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!

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!

Torta caprese

Torta caprese

The torta caprese is one of the most luscious cakes you can imagine.
And the simplest to make. A few passages and you’ll be thrown in another world.
The history of this cake dates as far back as the 1920s, or so it seems and like many of the most famous Italian cakes it is alleged to have been created by mistake. We Italians are creative even beyond our control! Apparently a famous chef was intent to prepare a chocolate cake for some distinguished American guests (some say they were famous American Mafiosi, but who would say?) and he forgot to put the flour in it, thus making maybe the first gluten-free cake of the century. The cake soon became exceptionally famous and it still is. No need to wonder, taste a small bit of it and you’ll know why.
Any baker in Italy has a recipe, I’ll leave you mine:
125 g dark chocolate
125 g butter
100 g sugar
150 g almonds
3 eggs
Powdered sugar
One pinch of salt
Water
Preheat the oven to 350° F /180° C.
Break the chocolate into pieces and melt it in a non-stick pan (preferably) with some water (not much, two or three tablespoons will do) over a moderate flame, stirring continuously. Once melted, add the butter in pieces (still stirring) until it melts. Then take it off the flame.
In the meantime, toast the almonds in a non-stick pan over a flame until they’re slightly brown. Chop them with the aid of a mixer. Add the almonds to the chocolate mix and let it cool down a bit.
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until they’re clear, and then add the chocolate mixture. Stir until the mixture is smooth.
Then pass on to the egg whites, beat them with the help of a pinch of salt until they’re stiff and then gently fold them with the rest of the ingredients.
Tale a cake pan and cover it with greaseproof paper. Pour the batter into it (level it if necessary) then bake for 20/30 minutes (check with a toothpick).
Remove from the oven and let it cool down. Then decorate with powdered sugar.
You’ll love it!

Halloween sweets

Halloween sweets

Halloween’s not much of an Italian festivity. We have carnival, we have other days. Yet, little by little, with the help of TV shows and movies and lots of advertising from companies that just needed another occasion to sell their stuff, Halloween has become a sort of new celebration, especially among the youngest. My nieces will attend their second-year-in-a-row party tomorrow night, and asked for something to bring. Lots of things, and so little time. What’s better than spooky cookies and a muffin along the way?
The dough for the cookies is just the same pastry, just need some invention to shape it differently. For the dough you need:
650 gr of flour (keep some more at hand, if the dough ‘s too wet you may need to add some more)
200 gr sugar
8 gr baking powder
4 eggs
150 gr vegetable oil
Put the eggs in a bowl and mix them with the sugar, then the baking powder and then the oil. Try to avoid any lumps. After that, little by little, add the flour. The dough is to become more solid as you pour the flour in. When it becomes less sticky, put it onto a pastry board, sprinkled with flour. Keep on kneading untile the dough is well elastic and smooth.
Then use your fantasy and start forming the cookies. For the skulls you may need a dough cutter (or a teacup) and a rolling pin. The dough must be half centimeter thick approximately.
Cut as many circles as you like, then pinch the lower part to form the jaw of the skull.
Use a fork prong or similar to form the eyes and the nose, as for the teeth I have used pine nuts.
For the witch fingers cookies use the same dough, forming little fingers by rolling bits of dough between your hands. For the nail, use a peeled almond. Mark the finger lines using a fork prong. if you want to add abit of spookiness, use any sort of jam – but it needs to be a red one (cranberries, cherries, anything you like). you can put some (very little actually) under the almons and at the basis of the finger.
Both skulls and fingers will bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Pumpkin muffins are just as easy, and you need
250 gr flour
120 gr sugar
125 ml milk
80 ml vegetable oil
2 eggs
16 gr baking powder
cinammon

Put in a bowl the baking powder, the flour and the cinammon (the quantity depends on your personal taste. I added half a teaspoon, you may want to add a full teaspoon). Stir well and then form a hole in the middle of the dry powders. where you’ll pour milk, oil and the eggs. Whisk everything and avoid the unwanted lumps (I use a food processor). Once the dough is smooth, add the blended pumpkin.
Pour the dough in the wrappers and then into the over at 180 degrees for the usual 15/20 minutes.
If you want a nice topping you may use the cheese cream I did with
200 gr fresh cheese
120 gr icing sugar
80’ gr butter
and some food coloring. Whisk the chees eand the sugar, and after it is well amalgamated add the butter (it must be soft but not melted). I used a pastry bag for the decorations.
Happy Halloween!!