Saturday, April 30, 2011

Italian Bread

5 and 3/4 Cups of flour

1 tsp sugar ( white or brown)

4 t. dry yeast

2 cups warm water

3 T. Olive Oil

2 T. Sea Salt
sesame seeds or poppy seeds
1 beaten egg white with water added

Mix the sugar, warm water and yeast in a small bowl and let bloom for 5 to 10 minutes. It should foam up and expand. This tells you your yeast is working.

Add the flour, salt and olive oil to a large Cuisinart or mixer and blend, then add the water mixture. It should form to a dough within a minute or so.. if too wet, add more flour, if too dry add some water to get a nice dough consistency.

You either have to keep it kneading in the machine for 3 to 5 minutes till very smooth or put out on the counter and knead by hand for 10 minutes. Dough should be smooth and elastic.

Put in a large oiled or Pam sprayed bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let double. About an hour or so depending on the day.

Then put the dough on a lightly floured surface and punch down to a circular or rectangle shape. Start to roll the dough into a loaf..( like a jelly roll) and then seal the edges with some water if needed. Place your loaf on a well floured pizza peel or baking pan, cover again with a damp cloth and let rise again till about doubled. I have a video of what it should look like. Get a sharp knife or razor blade and cut several slits diagonally across the loaf. Brush with the egg mixture and sprinkle with the sesame seeds so they stick on. Spray the dough with water and then put into your preheated oven. It must be hot! I use a pizza stone to bake mine on but a cookie sheet will work too.

Bake in preheated 425 degree oven. After 4 minutes, spray the bread again with water and let go another 4 minutes.. spray with water again. This will make 3 times including the first spray prior to baking. You now have another 37 minutes or so to go with your baking time. Loaf should sound hollow if you tap it on the bottom. Sometimes it takes a little less time. Just use your common sense.. but most likely you will need to bake at least 37 plus minutes total. This is so delicious and sometimes I let it cool and slice it thin for pot lucks.. it makes delicious toast! Just an all around great bread. Try it and you will love it.

Cooks note: Don't rush your bread. It has to rise to get the light and fluffy interior consistency. Once you get the hang of it, you will love making bread and pizzas. Note that in the video of putting bread in the oven, I stated that I would lower oven temp, but that is not true. Bakes at 425 degrees for the entire time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Italian Easter Breads

Our friend Maria Altomari makes these every year for Easter..a traditional bread from southern Italy. Here is my mom and grandma's recipe. We call them Scarcelle. You can make these for Easter or just cut into shapes or use cookie cutters and brush with milk and sprinkle with Sugar or colored beads.

Here is the recipe.

3 Cups Flour
3 Eggs
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cube butter or margarine
3 t baking powder
2 t vanilla

Mix flour , sugar and baking powder together. Make a well and add the 3 beaten eggs, vanilla and melted butter or margarine. Mix until it goes together but do not knead. Add warm milk if necessary to bring the dough together. Form into a ball. Roll out small sections of the dough and shape or cut with cookie cutters. Add the egg to the large ones for Easter, brush with milk and sprinkle with colored beads. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375 oven. Till lightly browned. My gram always tested hers first to see how long it would take. This is the recipe they gave me. Good luck . We make these for all the holidays and they are great coffee dipping cookies too. The larger shapes stay much more moist because of their size. NOTE you do not need to cook the egg first. It cooks in the oven. Note: You can put the dry ingredients in a bowl and then add the wet liquid and mix with wooden spoon but do not beat with a mixer. Theresa (recipe from Teresa Cea and Marcia Vinciguerra)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ricotta Cheesecake

This is a delicious cheesecake that we always had on the holidays. We call it "pizzadolce" Here is the recipe. My friends ask me for it all the time. Makes a big one so you can cut it in half if you want.

3 lbs good ricotta
2 cups sugar
18 Eggs ( yes this many)
1 t. cinnamon grated peel of one lemon
2 shots of bourbon or whiskey
1 Can of fruit cocktail, drained pieces of chocolate.
My gram used 2 or 3 hershey bars broken into pieces.

Mix the ricotta and sugar with a beater and then add eggs 3 at a time till well blended. Add the cinnamon and bourbon. Prepare your pan. Either grease and flour or use parchment on the bottom. Pour into a large springform pan or line an oblong pan with parchment paper and pour the mixture in. Sprinkle the fruit over the batter so it is somewhat evenly distributed and do the same with the chocolate pieces. Oven preheated to 400 to start. for 20 minutes. Then lower to 350 and cook till tests clean with toothpick. About 1 and 1/2 hour for cheesecake style and a little less for oblong.

Once it comes out of the oven, sprinkle with sugar lightly and let rest. It will come down some. This is so delicious chilled and tastes better a couple days later so you can make ahead of time. This is my grandma Teresa Cea's recipe