parmesan and black pepper shortbread

parmesan black pepper shortbread cookies

If by some chance you like to have your wine and eat some cookies too, this is a recipe for the file. And if by another chance you could care less about wine but require a sweet treat no matter what, I’m confident you’ll be equally pleased to indulge in one of these.

The savory elements of black pepper and Parmesan are at play here, which makes them a great partner for wine or other adult concoctions. But at the same time these crumbly, buttery cookies are subtly sweet, with a balance of crunch from cornmeal and some sea salt – just as delicious with tea or espresso.

parmesan and black pepper shortbread cookies

To me that equates to a perfect ratio. I love shortbread cookies for the very reason they’re not overly sugary, yet deliver a richness of flavor I find irresistible.

There’s just enough cornmeal for sandy texture, and Parmesan cheese fills the kitchen with a tempting aroma as they bake. The last touch is some lemon-infused sugar sprinkled over the top of the warm shortbread.

parmesan and black pepper shortbread cookies

parmesan, black pepper and cornmeal shortbread

Yield: 12 - 16 cookies

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  2. ½ cup brown rice flour
  3. ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  4. ½ cup stoneground cornmeal
  5. 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  6. 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  7. 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  8. 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  9. 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  10. 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Sift both flours and the salt over a medium bowl; use a whisk to stir in the cornmeal, cheese and pepper.
  3. Pulse the butter and confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until creamy; add the flour mixture and pulse just until a soft dough forms (about 30 seconds).
  4. Pat the dough in an even layer into a 9-inch square or round tart pan with a removable bottom.
  5. Bake 35 – 40 minutes, or until the top is very lightly golden and the dough feels set when pressed gently. Stir together the granulated sugar and lemon zest and sprinkle over the top of the shortbread as soon as it comes out of the oven.
  6. Cool the pan on a rack 10 minutes, then unmold the shortbread and cool 10 more minutes. While it’s still warm, cut the shortbread with a large, sharp knife into 16 squares or 12 wedges.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/04/parmesan-and-black-pepper-shortbread/

venetian chocolate walnut cake

venetian chocolate walnut cake

I believe with my whole heart in the act of cooking; in its smells, in its sounds, in its observable progress on the fire. – Marcella Hazan

Here’s a simple, rustic cake, right at home presented on a plain old cutting board, dolled up with nothing more than a lavish dusting of cocoa (powdered sugar would do just as well).

The basis of this recipe comes from Marcella Hazan’s masterpiece, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, a book I tote around with me like a cherished friend. And now I realize that it is just that.

venetian chocolate walnut cake

I bought my copy at the Strand Bookstore in New York City, just about twenty years ago when I was teaching myself to cook, and I still have it. On those days when I feel slightly uncentered and overwhelmed, Marcella’s words and recipes help me feel grounded again.

I only have to read the recipe title for Roast Chicken with Two Lemons (a version of that chicken appeared here as Marry Me Roast Chicken) to be reminded that no matter how discouraging a day seems, a person can always replenish the soul by making something simple and delicious to eat.

venetian chocolate walnut cake

Marcella’s recipe uses almonds, but I was craving walnuts and needed to make a dent in what seems to be a stockpile of them in my freezer (I must have been a squirrel in another lifetime). I also added a bit of chocolate (just because).

I love this cake, and I hope you will, too. It’s light, moist, rich, not too sweet…making it one of a few desserts that can be savored along with the last drops of red wine – or better yet, a glass of nocino - after dinner.

venetian chocolate walnut cake

Yield: one 8 inch cake

Marcella writes in the headnote to the original recipe that almonds are “ by a wide margin the most favored nut in Italian cakes, particularly in the Veneto...” but I think walnuts are a wonderful substitute.

Ingredients

  1. 1 ¾ cups shelled walnuts
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 3 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  4. Grated zest of one lemon or orange
  5. 8 egg whites
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  7. ½ cup all-purpose flour or brown rice flour
  8. 1 tablespoon nocino (Italian walnut liqueur) or brandy
  9. Unsweetened cocoa powder and/or softly whipped cream for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the sides of an 8-inch springform pan with olive oil or softened butter and line the bottom with a piece of parchment.
  2. Put the walnuts and sugar in a food processor and grind until fine crumbs form; add the chocolate and zest and pulse a few times to chop the chocolate into small chips.
  3. Whip the egg whites and salt in a mixer with the whisk attachment until they form stiff peaks.
  4. Sift the flour over the egg whites and fold it in gently. Add the walnut mixture in 2 or 3 additions and fold it in carefully (the volume will decrease slightly); stir in the nocino or brandy.
  5. Transfer the batter to the pan. Bake on the middle oven rack 30 – 35 minutes, until the cake is puffed and a toothpick inserted in the middle emerges without crumbs but with a little melted chocolate.
  6. Cool in the pan 10 minutes before releasing the sides of the pan; invert onto a rack, remove the parchment paper. Turn the cake right side up and cool completely.
  7. Sift cocoa powder over the cake before slicing and serving, with a side of whipped cream of you like.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/venetian-chocolate-walnut-cake/

italian cherry doughnuts

bomboloni - italian cherry and cream doughnuts

Bom-bo-LONI: It’s a fantastic combination of vowels and consonants, don’t you think? Not only do I love to roll the sound of the word around, I’m once again wandering into deep-frying territory with these crazy-good Italian filled doughnuts.

I won’t lie; going to the trouble of deep-fat frying combined with having to mess with a piping bag lies right outside my comfort zone of carefree cooking, and right up next to pain-in-the-culo.

I brainstorm and then procrastinate ideas for a small mobile business (more than a few have taken my gelato truck and driven away with it)…why not a Bombolini Bus? Or maybe something more bricks and mortar; like The Bombolini Bar – a hole-in-the-wall serving up fresh, hot doughnut holes alongside cold glasses of pink Prosecco.

italian cherry jam and cream filled doughnuts

It doesn’t seem likely I’ll be doing that anytime soon, but if you do, please invite me to your grand opening.

In the meantime, I have to admit it was worth the effort to make homemade doughnuts. My kids really had no idea, no benchmark, for fresh, real doughnuts in a landscape saturated with drive-through junk.

bomboloni: italian cherry doughnuts

If you take the doughnut plunge, definitely plan to make these when there are enough people around to devour them right as they’re done. Although they are nicely, manageably bite-sized, that also translates into all the more easy to make disappear.

I “tested” a good half dozen bomboloni before I realized I would be depleting the entire output of the recipe if I kept going. So you’ve been warned.

bomboloni: italian cherry jam and pastry cream doughnuts

bomboloni: italian cherry doughnuts

Yield: about 3 dozen small doughnuts

If using cherry preserves, mash or puree to remove pieces of fruit that may clog the pastry tip.

The bomboloni are wonderful plain too, if you don't want to go the trouble of filling them. Another option - split them in half and spoon over preserves or filling of your choice.

Ingredients

  1. 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  2. 3/4 cup lukewarm milk (heat in microwave)
  3. 3 cups flour
  4. 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  5. 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
  6. ¼ cup softened butter
  7. ¾ cup granulated sugar, plus more for coating
  8. 2 eggs
  9. 4 – 6 cups neutral tasting olive oil or other vegetable oil
  10. 1 cup cherry preserves and/or 1 cup pastry cream (recipe below)

Instructions

  1. Dissolve the yeast with the milk in a medium bowl; stir in 1 cup of the flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it proof until bubbly, about 1 hour.
  2. Whisk together the remaining flour with the salt and nutmeg in a bowl.
  3. Beat the butter in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment until creamy, about 30 seconds; add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at time, until blended.
  4. Add the yeast mixture along with the flour mixture. Mix on medium speed until the flour is incorporated and a soft dough that pulls away from the side of the bowl forms, 2 or 3 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered bowl, cover and leave at room temperature 1 hour. (The dough can also be refrigerated up to one day ahead of frying at this point – leave out for one hour before proceeding.
  5. Place the dough on a floured surface and pat or roll it out ½-inch thick. Cut out circles using a 1 ½ - 2-inch diameter biscuit cutter; arrange the doughnuts on a baking sheet, lightly cover with a towel and let them rise for an hour.
  6. Pour oil to a depth of 4 inches in a heavy pot or saucepan (I used a 3-quart All Clad) and heat to 350 degrees.
  7. Drop the doughnuts into the oil 3 or 4 at a time. Fry until puffed and golden all over, turning once. Remove the doughnuts as they’re done and immediately roll them in sugar, then onto a rack to cool.
  8. Put the jam and/or pastry cream in a piping bag or a sealable plastic bag fitted with a plain pastry tip. Gently poke a hole into each doughnut with a wide skewer (or use the pastry tip) and fill each bomboloni. Serve freshly made.

Notes

*To make pastry cream, heat 1 ½ cups whole milk and a vanilla bean broken in half, until it comes to a boil. Whisk 4 egg yolks, 1/3 cup sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl until thickened; sift over ¼ cup flour and stir it in. Scoop out a few tablespoons of the boiling milk and whisk into the eggs; then pour the eggs into the milk. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the cream is thickened to the texture of mayonnaise. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon butter. Strain into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until cold. Stir in some heavy cream to thin before piping, if needed.

http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/italian-cherry-doughnuts/