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.

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.

 

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.

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.

Dessert

Guinness Chocolate Cake for Stout Beer Lovers

Christmas is that time of the year when you feel free to add booze in every dish. I visited Ireland when I was in high school and I remember the delicious pies and cakes I ate there. I can’t think of anything more delicious than the Guinness Chocolate Cake I used to eat with my afternoon tea. It was as dark as the nights of Dublin during wintertime. Moist and rich in flavor. Oh dear, it was perfection in itself!

My friends happen to love beer. So, when we decided to organize a Christmas party and they asked me to bring dessert, the answer was quite simple. Guinness Chocolate Cake for sure! With its fluffy cream cheese topping, of course! They loved it. Even if the making of this cake is so simple, the result is a hundred percent satisfactory. You can really taste the flavor of the stout, that matches perfectly with the intense presence of the cocoa powder. Try and enjoy this amazing dessert, your hosts will adore it!

 

Guinness Chocolate Cake (10 servings) 

250 ml Guinness beer

250 gr. unsalted butter

350 gr. granulated sugar

75 gr. cocoa powder

2 eggs

1 vanilla bean

140 ml sour cream

275 gr. all-purpose flour

2  1/2  tsp baking soda

 

For the topping 

300 gr. cream cheese

150 gr. icing sugar

125 ml cream

 

LET’S DO IT! 

Preheat the oven at 180°C (356°F) and grease a 23 cm wide baking mold. Melt the butter in a pan, then add the cocoa powder and the sugar. Gently mix until the sugar is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir the sour cream, the vanilla seeds and the egg in a bowl, then add them to the butter, cocoa and sugar mix. Sift flour and baking soda together and add them too. Mix until you obtain a smooth and quite liquid mixture with no lumps in it.

Pour the mixture in the pan and bake for about 45-50 minutes. Let it cool completely before adding the topping.

For the topping, stir the cream cheese with the icing sugar. When they are completely mixed together, pour the cream and whip, until you have a fluffy topping that looks like the Guinness foam! Enjoy your Guinness Chocolate Cake with a nice cup of black tea. Or more beer!

 

Dessert

Christmas Cookies with Cinnamon and Orange Zest

There is nothing more comforting than baking Christmas cookies in the warm embrace of your kitchen. Yesterday I put some Norah Jones on, wore my favorite apron and decided that it was the right time to bake them. A white fog was covering all the bell towers of Venice, all the canals and the old palaces. It was just the best moment to relax and begin to feel this Christmas. It has been a tough year for many of us and I think that we really need some magic.

This recipe is very simple, but the result is extremely satisfying. These cookies contain all the most typical Christmas flavors: cinnamon, nutmeg, orange zest and vanilla. The important thing is to let the dough rest for a lot of time in the refrigerator. This really helps the cookies become nice and crunchy. For what concerns the shapes, choose your favorite ones and feel free to add some decorations on top. I love them plain and simple, with my morning coffee.

 

Christmas Cookies with Cinnamon and Orange Zest 

200 gr. unsalted butter

280 gr. granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean

1 egg

400 gr. all-purpose flour

1 pinch sea salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 orange (zest)

a pinch of nutmeg

 

LET’S DO IT! 

Pre-heat the oven at 170° C (340°F).

Process the butter, together with sugar and the seeds of the vanilla bean, until you have a fluffy white cream. At this point, add the egg and mix until the cream absorbs it completely. Now add the dry ingredients: the flour, the salt, the baking soda, the orange zest and the spices. Gently mix. You should obtain a firm dough. Put it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, but all night would be better. It’s up to you! The more you let the dough rest, the better.

Cut the dough in four pieces and roll out one at a time on a floured surface with a rolling pin. The cookies should be half a centimeter thick. Shape your cookies as you wish and bake them for about 10 minutes, or until they become light brown on the edges. Let them cool before serving and enjoy them with your friends, maybe with some spiced hot chocolate! And Merry Christmas!

Dessert

A Chocolate Magic Cake for a Magic Christmas

A Frank Sinatra Christmas playlist has been playing for a week already on my computer. I love Christmas. The atmosphere, the food and the fact that it’s always the right time to cook something good with your dearest ones. While leafing through cookbooks and food magazines dedicated to Christmas, I’ve found the recipe of the chocolate magic cake. Its name attracted me, because…come on! Where’s the magical element? Its flavor? A spice? An unexpected effect? Anxious to know? I’ll tell you in a second.

The magic cake is a simple dessert. There’s no need for expensive ingredients, difficult techniques or complicated utensils. Yet, something magical happens during the making of. As you’ll see, from one unique mixture, three different layers with three different textures will derive. You’ll have a solid base – a sort of flan -, then a creamy filling and a sponge cake on top. The final result is truly magical!

I have decided to make a chocolate version of this cake. If you’re more interested in the vanilla magic cake, simply use more flour and avoid the cocoa powder, while adding some lemon zest to give it a twist. Just one more recommendation before you start. Be precise! Follow the instructions as accurately as possible, otherwise you won’t obtain the three layers. This cake is simple to make, but it requires patience and extreme precision. I know, it’s annoying. But I’ll tell you one thing: when you eat it, while sipping your tea and reading some Alice Munro (just a suggestion), you’ll know that it was worth it.

 

Chocolate Magic Cake 

4 eggs  at room temperature

150 gr. granulated sugar

1 tbsp cold water

125 gr. unsalted butter

1 pinch sea salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

65 gr. flour (115 gr. for the vanilla magic cake)

50 gr. cocoa powder

500 ml warm milk

 

LET’S DO IT! 

Preheat the oven at 150° C ( 300° F). Melt the butter and let it cool at room temperature. In the meantime, whip the egg yolks with the sugar for ten minutes, until you obtain a foamy white mixture. Add a tbsp of water, the vanilla, a pinch of salt and the melted butter. Stir for 1 minute more. Add the flour and the cocoa powder while you keep stirring, then add the warm milk. At this point, beat the egg whites and add them to the mixture, stirring gently from bottom to top. Pour it into a baking mold 20×20 cm. It can be squared or round, but don’t change the width, or you won’t obtain the three layers. Bake the cake for 80 minutes, then let it cool completely before putting it in the fridge for at least two hours.

Serve your chocolate magic cake with some fresh fruit and a sprinkle of icing sugar.

Dessert, Gluten free, Lactose free

Coconut Macaroons with Raspberry Jam Filling for Tea Time

Macarons are difficult to make. Everyone knows it. Therefore I was skeptical when I found this recipe for coconut macarons written by hand in one of my mom’s notebooks. Especially because my mom keeps every recipe she finds attractive or “pretty”, no matter how difficult it is. How pretty can be the Pressed Duck recipe? Well, quite pretty, I’m sure. But is it really possible to make it at home, without the press specially-designed at La Tour d’Argent in the 19th century? I have some doubts. In conclusion she’s an optimist and that’s for sure!

But this time I was wrong, because these coconut macarons are super easy to make and very tasty! I’m sure you’re going to be a hundred per cent satisfied with the result. Moreover, if you’re lactose or gluten intolerant like my friend Paolo, these macarons are the perfect dessert for you, because they don’t contain a drop of milk or any other dairy product. Since they are so light and fancy I have served them for tea time. To exalt the raspberry jam, I have chosen the special blend Black Tea Bulgare by Dammann Frères. This is probably among the best ways to spend a Sunday afternoon in November with your besties. Chit chatting while drinking a cup of tea and eating some cookie: delicious!

Have a look at the amazing Dammann teas and get inspired: www.dammann.fr

 

Coconut Macarons with Raspberry Jam Filling (for about 20 macarons)

2 egg whites

100 gr. granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

50 gr. almond flour

1 pinch sea salt

1 pinch baking soda

200 gr. grated coconut

100 gr. high quality raspberry jam

 

LET’S DO IT! 

First of all, preheat the oven at 150 °C (300°F). Then beat the egg whites while gradually adding the granulated sugar. They should turn into a fluffy and shiny mixture. At this point, gently mix all the other ingredients (not the raspberry jam) into the egg whites, moving your spoon from bottom to top. You will obtain a firm and sticky paste.

Using a teaspoon and your hands, shape about forty little balls the size of a nut and put them on a baking tray with baking paper on it. Cook them for about 10/12 minutes.

Let them cool completely and use some raspberry jam to stick them together. You can now arrange them on a nice dessert tray, with some fresh raspberries and little rose buds. Now you can enjoy the compliments!