Witch’s fingers: you are still in time for a creepy but cool Halloween treat!

Although I usually have a lot of Halloween spirit (no pun intended!) 😉 this year I have been quite indifferent to it all, a little bit as if I still lived in Italy. I think it is because we’ve been seeing Halloween decorations, costumes, and candy in the stores since the day after “unpack your backpack” night at the kids’ school. Lucky my little girls brought me back to reality, reminding me that in the next few days there will be Halloween parties at schools and daycares.  And although treats are not expected, they’re definitely welcomed!

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So, I decided to give this very popular recipe a try (I bet you have  already seen these cookies in  Halloween articles, blogs or magazines.)  After picking this one from my favorite Italian cooking blog (giallo zafferano),  I created these (BELIEVE ME!) super fast, easy, and awesome creepy butter cookies! Well, truth to be told, I should not take all the merit, since Letizia (6 years old), Livia (almost 4 years old) and Lorenza (almost 2 years old) helped a lot! Because this recipe requires very few steps, and the modelling part (I mean to give the dough a finger shape) is really easy, the kids loved helping! Plus, the pastry doesn’t need to rest in the refrigerator before to be worked: you can start making the cookies right away!

If you’d like to to refresh your memory on how Italians celebrate Halloween, take a quick look at my past post about Black cats and Ghosts Halloween pastry cookies.

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INGREDIENTS FOR ABOUT 20-22 FINGERS

1 stick of butter (cut into pieces)

14 oz. (or 1 and 3/4 cup) all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 medium sized egg

3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract

1 pinch of salt

22 blanched almonds

1 Tbs. light colored preserve (apricot, orange or peach) to attach the almonds to the cookies

strawberry preserve for the pretend “blood”

DIRECTION

In a big bowl, mix the sifted flour with the baking powder, powder sugar, butter pieces, egg, salt, and vanilla or almond extract. USE YOUR HANDS!

Once the dough reaches a compact and uniform consistency, form a loaf and make small balls of dough, using about 0.8 (25 gr.) of dough for each one. I have to be honest: since it was the first time I’ve tried this recipe, I use the kitchen scale to make balls of the right weigh/dimension.. ERGO, my daughters helped me ONLY in the next steps.

Now, you (and your kids!) can start rolling the dough balls into fingers. With the palms of the hands, roll each ball until it creates a tube shape of about 4 inches (10-12 cm). I have to be honest again: I didn’t have the patience to take out the ruler, so I used MY index finger as a model! To make the fingers look lifelike, I suggest making them thinner just before and after the knuckle joint and then, to add detail, using the dull edge of a knife to create the wrinkles in the knuckles. Again: I used my index finger as model. You can do the same!

To finish the fingers, take one of the peeled, blanched almonds and dip one side in the light colored preserve of your choice, and apply it to the tip of the cookie finger with a little pressure: it will look like a fingernail.

Pre-heat the oven to 365 F. (180 C.).  Cover a baking sheet with parchment and arrange the fingers at least one inch apart.

Cook for no more than 12 minutes…. and before serving, dip the end of the fingers in strawberry preserves to make it appear even more horrific!!!

HOW COOL! YOUR KIDS WILL ADORE THESE COOKIES!!! Now it will be even more fun deciding how to present your cookies… Arranged next to a skeleton skull? Covered with creepy spiders? Your choice!

LEARN IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

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 Tip: – These cookies can last a week if stored in a cookie jar or in a dry and cool room.

          – My favorite way to enjoy these cookies is soaking them in warm milk or tea, for a perfect SPOOKY HALLOWEEN TEA PARTY!

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, and subscribe to receive a new recipe each week for free,

and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia

Fluffy apple coffee cake: irresistible!

A good rule for being confident in cooking is using fresh and seasonal ingredients: this little trick significantly increases the probability of obtaining a great result (see reason #8 of “The 10 funny (but true) reasons why you are a disastrous cook). And since apple season is just around the corner (see this very useful chart for year 2016), I would love to share with you another precious family recipe that makes the most of all these delicious apples, and is guaranteed to amaze your family or guests. And if you still have leftover apples after making this, remember these other two delightful recipes: “Apple crumble pie” and “Golden Apple muffins”

This scrumptious apple coffee cake is almost totally made out of apples (about 2 or more pounds of apples for a 9″ round pan) and few other ingredients. It takes about an hour to be prepared. Most of that time is the tedious work of peeling and cutting the apples. With the use of a food processor the dough will be ready in the blink of an eye! As for the taste, this fluffy, moist, fragrant pie is perfectly suited for a tea/coffee snack, or considering the strange similarity to “brioches“, Italians opt for it as a perfect  sweet and “light” breakfast, or,  sided by a warm custard and sprinkled with sliced almonds could also be served as a fancy dessert.

INGREDIENTS for a 9″ round pan

about 4-5 apples (better if Golden Apples) – 4-5 mele Golden

1 stick plus 1 tbs. warm unsalted butter (9 tbs.) – 130 gr. burro

2 eggs – 2 uova

1 yolk – 1 tuorlo

1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour – 200 gr. farina

2 Tbs. baking powder – 1 bustina di lievito per dolci

2/3 cup sugar – 150 gr. zucchero

2 tsp. almond (or orange) extract – 2 cucchiaini aroma alla mandorla o arancia

juice of 1 lemon (to prevent apple slices from browning/oxidizing) – il succo di un limone

3 Tbs. warm milk – tre cucchiai di latte tiepido

1 pinch of sea salt – 1 pizzico di sale

about 2-3 Tbs. apricot preserves – 2-3 cucchiai circa di marmellata di albicocche

(To assemble the cake use a springform cake pan) – meglio usare una tortiera a cerniera

optional: almond slices or powdered sugar to decorate – facoltativi delle mandorle a lamelle o zucchero a velo per decorare

DIRECTIONS

Remove the butter and the eggs from the fridge at least 20 minutes before making the cake. You need those at room temperature.  Butter the pan and sprinkle with flour (or breadcrumbs).  Peel the apples, cut them in two, remove the core and slice three of them in thin slices and cut the rest in small cubes (just to be sure about the proportions between slices and cubes, I usually arrange the apples slices in the bottom of the pan, and when it looks totally covered I start cutting cubes instead).

Move the sliced apples into a colander and cover them with lemon juice, to prevent them from oxidizing.

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Put the apple cubes and add 2 tbs. of butter in  small pan and cook them at medium heat for about 5-8 minutes, until they become golden, stirring sometimes.

Pre-heat the oven at 365 F (180 C.).
In the mean time you are cooking the apple’s cubes, in your food processor combine, in order:

a) the remaining butter (should be 7 tbs.) with the sugar and a pinch of sea salt;

b) then the 2 eggs and 1 yolk plus the flavoring you picked (almond or orange);

c) next add the flour sifted with 2 Tbs. of baking powder;

d) finally, add three Tbs. of warm milk (not too hot! you don’t want to mess up the rising process and/or cook the dough’s eggs!) that will make the dough liquid enough to be poured in the pan.

Now that the dough is ready, pour a thin layer of it on the bottom of the pan (just enough to not let free spot).

Then, spread out evenly the cooled off apple’s cubes.

Cover the cubes with all the remaining dough and dry the apple slices very well with a paper towel.

Decorate the cake arranging neatly the apple slices and few apricot preserve flakes.

Bake the cake for abut 50 minutes making sure the cake doesn’t burn on top. The right way to make sure your cake is ready is pinching it in the middle with a teeth stick. If the stick come out of the cake dirty with dough it means the cake it’s not ready (so cover the top of it with an aluminum foil and cook it for few more minutes).    Before to eat the cake, good rule (according to my mom) is to allow the cake to cool on the inside. On the opposite side, I love eating it still warm!!! To not ruin the estethic of the cake, though, better taking it out of the spring pan only when it is completely cooled off.

By the way, whatever you decide to serve it, I highly recommend to sprinkle it with almond slices or (and this options suits better kids tastes) dust with powdered sugar. The apotheosis would be serving it with few tbs. of warm custard aside, but I understand that would mean more work!

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe to  receive every week one new recipe for free,

and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia

TIPS:

– Be very careful with this cake: it could be really addictive! At my house, when I make it, it lasts no more than 24 hours! I’m warning you just because even if the fluffy consistency of the cake could lure you to think that it is a light one, well, considering the amount of butter in it, don’t yield to temptation of more than two slices in a row ;-).

Traditional Dame’s Kisses (Baci di Dama): an Italian specialty easily made at home

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In my idea dame’s kisses are those yummy coconut and mascarpone cheese cookies I already talked to you about (click here to look at the recipe again), which are perfect during winter holidays because they vaguely resemble snow balls.

Actually, Baci di Dama are very famous Italian pastry cookies, typical from the Northern region of Piemonte, originally made with almond flour (or chopped almonds or hazelnuts), melted chocolate and few other ingredients. Absolutely delicious, and ideal as Christmas edible gifts since they can last up to a month if stored in a tin or glass jar.

This week I am sharing this recipe because I needed something original to share with my friends at our annual Christmas cookie exchange. Last year I shared with them my masterpiece (Italian Biscotti Cantucci), and I wanted to impress my girlfriends again this year with something special and, of course, authentic Italian!  However, this recipe doesn’t belong to my region’s tradition (Veneto), so I tried one I found here. After searching carefully for a good recipe, I experimented with it, and have translated it for you. In my searching, I also read that Dame’s kisses (Baci di Dama) got their name from their shape: two dough crescents connected by a layer of chocolate (dark or milk) that recall the idea of two lips molten in a sweet kiss (How romantic!).

By the way, this recipe is super easy and pretty quick, but I warn you that it takes a little patience when it is time to make the small balls that comprise the cookies, and the dough needs altogether almost two hours rest. The positive sides is that using these quantities you will obtain about 50 extra delicious cookies!

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INGREDIENTS for about 50 pieces

9 oz. almond flour (better if bleached)

4 oz. or 1/2 cup sugar

11 tbs. unsalted butter, softened

2 tbs. vanilla extract

one big pinch of sea salt

8 oz. or 1 cup all purpose flour

1 orange zest

4 0z. dark or milk or white chocolate

 

DIRECTIONS

In a big bowl, combine all the ingredients and, with your hands, knead them very well until you obtain a compact and homogeneous loaf.

Wrap the loaf with plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge at least one hour.

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Cover a baking sheet with parchment. With your hands, make small ball of dough, using about 0.2-0.3 oz. of dough for each one. Arrange the dough balls on the baking sheet keeping a small distance between each of them (they will raise a little).

Put the ball in the refrigerator for another half an hour.

Bake the cookies  at 320 F (160 C.)  for 15-20 minutes or until the bottoms start to brown.

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Let the cookies cool completely before removing them from the baking sheet. Microwave the chocolate and, using a teaspoon or a cake decorator, spread some chocolate on the bottom of  one cookie and attach another to form a sandwich. Continue until all cookies are paired up.

Let the assembled sandwich cookies cool for about ten minutes to allow the chocolate to set.

Now you are ready to store the cookies in a glass tin and enjoy them anytime!

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

 

Tips: – Remember to let the cookies cool off before removing them from the oven sheet; if you don’t they will crumble in your hand!

– My kids prefer the milk chocolate filling, but the true Dame Kisses are filled with dark chocolate.

– I experimented this recipe three times: the first one I used unbleached almond flour, and the cookies came out darker, more gummy and according to my husband definitely not as good.

 

The second time I used bleached almond flour, and first I mixed  the sugar with the flour, then the butter and then the other ingredients until I obtain the loaf. The third time I just mixed up all the ingredients together. In these last two attempts the result was the same: pretty and delicious cookies!

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I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe, and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia

 

 

Golden Apple muffins: a delightful made from scratch

 

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You know I love seasonal products and recipes, and now that Apples Orchards are the better place to spend a perfect sunday afternoon with the kids, picking up crispy apples and enjoying the color of fall, obviously it is also time to use the apples we picked up !

Last year I posted one of my top notch apple pie recipe, and this year, instead, I’m opting for something faster, easier and at the same time tasty, not much fatty, and fabulous for kids: apple muffins! They absolutely came from my Italian tradition, precisely my grandmother used to make the dough and then add to it not only apples, but alternatively chocolate drops, chopped hazelnut, raisins.

In my opinion this specific muffin mix is particularly suitable for apples, because are the apples that keep the consistency soft and spongy at the same time.

The part I prefer about these muffins is that once you have sliced the apples, you just have to add all the ingredients to the food processor, and the dough is done!

Ready in 2o minutes, these muffins will be perfect for a breakfast, at coffee time (but better with the tea!), or to be put in your little one’s lunch box and since the ingredients required are  pretty cheap, they are the perfect choice for a home made fancy edible gift.

 

INGREDIENS FOR 12 MUFFINS

2 golden apples (or any other kind of apples you have) – 2 mele

2 eggs   – 2 uova

4  0z. 1/2 cup sugar  – 120  gr. zucchero

3 tsp. lemon extract (or one lemon juice) – il succo di un limone

1 stick melted butter – 120 gr. burro

8 oz. or 1 cup all porpouse flour – 150 gr. farina

2 tsp. baking powder – 2 cucchiaini lievito per dolci

2 tbs. apricot jam (better if organic) – due cucchiai marmellata di albicocche

 DIRECTIONS

Sliced the apples in small petals and mix them with the apricot jam.

In a food processor combine the eggs with the sugar and the lemon extract.

Then add the melted butter (melt it in the microwave but remember that it has not to be too much hot when you put it in the mixture: you don’t want to cook the eggs right?!) and the flour sifted with the baking powder.

Warm up the oven at 365 F (180 C).

Take off the blade from the food processor and add half of the sliced apples stirring genlty.

 Arrange the mix in a 12 baking muffin sheet (use about 2 tbs. of dough for each). Cover the top of the muffin with the remained apples slices.

Cook in the over for not more than 20 minutes.

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Mmmm, I can feel the delicious smell of apples coming out from your oven now 🙂

LEARTN IT, MADE IT, LOVE IT!

Tips: As I told you above, this “muffin mix” could be dressed with other ingredients than apples. Here a sample of what you would get using chocolate drops or hazelnut:

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         – If you want to make these muffins even more “good for you”, use unbleached flour and brown sugar. My family is still not ready for the “whole” ingredients, but I do, and I promise, your muffins would be even better!

          –  I’m going to donate two dozens of my special apples muffins for a fundraiser event at my daughter’s elementary school (Hopewell Harvest). I really hope people will like them as much as I do.

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe, and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia

  

Corn Flakes and raisins cookies

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This week I’m sharing with you a recipe that doesn’t truly stem from Italian tradition, but is a favorite from my childhood. Cornflakes were invented in the U.S. at the end of 1800, but weren’t imported to Europe until the 1950s. So, in other words, my great-grandmother was completely ignorant of cornflakes’ existence!

This recipe instead comes from a magazine my mother used to read in the past. She experimented on me and my brother with this “NEW COOKIE RECIPE,” and we have never thrown it away. It is a simply delicious recipe, perfect for breakfast or for a snack, it requires few ingredients, kids like it, and it is a different way to make “original” cookies.

So while I would say that CornFlake Cookies do not belong in the Italian Traditional Food category, they certainly belong with the recipes of my childhood food favorites. And to this day, I make them pretty often for my daughters, who love helping me prepare them by rolling the dough balls in the cereal.

INGREDIENTS for 30 cookies

8 oz (1 cup) all purpose flour – 150 gr. farina
5 tbs. melted unsalted butter – 60 gr. burro fuso
1 whole egg – 1 uovo intero
1 egg yolk – 1 tuorlo
4 oz (1/2 cup) sugar – 100 gr. zucchero
1 pinch baking powder – 1 pizzico lievito in polvere per dolci
1 pinch baking soda – 1 pizzico bicarbonato di sodio
about 1/2 cup raisins – 40 gr. uvetta
about 5 cups cornflakes – circa 150 gr. cornflakes
a few tbs. all purpose flour (if necessary for proper consistency)  – qualche cucchiaio farina per la lavorazione (se necessari)

DIRECTIONS

Soak the raisins in warm water for about 20 minutes and  sift the flour with the baking powder and baking soda.

Combine sugar and eggs with an electric whisk at least 3 minutes until looks creamy swells and clear.

Melt the butter in a separate bowl.

Add the flour to the sugar and eggs mix, stirring with a spoon and then incorporate the melted butter a little at a time while keep stirring.

You should get a soft but firm dough (if it is too liquid, add a tablespoon or two of flour).

Drain the raisins and dry with paper towels, sprinkle with flour and remove the excess of flour.

Combine the raisins in the dough and knead for 1 minute. Shape it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest in refrigerator for about 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 F (about 200 C) degrees.

Line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into balls the size of a hazelnut and then roll each ball into the cornflakes with light pressure.

Place them on the baking sheet, a reasonable distance apart, and cook for 15 minutes. Allow to cool and enjoy them.

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LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

Tips: –  These cookies could last a week, if stored in a tin or cookie jar.

          – If you like, you could add few tbs more raisins to give to the cookies a stronger flavor.

          – You could switch the raisins with chocolate drops, to make these cookies even more yummy.

         – Even if 30 cookies sounds like A LOT, once you have tried this recipe, I suggest you use double the quantities to obtain enough cookies to last more than one day!

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do, share it, like it, and support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia