oil, and vanilla are beaten together. The dry ingredients are then added to the egg mixture.

After the dry ingredients are just incorporated, toasted chopped pecans and grated zucchini are mixed in.


The batter is then spread into a greased and floured bundt pan and baked until golden, 45-50 minutes. While baking, the lemon glaze is made. Lemon juice and granulated sugar are whisked until smooth, then powdered sugar is mixed in. When the cake is done, it's cooled in the pan 10 minutes, then turned out onto a cooling rack. The lemon glaze is brushed onto the cake, and as the cake cools, the glaze hardens.

I found this cake extremely easy to make and very moist. I'm still eating it 3 days later, and I think it is even more moist than when first baked, and the flavors are more melded together. I cannot taste the flavor of the olive oil with the heavier spice taste, and I think you could easily substitue vegeatable oil if you didn't have olive oil on hand.

June 1, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers : Chocolate and Polenta Tart


This week's selection was Chocolate and Polenta Tart, again from Gina DePalma's book Dolce Italiano. I was anxious to try this tart-Gina describes the texture as an irresistible combination of smooth, silky chocolate with the chewy bite of polenta.

Makes one 10" tart; 8 to 10 servings

Polenta Tart Crust(recipe following)
4 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 Tbsp instant or fine polenta
1 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center.
On a floured board, roll the tart dough into an 11" circle 1/8" thick. Transfer the dough to a 10" tart pan with fluted sides and a removable bottom by rolling the dough around the pin like a carpet and then unrolling it onto the pan. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan, then trim it so it is flush with the top of the pan. Chill the tart shell while you make the filling.
Place the chocolate and butter in a large, heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, whisking occasionally to combine the chocolate and butter while they melt. Remove the bowl from the pan of water and set it aside.
Place the eggs, sugar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat together on high speed until they are thick and tripled in volume, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract.
Add the egg mixture to the bowl with the melted chocolate mixture and fold the two mixtures together with a rubber spatula until they are mostly combined. Sift the polenta and flour over the batter and continue folding until no streaks appear and the dry ingredients have been completely incorporated.
Pour the filling into the prepared shell and place it on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Bake the tart for 25 minutes, or until the filling is puffed and cracking and the crust is lightly golden brown. Allow the tart to cool on a rack for 20 minutes before carefully removing the sides of the tart pan.
Dust the top with confectioners' sugar and serve the tart warm. Wrapped in plastic, it will keep in the refridgerator for a few days.

Makes one 10" tart shell

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup instant or fine polenta
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/4" cubes
1 large egg
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Place the flour, polenta, sugar, salt and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine them. Add the cold, cubed butter to the bowl and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand and no large lumps of butter are visible.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, olive oil, and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the food processor and pulse just until a ball of dough forms.
Form the dough into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic. Chill the dough until it is firm enough to roll, at least 1 to 2 hours.

I've made a couple of Gina's tart crust recipes, and I like that they are easy to make using the food processor. But I found this one more difficult to work with. I chilled it for plenty of time, but had trouble rolling it out and placing it in the pan without it breaking. At least with a tart you can just press it back in place. The problem could have been that I made a mistake in the tart crust and used a corn meal that was not finely ground. Be sure to use instant polenta or regular fine cornmeal. I used a courser ground cornmeal, and the texture was way too hard in the tart crust.

This dough starts by combining the dry ingredients in the food processor, then adding cubed cold butter.
Then the mixture is pulsed until no lumps of butter are left. The wet ingredients are then whisked together, and added to the food processor.
This mixture is pulsed until a dough ball is formed.
The dough is then formed into a disk, wrapped in plastic, and chilled until firm enough to roll.
For the filling, the butter and chocolate are melted together in a double boiler.
The eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla are whipped together, and then folded into the chocolate mixture. The flour and polenta are sifted over the top, then also folded in. The filling is then poured into the shell and baked.

This tart tasted very good. Use really good chocolate-it makes a difference in this tart. The flavors of the corn and lemon zest in the crust come through. I will sure make this again, I will just make sure I either find some instant polenta or use regular cornmeal in the crust.

June 8, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers-biscotti di cioccolato a nocciole (Bittersweet Chocolate & Hazelnut Cookies)

It's again time for the Sunday Slow Bakers weekly recipe. This week's recipe is Bittersweet Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies, from Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano.


Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies Makes 5 dozen

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetend Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup whole hazelnuts, skinned or unskinned
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, for dusting

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Place the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse them 2 or 3 times to chop them medium-fine. Add the hazelnuts to the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir to combine them.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, beat in the dry ingredients, followed by the chocolate, and beat just until combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill the dough until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325. Lightly grease two baking sheets with nonstick cookign spray or butter or line them with parchment.

Place the confectioner's sugar in a shallow bowl. To form the cookies, roll 1 scant tablespoon of dough into a 1 inch ball, then flatten it slightly with your fingertips to form a small disk. Roll the cookie in the confectioner's sugar to coat evenly and place it on the baking sheet. Repeat until all of the dough is used, spacing the cookies 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.

Bake until the cookies are puffed and cracking, 8 to 10 mintues. Rotate the baking sheets 180 degrees halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 1 to 2 minutes, then use a spatula to transfer them gently to a wire rack to cool completely. If desired, dust them with additional confectioner's sugar.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container, layered between sheets of parchment paper, and kept in a cool, dry place for up to 1 week.

Here is the process:
Chopping the chocolate- this was the most time-consuming part of making these.


Combined batter-


Making the cookies-(I use a small scoop. I scooped them all onto a cookie sheet, then went back and pressed them flatter with the bottom of a flat wine glass.


Rolling cookies in powdered sugar-


Cookies ready to bake- as you can see, I use silicon baking mats. No sticking, and very easy cleanup.


Baked cookies on cooling rack-


These cookies are just wonderful! If you love strong chocolate flavor, be sure to use bittersweet
chocolate. The hazelnuts add a little crunch, and just intensify the chocolate flavor. I baked my cookies for 10 minutes, and they still came out very soft. They seem to be firming up as they stand. These cookies would be great with an espresso, a glass of milk, or a glass of port. Your house will smell wonderful, and your mouth will have a smile!

Here is a close-up of the texture of the cookie:


June 15, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers-Obsessive Ricotta Cheesecake


This week's Sunday Slow Baker choice was another recipe from Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano. Gina talks about being obsessed with ricotta cheesecake, and develping this recipe as the ultimate. She says that by adding cream cheese to the ricotta, it gives it a creamier texture with less graininess. The recipe calls for candied orange and lemon peel, but if you don't like that, you can just use grated zest. I used only grated orange zest in mine, and also substituted Grand Marnier with a couple of drops of almond extract for the amaretto called for.

I was very excited to try this recipe, because I've never had ricotta cheesecake and the description sounds wonderful. But I was disappointed in how the cheesecake turned out. The baking time called for 45 to 50 minutes, and I had to bake it for an extra 40 minutes, which I still don't think was enough. So the texture is too soft, as you can see from the above photo. The taste is wonderful though. The combination of the orange zest and the Grand Marnier gives it a subtle, but very noticeable orange flavor. The texture is not dense and thick like many cheesecakes, but light and almost fluffy. Not sure if I overbeat it trying to get rid of some of the ricotta's graininess or if it is supposed to be that way. I will eventually try this recipe again with some variations of making it less runny-maybe draining the ricotta cheese first, or adding more cornstarch.

Makes oen 9-inch cake, approximately 12 servings

For the crust-
3/4 cup sliced blanched almonds, toasted and cooled
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1 large egg yolk
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the filling-
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups(30 ounces) fresh whole-milk ricotta
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon amaretto
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied orange rind(optional)
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied lemon rind or candied citron(optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and position a rack in the middle. Lightly grease a 9" springform pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray, dust it with flour, and tap to knock out the excess.

To make the crust: Place the almonds, flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and process until the nuts are finely chopped. In a small bowl, lightly whisk together the egg yolk, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Add the liquids to the nut mixture and pulse several times to moisten and combine the ingredients thoroughly. The mixture should come together easily between your fingers when pinched.

To form the crust, press the mixture onto the bottom and about an inch up the sides of the springform pan. Place the pan in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes to firm up the crust, then bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is light golden brown. Remove the pan for the oven and allow the crust to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the filling-In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese with the sugar and salt on medium speed until soft and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the ricotta and beat until the mixture is smooth and light, another 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Beat in the vanilla extract, amaretto, and cornstarch. Fold in the candied fruits, if desired, with the spatula

Pour the filling into the cooled crust, smoothing the top with the spatula. Bake the cheesecake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the center is set;it should be jiggly but not liquid. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow it to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Chill the cooled cheesecake for at least 4 hours before serving; it is best served fully chilled on the following day. To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan and cut the cheesecake into wedges with a long, thin-bladed knife. Any leftover cake should be wrappted in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Here are a few photos of the process:

Wet ingredients being added to the processed flour and almonds for the crust.


Baked cheesecake cooling in pan.

June 22, 2008



This week's selection for Sunday Slow Bakers was again from Gina De Palma's Dolce Italiano. This recipe was a relief for many in the hot parts of the country-no baking, so no hot oven. This was a very quick and easy recipe to put together-marinate quartered strawberries in Chianti wine and sugar and make a topping of whipped cream, ricotta, and crushed black peppercorns. I had doubts about two things-I'm not crazy about the texture of ricotta, and I thought the peppercorn flavor might be overpowering. I didn't have to worry about either. Maybe it was the brand of ricotta I bought, but it seemed smoother than normal. And Gina says to make sure and crack your peppercorns(you can use the bottom of a small, heavy saute pan)-do not use ground pepper, otherwise the flavor would be way too strong. I wouldn't serve this to people who like basic plain food though-it is different having such a pepper flavor in dessert. When I went to make this, I also realized that I didn't have any Chianti wine on hand. I had an open bottle of a wine that was a mixture of zinfindel, petite syrah, and cab. I knew that it would be heavier, but I thought the peppery flavor of the zin would go well, and I was right. So if you want to make this but don't have Chianti, substitute another red wine.

(fragole al vino con ricotta e pepe) Makes 6 servings

2 pints ripe, fragrant strawberries(about 1 pound)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup Chianti Classico
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cups fresh whole-milk ricotta
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, cracked

About 2 hours before serving the dessert, lightly rinse the strawberries if they are sandy and place them in a single layer on a clean dish towel to dry. Remove the hulls, then cut the berries in quarters or in half lengthwise, according to size, and place them in a large bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the berries and toss them to distribute. Pour the Chianti Classico over them. Using a large spoon, gently turn the berries to coat them wtih the wine. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill, giving them a gentle toss every so often.

Place the heavy cream and the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and use the whisk attachment on medium speed to beat the cream until soft peaks form. Add the ricotta and black pepper and briefly beat until the mixture is combined and makes firm peaks.

To serve, place a generous spoonful of the ricotta cream in each of six dessert glasses and spoon some of the berries and their juices alongside and over the top.

June 28, 2008



Another day for the Sunday Slow Bakers selection. As has been for the last couple of months, the selection again comes from Gina De Palma's Dolce Italiano. When I first bought this cookbook, I saw the photo for this dessert and couldn't wait to make it. I love chocolate, and I think the combination of chocolate with orange is one of the best. So how could you go wrong with a frozen concoction of chocolate, tangerine juice, mascarpone cheese and heavy cream? And to top it all off, a chocolate tangerine sauce!

There were no tangerines at my store, so I used mandarin oranges. This worked just fine, as would regular oranges. Be sure to garnish with the chopped pistachios-use the salted ones-the salty crunch of the nuts added a lot. I used a very high percentage bittersweet chocolate. I don't remember what percentage, as I had bought a bulk piece. While I loved it in the semifreddo, next time I would use a semi-sweet chocolate in the sauce. The sauce is not very sweet at all, and unless you really love a very dark, almost bitter chocolate, you might find this too much. Some Sunday Slow Bakers found their sauce was extremely thin, but that was not the case with mine at all. I'm already thinking about lots of varieties of this semifreddo you could make-what comes to mind the most is using pureed raspberries in place of the orange juice/zest, framboise instead of the Triple Sec and amaretto, and with fresh berries as the garnish.

Here are photos as the semifreddo is being made:






UNMOLDING SEMIFREDDO-as you can see, I lined my loaf pan with plastic wrap. So when I unmolded, I just had to peel the wrap off. No setting the pan in hot water to melt the surface, or worries about sticking.

CHOCOLATE TANGERINE SEMIFREDDO (semifreddo di cioccolato e mandarino)
Makes 6-8 servings
For the Semifreddo:
2 tangerines
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons amaretto
4 large egg yolks
4 ounces chocolate wafer cookies, ground (such as Nabisco's Famous Chocolate Wafers)
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup mascarpone
Chopped pistachios, for garnish

For the Chocolate Tangerine Sauce:
1 tangerine
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup boiling water
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons Triple Sec or other orange-flavored liqueur

To make the semifreddo: Zest the tangerines and squeeze them. Reserve 3/4 cup juice and set the zest aside.

Place the chocolate, cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons sugar, and tangerine juice in small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. The mixture will bubble and then begin to thicken; continue cooking until it is almost the consistency of pudding, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the tangerine zest and amaretto. Allow the mixture to cool for 15 minutes and transfer it to a large mixing bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, use the whisk attachment to beat together the egg yolks and the remaining 3/4 cup sugar on medium speed until light-colored and thick, about 2 minutes. Fold the egg yolk mixture into the cooled chocolate mixture. Fold in the chocolate wafer crumbs.

Clean the bowl and the whisk attachment and whip the heavy cream with the mascarpone at high speed until it is thick and softly peaking. Gently fold the cream mixture into the chocolate mixture.

Pour the semifreddo into a loaf pan or another freezable container and press plastic wrap on the surface. Freeze for at least 6 hours, or until firm.

Before serving, make the chocolate tangerine sauce: Zest the tangerine and squeeze it until you have 1 teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice.

Place the chocolate and butter in a medium bowl. Pour in the boiling water and allow the ingredients to sit for 30 seconds, then whisk them together until smooth. Whisk in the heavy cream, corn syrup, tangerine zest, Triple Sec, and tangerine juice.

To Serve: Scoop the semifreddo into individual bowls, or unmold then whole semifreddo by dipping the pan in hot water and inverting it over a plate and then slice it into portions with a hot thin-bladed knife. Drizzle each serving with some of the warm sauce and sprinkle with chopped pistacios.

The sauce can be made ahead of time and kept in a covered container in the refrigerator for 3 days. Before serving, heat in the microwave or the top of a double boiler.

July 6, 2008



It's time for another Sunday Slow Bakers recipe from Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma. For those of you who are new to my blog, I'm participating with a group of other bakers who frequent the board and decided to start a baking group. We picked a cookbook to start with, and then each week one member chooses a recipe from that book. We all make the same recipe, then on Sunday we all post our results. This has been such a fun process. I am notorious for buying lots of cookbooks, and either never cooking from them or making one or two recipes and that's it. I think this has been the most I've ever made from one cookbook.

Okay, back to the recipe.

ALMOND FINGERS (ditti di mandorle)
Makes approx. 4 dozen cookies

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, separated
Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups sliced blanched almonds
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg yolk, followed by the lemon zest and vanilla extract, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the dry ingredients on low speed to make a stiff dough. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill until firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 325. Lightly grease two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or butter or line them with parchment paper.

Place the almonds in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, lightly beat the egg white with a fork until frothy.

Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Work with 1 piece at a time, keeping the other portions wrapped and refrigerated. Roll the piece of dough into a narrow log 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut the log into cylinders about 1 1/2 inches long. Roll each cylinder in the beaten egg white, then in the sliced almonds to coat it completely. Place the cookies on the prepared sheets, spacing them evenly, about 1/2" apart. Repeat with the remaining portions of dough.

Bake the cookies until they are firm and the almonds are lightly golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes, rotating the sheet 180 degrees halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheets for 1 or 2 minutes, then use a spatula to remove them gently to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust the cookies generously with confectioners' sugar.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container, layered between sheets of parchment paper, in a cool, dry place for up to 4 days.

Let's see...I liked the flavor of the cookies, but had enough trouble with the dough that I'm not sure I would make this recipe again, at least not without a little tweaking. I chilled the dough for a little over an hour, but when I went to roll the dough into logs, it just wouldn't hold together well. I basically had to reroll each piece after I cut it off the log. I wonder if this affected the texture of the cookies, by overworking the dough, as they weren't as tender as I would have liked. As I dipped the cookies into the egg whites, the egg white was all used before I finished rolling all of them. I ended up having to use 3 egg whites to dip all of the cookies. I also needed more almonds, maybe about 2 1/2 cups total. My cookies baked for about 17 minutes before they were lightly browned.

There was another thing I did different, again which could have affected the texture, but I don't think so. I couldn't find any almond flour. So I made my own by processing in a food processor 3/4 cup slivered almonds along with 2 tablespoons of the flour. It did not get pasty or oily, and processed into a nice fine flour consistency.

I enjoyed the cookies more on the second day, as the texture was better. They're not a crisp cookie, the way a Mexican Wedding Cookie is, but a softer texture. Probably because of the ground almonds. I also found the outside of the cookies a little tough because of the amount of egg white that stuck to the cookie. Maybe a little water mixed into the egg white might have made a little thiner consistency. All in all, the flavor of the cookies was good, and I like the unique look of them with the sliced almonds clinging to the outside, but I have enjoyed other cookies from this book more,like the Lemony Semolina Cookies and the Sicilian Pistachio Bars.

Okay, an update-it's Saturday morning now (I baked the cookies Thurs evening), and I just had two for breakfast (isn't that a healthy breakfast!) I've changed my mind about the cookies now-I really like them. The egg white toughness is completely gone, even though the sliced almonds stayed crispy. I guess this is a cookie that is better after a few days.







July 13, 2008



Time for another Sunday Slow Bakers. I might be the only one making this week's choice, as the recipe got changed and I wasn't aware until after I had already made this. As mentioned in earlier posts, we are still cooking from Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano. This week's selection (that I made at least) was Balaton Cherries with Grappa and Mascarpone. I don't like Grappa, so I substituted Amaretto, and instead of Balaton cherries, I used Bing cherries. I also did not add the mint except as a garnish, as I wasn't sure if it would be good with the Amaretto. This was a very nice recipe. It is a cream that is similar to one we made a few weeks ago, with a combination of whipping cream and mascarpone cheese. This recipe had more mascarpone and the addition of vanilla bean, whose seeds looked really pretty among the cream. This cream would be good on top of any fruit. And the Amaretto flavor went so well with the cherries. Yum!!!

(ciliege con grappa e mascarpone)

1 1/2 pints Balaton cherries or sweet dark cherries, pitted
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup grappa
10-12 fresh mint leaves
1 cup mascarpone
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean

Place the pitted cherries in a large bowl. Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar on them and pour on the grappa, using a large slotted sppon to toss the ingredients together. Tear the mint leaves in half and add them to the bowl, tossing again to coat the cherries with the mint. Place the bowl in a cool place or in the refrigerator for 2 hours, stirring now and again to distribute the juices evenly.

About 35 minutes before serving the cherries, place the mascarpone, heavy cream, and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds with the blunt side of a small knife, and add them to the cream. Whip the ingredients together on medium speed until firm peaks form. Chill the mascarpone cream for 30 minutes.

To serve, spoon a portion of the cherries into each of six dessert glasses. Top with a dollop of the mascarpone cream and spoon on some of the juices. Serve with biscotti alongside, if desired.




it's time for the Sunday Slow Bakers again, with one of our final recipes from Gina De Palma's Dolce Italiano. This week the recipe had been changed, and I wasn't aware until I had already made the Cherries with Mascarpone Cream. I wasn't planning on making the Sweet Apple Omelet, until I saw a photo that one of my fellow slow bakers had posted. It looked too good to resist. So this became my dinner for Saturday evening. I cut the recipe in half, since I was by myself for dinner. I thought it was good, but too sweet for my tastes. The honey butter on top tasted delicious, but that was what put it over the top for me. I know if I make it again, I will cut back the sugar used with the apples, and then reduce the amount of honey butter on top. This would be a very nice brunch dish, or it could be eaten as a lunch or dinner.

SWEET APPLE OMELET (omelet con mele) Makes 2-4 servings

2 medium Golden Delicious, Rome, or Empire apples
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon grappa (I used Amaretto instead)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
4-5 large eggs
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting

Peel and core the apples, cut them into quarters, then cut the quarters into slices. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil, followed by the apples. Saute the apples until they just begin to turn soft, translucent, and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and the cinnamon to the pan, shaking to coat the apples. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly add the grappa, then return the pan to low heat and let the apple mixture simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to cook off the alcohol and tenderize the apples.

In a small saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over low heat; do not allow it to bubble. Add the honey and swirl the pan to combine the butter and honey thouroughly (I did this in the microwave). Set the pan aside, off the heat. Have ready a serving plate dusted with confectioner's sugar.

Crack the eggs into a medium bowl and whisk them until the yolks and whites are combined. In a nonstick 10" omelet pan, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter over med heat, swirling it around to coat the bottom completely. When the butter begins to bubble, add the eggs. Use a fork or spatula to pull any cooked egg toward the center of the pan while tilting the pan to move uncooked egg to the edges. Continue moving the eggs around gently until all the eggs are cooked, 2 to 3 minutes. Very quickly, spoon some of the cooked apples into the center of the omelet in a straight line spanning the diameter of the omelet. Shake the pan to loosen the omelet completely, then fold one side of the omelet over the apples.

Quickly slide the omelet onto the sugar-dusted serving plate, folding it over on top of itself with the edge of the pan or spatula. Immediately drizzle the warm honey-butter mixture evenly over the surface of the omelet, then dust it with confectioner's sugar.

Serve immediately, cutting the omelet into 2 large halves or 4 smaller quarters.

July 20, 2008



Another Sunday, another Sunday Slow Bakers recipe. We're down to our last 3 choices from Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano. This cake uses polenta, giving it a unique texture. I liked the citrusy flavor of this cake, but had some issues with the cake. I had to cook it at least 10 minutes longer than the called for time to get the center of the cake cooked. Then, after removal from the oven, the center fell, which meant that way too much glaze accumulated in the center of the cake. Because of the extra baking time, it was a little dry around the outside of the cake. I'm not sure what I might have done to create these issues. I served it with the delicious Honey-Orange-Pistachio Ice Cream that I wrote about yesterday.

CITRUS-GLAZED POLENTA CAKE (torta di polenta con agrumi)
Makes one 9" cake, approx. 10 servings

1 1/2 cups plus 1 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 lemon
1 lime
1 orange
3/4 cup instant or fine polenta
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups confectioners' sugar

Preheat over to 325 degrees and position a rack in the center. Lightly grease a 9" springform pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray, dust the pan with flour, and tap to knock out the excess. Grate the zest from the lemon, lime, and orange, setting the zests aside for the cake batter and reserving the fruit for the glaze.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, polenta, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and granulated sugar together on med-high speed until they are pale yellow and have tripled in volume, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in reserved citrus zests.

Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the olive oil to the egg mixture; begin with one third of the dry ingredients, then add half the oil, followed by another third of the dry ingredients, beating only until each addition is incorporated. Stop the mixer and briefly scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the remaining olive oil, followed by the last third of the dry ingredients.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating it 180 degrees halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning. The cake is down when it springs back lightly when touched and pulls away from the sides of the pan, and when a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 12 to 15 minutes, then carefully remove the sides of the pan and allow the cake to cool completely.

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze: Sift 2 cups confectioners' sugar into a large bowl. Squeeze 1 tablespoon of juice from each of the reserved citrus fruits. Add the citrus juices to the bowl and whisk until smooth. If the glaze seems too thick, add a few drops and whisk until smooth. If the glaze seems too thick, add a few drops of water until it falls easily from a spoon. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake and allow it to set until it is completely dry.

Carefully remove the bottom of the springform pan with an offset spatula and tranfer the cake to a serving plate. If desired, dust the cake with additional confectioner's sugar before serving. Any leftover cake may be wrapped in plastic and served the following the day.

July 27, 2008



Only one week left of the Sunday Slow Bakers cooking from Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano. This week was my choice, and I wanted to choose a savory item. Gina describes these crunchy, curly biscuits as the Italian version of a pretzel.

I'm not going to type the recipe here, as it is quite long. But here are the steps:
Mix flour, salt, sugar, oregano, & red pepper flakes in a mixer. Add olive oil and white wine. Beat until a dough is formed. After the dough has rested for 2 hours, you divide the dough and roll into long ropes. You cut those in lengths, then form them into their ring shape. You then drop them into simmering water, much like you would a bagel. After they cook and float to the surface, you drain them and place on a baking sheet. You then bake until golden brown. The cooking time was supposed to be 25 minutes, but I had to cook them over twice that length to get them done in the middle.

The results were not what I expected. Although they are kindof crunchy, it's not the dry crunch of a pretzel like we are used to. They are not dry inside. Not soft and doughy, but not dry and crunchy. I won't make them again (unless other SSBs have different results), but I have to say, the flavor is very addictive. I do love the heat from the red pepper flakes, and the taste you get from the olive oil and the wine. This is one recipe that I am especially anxious to read about the results that other slow bakers have had.

Only one week left for Dolce Italiano, and we decided we would transition into our Sunday Slow Scoopers by making a frozen concoction-Toasted Almond Gelato.


Okay, I'm amending my comments about the taralli. After reading several other SSB blogs, I have decided that my Taralli came out as they were supposed to, or at least close. I thought they would be dry and crunchy like a pretzel. But Palma gave me a description that best fits them-more like the flaky-crunchy edge of a pie crust. I knew that the flavor was addictive to me, and that mine are all gone and it was me that ate almost all of them. But I kept telling myself they weren't good since they weren't what I expected. I will try this recipe again, and will order 00 flour to make these with. I think that probably does make a difference in this recipe.

August 3, 2008



This is the last week that the Sunday Slow Bakers will officially be cooking from Dolce Italiano, the wonderful dessert cookbook written by Gina DePalma. I know that all of us have really enjoyed the recipes we have tried, and have enjoyed feeling like we have gotten to know Gina a little through her writings and recipes. I will continue to try new recipes from the book I have as of yet to make, and will continue to make recipes I've tried and loved, such as the Lemony Semolina Cookies and the Sicilian Pistachio Bars to name just two.

As we transition to our next book, The Perfect Scoop, and become Sunday Slow Scoopers, one of the members suggested that we try one of Gina's Gelato recipes. So this week I made Toasted Almond Gelato. This was a very easy recipe to make. I did make one change from the recipe. I had some leftover Almond Praline Paste that was used in my Swiss Buttercream from my Daring Bakers challenge, so I added that to the mixture at the end. This was a great gelato. It has a really nice almond flavor. Also, because it does not contain egg yolks, it is less rich than many of the ice creams I've made. The addition of the Praline Paste made it even better-with the bits of that intense praline flavor throughout, heightening the almond flavor even more. Dig out your ice cream makers and give this a try, and get ready for more great ice cream, gelato, and sorbet recipes to come.

TOASTED ALMOND GELATO Makes about 2 cups
gelato di mandorle

1 cup sliced blanched almonds
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 heaping tablespoon flavorful honey, such as clover or millifiori
Pinch of kosher salt
2 teaspoons amaretto
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a clean baking sheet and toast them for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are golden brown and aromatic.

Remove the almonds from the oven and place them in a medium saucepan. Add the heavy cream, milk, sugar, and honey and place over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

When the mixture comes to a boil, remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside to infuse the liquid with the flavor of the almonds.

Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, then strain it through a chinois ro fine-meshed sieve and discard the almonds. Stir in the salt, amaretto, and almond extract.

Chill the gelato thoroughly in a covered container, at least 3 to 4 hours. Freeze it in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

September 27, 2008



Okay, I'm a week late with this post. I was out of town last week, and had a busy week at work and couldn't find the time to make ice cream. But the weekend is here, I'm craving ice cream, and I just had to try the cinnamon ice cream (my husband was also looking forward to it). I guess I will miss the choice for this week, which is an unusual Roquefort-Honey Ice Cream, because I just cannot afford the calories that are involved with two ice creams in a week.

This recipe called for steeping broken cinnamon sticks in the warm milk/cream mixture for 1 hour. I got busy making my recipe for this week's Daring Bakers Challenge, and forgot about the ice cream. So it steeped for over 3 hours. This ended up being a good thing. The cinnamon flavor is very pronounced, but not overwhelming. The ice cream is very creamy and rich. I will be making this again. With apple pie, apple dumpling, apple cake, etc.

CINNAMON ICE CREAM Makes about 1 quart

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
Ten 3" cinnamon sticks, broken up
2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
Warm the milk, sugar, salt, and cinnamon sticks and 1 cup of the cream in a medium saucepan. Once warmed, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
Rewarm the cinnamon-infused milk mixture. Remove the cinnamon sticks with a slotted spoon and discard them. Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and into the cream. Stir until cool over an ice bath.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

I served the ice cream with a pear dessert. This was an adaptation of something I saw on Food Network. There is a Streusal Topping, and a separate Pear/Honey Mixture. Just sprinkle the streusal on top of the cooked pairs. I think this will be a great thing to keep in the freezer for when you need a quick topping. And no rolling out of dough! The topping tastes like a very sweet shortbread cookie.

Streusel Topping
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup ground almonds
Mix together the flour, sugar, salt, and almonds and set aside. In a large skillet, melt the stick of butter. Add the flour mixture, and stir until it is incorporated and small clumps form. Turn this out onto a baking sheet, and gently shake to spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Pear/Honey Mixture
4 pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Heat honey in a large skillet. Turn heat to low, and simmer until honey is lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Stir in almond extract. Add pears, and saute until pears are beginning to soften. This will depend on how ripe your pears are. Maybe 5 to 15 minutes.
For serving, place some pears/honey mixture on a place or in a bowl, and sprinkle streusel topping over. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.


This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Baked Alaska in the Sunday Slow Bakers category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Sunday Salad Samplers is the previous category.

Sunday Slow Scoopers is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.33
© 2008 - 2014 Slow Travel