Ricotta tart

Ricotta tart

You know I don’t like overcomplicated cakes. Just easy and possibly healthy and good-tasting stuff.
So you may understand why I go for a ricotta cake (an Italian cheese, in case you did not know) any time I need something easy, quick and good. Besides, it’s a real lifesaver any time you have celiac guests, because it has no flour in it.
As I skimmed through the net to see if there were other alternatives to my basic version, I found out that the recipe I’ve always used is in fact the base for a Jewish-Roman traditional cake called cassola. I completely ignored that! The traditional cake has spices and a small glass of liquor in it, but the fundamental ingredients are just the same. A real coincidence!
So here we go. Ingredients are really easy to kind in any pantry:
300 gr ricotta
3 eggs
100 gr sugar
1 lemon
25 gr starch
4 tbs chocolate chips
Icing sugar for decoration
First of all we must separate yolks and egg whites. Yolks go into a bowl with the sugar. With the help of a mixer whisk them well, then add the cheese, the starch, and the juice and zest of the lemon.
In another bowl whip the egg whites until it forms stiff peaks, and then incorporate them little by little. As last finishing, put the chocolate chips into the dough.
Pour the dough into a baking pan covered with greaseproof paper, and bake it at 180 degrees for some 30/35 minutes.

Shortcrust butter-free pastries

Shortcrust butter-free pastries

This dough is really the easiest to make, and quite versatile too.
Plus it has no butter in it – what’s best for a healthier and lighter breakfast or teatime treat?
This dough is the starting point for a lot of different cookies – in the picture above I filled it with Nutella, but you could put anything into it (such as jam, for example). You may want a chocolate-flavoured dough too, you just need to add a few tablespoons of cocoa powder.
I also made a few with an almond in the middle, and sprinkled them with brown sugar and icing sugar to decorate.
Ingredients are basic as well:
220 grams of plain flour
60 grams of vegetable oil
70 grams of sugar
Half a tsp of baking powder
1 egg
… and this is it!
Put in a bowl the egg and the sugar and mix it well with the help of a fork. Then all’s well mixed, add the oil and the baking powder. Stir again. Then start to add the flour, little by little. When the dough is elastic and doesn’t stick to your fingers any more, it is ready.
With a rolling pin knead the dough, about 1 cm high (or less if you want to fill the cookies with anything) and put into a preheated oven (180 degrees) for some fifteen minutes.
This dough is great even for fruit tarts.

Vanillekipferl

Vanillekipferl

There are things that are born almost by chancem but then take a life on their own… this is the case with this Advent period. I was looking back to my baking during the last weeks and I suddenly realized that I have taken up this trend of baking traditional cookies/cakes from all over the world.. well, Europe maily I must say, but it’s not over yet!
Today’s recipe is Vanillekipferl from Austria.
They’re really good and easy to make, and they’re the perfect matcj for a steamy, creamy cup of chocolate.
You just need:
200 gr plain flour
100 gr sugar
70 gr grain hazelnuts (or almonds)
120 gr butter
1 egg
1/2 vanilla bean (or vanilla aroma if you can’t find the bean)
icing sugar to dust on top
Put in a bowl the flour with the sugar and the cold butter cut into pieces. Then add the egg, the vanilla, the grain hazelnuts and start kneading with your hands. When the dough is well mixed and smooth you can start taking some bits from it, mould it with your hands forming a little cylinder and then put it onto a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper shaping it like a small croissant.
Then bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes. Once they’ve cooled down, sprinkle with icing sugar and taste!

Orange bars

Orange bars

I love oranges, they’re one of the most versatiles fruits of this season. You can use all of them, zests included. And one of the tarts that to me is the quintessence of oranges is the orange bar, which is gonna make you happy at tea time or even after lunch or dinner. It is so easy to make that you will have it ready in minutes literally.
Ingredients are few:

140 gr of gluten free flour
120 gr non salted butter
150 gr sugar
3 eggs
1 organic orange (we need the zest and the juice)
1 tsp baking powder
Melt the butter and then whisk it carefully with the sugar. Then add the eggs and continue whisking properly until the batter is soft and without lumps.
Add the orange zest and the juice, whisk it into the batter, and then adda again the flour little by little (Always whisking to avoid lumps) and the baking powder. Please check carefully the consistency of the batter, it must be soft and creamy, not too liquid and not too solid.
Put the batter into a baking pan (square) covered the greaseproof paper, level it evenly and then bake it into a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 20/25 minutes.
Let it cool down and then cut it into bits, and then drizzle with some icing sugar.
Enjoy!

Stollen

Stollen

Stollen (Christstollen or Weihnachtsstollen, as it is also known), is a typical German tart which is prepared during the Christmas time.
As it always happens anywhere, every family think they solely possess the real recipe for the tart, so there’s no argument here I confess: I used one out of the hundreds or thousands of recipes you may find literally anywhere. The easiest one, probably.
The tart was created back in the second half of the fifteenth century in Dresden and for sure one of the features is that it has a cylinder of marzipan in the middle. I did not have it so I did not put it into the tart, but you may if you like it.
Please be a bit patient because the tart must rise a little. But the result is surprising, one you must try! I usually try to substitute butter with oil, but this time I left the butter in it because its taste is part of the round a sweet taste of the tart.
The ingredients are:
450 gr flour
130 ml milk
150 gr butter
110 gr sugar
60 gr almonds
100 gr raisins
50 gr candied orange zest
50 gr icing sugar
1 egg
16 gr baking powder
2 tsp rhum
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
Soak the raisins in the rhum, the water and a tbs of sugar.
In a bowl mix the flour, the sugar and the baking powder and then add the milk little by little at room temperature. Then add the egg and then the butter (softened), and then add almonds (slightly toast them before in a non-stick pan), the raisins (squeeze them of the liquids), the zest and the ginger.
Put the dough on a tray dusted with flour, and knead the dough for some minutes until the components are all incorporated.
Shape it into a small loaf, and put it to raise in the oven covered with film and a cloth and leave it there for one hour at least.
After this time, take it out, knead it again in a circular form at least 2 centimetres thick, and then fold the dough in three (at this point put the marzipan in the centre if you wish). Put it onto the baking tray covered with greaseproof paper and put it again into the oven for another hour to let it raise again. Take it out and let it rest.
Then preheat the oven at 170 degrees and bake the dole for about 40 minutes. As you take it out of the oven, brush it with some melted butter (when the tart is still hot) and then dust it with icing sugar.
Let it cool down before tasting.
Some say that you should let it ripen (yes!) two or three days before eating it. The flavours of raisins, zests and almonds should then soak perfectly. I confess I ate it the following day and it is delicious just as well.

Castagnaccio with orange juice

Castagnaccio with orange juice

I have a confession to make: I hate castagnaccio!
I’ve always thought it tasted like cardboard… not that desirable! But this is a traditional cake from Tuscany and it is the quintessence of cakes for people suffering from celiac disease like my dad. As I did not like it, I made a few adds, like sugar and orange juice… purists will certainly argue about that but I think it is supertasty, so why not!?
It is also quite simple to make and bake, so let’s go.
Ingredients are:
250 grams of chestnuts flour
5 tbs brown sugar (it is about 50 grams)
1 tbs candiade orange zest
20 gr pine nuts
20 gr raisin
10 gr nuts
15 gr EVO oil
300 ml water (room temperature)
100 ml orange juice
1 pinch of salt
Rosemary to decorate
Soak to soften th raisin and the put the pint nuts into a non stock pan to toast them. As soon as they start to exude the oils turn the heat off and let them cool down.
Take a bowl and sifts the chestnut flour into it, then pour the water in and then the orange juice, and stir well to prevent lumps. Then add the sugar, the oil and a pinch pof salt.
Whisk well until it reaches a batter-like consistency.
Then add the pine nuts, the raisin and the candied orange zest.
Put the batter into a greased baking tray (about 18 cm diameter), decorate it with the nuts, some other pine nuts and rosemary, and then into the convection oven, preheated at 180 degrees and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes.
Check the cake with a toothpick (start some 10 minutes before the baking time is due) as every oven bakes differently.
The flavours of chestnuts and orange are so good together and they’ll surprise you!
It’s the perfect vegan and glutenfree cake!

Fresh ginger cookies

Fresh ginger cookies

Christmas time is cookies time! This time forget the famous gingerbread (I’ll make them too!) because these cookies are made with fresh ginger that I love! They’re super easy to make too, and this is another perk. I usually tend to avoid butter, but this time its creaminess is part of the symphony of flavours that these cookies ooze. There are several recipes around, I use this one:

Brown sugar 50 gr
Plain sugar 65 gr
Fresh ginger 50 gr
Almonds 50 gr
Butter at room temperature 125 gr
Lemon zest 1
All purposes flour 300 gr

Take a mixer and put into it the brown sugar and the almonds, and whisk until almonds turn into grains. Then add the peeled ginger cut in little pieces and whisk again until you get a creamy dough, that you can put into a bowl and mix with the butter (please don’t melt it into the microwave!). and then with the flour. When the dough becomes thick, continue to knead on a pastry board and then form a dough ball, cover it with film and let it rest into the fridge for an hour at least.
After that with the help of a rolling pin roll out the dough about 1 cm thick and cut your cookies the shape you like. Put the cookies onto the baking tray covered with greaseproof paper and bake them in a preheated over (180 degrees) for about 15/20 minutes. Please check well as they cook quite quickly – I usually start checking after 10 minutes just in case… As the quantities of this recipe are for about some twenty cookies it is likely you may need to bake two trays. In this case while the first tray is into the over, put the remaining cookies to be baked into the fridge until it’s time for them to be baked as well. In this way they will better keep their shape during baking. Enjoy!