Dessert

Easy French Madeleines Recipe With Chocolate Chips

French madeleines. The name of these soft cookies evokes magical things. The simple taste of butter and sugar, French landscapes, and sweet childhood memories. But what is the real story of these cookies, originally shaped like seashells?

Well, I have to admit that I don’t have a real story. But I have a legend, which is much better!

We have to go back to 1755, in the castle of King Stanislas Leszczynksi, in Alsace-Lorraine. One evening, the King had organized a great dinner with Voltaire and other friends. But the cook had fallen ill, and the long-awaited dessert hadn’t been prepared yet.

A very proactive butler had the idea of asking to a young maid of the castle to cook something to solve the problem. So, she baked the cookies her grandmother used to make for her when she was a child in Commency.

The King and the guests were so enthusiastic about the cookies, that they asked the girl their name. But since they didn’t have one, the King gave them the name of the maid: Madeleine de Commency.

French madeleines_Books and Crumbs

With the building of the railway line Paris-Strasbourg in 1852, the madeleines became famous all over the country. Every traveler who arrived at the Commency station was overwhelmed by the smell of these cookies, sold in graceful wooden boxes. And he bought them.

With the famous passage Proust wrote in Swann’s Way about the power of the madeleines to evoke things of the past, these cookies became iconic:

She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called “petites madeleines,” which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin.

What I like about French madeleines, apart from their flavor, is their original seashell shape. So, I suggest buying a madeleine pan. It’s not only a matter of style, since the pan is important for the perfect rising of the cookies. Buy one, it’s cheap, and I assure you will use it a thousand times.

Why? Because madeleines are fantastic and very easy to make. With this recipe, you won’t have to buy them ever again: cooking them will be a vital pleasure!

This time, I have decided to flavor them with chocolate chips, but they are so versatile, that you can use whatever you like to give them your personal touch.

Orange zest, cinnamon, blueberries, vanilla…use your creativity to bake these little remembrances of things past.

Eating French madeleines_Books and Crumbs

French Madeleines With Chocolate Chips 

130 gr. caster sugar

2 tbsp. honey

¼ tsp. sea salt

3 big eggs

150 gr. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

125 gr. butter at room temperature

1 tsp. lemon zest

50 gr. chocolate chips

LET’S DO IT!

In a large pan, whip sugar, honey, salt and the eggs until you obtain a fluffy mixture. Then add the flour and the baking powder, well sifted.

Add the butter in small pieces and mix gently until it is completely melted in the mixture of eggs, sugar and flour. In the end, flavor with lemon zest and the chocolate chips. Let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Grease the madeleines mold with some butter and sprinkle it with flour. Put 1 tbsp. of mixture in each shape and bake for 12 minutes, or until the cookies are browned on the margins and have a nice bump in the center.

Serve them warm, with some caster sugar on top.

Bread, Veggies

Butternut Pumpkin and Blue Stilton Loaf

I would kill for a slice of Blue Stilton. No kidding. I absolutely adore the pungent flavor of this cheese, its color and how it combines with sweet ingredients. Honey, of course, pears or grapes. And how about fig marmalade? Orgasmic. BUT, have you ever tried it with butternut pumpkin?

If the answer is no, this is your lucky day. Here’s a recipe that will knock you out. It’s a simple loaf with pieces of butternut pumpkin and Blue Stilton, and you’ll need approximately 3 hours to make it.

This doesn’t mean it’s a difficult process. You only need time to make the dough raise and cook it in the oven. It could be a nice way to spend your Sunday morning… 🙂

Butternut Pumpkin and Blue Stilton Loaf

400 gr. butternut pumpkin, pealed and cut into small pieces (1 cm)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

a pinch of sea salt

a pinch of black pepper

200 gr. Blue Stilton, cut into small pieces

For the dough

500 gr. all-purpose flour

2 tsp caster sugar

2 tsp sea salt

1 tbsp of chopped rosemary

2 eggs

1 onion, pealed and cut into small pieces

125 ml extra virgin olive oil

125 ml milk

2 tbsp active dry yeast

125 ml warm water

 

LET’S DO IT! 

Preheat the oven at 180° C (350°F). Peal and cut into cubes the butternut pumpkin. Season them

with extra virgin olive oil, salt and black pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until tender.

In the meantime, mix the dry yeast with warm water in a bowl, stir and let it rest for 10 minutes in a warm place. Put the onion, milk, oil, sugar, salt, rosemary and eggs in a food processor and wiz until smooth (you can also use an immersion blender).

Take a large bowl, add the flour, the liquid mixture and the yeast, then stir well to combine all the ingredients. The dough should be smooth. Cover it and let it rest for 1 hour and a half in a warm place.

At this point, add the butternut pumpkin cubes and the Blue Stilton to the dough. Stir well and pour the mixture into a lightly greased 2 liters loaf tin. If you don’t have this size, use two smaller tins. Bake for 1 hour and let it cool 10 minutes before serving it.

 

 

Dessert

The Ultimate Recipe for the Best Apple Pie Ever

September means new beginnings in everyone’s lives. After a well-earned summer break, we feel like it’s time to start everything anew. Same job, but different goals; same school, but different class. Same husband, but different town.

To me, September has meant leaving Venice and moving to Newcastle Upon Tyne. In case you’re wondering, the reason is my husband’s new job at the university there. So, for the next three years my life will be surrounded by new people, new panoramas and, of course, new ingredients.

Whenever I have to face a challenge, I need to brighten my day with objects and food that have the power to comfort me. Yes, I’m still a bit childish. And I love spending some time in my old bedroom, reading children’s books and looking at old family pictures.

But the thing I love the most is the smell of comfort food. That smell has been a part of my life since I was a little girl. It can still make me feel at home, no matter where I am. So, today I have decided to bake the most powerful comfort food ever: a simple and perfect apple pie.

I have learned the recipe of this apple pie in the United States, from a traditional Hamish cookbook. Even if it doesn’t belong to my family’s cooking memories, it has become one of them. This apple pie means family, Sunday lunches, sharing and loving each other. It means not feeling alone, or sad.

It also means that no matter how hard the challenge in front of you is, you’ll find the strength to go on and look at the bright side. Yes, this apple pie is THAT powerful!

So, take some time and bake it. This apple pie is truly magical, a loving hug for your first, challenging September days.

The Perfect Apple Pie 

For the dough

450 gr. all-purpose flour

100 gr. caster sugar

275 gr. cold butter

1 egg yolk + 4 tbsp of cold water mixed together

 

For the filling 

4/5 large apples

1 tsp of cinnamon

90 gr. caster sugar

90 gr. all-purpose flour

 

LET’S DO IT! 

Knead the dough with all the ingredients and let it rest in the refrigerator for one hour. Then cut it in two parts – the biggest one for the bottom of the pie, the smallest for the crust on the top.

Preheat the oven at 200°C (329° F).

Cut the apples in quarters and peel them. Cover them with the flour, sugar and cinnamon. Then use them to fill the pie, positioning the quarters to form a sort of pyramid.

Cover the apples with the top dough, than bake it for 50 minutes to 1 hour. I know it’s hard, but please wait until next morning to eat it. It will be pure perfection – and it will make you cry of joy!

Dessert

Nectarines and Almond Italian Crema Pasticcera Tart

August is the month of nectarines and peaches. They are interchangeable, except for the fuzzy texture of peaches, which nectarines don’t have. They are bald and flavorful, and tend to be firmer – which is a great characteristic for cooking.

There are thousands of recipes where nectarines and peaches are the main characters, and today I want to keep it simple and… let’s say, very traditional. This tart will make you smile, with its wonderful colors, the slightly sour taste of nectarines and the warm aroma of almond. It’s the quintessence of summer in the Mediterranean, in a certain way!

So, buy some fresh and firm nectarines, take your time to make this tart and enjoy it the next day – waiting is always a good idea with tarts.

Nectarines and Almond Crema Pasticcera Tart

For the pastry

270 gr. all-purpose flour

30 gr. yellow corn flour

180 gr. butter

120 gr. icing sugar

3 egg yolks

a pinch of salt

1 rose grapefruit zest

 

For the crema pasticcera

300 ml whole milk

2 egg yolks

50 gr. caster sugar

20 gr. whole purpose flour

1 tsp almond aroma

To serve

3-4 firm nectarines

 

LET’S DO IT! 

For the shortcrust pastry, begin mixing the butter with the egg yolks, then add the sugar and the grapefruit zest. If you don’t have a mixer, use a fork, to keep the butter cold. When the ingredients are well mixed, add the two flours and the salt. Don’t knead the dough too much, just try to form a compact and consistent ball. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

For the crema pasticcera, warm the milk in a small casserole. In the meantime, beat the eggs with the sugar until you obtain a fluffy mixture, then add the flour. Pour the milk and keep stirring, then cook the mixture for 3 to 4 minutes. You need the crema pasticcera to be smooth and firm. Let it cool covered with plastic film.

Now it’s time to cook the shortcrust pastry.

 

Lactose free, Rice, Veggies

Spelt Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Thyme

I’m always looking for new ideas to use spelt, barley and other substitutes of rice, because I love their crunchy consistency and their flavor, that in some way reminds me of nuts. The spelt salad I’m going to tell you about is one of my favorites.

Take the smell and colors of summer in the Mediterranean, then add a pinch of rural home cooking, and you’ll obtain a simple dish, but full of flavors and nutrients that will give you the energy you need to live your day in the right way.

Of course, you need time to cook the spelt and roast the tomatoes and garlic, but I assure you that this spelt salad is worth it! Plus, you can also eat it cold, just adding some fresh extra virgin olive oil and some leaves of basil. Yes, cooking your lunch break can be THAT EASY.

If you don’t like spelt, you can use bargain or brown rice, the result will be awesome anyway! And if you’re wandering about the roasted garlic, don’t panic! Your social relationships will not be affected by it! The garlic cooked in this way loses its strong and – sometimes- unpleasant flavor, and it becomes a delicate and digestible cream that will make your spelt salad unforgettable!

Spelt Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Thyme (4 servings)

1 kg mixed tomatoes

2 bulbs of garlic

400 gr. spelt

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

a bunch of thyme

1 tbsp of honey

zest of 1 lemon

 

LET’S DO IT! 

Preheat the oven at 180° C ( 356°F).

Take a baking tray and cover it with baking paper. Then cut the biggest tomatoes in half, and leave the small ones as they are. Also cut the bulbs of garlic in half, without peeling them.

Place the vegetables on the baking tray, and season them with thyme, sea salt, black pepper, the honey, the zest of lemon and a generous supply of extra virgin olive oil. Roast them for about 40 minutes.

In the meantime, cook the spelt as suggested on the package. When it’s done, put it in a large pan and add some of the tomatoes (leave one or two of the big ones to decorate). Take the garlic and squeeze it on the spelt. The cloves will be creamy and very sweet. Now add the sauce you’ll find in the baking tray, then mix your spelt salad.

Decorate every bowl with a roasted tomato and, if you like, add some extra virgin olive oil and fresh leaves of basil.

 

Dessert

Apple and Roses Jam Tart with a Touch of Grapefruit

My parents’ house is surrounded by a huge garden with wonderful little flowerbeds. From mid-April to the beginning of July, the rose garden is in full bloom, and the roses are so beautiful and perfumed that I’ve always wondered: should I try to cook them?

The answer, of course, has been YES. So I’ve decided to use rose petals to enrich with their taste and perfume a very simple apple tart. This is how I ended up cooking this nice apple and roses jam tart.

It goes without saying that it has been a huge success! Especially with my sister Gaia, who loves roses and everything that tastes/smells like them. When you serve a rose-flavored dessert with some tea in a garden full of flowers, you can have a hint of what paradise may look like.

I used grapefruit zest instead of  lemon or orange zest to flavor the shortcrust pastry. I think that the bitter and aromatic taste of rose grapefruit is perfect to balance the sweetness of the apple jam.

To strengthen the taste of rose petals, you can add a few drops of rosewater, but don’t exaggerate! 3 to 4 drops will be enough. I think this apple and roses jam tart is perfect with some super good tea, like the Black Tea – Pomme d’amour by Dammann Frères.

Apple and Roses Jam Tart with a Touch of Grapefruit 

For the pastry

270 gr. all-purpose flour

30 gr. yellow corn flour

180 gr. butter

120 gr. icing sugar

3 egg yolks

a pinch of salt

1 rose grapefruit zest

 

For the jam

3 apples

150 gr. rose petals

50 gr. caster sugar

1 tbsp. butter

3-4 drops of rosewater (optional)

 

LET’S DO IT! 

For the shortcrust pastry, begin mixing the butter with the egg yolks, then add the sugar and the grapefruit zest. If you don’t have a mixer, use a fork, to keep the butter cold. When the ingredients are well mixed, add the two flours and the salt. Don’t knead the dough too much, just try to form a compact and consistent ball. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

In the meantime, let’s cook the apple and roses jam. Cut the apples in small pieces, then put them in a casserole with a tbsp. of butter and 100 gr. of rose petals. Let cook until the apples are almost completely melted.

At this point, add the sugar and the rest of the rose petals, and cook for 10 more minutes. If you want to obtain a creamy consistency, use a hand blender (I did it, but it’s up to you!). Now you can also add the rosewater, if you want your jam to have a strong rose flavor.

Preheat the oven at 180° C (356° F). Now roll the dough and put it in a buttered and floured tart mold. Cover it with a sheet of baking paper and add dry beans on it. Cook the dough for 10 minutes.

Now take away the baking paper with the beans, and pour the apple and roses jam on top of your bottom pastry. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve your tart warm or cold, with some ice cream or a cup of black tea.

Fish

Salmon Carpaccio with Robiola di Roccaverano and Caramelized Pears

Salmon carpaccio is everywhere. You can eat it as “sashimi” in Japanese restaurants, or under the name of “gravlax” in the Swedish cuisine. You can find it with fresh arugula salads, in gourmet sandwiches or – for the less bold – smoked.

What I like about it is its creamy consistency and sweet flavor. Moreover, it combines well with several ingredients, from fruit to cheese, to spicy or sour sauces and herbs. Salmon may seem quite difficult to cook, but it’s pretty versatile instead.

This recipe comes from a food experience I had some years ago in a beautiful restaurant in Concordia, a small town in the Emilia Romagna region. The chef served us salmon carpaccio prepared in a very Italian way.

As you may know, salmon is not so common in Italian traditional cooking. It’s a Nordic ingredient, and Italian people generally know its smoked version as a delicatessen to eat during the Christmas holidays. So 80s…

What I love about this dish is the fact that it mixes salmon with some of the best Italian ingredients. You have oranges, lemons, the wonderful Robiola di Roccaverano cheese and some little caramelized pears to go with it. Because, as we say here in Italy, “don’t let the farmer know how good is the pear with the cheese”!

Believe me when I say that this is the perfect match. Fresh, full of flavor and it looks fancy but it’s so easy to make! You’ll fall in love with this salmon carpaccio at first bite.

Salmon Carpaccio with Robiola di Roccaverano and Caramelized Pears (4 servings)

600 gr. fresh salmon, cut into thin slices (by your fishmonger!)

200 gr. Robiola di Roccaverano (you can use cream cheese if you can’t find it, but well….you know)

1 orange (juice and zest)

1 lemon (juice and zest)

2 Bosc pears

icing sugar

black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

a fresh baguette to serve

 

LET’S DO IT! 

Preheat the oven at 180° C (356° F).

Cut the pears in very thin slices, then put them on a baking tray with baking paper and sprinkle them with icing sugar. Bake them for 30 minutes, or until they are browned and lightly burned on the sides.

At this point, squeeze the orange and the lemon, add some black pepper and some drops of extra virgin olive oil: this is the marinade for the slices of salmon. Cover the salmon with the marinade and let it rest in the refrigerator for an hour.

Now, let’s prepare the Robiola. Very easy. Mix the cheese with black pepper and the zest of lemon and orange, then add a tbsp of oil. Let it rest.

Time to serve. Put 3 to 4 slices of salmon on each dish, then some slices of caramelized pears and a quenelle of Robiola. Serve it with a fresh baguette, previously warmed in the oven. Enjoy!

 

 

Dessert

The Best French Style Cherry Clafoutis Ever

Cherry clafoutis and a good novel to read in the park. Do you know any other way better than this one to spend your weekends in June, when the weather is still not too hot and you can smell flowers everywhere?

Ok, I know I sound a bit too mushy, and that there are hundreds of fantastic things to do during the weekend. But still. Isn’t it lovely? Organizing an old style sweet picnic in the park, with your handmade taste-like-home cherry clafoutis and some fresh cherries to eat with it?

This dessert reminds me of two things in particular: my mother and Paris. The first time I ate cherry clafoutis I was at home, and totally not interested in its spongy consistency. I could not understand why my mom had decided to bake such a poor-looking tart.

But then I tasted it and suddenly everything became clear: it was delicious. The sweet and sour taste of cherries, the creamy and dense custard around them, its elegance. Yes. Cherry clafoutis is a very elegant dessert, very French in its capacity to be awesome without any effort.

So, when I moved to Paris, I kept looking for cherry clafoutis in every bakery, patisserie, restaurant and bar I went to. And you know the best part of it, apart from the flavor? It’s SO EASY TO MAKE! You buy cherries, milk, cream, flour and eggs and THAT’S IT.

So give it a try, now that cherries are at their best, and add a touch of French-ness to your day.

French Style Cherry Clafoutis

4 eggs

90 gr. caster sugar

110 gr. all purpose flour

500 ml cream

150 ml milk

a pinch of salt

1 tsp of kirsch

1 tbsp of rum

a small piece of butter

550 gr. cherries

LET’S DO IT! 

Preheat the oven at 200° C (392° F).

Whip the eggs with the sugar, then add the flour, previously sifted to avoid clumps. At this point, add cream, milk and the two liquors. And that’s it, you’re almost done.

Grease and sprinkle with some sugar a tart mold, then cover the bottom with the cherries. DON’T take the pits away! In this way, your cherries won’t lose too much humidity during the baking process – and you won’t lose time pitting them!

Pour the batter on top, then bake for 40-45 minutes. Let it rest and cool. You can serve it a bit warm, but I prefer to eat it the day after, when it’s still cold from the refrigerator.

Dessert

Soft Lemon Cookies

Summer has not started yet, but we’re almost there. There’s no better way to celebrate this event than buying some lemons of the Amalfi coast and cook these delicious soft lemon cookies.

First of all, this recipe is not mine. I tasted these lemon cookies for the first time at my parents’ house last week, and I suddenly fell in love with them. They were a little present for my mom from Marinella.

Yes, her name is as sweet as she actually is. Marinella was – and still is – the janitor of the middle school where I went to as a kid. I’ve always loved her bright smile and profound knowledge of our teen minds. She knew all our little secrets, she was our confidant and we trusted her unconditionally.

So I was not surprised by how good her soft lemon cookies were. She cooked them as she raised me and my classmates: with love! I have added some drops of homemade limoncello to the original recipe, to add an extra lemony touch. Try them with ice cream, and loose yourself in childhood memories…

Soft Lemon Cookies 

100 gr. soft butter

90 gr. caster sugar

1 egg

zest of two lemons of Amalfi

juice of 1/2 lemon

some drops of limoncello of the highest quality (homemade is much better)

2 tsp of baking powder

1 pinch of sea salt

270 gr. of whole purpose flour

1 tsp of potato starch

icing sugar

 

LET’S DO IT! 

Whip the soft butter with the sugar until you obtain a  fluffy mixture, then add lemon zest, limoncello, lemon juice and the egg. Mix for three minutes to have a velvety cream.

At this point, add the flour, the baking powder, the potato starch and a pinch of salt, previously sifted. Mix first with a wooden spoon, then with your hands. Let the dough rest for 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven at 180° C ( 356° F). Form small balls – the size of a nut – with the dough, then roll them first in the caster sugar, then in the icing sugar. When ready, place them on a large baking tray covered with baking paper, keeping a 2 cm distance among them. Cook the lemon cookies for 12 to 14 minutes.

They will remain soft, but you’ll be sure that they’re cooked if the bottom is nicely browned, but the top is still clear.

Fish, Pasta

Spaghetti with Stracciatella, Datterini Confit and Prawn Tartare

Yes, it sounds strange. And wrong. For all your life, you’ve been taught that fish and cheese is not a good marriage. And when it comes to something so delicate and unique as prawns, it gets even worst. No cheese, no cream, no butter. Nothing but extra virgin olive oil, maybe some lemon zest and – if you’re very brave – some basil or parsley.

But since cooking is all a matter of bravery and a touch of recklessness, today I want to break all the rules. Yes, I’m going to use prawns AND cheese. In the same dish. Try to stop me if you can.

It’s a rainy morning in Venice, and the fish seller has a wonderful variety of shellfish. Prawns are among my favorite kinds of crustaceans, so I’ve decided to buy some of them. I’m going to meet my dear friend Sara for lunch. I think that prawns are the perfect ingredient for two gourmandes as we are.

The secret of this simple pasta dish is balance. Prawns are sweet and salty at the same time, so you’ll need a sour element – but not too sour to balance their flavor. Datterini tomatoes confit play this role. They give a touch of sourness to the dish, still keeping their sweetness. For the creamy side, I’ve decided to use stracciatella. This cheese has a very mild flavor and an interesting texture – imagine strands of mozzarella soaked in cream. Yes, it’s THAT good.

You’ll love it. Plus, it’s the perfect dish if you want to stun your guests with almost no effort. In fact, you can prepare the basic ingredients in advance, then put together the dish at the last moment.

Spaghetti with Stracciatella, Datterini Confit and Prawn Tartare (4 servings)

4oo gr. spaghetti

16 prawns

250 gr. Datterini tomatoes

250 gr. Stracciatella cheese

extra virgin olive oil

lemon zest

sea salt

sugar

black pepper

thyme

1 tbsp of colatura di alici (optional)

 

LET’S DO IT! 

First of all, let’s prepare the datterini tomatoes. The confit technique takes time. You can cook them in advance, even the day before. Cut them in half and place them on a baking tray, with the cut side on top. Sprinkle them with fresh thyme, sea salt, sugar, black pepper and some drops of oil. Bake them at 120° (248°F) for about two hours, or unless they are dried out.

Now it’s time to clean the prawns. Remove the shells and the heads by pulling and twisting. Use a sharp knife to create a slit down the back of the prawns to remove the vein. Clean them with a dry paper towel and cut them thinly to have a nice tartare. Season the prawn tartare with black pepper, olive oil and some lemon zest. Add some salt, if needed.

Bring the water to a boil, then add a tbsp of salt and the pasta. Cook the spaghetti following the instructions on the package, keeping them al dente. When they’re ready, drain them and cream them in a large pan with some oil and a tbsp of colatura di alici. Add the datterini tomatoes and keep stirring. Now you’re ready to serve.

Create a nest on the plate with the spaghetti. Put a tbsp of stracciatella cheese inside each nest, then add a tbsp of prawn tartare. You can give a final touch by adding some black pepper, lemon zest and some drops of the best extra virgin olive oil you can find!