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Orange Chiffon Cake

Mother’s Day is coming up soon and I can’t think of a nicer treat to bake and decorate for your mamma (or for yourself) than this fluffy orange chiffon cake. This cake makes me think of my own mother, who used to bake angel food and chiffon cakes when I was a little girl (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth). By the way, if you’re wondering if a chiffon cake is the same as a sponge cake, it’s related, but not the same. Sponge cakes have lots of separated and beaten eggs, as do chiffon cakes, but no added fat or baking powder, while chiffon cakes do contain both oil and a leavening agent. I haven’t made a chiffon cake in decades, but I pulled out my ancient tube pan for this and it was well worth it. The cake was light and with a soft texture that provides a perfect foil for the glaze and pressed flower decoration. You can choose to simply dust the cake with powdered sugar, but the orange glaze really adds a pretty finishing touch. I picked edible flowers and leaves for the decoration – pansies, lemon balm leaves and the flowers of wild winter cress — and pressed them for a couple of days until they were dried and flattened. You could use fresh flowers or omit them entirely. If you do use fresh flowers, do an internet search to make sure they’re edible, since so many have toxic qualities (like buttercups).

The preparation takes a bit of time, but if you follow the directions carefully, you’ll have no trouble. I found a lot of recipes for chiffon cakes online, and ultimately culled what I thought to be the best of a few recipes, cutting out some of the excess sugar and adding a bit of orange blossom water I had bought in Italy a few years ago to give it a little extra orange umph.

Make sure you DO NOT grease the pan. This is to allow the cake batter to grip the sides of the pan and allow for a higher rise. I did place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom portion of the cake and it allowed for an easy release.

This is how it looked as it came from the oven.

You need to immediately flip it over onto something like an inverted funnel to let it cool upside down. Otherwise, the cake might sink in the center.

After it is completely cooled, run a long knife around the sides and along the inner tube of the cake, then flip it onto a rack, releasing the metal piece and removing the parchment paper from the base.

I poured the glaze over the top and spread it on the sides. As you can see, the sides are quite bumpy, but if you let the glaze dry slightly (an hour or two should do it), you can spread another layer of glaze on the sides to get a smoother look. Or you could just pour the glaze on the top and let it fall down in large “drips” on the side, another way to get a decorative look.

But since I wanted to use the dried flowers on the sides, I added the second layer of glaze. It’s not as smooth as glass, but much smoother than just leaving the one layer of glaze (and it sure tastes good.)

Decorate with the pressed, dried flowers.

You don’t even have to use pressed flowers. You could just choose freshly picked, unpressed flowers instead.

The cake serves a lot of people, so if you’re not having a crowd anytime soon (and who is, in this Covid-19 environment?),spread a bit of good cheer and leave some at your neighbors’ or friends’ front porch. Happy Mother’s Day!

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)

Orange Chiffon Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • FOR THE CAKE:
  • 2¼ cups cake flour
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • ¾ cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon orange flower water
  • 8 large egg whites
  • FOR THE GLAZE:
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 4 tablespoons orange juice (or more as needed)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • edible flowers
Instructions
  1. FOR THE CAKE:
  2. Sift together the flour, ¾ cup of the sugar, the baking powder, and the salt.
  3. In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are foamy, then add the cream of tartar and beat the whites until they hold stiff peaks.
  4. Add the remaining ½ cup sugar, a little at a time, and beat the whites until they hold stiff glossy peaks.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, the egg yolks, the orange juice, the zest, the orange blossom water and the vanilla.
  6. Whisk the mixture into the flour mixture, mixing until the batter is smooth.
  7. Stir one third of the whites into the batter to lighten it and fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
  8. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of an ungreased 10-inch angel food pan, with a removable bottom.
  9. Spoon the batter into the pan and bake the cake in the middle of a preheated 325°F. oven for 1 hour, and five to ten minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Invert the pan immediately onto a funnel and let it cool completely.
  11. Run a long thin knife around the outer and inner tube edges of the pan and turn the cake out of the pan onto a cake rack.
  12. Remove the parchment paper.
  13. FOR THE GLAZE:
  14. Mix the confectioner's sugar with the orange juice until smooth, glossy and thick.
  15. Pour the glaze over the top of cake and spread over the sides as a first layer.
  16. Let the glaze dry, at least an hour or two, and spread a second layer of glaze over the sides to smooth out the first layer.
  17. Decorate with pressed, dried edible flowers.
 

 

 

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Pears and Red Onion

While pears are still in season, why not buy a few and try combining them with red onions and a pork tenderloin? They complement each other perfectly, and it’s an easy way to serve a luscious dinner. Most of us are cooking for just our immediate families during this Covid-19 pandemic, and this recipe uses only one pork tenderloin, which will serve about three to four people. But it’s easy enough to add another pork tenderloin and more pears and onions to the pan for when you can start entertaining again — or even better — deliver some to an elderly couple who aren’t able to cook or a young couple with children, struggling to work at home and take care of their kids at the same time too. This recipe starts out by roasting the pears and onions first in a butter and white wine mixture.

Sprinkle the pork tenderloin with salt and pepper, and smear with the honey/mustard/herbs mixture.

Add the meat to the pan and roast for about 1/2 hour or until the temperature registers 140 degrees F. You will need to keep a watch on the onions and pears and remove them before the meat is cooked. Keep them covered to seal in the heat while the pork finishes cooking.

Slice the pork and arrange with the pear and onions, as well as green vegetable, for a colorful and delicious meal.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Pears and Red Onion
 
An easy, elegant restaurant quality meal that's ready in a little more than a half hour.
Author:
Serves: serves 3-4 people
Ingredients
  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 2 Bosc pears, quartered and cored
  • 1 red onion, quartered
  • 1 T. butter
  • ¼ cup sweet white wine
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 Tablespoon herbs de Provence
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • salt, pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Melt the butter in a roasting pan and add the lemon juice and sweet wine.
  3. Add the pears to the pan, tossing them so each side is coated with the mixture.
  4. Push the pears to one side, then add the onions, also coating them with the butter/wine mixture.
  5. Roast for 10 minutes.
  6. While the pears and onions are roasting, prepare the meat.
  7. Dry the pork with a paper towel, then season with salt and pepper.
  8. Mix the mustard, honey and herbs together.
  9. Push the onions and pears in the roasting pan to one side, and place the meat on the remaining portion of the pan,
  10. Spread the honey/mustard/herb mixture all over the meat and return the pan to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.
  11. The onions and pears might be ready a few minutes before the meat is cooked, so remove them to a warm serving platter while the meat finishes roasting.
  12. The meat will be ready when a thermometer reads 140 degrees F.
  13. Let it rest on a chopping board for about 5 minutes, then slice.
  14. Arrange everything onto a serving platter, then pour any juices from slicing the meat over the top.
  15. (There will be little to no juices from the pan, but there should be some when you slice the meat.)
 

Sour Cream Donuts

During this trying period of Coronavirus quarantine, is anyone trying to lose weight? I didn’t think so. We’ve all been spending more time cooking, and now is the time to indulge in whatever comfort you can conjure up in the kitchen, from pizza to popcorn to pastries. Add donuts to that list too — in specific, these sour cream donuts that are soft and tender inside, with a crunchy, sugary sweetness on the outside. They’re from a website called Handle The Heat, and they’re much easier to make than most donuts, since the recipe doesn’t involve yeast, which is in short supply right now anyway.

You will need to use cake flour to give them the lightness they need. After you’ve rolled out the dough to about a 1/2 inch thickness, cut out a circular shape for each donut, then cut out another smaller circle within the larger circle for the donut hole. I used biscuit cutters, but you could also use a drinking glass and a shot glass for the donut hole.

The recipe below is for a dozen donuts, but I cut it in half and made only six. (I am one of those crazy people actually trying to lose weight right now.)

The donuts must be fried, not baked, in order to get that fresh-from-the-bakery taste.

They come out of the frying pan with lots of nooks and crannies, which are perfect for holding onto that sweet glaze.

They don’t keep very well, and are best eaten the day you make them. But make the full recipe and share the love. You’re bound to put some smiles on friends and neighbors you already have, and maybe make some new ones in the neighborhood too. Just make sure to keep that safe social distance when you deliver these tempting treats.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)

Sour Cream Donuts
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • FOR THE DONUTS:
  • 2¼ cup (255 grams) cake flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (29 grams) butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup (113 grams) sour cream
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • FOR THE GLAZE:
  • 3½ cup (350 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1½ teaspoons corn syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup hot water
Instructions
  1. FOR THE DONUTS:
  2. In a bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until sandy.
  4. Add the egg yolks and mix until light and thick. Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream, ending with the flour.
  5. The dough will be sticky.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
  7. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about ½ inch thickness.
  8. Use a doughnut cutter or two differently sized biscuit cutters to cut out as many donuts as possible, dipping the cutters into flour as necessary to prevent sticking.
  9. You should get about 12 doughnuts and holes.
  10. Pour 2 inches of canola oil into a heavy bottomed pot with a deep-fry thermometer attached.
  11. Heat to 325°F.
  12. Fry the doughnuts a few at a time, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. Fry on each side about 2 minutes, being careful not to let them burn. Let drain on a paper bag to soak up the excess grease.
  13. FOR THE GLAZE:
  14. Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a whisk until smooth. Immerse each doughnut into the glaze.
  15. Place on a wire rack above a sheet pan to catch any excess glaze.
  16. Let sit for 20 minutes until glaze is set.
  17. Doughnuts are best served the day they are made but may be store in an air tight container at room temperature for a few days.
 

Spaghetti with Tuna Fish

I don’t know about you, but if you’re trying to avoid contracting the dreaded Coronavirus, you’re taking far fewer jaunts to the supermarket these days.  I’m trying to stretch out my trips to every ten days or more, (and I enter the store donned in a mask and gloves) and that’s mostly to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. I’m sure that even before this health scare, I had enough provisions in my pantry to keep us fed for a couple of weeks — dry beans, pastas, canned tomatoes, rice, canned sardines, tuna and even some canned artichokes are all staples I normally have on hand. I decided to put some of the tuna and pasta to work and make a meatless meal on a Lenten Friday. It’s a recipe that I learned from my Abruzzese mother-in-law decades ago but I hadn’t made in ages. Now seemed just the right time to dust it off, with a few additions of my own. It comes together in the amount of time it takes to boil the pasta, so it’s a great time saver and kids generally love it too. I added scallions and capers to mine, which my mother-in-law never did, but they amp up the flavor quite a bit. You could even add some anchovy if you like, as I saw in a recent New York Times recipe. The recipe is very adaptive to what you have on hand, so don’t make a special trip to the store for anything. If you haven’t got scallions, use minced onion or shallot, or leave them out altogether. I also used a fair amount of parsley and chives that seem to have sprung up overnight in my deck planter. Feel free to substitute and improvise with other herbs if you don’t have those handy. Even dried herbs will work in a pinch.

Mix all the ingredients together while the pasta is boiling, then add the cooked pasta to the pan just before it reaches the al dente stage, along with some pasta water. Stir everything together for another minute or two, adding more water if necessary, to finish the cooking to the al dente stage.

Sprinkle with more fresh herbs just before serving and dig in. Stay healthy readers. And wear a mask if you must go out in public.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)

Spaghetti with Tuna
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 6 small scallions (or three large ones)
  • 1 5 oz. can tuna fish, drained
  • two tablespoons capers
  • ¾ cup pasta water, more or less
  • freshly minced chives and parsley
  • a sprinkle of red pepper flakes
  • ½ pound spaghetti or linguini
Instructions
  1. Place the oil in a saucepan and add the garlic and scallions.
  2. Meanwhile, start cooking the pasta.
  3. Sauté until soft, then add the tuna, breaking it up with a fork.
  4. Add the capers, red pepper flakes, half the herbs and about ¼ cup of the pasta water.
  5. Finish cooking the pasta until almost al dente and add the drained pasta nto the pan with the tuna.
  6. It's fine if a little water comes with the pasta since you'll want to add more water anyway.
  7. Add some of the pasta water and swish the pasta thoroughly through the sauce, adding more water if necessary to finish cooking the pasta.
  8. Add the other half of the herbs and serve immediately.
 

 

Pear and Pecorino “Ravioli”

Many years ago, when my daughter was a student in Florence, Italy, she took us to a restaurant called “Quattro Leoni” where I first ate little bundles of pasta wrapped around pear and pecorino cheese. I’ve been wanting to make them at home for years and finally got around to trying, inspired by the restaurant in Florence.

I’ve got time on my hands these days, as many of you do, with so many people quarantined due to the Coronavirus outbreak. I hope and pray that the deaths around the world will soon taper off and stop, especially for Italy, where more people have died from the illness than anywhere else in the world. Meanwhile, stay indoors and keep “social distancing” when you need to go out. Wear a mask if you have one, even if it’s not an N-95. My brother-in-law, who is a leading aerosol scientist in the world and studies movements of aerosols (small airborne particles), says that spray droplets are huge and that almost any cloth should stop them effectively. If you must be in situations where you encounter people, breathe through a cloth covering of some sort. There are many links on Youtube showing how to sew your own mask like this one, even some that don’t require sewing, like this one.

A great stress reliever in these troubling times is pasta making. I won’t give a primer on how to make the pasta, but there are instructions in the recipe below and if you want more detail, click here on how to make homemade pasta. I used “OO” flour from Italy, or you could use a combination of semolina and all-purpose flour. In a pinch, all-purpose flour will do.

My version is slightly different from Quattro Leoni, in both the shape and the sauce. Their’s look more like little purses, but I decided to try shaping mine into these small bundles instead. And their sauce was made with taleggio cheese and asparagus – so delicious but I had neither in the house so used butter, sage and walnuts with a sprinkling of pecorino on top.

After you’ve kneaded the pasta dough, you need to let it rest a half hour, so take that time to make the filling. I used a mixture of pear, pecorino and ricotta cheese, with a little white pepper.

Mix it all together very well.

Dab a teaspoonful onto each 3″ x 3″ square. In the background, you can see I pieced together some strips of pasta so I could make continuous strips without having to knead the scraps back together and roll them out a second time. Each time you roll the pasta, it will get tougher, so try to avoid doing that. Just make sure you wet the edge of the strips so the pasta adheres. You don’t want it separating when you cook it in the boiling water.

To help you shape the pasta into the little bundles, I made this short video with instructions:

The recipe below makes enough for about 20-22 bundles, and I made small “quadretti” with the scraps, to use in some soup.

While the pasta is boiling, put together the sauce by melting some butter, adding sage and chopped walnuts.

Drain the pasta loosely, leaving a little water on each one as you place it directly into the pan. Add more butter and more of the pasta water if you want more sauce, but this was a rich dish and I didn’t feel the need for additional calories.

This serves two people generously as a main meal, and would even be enough for four if you’re serving it as a first course. But if you’re cooking for more people, you can easily double the recipe. Sprinkle grated pecorino on top and enjoy.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)

Pear and Pecorino "Ravioli"
 
Author:
Serves: makes about 20-22 ravioli
Ingredients
  • FOR THE PASTA:
  • 1¼ cups flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • FOR THE RAVIOLI STUFFING:
  • 1 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 pear, cut into small dice
  • ¼ tsp. white pepper
  • pinch of salt
  • FOR THE SAUCE:
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • some fresh sage leaves
  • ¼ cup walnuts, chopped
  • fresh pecorino cheese to grate on top
Instructions
  1. FOR THE PASTA:
  2. Put the flour into a food processor, along with the eggs and salt.
  3. Process it for a couple of minutes until the mixture comes together.
  4. If it's too sticky, add more flour. If it doesn't seem to adhere to itself, add a little water.
  5. Knead it on a board for a few minutes, then let it rest for ½ hour, covered.
  6. Roll out the dough, either by hand or in an electric pasta roller.
  7. Don't roll it to the thinnest setting though, or the filling might break through when you're handling it.
  8. Place the dough on a board and cut it into 3 inch squares.
  9. Patch some of the long pieces together so you don't waste the dough, or so that you don't have to re-roll and re-cut it.
  10. The more you handle the dough, the tougher it will get.
  11. Place a teaspoon of the filling in the center and press the edges together, as in the picture, until you have a square shape with the four points meeting at the top center.
  12. Boil gently in water until cooked, which may take 5-8 minutes.
  13. Make the sauce, adding butter to a pan until it melts, then add a few fresh sage leaves and the chopped walnuts.
  14. Remove the ravioli from the water with a strainer, but don't worry if some of the water adheres -- it will help with the sauce.
  15. Gently stir the ravioli in the sauce, tossing them to coat with the butter sauce.
  16. Remove to plates and sprinkle more pecorino cheese on top.
 

 

Focaccia Fun

Are you feeling a bit of cabin fever? With so many across the globe in quarantine due to the dreaded Covid-19 virus, staying at home for an extended time may be a new phenomenon. As much as I like to visit with family and friends, attend movies, concerts and the opera, I love my solitude also, so hunkering down to help flatten out the Coronavirus curve is no problem. When you think about all the people who have died from this illness, self-isolation is a small price to pay.

There’s no excuse for boredom with all the offerings on TV and cable, and plenty of books and music available online. I like to paint and write too, so I’ll have lots of time for those pursuits in the next couple of weeks or however long we need to be cooped up. And here’s a novel thought — maybe you can entice your housemate to help you in the kitchen and make this focaccia. I have to confess my husband didn’t help make this focaccia, but he did all the cleanup afterwards. And that’s good enough for me, in fact better, since I hate to do the dishes.

All you need is some flour and water and yeast (and a little salt and olive oil) to make the basic focaccia. Let it rise for a few hours until doubled in size.

Then press it into a cast iron skillet (or use another oven-proof pan instead) and let it rise slightly again, enough to dimple with your fingers all over.

Use any combination of vegetables and press them into the dough in a decorative design. I used peppers, tomatoes, red onion, olives and the stems of scallions as “stems,” plus a little parsley. Generously sprinkle some coarse salt (like kosher salt) over everything and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake at 475 degrees for about 15-20 minutes and dig in.

And let’s help out our neighbors and friends who might need a helping hand in grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions during this stressful time. Take precautions and wash your hands frequently. Many restaurants and small businesses are going to have a tough time staying afloat during this crisis. A lot of them in my town are allowing you to call in an order and pay by credit card, then pick-up your order at the curb. So do your part and order some take-out, buy some wine or a loaf of bread from your local merchant. You know what to do.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)

Focaccia Fun
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 t. dry yeast (about ½ package)
  • ½ t. sugar
  • 2 cups flour (I used bread flour but regular all-purpose flour is ok too)
  • ¾ t. salt
  • ¾ cups warm water (between 105 and 110 degrees)
  • olive oil to drizzle on top
  • coarse, or kosher salt for the top
  • vegetables to decorate top (I used small peppers, red onions, olives, cherry tomatoes, scallions and parsley)
Instructions
  1. Dissolve the yeast in about ¼ cup water and add a tsp. of sugar to help get it started.
  2. The temperature of the water is very important.
  3. It should be between 105 and 110 degrees.
  4. I use a meat thermometer to get the right temperature.
  5. Too cold and it takes forever for the dough to rise. Too hot and you kill the yeast.
  6. After the yeast has sat in the small bit of water and sugar, it should start to bubble up in about five minutes.
  7. Mix it with the flour, the rest of the water and the salt.
  8. You can use a food processor or just mix it by hand in a bowl until it’s all blended.
  9. Add more flour or water if needed.
  10. Knead for about five minutes, then place in a greased bowl and cover it with a dish towel, plastic wrap or a large plate.
  11. Let it rise in a warm place until doubled.
  12. This could take a couple of hours.
  13. Punch down the dough and spread in a cast iron skillet if you have one.
  14. If not, just make a free-form circle and use a cookie sheet.
  15. Let it sit for about five minutes in the pan, then use your fingers to dimple the top.
  16. Decorate with vegetables over the top in any design you like.
  17. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.
  18. Bake in a preheated 475 degree oven for about 15 minutes-20 minutes.
  19. Check to see the bottom is browned and if not, move it to the lowest rack in your oven.
  20. If not browned enough, move it to the highest rack in the oven.
 

 

Delizia al Limone

Delizia al limone is one of those desserts I can’t resist when I see it on a menu. Occasionally, I’ll spot it at the pastry counter of D’Angelo’s — an Italian specialty food store here in Princeton, N.J. But otherwise, it’s not easy to find, even at Italian restaurants in New York City. It’s such a regional dessert that even in Italy, you’re not likely to see it unless you’re in Naples or other towns in the Campania region of Italy, where lemon trees are as commonplace as a handsome ragazzo on a Vespa. I’ve been wanting to try for years to make it home but never got around to it until recently. Once you try it, you’ll see why it’s such a beloved dessert in Southern Italy — a sponge cake soaked with a limoncello syrup, stuffed with a lemon cream, then covered with a thinned-out drizzle of lemon cream. It’s so lemony and irresistible, but to be frank, it’s very laborious to make.

I followed a recipe on Manu’s Menu. You need to have these semi-spherical molds to achieve the proper look of the Delizie. This recipe made only enough for eight little “cakelets” — not nearly enough for all the work required, in my opinion. If I make it again (a big “if”), I would double the recipe for the sponge cakes.

I would also take a few shortcuts – like buying lemon curd rather than making it from scratch. Same goes for the lemon crema pasticcera. So much can go wrong as you’re making either of these two ingredients, including curdling (which didn’t happen to me, since I stood over the pot stirring constantly, but easily could have.) Instead, I would use a package of instant vanilla pudding, flavored with lemon juice and lemon peel, and add some homemade whipped cream to the pudding to create the lemon crema pasticcera.

There were so many steps to follow, so many bowls and pots to wash, that this recipe became a half-day project. Have I discouraged you completely? Well, I hope not, especially if you take the short cuts I suggested.

My friends in the weekly Italian chit-chat group loved these little lemon delights. If you’re like me and love lemon desserts, maybe you’ll give it a try. You’ll feel like you’re back in Capri – before the Coronavirus hit. Wash your hands and stay safe everyone.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)

Delizia al Limone
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • SPONGE (CAKE)
  • 150 gms – 3 large eggs divided
  • 90 gms – ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 40 gms – 1 ½ oz. all-purpose flour
  • 25 gms – 8 tsp cornstarch
  • 25 gms – ¼ cup almond meal
  • ½ lemon peel grated
  • ½ vanilla pod
  • 1 pinch salt
  • LEMON CREAM
  • 40 gms – 2 egg yolks
  • 40 gms – 1 ½ oz. sugar
  • 1 or 2 lemons
  • 40 gms – 1 ½ oz. butter
  • LEMON CREMA PASTICCERA
  • 180 gms – ¾ cup milk
  • 80 gms + 30 gms – 3 oz. + 1 oz. cream
  • 80 gms – 4 egg yolks
  • 60 gms – ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 15 gms – 5 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 lemon
  • ⅓ vanilla pod
  • LIMONCELLO SYRUP
  • 30 gms – 1 oz.water
  • 30 gms – 1 oz. granulated sugar
  • 50 gms – 1 ¾ oz. Limoncello
  • ½ lemon
  • GLAZE
  • Remaining Lemon Cream
  • Remaining Lemon Crema Pasticcera
  • 60 gms – ⅓ cup milk
  • 125 gms– ½ cup cream whipped and lightly sweetned
  • 30 gms – 1 oz. Limoncello
Instructions
  1. SPONGE (cake)
  2. Beat the egg yolks with 40 gms – 1 ½ oz. of the sugar, grated lemon peel and scraped vanilla until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the almond meal and mix well.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the remaining sugar and a pinch of salt.
  5. Mix together the cornstarch and flour and then sift it into the egg yolk mixture, alternating with additions of the beaten egg whites.
  6. Make sure to fold these in gently, so as not to deflate them.
  7. Grease and coat with flour some semisphere tins and fill them till ¾ with the batter.
  8. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170°C – 340°F for 15 minutes, or until cooked through.
  9. When ready, unmould them and keep them on a wire rack to cool down.
  10. LEMON CREAM
  11. Grate the peel of the lemon and then juice it.
  12. Put the grated peel in a bowl with the lemon juice and keep it to infuse for 20 minutes.
  13. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and then add 40 gms – 1 ½ oz. of the lemon juice and grated peel.
  14. Keep mixing.
  15. Put this mixture on a slow flame and cook it, while continuously stirring, until it reaches 80°C – 176°F.
  16. Then remove from the fire and put the pot in a double boiler filled with cold water. Blend it with a stick mixer until smooth.
  17. Let it cool down to 50°C – 122°F, then add the chopped butter and keep blending until smooth.
  18. Cover it with cling wrap (make sure that the cling wrap touches the surface of the cream so a skin doesn’t form) and refrigerate it until completely cold.
  19. LEMON CREMA PASTICCERA
  20. In a pot put the milk, cream, lemon peel, and scraped vanilla bean and bring to a boil.
  21. Then put the fire off, let it infuse for 1 hour and then filter it.
  22. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar, cornstach and salt until pale.
  23. Then slowly add the filtered milk.
  24. Cook this mixture until it reaches 82°C – 180°F, then cover the cream with cling wrap (make sure that the cling wrap touches the surface of the cream so a skin doesn’t form) and refrigerate it until completely cold.
  25. LIMONCELLO SYRUP
  26. Dissolve the sugar in the water and add the lemon peel.
  27. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute. Put the fire off and let it get back to room temperature. Then filter it and add the Limoncello.
  28. ASSEMBLING
  29. Mix together the Lemon Cream and the Lemon Crema Pasticcera (make sure they are both cold). Add 30 gms – 1 oz. of Limoncello and 30 gms – 1 oz. of sweetened whipped cream and mix well.
  30. Put this cream in a piping bag and fill the sponge cakes by making a little hole at the bottom (you can use a knife to make the hole and then pipe in the cream).
  31. Try and fill them as much as possible. Reserve the remaining cream.
  32. Using a toothpick, prick the sponges on all sides and brush them with the Limoncello syrup.
  33. To the remaining cream, add 125 gms – ½ cup of sweetend whipped cream and 60 gms – ⅓ cup of milk to make the thick glaze.
  34. Cover the delizie with the glaze and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
  35. When ready to serve, decorate with some whipped cream and lemon zests.
 

 

Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza

I’m partial to Neapolitan pizza, but when I saw this on King Arthur Flour’s website as its “recipe of the year” I was more than a little intrigued. The company has one of the best websites for recipes anywhere, and I have found that their recipes always produce optimum results. This may resemble a thick crust Sicilian pizza, or maybe you’re thinking Chicago deep-dish pizza. But it’s nothing like either of those. The dough, although thick, is not at all dense due to the long rising time overnight in the refrigerator. In fact, it’s quite light and easily digestible. It’s a snap to bake at home in a cast iron skillet, a technique that produces a crunchy bottom and side crust that crackles when you bite into it. It uses only a half cup of tomato sauce, which gets dolloped on after you’ve spread a layer of mozzarella cheese, ensuring that the dough doesn’t become soggy.

If you’ve made no-knead bread before, this procedure will seem familiar to you. You can check out the King Arthur page for more explicit photos on how to handle the dough (it’s easy).

Leave the dough in the refrigerator anywhere from 12 hours minimum to 72 hours maximum, allowing the dough to develop flavor and great texture. It also gives you lots of flexibility in case your plans change at the last minute and you want to save the baking for the next day. When you are ready to get down to business, just press the risen dough into an oiled cast iron skillet. It does require proper timing and close attention on the day you bake it and the directions seem long, but if you read through them before starting, and follow them exactly, it’s really easy to make.

Spread the grated mozzarella cheese thoroughly all over the dough, all the way to the edges, to get that crispy, crunchy, cheese-y top. Then dollop the tomato sauce on top, (sorry, no photo for that step but check out the King Arthur website) and add the rest of the mozzarella cheese. I also sprinkled a little grated pecorino cheese over everything for a sharper tang. You could add other toppings if you like as well, but don’t get too carried away or you’ll weigh down the dough too much.

When you remove it from the oven, you won’t be able to resist digging into it right away. It pulls away from the pan easily, and you could even slide it out of the pan onto a plate or board for slicing.

Or not. We couldn’t wait to dig in, so we sliced it right in the pan.

We could have eaten the whole pie by ourselves, but used a bit of restraint and saved half for another night. It could serve four for dinner, with a salad or soup on the side. Or it would make a great appetizer, sliced into smaller pieces and served with some drinks before dinner. It may even have you forgetting all about that Neapolitan pizza you thought was your favorite!

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Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 cups (240g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon instant yeast or active dry yeast
  • ¾ cup (170g) lukewarm water (I had to use almost ¼ cup more water but it depends on the humidity/dryness of the day)
  • 1 tablespoon (13g) olive oil + 1½ tablespoons (18g) olive oil for the pan
  • TOPPING:
  • 6 ounces (170g) mozzarella, grated (about 1¼ cups, loosely packed)*
  • ⅓ to ½ cup (74g to 113g) tomato sauce or pizza sauce, homemade or store-bought
  • freshly grated hard cheese and fresh herbs for sprinkling on top after baking, optional*
Instructions
  1. Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.
  2. Place the flour, salt, yeast, water, and 1 tablespoon (13g) of the olive oil in the bowl of a stand mixer or other medium-large mixing bowl.
  3. Stir everything together to make a shaggy, sticky mass of dough with no dry patches of flour. This should take 30 to 45 seconds in a mixer using the beater paddle; or about 1 minute by hand, using a spoon or spatula. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to gather the dough into a rough ball; cover the bowl.
  4. After 5 minutes, uncover the bowl and reach a bowl scraper or your wet hand down between the side of the bowl and the dough, as though you were going to lift the dough out. Instead of lifting, stretch the bottom of the dough up and over its top.
  5. Repeat three more times, turning the bowl 90° each time.
  6. This process of four stretches, which takes the place of kneading, is called a fold.
  7. Re-cover the bowl, and after 5 minutes do another fold.
  8. Wait 5 minutes and repeat; then another 5 minutes, and do a fourth and final fold.
  9. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest, undisturbed, for 40 minutes.
  10. Then refrigerate it for a minimum of 12 hours, or up to 72 hours.
  11. It'll rise slowly as it chills, developing flavor; this long rise will also add flexibility to your schedule.
  12. About 3 hours before you want to serve your pizza, prepare your pan.
  13. Pour 1½ tablespoons (18g) olive oil into a well-seasoned cast iron skillet that’s 10” to 11” diameter across the top, and about 9” across the bottom.
  14. Heavy, dark cast iron will give you a superb crust; but if you don’t have it, use another oven-safe heavy-bottomed skillet of similar size, or a 10” round cake pan or 9” square pan.
  15. Tilt the pan to spread the oil across the bottom, and use your fingers or a paper towel to spread some oil up the edges, as well.
  16. Transfer the dough to the pan and turn it once to coat both sides with the oil.
  17. After coating the dough in oil, press the dough to the edges of the pan, dimpling it using the tips of your fingers in the process.
  18. The dough may start to resist and shrink back; that’s OK, just cover it and let it rest for about 15 minutes, then repeat the dimpling/pressing.
  19. At this point the dough should reach the edges of the pan; if it doesn’t, give it one more 15-minute rest before dimpling/pressing a third and final time.
  20. Cover the crust and let it rise for 2 hours at room temperature.
  21. The fully risen dough will look soft and pillowy and will jiggle when you gently shake the pan.
  22. About 30 minutes before baking, place one rack at the bottom of the oven and one toward the top (about 4" to 5" from the top heating element).
  23. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  24. When you’re ready to bake the pizza, sprinkle about three-quarters of the mozzarella (a scant 1 cup) evenly over the crust.
  25. Cover the entire crust, no bare dough showing; this will yield caramelized edges.
  26. Dollop small spoonfuls of the sauce over the cheese; laying the cheese down first like this will prevent the sauce from seeping into the crust and making it soggy.
  27. Sprinkle on the remaining mozzarella.
  28. Bake the pizza on the bottom rack of the oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the bottom and edges of the crust are a rich golden brown (use a spatula to check the bottom).
  29. If the bottom is brown but the top still seems pale, transfer the pizza to the top rack and bake for 2 to 4 minutes longer.
  30. On the other hand, if the top seems fine but the bottom's not browned to your liking, leave the pizza on the bottom rack for another 2 to 4 minutes.
  31. Home ovens can vary a lot, so use the visual cues and your own preferences to gauge when you’ve achieved the perfect bake.
  32. Remove the pizza from the oven and place the pan on a heatproof surface.
  33. Carefully run a table knife or spatula between the edge of the pizza and side of the pan to prevent the cheese from sticking as it cools.
  34. Let the pizza cool very briefly; as soon as you feel comfortable doing so, carefully transfer it from the pan to a cooling rack or cutting surface. This will prevent the crust from becoming soggy.
  35. Serve the pizza anywhere from medium-hot to warm. Kitchen shears or a large pair of household scissors are both good tools for cutting this thick pizza into wedges.
 

Black Forest Cake with Birchbark Decoration

I confess. I went off my diet to enjoy two — no, make that three —  slices of this cake. And there’s still a quarter of the cake left. I’ve made it twice now — once for Christmas, when we had a big crowd that consumed all of it. And I made it again last week, when it was just the two of us. But don’t judge – I sliced off a quarter of this cake and took it to my 90+ year-old neighbors to help them celebrate Valentine’s Day. Studded with cherries and hugged by a white chocolate birch bark, this cake would also be perfect to celebrate the upcoming birthday of George Washington – the first president of the U.S.A. who legend says chopped down a cherry tree as a young boy.  You don’t have to embellish it with the chocolate birch bark if you want to make it easy on yourself. Just serve it with the whipped cream frosting and everyone will love it just the same. The cake recipe is from “Alice’s Tea Cup” cookbook, but it’s practically the same as the Hershey’s recipe I’ve been using for decades. Alice’s Tea Cup recipe calls for 1/4 cup sour cream, and I didn’t have it on hand, so substituted plain Greek yogurt instead. The cake is very forgiving and even without the sour cream or yogurt, it’s a delicious cake with a beautiful crumb.

Just a word of caution before baking however. The first time I made this, I put all three cake pans in the oven at once — not a good idea since they came out lopsided. The next time, I baked each cake layer one at a time and it was much more even. When you’re assembling the cake, you could eliminate the liqueur soaking each layer if you’re serving it to young children. But in my opinion, the liqueur adds so much flavor and it’s dispersed enough even for children to handle. I used about 1/2 cup of Cherry Marnier for the three layers, but next time, I’ll increase it to 3/4 cup. If you don’t have Cherry Marnier (I finally finished the bottle I’ve had for more than 40 years), substitute with kirsch or brandy.

The first time I made this, I used amarena cherries from Italy (my favorite), but they are a bit expensive to use in such quantity. This time I bought some jarred pitted cherries that were just fine. After you’ve soaked the layer in liqueur, spread the whipped cream in abundance and dot it with the cherries. Repeat with the second layer, then top with the third layer.

Smear whipped cream all over the sides and top. If you plan to decorate with the white chocolate birch bark, (and I do encourage you to do so. It makes quite a statement.) the perimeter doesn’t have to be perfect since it will be completely covered. Just make sure you have enough whipped cream to help the chocolate pieces adhere.

Making the birch bark is simple. First use a paint brush to “paint” melted dark chocolate marks across a piece of parchment paper. The area you cover in chocolate should be as tall as the finished cake with all the layers and frosting, and slightly wider than the circumference of the cake. After you’ve made the dark chocolate marks, let the chocolate harden. Then melt the white chocolate and let it cool before spreading over the dark chocolate with an offset spatula (I dripped some over the dark chocolate first before spreading with the spatula). This part can be tricky if the temperature isn’t just right. If you spread the white chocolate while it’s warm, or worse yet, while it’s hot, it will melt the dark chocolate and smear it. A little smearing is fine, but you don’t want to lose the characteristic look of the birch bark. If you wait until it’s too cold, the white chocolate will harden and you’ll have a hard time spreading it. I got the idea from “The Cake Girls” – and you might want to check out these directions before trying.

Let the white chocolate bark cool completely. Put it in the refrigerator if your room is too hot. Then slice or break off pieces to use for the decoration. Don’t worry if some of them break in two or three pieces. You can always patch some together on the cake.

I finished it off by piping some whipped cream rosettes on the top. But even that is not necessary if you don’t have the right equipment. Everyone will love it just the same.

Including my husband, who by now has shown remarkable (and uncharacteristic) self-restraint by eating only one slice a day of this cake. As for me, don’t ask. Because unlike George Washington, I may have to tell a lie.

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Black Forest Cake with Birchbark Decoration
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspooon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup hot brewed coffee
  • FOR THE FILLING AND FROSTING:
  • 2½ cups whipping cream
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • a jar of sour cherries in liquid (drained), or amarena cherries in syrup (use as many as you like. I didn't measure but I think I used about 1 cup total)
  • ¾ cup liqueur (Kirsch, or cherry marnier, or brandy)
  • FOR THE BIRCH BARK DECORATION:
  • 12 ounces white chocolate
  • a couple of ounces of dark or milk chocolate
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans.
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl.
  3. Add eggs (one at a time), sour cream, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes.
  4. Slowly drizzle in hot coffee, mixing until the batter is blended. Batter will be thin.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of cake comes out clean.
  7. Cool completely before removing from pan and frosting.
  8. FOR THE FILLING AND FROSTING:
  9. Whip the cream with the confectioner's sugar, adding a little at a time, until peaks form.
  10. Be careful not to whip too much or you'll end up with butter!
  11. Take one layer of the cakes and sprinkle generously with the syrup.
  12. Spread some of the whipped cream on top, and dot throughout with the cherries.
  13. Repeat with the second layer.
  14. Add the top layer and spread the remaining whipped cream on the top and sides.
  15. FOR THE BIRCH BARK DECORATION:
  16. Melt the dark chocolate, either at low heat in a double boiler or in the microwave.
  17. Using a paint brush, brush marks on a long piece of parchment paper, using a measurement that's slightly taller than the three cakes would be with the frosting, and a bit wider than the circumference of the cakes.
  18. Let the dark chocolate cool, then melt the white chocolate, being careful not to overheat, or will "seize" on you. If this happens, try adding more white chocolate, off the heat, and stir vigorously.
  19. Alternately, add a small amount of boiling water, one teaspoon at a time, stirring into the white chocolate.
  20. Let the white chocolate cool, then spread over the dark chocolate.
  21. This can be tricky because if you spread it while it's still warm, it will melt the dark chocolate and you'll lose the characteristic marks of the birch tree. But if you let it cool too much, it will harden and be difficult to spread.
  22. Let the white chocolate cool completely (I put mine in the refrigerator), then cut large chunks of it, and press them against the sides of the cake.
  23. If some of the pieces break off, just patch them by pressing into the sides of the cake.
 

Barley, Pomegranate and Orange Salad

While searching for a recipe to serve at my recent book group dinner, where the book was set in Israel, I naturally thought of  Yotam Ottolenghi, the pre-eminent Israeli chef whose cookbooks (and restaurants in London) are a treasure trove of Middle Eastern cooking.  I was surprised to find a salad using bulgur, since I associated the grain mostly with soups. Since pomegranates are a favorite of mine, the recipe was calling my name. Although not included in Ottolenghi’s recipe, I felt the urge to add the oranges — both blood oranges and cara cara oranges — since they were in season and added more color and flavor. The celery leaves are crucial in this recipe, and unfortunately most celery in supermarkets has scant leaves. If you’re lucky enough to find a locally grown bunch of celery, you’ll more likely to find leaves on the ends of the stalks. But even with the supermarket celery, I managed to pluck enough leaves to add to the recipe. This salad is delicious even several days after making it, so keep it in mind for a do-ahead recipe to take to a party.

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Barley Salad
 
Recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's book "Plenty"
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 6 celery stalks (leaves picked and reserved), cut into dice
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 small garlic cloves, crushed
  • ⅔ teaspoon ground allspice
  • salt, black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds
  • sections from 2 oranges (I used one cara cara and one blood orange)
Instructions
  1. Cook the barley according to package directions.
  2. Usually, it is simply placed in a pot and covered with water, then boiled for about 30 minutes.
  3. Drain the barley and transfer to a mixing bowl.
  4. Add the celery, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, allspice and salt and pepper.
  5. Stir, then leave to cool completely.
  6. When it's cool, add the herbs, celery leaves, pomegranate seeds and orange sections.
  7. Squeeze the juice from the remaining pulpy part of the orange that's left into the bowl and mix.
  8. Serve.