Roasted almonds Croccante: share with your friends the Christmas Italian tradition

single servings croccante

almonds croccanteGreetings everyone!

Christmas is almost here and my kitchen is so busy and messy with me preparing all small edible gifts for family and friends (and having all the baking done to make my home bakery’s customers happy)!  As you probably already know in this season I like baking plenty of Italian Cantucci Biscotti and Baci di Dama, but those require quite a bit of time in the oven. The treat I am writing about today is traditional during Christmas period in the South of Italy (Calabria), it’s very fast to prepare and with just three ingredients: oven baked almonds, honey (good quality one) and granulated sugar.  The result is a super crunchy caramel bar, sweet but not too much, and absolutely addictive: once you start eating it you can’t help but keep eating until you’ve eaten whole thing!

I have to tell you that I brought these “Croccante” mini bars to my local Freight House Farmers Market in the past weeks and they sold very very good! One of the reason, besides the fact that it’s delicious, it’s probably  because this treat is EGGS FREE, LACTOSE FREE and GLUTEN FREE. single servings croccante

This recipe requires 10 minutes max, plus the time to bake the almonds if they are not already baked. With these quantities you will obtain about 12 pieces about 3oz. (or 100) big.

Be aware that to prepare the Croccante you will need a food thermometer.

INGREDIENTS

1.10 lb. (500 gr.) oven baked peeled almond

7 oz. (200 gr.) granulated sugar

5 oz. (150 gr.) best quality honey (I used organic clover honey)

DIRECTIONS

If your almonds are not already baked, bake it at 360 F. for about 10 minutes and let it cooling off.

Cover your working surface with parchment.

In a big non-stick pan bring honey and sugar to boil and keep stirring until the mix reaches 338 F. (170 C.). Keeping the temperature controlled will avoid the caramel to burn and taste bitter.

At this point, take away the caramel from the heat, add the almonds, mix quickly the ingredients and  pour the mix on the parchment paper (or on a marble surface). With a wet rolling pin flat the mix as thin as possible. Let it cool off and cut in bars as big as you wish.

The cutting phase will be easier if you’ll use a sharp knife, slightly wet with water.

LEARN IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!!!!!

TIPS: – When still hot the mixture can be shaped in different shapes, like a star, or a Christmas Tree, or whatever you may like.

– Be very careful while you are handling the hot mixture because it will be very hot and the chances to get burned are very high (especially if you are not an expert). The first time I prepared Croccante I burned all my left fingertips plus my lips because I was so an anxious to eat the Croccante that I put the hot ladle in my mouth! Vey bad idea! But it was soo good!!!

– Cutting the Croccante is not necessary unless you wish to make single servings.single servings croccante

– Best way to store the Croccante is inside a tin, in a cool and dry room. It will last for days.

– As cute edible Christmas gift, you can cut the Croccante, wrap it in parchment and tie it with kitchen wire.

I really hope you enjoyed my recipe this week, I promise, you will fall in love with this easy treat!

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas! 

MUCH LOVE,

SILVIA

 

YOU CAN ALSO FIND ME HERE:

on FB: Italiangoodness – A taste of Italy on your table every day

on INSTAGRAM: Silvia Italiangoodness

on PINTEREST: Italiangoodness, Italian recipes and more!

       

 

IN CASE YOU DON’T KNOW,

my ITALIAN desserts are available upon orders in the QUAD CITIES AREA.

Check out my HOME BAKERY PAGE to learn more!   

 

5 Favorite comforting but light Italian wintery soups

Fall is such an hard season for me: on one side, I love it, with all the colors, the mild temperatures and Halloween, but at the same time I loathe it, because the end of summer makes me sad, I  would say it kind of depress me, and (it may be good or bad) it makes me crave for food, and inevitably makes me gain weight! However, I have a strategy to “contain” the food cravings (and the number of extra pounds, LOL) which  is warming myself up and satisfying my appetite with delicious but healthy homemade soups. top five most popular italian soups

Here is my favorite top 5 Italian soups list that I prepare every week, alternating one to another weekly to not get bored, and that all my family members appreciate and enjoy with me (well, not all of them, precisely 😉 ):

Italian light vegetable soup 1) VEGETABLE SOUP: this is the easiest to make, few and cheap ingredients are required, if you skip the potatoes (and minimize the olive oil) it’s like zero point on the weight watchers, and can be enjoyed all week long (if refrigerated). It can also be frozen, so you can prepare a big pot of it and storage in one serving containers if necessary.

***   ***   ***

 

 

Orange buttenut squash soup2) ORANGE CREAMY BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP: besides the pain of cutting the squash in pieces,  this soup is super easy, absolutely creamy and delicious and if you cook in it small pasta’s kinds (like farro) it looks like macaroni and cheese, without cheese! Not to mention all the benefits of orange food: abundance of antioxidant, vitamins, fiber and phytonutrients, good for your skin, eyes and heart.

***   ***   ***

 

Leeks, potaotes and broccoli velvety soup3) LEEKS, POTATOES and BROCCOLI VELVETY SOUP: This one is really fast to make, the broccoli taste blends perfectly with the potatoes and leeks and somehow you can barely recognize their taste, it’s delicious and my favorite one when I feel like I have to detox after the holiday’s binges.

***   ***   ***

 

 

butternut squash and porcini mushrooms soup4) BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND PORCINI IN DISGUISE SOUP: add a pack of dried porcini mushrooms, some nutmeg, and a mushrooms bouillon to your butternut squash soup, and you will obtain a scrumptious porcini mushrooms soup “in disguise”.

***   ***   ***

 

 

Dried porcini mushrooms soup5) VELVETY PORCINI SOUP: This one is the one my kids have refused to try (I hate when they decide they don’t like a food without even giving it a try!), maybe because of the its brownish color, but to be honest, it’s so delicious that my husband and I are quite happy to keep it all for ourselves! This last soup it’s not that light, it’s not fast to be made, has not cheap ingredients (make the butternut squash “in disguise soup” instead if you want). But believe me, once you’ve tried it, you will place it in your top soups list!!!!

***   ***   ***

Now that I’ve refreshed your memory with my favorite winter soups, I wanted to apologize for not posting new recipes lately (yes, it’s always my new home bakery business’ fault), but I promise I will try my best to share new contents soon, but in the meanwhile I’d like to hear from you:

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FALL-WINTERY SOUP?

WUOLD YOU BE WILLING TO SHARE YOUR FAVORITE RECIPE WITH ME?

***   ***   ***

I really hope you liked my post this week, and if you did,

please  share it, like it, and support my blog!

MUCH LOVE

SILVIA

 

YOU CAN ALSO FIND ME HERE:

on FB: Italiangoodness – A taste of Italy on your table every day

on INSTAGRAM: Silvia Italiangoodness

on PINTEREST: Italiangoodness, Italian recipes and more!

       

 

IN CASE YOU DON’T KNOW,

my ITALIAN desserts are available upon orders in the QUAD CITIES AREA.

Check out my HOME BAKERY PAGE to learn more!   

Macarons for beginners: the ultimate foolproof recipe

Hello there! Lately I’ve often started my posts apologizing to my readers for not being persistent in posting, and this week (beside the first apology) I also have to apologize for posting about a dessert which is not Italian at all, but that recently got so popular (and so delicious) that I couldn’t help but learn how to prepare it.   Actually this is not the first time I share an “International recipe”.. do you remember the “Lapponian salad“? or the “Jalapenos popper deep“?  and my “cheesecake“? and the “cornflakes and raisins cookies“?

Anyway, I’ve learnt making macarons by experimenting recipes I found online, and the best one, and simplest and most effective is the one shared by Simona Mirto in the Italian website tavolartegusto.it : if you fluently speak Italian I warmly suggest you to follow her recipe, which is very detailed and well explained.. for the English version keep reading and be ready to feel like a French chef!

Just before starting, I have a few ESSENTIAL suggestions:

  1. Macarons require patient, calmness and precision. If you are mostly for quick result with minor effort, it may be not the most appropriate recipe to try;
  2. Macarons are about exact proportions between ingredients, so this time I cannot convert the ingredients in cups and teaspoons because they are too much approximate: get a kitchen scale before starting!
  3. Even if this recipe works (I promise), it may take you a few attempts before getting the right result because you will need to figure out which is the best time and temperature to bake the macarons in your own oven.
  4. Sorry if I am not posting the pictures step by step, but if you need a “visual” guide for the method, just visit www.tavolartegusto.it/ricetta/macarons-ricetta-e-guida-passo-passo/ and you will find a question to all your answers!
  5. The egg whites should be a few days “old” and must be at room temperature for at least a couple of hours before starting;
  6. Even though most macarons recipes use cream of tartar as main ingredient to make the batter a little more stable, I don’t use it because in my opinion it slightly alters the consistency of the macarons’ shells.
  7. Macarons could be made in different colors and different fillings. My family likes any colors but is particularly picky about the filling: the only one allowed is the white chocolate ganache, and this is the filling type I would prepare if I’d be you!
  8. Macarons don’t require a lot of time to be prepared but, especially on humid day, the “croutage” may take up to an hour or so and  as I previous said (see #1), when you prepare macarons pick a day you’ll have enough time for  your cooking project !

 INGREDIENTS FOR ABOUT 30 COMPLETED MACARONS

100 gr. eggs white

150 gr. finely grounded almond flour

200 gr. powdered sugar

25 gr. granulated sugar

food coloring (optional)

FOR THE WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE

150  gr. good quality white chocolate

100 gr. whipping cream

DIRECTIONS:

Before starting: using a food processor, grind the almond flour and the powdered sugar together. The secret is activating the food processor just for few seconds, to mix evenly the two ingredients and make the flour even thinner than before. Just few seconds are enough. If you mix the flour too much it may “sweat” and later, it may ruin  the consistency of the batter.   I CONFESS: the first time I tried making macarons I skipped this step. Result: the batter was too thick and crumbly and it didn’t rise while cooking!     And HOLD ON!!!! You are not done yet with the “preparing phase“: it’s now time to sift the flour and sugar with a thin strainer, making sure to get rid off any possible little crumble or lump.

Preparing the macarons batter: At this point you can start whipping the egg whites in a standing mixer, adding the granulated sugar a little bit a time, let’s say in at least three rounds.   Once the whites are firm, stiff and fluffy, sift half of the sugar/flour into the whites and start stirring with a spatula, very gently, from the bottom to the top. Once the dry ingredients are well incorporated it is time to add the food coloring (PS. you can also make white macarons and avoid any food coloring). The food coloring that worked the best for me is the powdered ones, but also the gel ones are fine. Avoid those liquid because they would alter the consistency of the batter. Stir always gently from the bottom to the top to avoid the batter becoming too watery.   Now you can add the remaining flour/sugar mix (always sifting) and keep mixing until you get a perfect and even batter. Just so you can  understand when to stop stirring, the batter should be soft enough to fall from the spatula like a satin tape. If it takes too much for the batter to fall from the spatula it means it is too thick and you have to keep stirring.   When the batter looks ready, keep it aside  for a few minutes. It’s time to prepare your baking dish!

I know on the market they sell silicon baking sheets that are already marked with the macarons’ shape. I don’t own one, so with a pencil I draw 4 cm (1.5″) sized circles making sure each one diverts from another for about 2 cm (0.8″) .   Once done, I flip the parchment upside down (so the grey of the pencil doesn’t stain the macarons’ shells) and line my baking sheets.

Now that the baking sheets are ready, move the batter into a Sac a’ Poche with a 1 cm round decorating tip.  Fill each circle of your baking sheet with the batter making sure to stay a little far from the edges because the batter will loose up a bit.  Keep doing it until all the batter is gone.

THIS IS THE PART WHERE YOU NEED TO BE PATIENT: the macaroons need to “dry” enough so when you touch them your finger doesn’t stick to it (c.d. croutage).  In a dry sunny day the “croutage” would take about 30 minutes. During humid days it may take even an hour or more. But do not worry, your macarons will not get ruined if you wait too much to bake them, but they for sure not turn out if you don’t wait enough time! So take your time and wait before starting baking!

FINALLY! IT”S TIME FOR BAKING!

After the “drying time” (or coutage) the surface of your macarons should be hard enough that if you touch them, your fingers don’t stick to them…         Pre-Heat your oven at 290 F. and let your macarons bake around 14 minutes. Beware: cooking time changes from recipe to recipe and sometimes it depends on the “color” you pick. Avoiding the cream of tartar extends the baking time  so – with my oven, and my recipe – the macarons starts forming their famous “collar” around minute #8th and are ready to be taken out of the oven at minute #14th.

Once baked let your macarons cooling off before taking it away from the baking sheet and remember to use a knife blade to help you during the process. Be careful: the macarons are very delicate and if you don’t use gentleness you may crush the macarons’ shells.

THE FILLING

While your Macarons cool off, you can prepare the white chocolate ganache (which will be one of my next posts).  For the best result put your ganache in a cake decorator or a sack a posh, fill half of your macarons shells (handling those with gentleness) and cover those with the other halves. YOU ARE DONE!!!

I Know, it sounds (and it probably is) a time consuming job, but when you’ll see your macarons’ shells forming their famous “collar” while cooking you will feel the power of the success!!! And when you’ll enjoy these little bites of deliciousness, you could not ever live without 😉

LEARTN IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

Curiosities: – Macaroon and Macaron are two completely diffent kids of French cookies. Both are delicious but are entirely different from each other: a macaroon is coconut based whereas macaron is meringue based.  Macarons range in color and flavors while macaroons are limited in variety. SO when you talk about Macaron, watch out for your spelling!!!

– Macarons are gluten free gourmet cookies so they can come very handy whenever you have guests that are on a gluten free regimen but still like to enjoy delicious treats!

Have you ever made Macarons? What’s your favorite recipe? Did you find any of my suggestions helpful? Do you have any secret tricks to prepare perfect Macarons?   What’s your favorite Macarons filling?

Please feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment! I love exchanging recipes and tips with you!

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

And if you haven’t done it yet, don’t forget to subscribe: it’s completely free and you will receive my (almost) weekly recipe directly at your email address!

MUCH LOVE

SILVIA

 

YOU CAN ALSO FIND ME HERE:

on FB: Italiangoodness – A taste of Italy on your table every day

on INSTAGRAM: Silvia Italiangoodness

on PINTEREST: Italiangoodness, Italian recipes and more!

       

 

IN CASE YOU DON’T KNOW,

my ITALIAN desserts are available upon orders in the QUAD CITIES AREA.

Check out my HOME BAKERY PAGE to learn more!   

 

 

 

 

“Pesto alla Genovese sauce” recipe: ten tricks for the best result

Buon giorno a tutti! Now that I am back to my routine, I catch myself thinking about my Italian vacation pretty often, and of course many of these memories are about food and one in particular sounds perfect for this time of the year: my family’s “Pesto Alla Genovese sauce” recipe, which my mom prepared for us right after having harvested her beautiful basil from her garden.

Before starting with ingredients and method, I should share with you those 10 simple tricks that would make your pesto the best one ever: the whole point, of course, is using the fresher basil possible,  but there are other factors that would help your sauce to be more tasty and bright, avoiding it to turn darker and sour:

  1. If you grow a garden, harvest your basil only few minutes before preparing the sauce;
  2. If you can choose, use basil with small leaves, or big and large leaves but avoid the type with long and narrow leaves because it tastes a little like mint;
  3. I know it sounds gross, but if you grow your own basil and don’t use chemical, don’t rinse the leaves under water because you will loose a lot of its taste and perfume. You can  just  pat gently the leaves with a clean cloth trying not to break them: the more you press, the more you’ll ruin the leaves, more likely your basil will get black spots (oxidize) and give your pesto a sour aftertaste.
  4. Even if the ancient would use a mortar and pestle to prepare the sauce (which for sure will be the more authentic way to prepare it), it’s ok to use the food processor. BUT – always to contain the chances of oxidation – keep the food processor’s blade in the refrigerator or freezer for at least half an hour before preparing your sauce.
  5. Use only coarse salt: it will help the chopping process.
  6. Don’t process the sauce too much: it has to be crumbly and not too smooth. And be fast at preparing it: one of the causes of oxidation is the exposition to oxygen… the faster your work, the less chance you have to oxidize your sauce.
  7. Commonly the Genovese pesto requires the use of pine nuts, but don’t be surprise if you’d hear from other Italians that you should use walnuts instead: every Italian family has – in the years – modified the original recipe.
  8. Commonly Pesto sauce requires Pecorino cheese as main ingredient, but personally I prefer using  only Parmesan, or possibly Parmesan and Pecorino. Your choice, follow your taste!
  9. If you can, take away the interior part of the garlic clove (in Italy we call it the garlic “soul”), because that part itself is a little sour and would leave that taste to the sauce.
  10. Use the best Extravergin olive oil available: the sauce is raw, so the taste of the oil will not be covered by anything. The best the oil tastes, the best your pesto will taste as well!

Now that I’ve annoyed you with my mom’s tip for the best pesto sauce ever, here the ingredients to dress about 1.5 lbs of pasta or 6-8 pasta servings (P.S. I had to spy on her and force her to weight the ingredients because – of course – she always eyeballs those!!!)

INGREDIENTS for a sauce which would dress 6-8 servings of pasta

1 pinch (about 10 gr. – 0,3 oz.) coarse salt

about 3.5 oz. (100 gr.) fresh basil

2 garlic cloves peeled an deprived of the “soul”

about 3.5 (100 gr.) parmesan (or half parmesan half pecorino)

about 3.5 oz. (100 gr.)  extravergin olive oil

about 1 oz. (30 gr.) pine nuts

DIRECTIONS

In your food processor with a freezing cold blade, place IN ORDER the basil, garlic and coarse salt and nuts first: chop intermittently for few second (the heat of the food processor could oxidize the basil). 

Next add the pecorino or parmesan grated or cut in cubes and keep chopping until your sauce looks even but still crumbly (again, chop intermittently, few seconds at a time).

Only at the end pour the olive oil a  little at a time, activate the food processor for a few seconds. And you are done.. dress your pasta… and enjoy this deliciousness!

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

TIPS:  – IF YOU HAVE TO, you can store the fresh made sauce in a sealed container for not more than 2-3 days making sure the top of the sauce is completely covered by a layer of olive oil.

– The sauce can be frozen, and should let thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature (no microwaves please!).

– Pesto sauce can be used also on top of pizza, or with bruschetta. There are really many ways to eat it!

– In LIGURIA (the Italian Region where pesto tradition comes from), they sometimes dress the pasta with both tomatoes sauce and pesto. OMG it’s delicious!

– Always in LIGURIA they cook the pasta (usually the short kind called “trofie” – see picture below) with potatoes cubes and green beans, and when cooked they mix it with Pesto sauce…. OMG this is even better!

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What’s your favorite or traditional pesto recipe?

I hope my (or better, my mom’s) little tricks will help you mastering you pesto sauce! 

I really hope you liked my recipe this week, and if you did, please  share it, like it, and support my blog! And if you haven’t done it yet, don’t forget to subscribe: it’s completely free and you will receive my (almost) weekly recipe directly at your email address!

MUCH LOVE

SILVIA

 

YOU CAN ALSO FIND ME HERE:

on FB: Italiangoodness – A taste of Italy on your table every day

on INSTAGRAM: Silvia Italiangoodness

on PINTEREST: Italiangoodness, Italian recipes and more!

        IN CASE YOU DON’T KNOW,

my ITALIAN desserts are available upon orders.

Check out my HOME BAKERY PAGE to learn more!   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summery fast and easy tomatoes salad: ready in five minutes!

Hi everyone! Yes! It’s still summer and during my five weeks in Italy I suffered the heat a lot! Oh Lord, it seems impossible that even your appetite can be jeopardize by the extremely high temperatures!

Of course Italians have their ways to make you hungry even if you are hot 😉 and this salad is the perfect example of a light meal full of taste and vitamins and at the same time very refreshing: in other words, perfect as a light lunch or side dish. Not to mention that it’s so colorful and bright that it will light up your table and be perfect also as appetizer or side dish during a cook out!     Grab some tomatoes, capers, green olives, red onions, fresh basil and Italian dressing, and your colorful salad is ready!   For this recipe you don’t need quantities… just fill your plate with sliced tomatoes (better if the heirloom kind)  as much as you want and decorate it with the other ingredients… I hope you will like it as much as I do!

INGREDIENTS

 ripe heirloom tomatoes

green olives (deprived of their water)

capers (deprived of their water)

fresh basil

sea salt to taste

olive oil to taste

a sprinkle of red wine vinegar

finely sliced red onion

optional: black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Wash the tomatoes, take away the stem and slice them  1/4″  thick.

Arrange the tomatoes nicely in a dish, and spread on top the red onions first, then the capers, green olives, and basil.

Dust with a pinch of sea salt (and black pepper if you’d like), sprinkle with red wine vinegar, “give it a round” of extravergin olive oil and serve it!

It’s impressive how such a simple dish it’s so delicious!

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVE IT!

TIPS: – If you don’t like the idea of a vegetarian salad, you can pair this dish with hard boiled eggs or tuna in olive oil… it would turn even better!

– This salad can be prepared all year long but of course it’s better if made during the tomatoes season… seasonal produce always have a better taste!

How about you? Do you have a favorite summer salad that you like to enjoy in the most hot days? Please, feel free to let me know you thoughts by leaving a comment… I really enjoy learning others tastes and recipes! 

I really hope you liked my recipe this week, and if you did, please  share it, like it, and support my blog! And if you haven’t done it yet, don’t forget to subscribe: it’s completely free and you will receive my (almost) weekly recipe directly at your email address!

MUCH LOVE

SILVIA

 

YOU CAN ALSO FIND ME HERE:

on FB: Italiangoodness – A taste of Italy on your table every day

on INSTAGRAM: Silvia Italiangoodness

on PINTEREST: Italiangoodness, Italian recipes and more!