Suzi’s Blog

Tiramisu from Michele Scicolone

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I have often wondered who was the genius that invented tiramisu. Think about its brilliant simplicity and wonderful flavor. You need coffee, of course, so I suspect the creator was some late medieval monk in a cold stone kitchen with simple leftover cookies, some coffee and the dairy products brought in daily by his other hard working monk associates.

Or maybe this was fashioned by the cooks for ladies of power of Florence in the 1800s. The tourists were flowing in and the British and French and German upper classes who flocked to the arts needed an afternoon refreshment. Maybe that’s the start.

To find the story, I just googled and on Wikipedia I got this rather different perspective. Tiramisu probably was invented in the 1960s at a Veneto restaurant Le Beccherie in Treviso. No monks, no rich ladies, no tourists. The one thing I got right was the dairy: the Veneto sits just below the Alps and the fields and dairies there are famous the richness of their product.

We don’t have a specific name to thank but we can all raise a class of prosecco or a cup of espresso as we nibble away at our lovely tiramisu. Perhaps our second piece.

The word “tiramisu” literally means “pick me up.” Between the sugar and caffeine and chocolate, this dessert could raise the dead. You’ll find as many recipes for tiramisu as there are plates in the world. When in doubt about Italian recipes, Suzen and I turn to our friend Michele Scicolone. This recipes comes from her book 1000 Italian Recipes. It’s a great book, and I appreciate the other 999 recipes there, but this one is my favorite.

If you need a quick weekday dessert,this can be prepared in just a few minutes. With the cream and cheese already chilled, you can make and eat, although a little time in the fridge does allow the flavors to meld. That's why Michele suggests a few hours in the refrigerator. I've never been able to wait hours. I doubt you will.


Tiramisu from Michele Scicolone

Yield: serves 8-10

Ingredients:

  •  1cup chilled heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 pound mascarpone
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 24 lady fingers aka savoiardi
  • 1 cup brewed espresso coffee at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup coffee liqueur [like Kahlua]
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Preparation:

At least 20 minutes before you are to make the dessert, place a large bowl and the beaters of an electric mixer in the refrigerator.

When ready, remove the bowl and beaters from the refrigerator. Pour the cream into the bowl and whip the cream at high speed until it holds its shape softly when the beaters are about 4 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the mascarpone and sugar until smooth. Take about one third of the whipped cream, and with a flexible spatula, gently fold it into the mascarpone mixture to lighten it. Carefully fold in the remaining cream.

Mix the coffee with the coffee liqueur and then lightly and quickly dip half of the savoiardi in the coffee and arrange them in a single in a 9 x 2 inch square service dish. Spoon on half of the mascarpone cream.

Dip the remaining savoiardi in the coffee and arrange them in a layer over the mascarpone. Top with the remaining mascarpone mixture and spread it smooth with the spatula. Place the coco in a fine mesh strainer and shake it over the top of the dessert. Cover with foil and or plastic wrap and refrigerate 3 to 4 hours or overnight so that the flavors can meld. It will keep well in the refrigerator up to 24 hours

Source: 1000 Italian Recipes by Michele Scicolone [Wiley, 2004]

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for 1/50th second at ISO‑3200

 

Strawberry Balsamic Upside Down Cake

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The berries are here. Wonderful luscious strawberries — and blackberries and blueberries, too. But today is a strawberry day. The combination of strawberries and balsamic vinegar is iconic. And popular. Just google “balsamic vinegar and strawberries” and you’ll see there are 613,000 results. Somewhere in that stack of ideas and recipes there surely is something you’ll passionately enjoy.

This cake may be one of those passions. An upside down cake always seem to be a right side up dessert. There is a level of surprise and elegance in this style of cake that is always greeted as a treasure. This is one cake you don’t want to frost. That glazing goo that seeps out of the pan is something to just dip your finger in and enjoy.

The berries are here. All you need is a good balsamic vinegar and you are ready for dessert.


Strawberry Balsamic Upside Down Cake

Yield: serves 8

Ingredients:

For the berries:

  • 1 pound fresh strawberries
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup golden balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the cake:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup golden balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ¾ cups cake flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cups olive oil

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 F for 20 minutes.

Spay an 8-inch cake pan with olive oil spray. Line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper (a helpful step for releasing the final baked cake without disturbing strawberries). Spray again with olive oil.

Remove stems and slice strawberries vertically. Arrange them in a spiral, starting with the outside layer and overlapping slightly at the bottom of the cake pan.

Combine the brown sugar, golden balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and honey in a stainless steel pan and whisk to emulsify. Bring to a boil and stir frequently until thickened enough that it drips more slowly from your stirring spoon. Remove from heat and pour carefully over the arranged strawberries.

For the cake itself, in a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, buttermilk, vinegar, and eggs.

In another bowl, whisk together the flower, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in the wet ingredients in 3 parts, mixing to incorporate the ingredients fully each time. Add the olive oil in 3 stages, whisking to incorporate the oil into the batter fully each time. In a slow and steady stream, so as not to disturb the spiral, pour the batter over the strawberries. Bake until the top is golden and the sides pull away from the pan, about 1 hour. Cool for 10 minutes.

Run a knife between the cake and the pan to loosen the edges completely. Secure a flat plate over the pan, then quickly flip the cake. Slowly lift pan and carefully remove parchment paper so as not to disturb the strawberries.

Source: Adapted from Food 52

Photo Information [top]: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for 1/50th second at ISO‑3200

Photo Information [bottom]: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4 for 1/50th second at ISO‑640

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Cookbook Review: Gluten-Free Flour Power by Kamozawa and Talbot

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Gluten-free is more than the name of an aisle in your supermarket. It is a way of life, a way of cooking. And it’s a way of cooking that can interest all of us. You don’t need to be someone on a gluten-free diet to enjoy the recipes and concepts in Gluten-Free Flour Power. In fact, this can be the beginning of a journey that takes you on wonderful explorations.

This book is from the same team, Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot, that wrote Maximum Flavor, a book from two years ago that is devoted to boosting and emphasizing flavor in every bite. You can see a book review here and use our search box with “Kamozawa” to find three great recipes from Maximum Flavor.

The authors are the natural team of food innovators to take on the challenge of gluten-free. It is the gluten in wheat flour that creates the structure in your baked goods. Bread needs gluten so it is not dense and heavy.  Your cake needs gluten for structure, too, but not too much gluten or the batter turns elastic and the baked good is tough and chewy. Any project with wheat flour then has to get the gluten level just right. Not too much, not too little. Our wheat-based recipes have flour quantities and techniques we take for granted, but they have centuries of development behind them to achieve the “just right.”

Take away the gluten, and you still need structure. So in this book alternative ingredients, and techniques, are applied to give you baked goods that are successful, in texture and in taste. You may test and taste them and not sense any difference from their wheat counterparts. Or you may sense a bit of a different flavor, because the underlying flour, perhaps potato or starch, is just a tickle different. You may experience a baked delight that you cannot achieve with wheat flour. And that is why this book holds promise for every one of us.

The first recipe here tell you that life is going to excitingly different. The Japanese Fried Chicken uses buttermilk, ginger, garlic, scallion, soy sauce, sesame oil, and potato starch. This is not the Colonel’s chicken. There is a page and half of very careful instruction here — so typical of the authors — that makes sure even the Colonel would delight in the outcome.

The second recipe in the book is reassuring. It’s for Gluten Free Sourdough Starter. If you thought that this book entailed sacrifice, that your old favorite flavors were about to be lost, then you can stop worrying and prepare to enjoy wonderful sourdough. It’s still sour, it just happens not to have wheat flour — instead your pantry will need sorghum flour and flaxseed meal.

After some discussion on how to make gluten-free flour blends for regular wheat AP and whole wheat flour — so you have cup for cup substitutability — the book journeys through the day with chapters devoted to all baking needs you may have. The substitutions blends are used throughout the book.

Here are the chapters and representative recipes, included to reassure you and to intrigue to try something a little different.

  • Breakfast

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Yeasted Pumpkin Waffles

Sourdough Pancakes

  • Quick Breads

Easiest Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

Cheddar Jalapeno Corn Biscuits

Sticky Maple Scones

  • Yeasted and Sourdough Breads

Chinese Steamed Buns

Buttermilk Brioche

Kouign Amann

  • Flatbreads and Crackers

Pizza Dough

Grilled Garlic and Onion Flatbread

Cheddar Cheese Coins

  • Pasta and Dumplings

Egg Noodles

Potato Gnocchi

Asian Dumplings

Manicotti with Scallion Crepes

  • Pastries

Pate a Choux

Yeasted Puff Pastry

Apple Fritters

  • Single Layer and Bundt Cakes

Oatmeal Cherry Cake with Coconut Pecan Topping

Easy One-Bowl Caramel Cake

Japanese Cheesecake

  • Small Cakes and Bars

Microwave Sweet Rice Cakes

Coconut Canneles

Peanut Butter Blondies

Double Chocolate Brownies

  • Layer Cakes

Tres Leches

Triple Chocolate

Boston Cream Pie

  • Pies

Apple Grape

Banana Butterfinger

Summer Peach

  • Cookies

Snickerdoodles

Maple Oatmeal Raisin

Lemon Angeletti

I’ve put this long list here to accomplish a couple of things. First, you’re going to see old favorites on the list. If you’ve just been told to go gluten-free, you might be worried about losing old food friends, about having to lead some kind of deprived culinary life. All those worries should vanish.

Second, even if gluten is your best friend, there are ideas that will give you new baking delights: the Japanese Cheesecake, the Caramel Cake, Yeasted Pumpkin Waffles, or the Grilled Garlic and Onion Flatbread. This is a great baking book, one that just happens to be gluten-free.

Authors Aki and Alexander are writers, recipe developers, and food scientists. Most importantly for you, they are people you can trust. If you could, you’d invite them into your kitchen and offer them your butter, eggs and flour or flour substitute. Barring that personal appearance, if you buy and use Gluten-Free Flour Power you’ll probably end up sending them a thank you note.

This is a serious book for any baker, or anyone who just loves a darn good chocolate chip cookie.