Toasted Walnut Taralli

Last spring I attended the 32nd annual IACP conference that took place in Portland, Oregon – whew, was it really that long ago already?

I knew that my life has been busy, but it really hits home when I think of these taralli. During the conference, I came across a booth set up by the California Walnut Board, where Portland chef Greg Higgins was generously handing out tastes of these crunchy little snacks. He was also generous about sharing the recipe, but I haven’t gotten around to making them until now.

I saw their appeal right away – they were an updated version of a savory Southern Italian biscuit I grew up eating, only these were made with walnuts and had a definite West coast sophistication.

Greg had them arranged on a tray, adorned with a rosette of roasted garlic chevre and tiny little basil leaves; seeing them made me rethink what I always saw as a humble snack that you took home in an olive-oil stained brown paper bag straight from the corner bakery.

But instead of being piled casually on a plate at my grandma’s house, these taralli looked like they were ready for a cocktail party in San Francisco.

Greg’s original recipe, including the delicious Roasted Garlic Chevre spread is on the California Walnut website, but my tweaked version is below. I substituted some whole wheat flour for half the amount of all-purpose and added fennel seeds, which gives the taralli a flavor that reminds me of home.

Toasted Walnut Taralli

Yield: about 5 dozen

Ingredients

  1. 4 teaspoons instant yeast
  2. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  3. 2 cups stoneground whole wheat flour
  4. 1 cup finely ground toasted walnuts* (grind in food processor)
  5. 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  6. 2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds
  7. 2 cups water
  8. 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing on taralli

Instructions

  1. Using the kneading attachment, stir together the yeast, flours, walnuts, salt and fennel seeds.
  2. Add 1 cup of the water and mix at medium-high speed until the dough starts to come together. Slowly add more water as necessary (turning down the mixer speed as you do so) until you have a smooth, moist dough. It shouldn't be too wet or sticky, so keep your eyes peeled. Depending on the humidity and your flour, you might need a bit less water.
  3. Put the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover and let stand until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 3 or 4 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Punch the dough to deflate and turn it out onto a sparingly floured surface. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.
  5. Working with one piece at a time, cut each into balls about the size of a walnut. Roll and stretch each ball using your palms into ropes about 6 " long. Bring the ends of the rope together to make a ring, tucking one end inside the other and pinching together.
  6. Arrange the rings on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between. Brush the rings with oil and bake until golden and firm, about 30 minutes.
  7. Remove to a rack and cool. The taralli will crisp up more as they cool. Store at room temperature in covered container.

Notes

You could mix this up in large bowl and knead by hand, but I used my Kitchen Aid Mixer.

http://familystylefood.com/2011/01/toasted-walnut-taralli/

Strawberry and Cream Trifle

When a gorgeous slice of cake appears in front of you, tall and gloriously layered, which part is your fork most attracted to?

Much like preferring certain parts of a chicken over others – I’m a thigh girl, in case you’re wondering – I’ve noticed how people like to eat their cake. Some people avoid extraneous fluff, frosting or filling and zero in on their prize: the cake; while others are happy to precisely scrape away and devour only the layers of icing, leaving naked, golden cake all alone on the plate, like Beyoncè after she’s stripped off a pink satin dress at the end of the day.

It must be a trait we carry throughout our lifetime, because it’s not only children who seem to have this compulsion. I know a few adults who would gladly mutilate a harmless cake just to get at the neon-colored icing.

I place myself in the democratic camp; I get some of everything when I dig in to dessert; a bite of moist cake, the crush of sweet juicy fruit, and a lashing of vanilla-scented cream. That’s why I think trifle is such a perfect dessert: It’s cake deconstructed and put back together.

For this trifle recipe, I baked a sponge cake from pastry chef David Lebovitz’s new book Ready for Dessert. It’s super-easy to make and even better made ahead of time – like the day before assembling the trifle. But to keep things extra-simple, a store-bought angel food cake would work just as well.

And – ssshhh – maybe even better, since you can take credit for serving a simply stunning dessert for Mother’s Day (or any day) without having to turn on the oven.

Strawberry and Cream Trifle

Serving Size: serves 4

Ingredients

    For sponge cake:
  1. 5 large eggs, separated
  2. ¼ cup cold water
  3. 1 cup sugar
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  5. 1 ½ cups cake flour, sifted
  6. ½ teaspoon baking powder
  7. ¼ teaspoon salt
  8. Grated zest of a lemon or orange
  9. For Trifle:
  10. ¾ cup sugar
  11. 2 cups crème fraiche
  12. 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  13. 1 vanilla bean, split with sharp knife and seeds scraped
  14. Juice from one large lemon or orange
  15. 4 cups mixed hulled and sliced strawberries and raspberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter the bottom of a rimmed 12 x 18-inch baking sheet or a 9-inch springform pan with sides at least 2 inches high. Line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the egg yolks and water on high speed for 1 minute. Decrease speed to medium, add sugar and vanilla then increase speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture forms a ribbon when the whip is lifted, about 5 minutes. Scrape the batter into another bowl, and wash the bowl and beater.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt over the beaten yolks. Gently fold in the flour until completely incorporated.
  4. Whip the egg whites and zest in the clean bowl on high speed until they form stiff peaks. Fold one-third of the whites into the yolk batter to lighten, then fold in the remaining whites.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Bake until the cake is lightly browned and the center springs back when gently pressed, 15 – 18 minutes in a baking sheet or 40 – 45 minutes in a springform cake pan.
  6. Let cake cool in the pan. Run a knife around the sides of cake to loosen and invert onto a cutting board.
  7. Whisk ½ cup sugar with the crème fraiche, cream and vanilla bean seeds in a medium bowl until smooth.
  8. In another bowl, whisk the remaining ¼ cup sugar with lemon or orange juice to dissolve. Gently stir in the berries. Let the berries sit 10 minutes.
  9. To assemble the trifle, cut the cake into circles to fit into 4 wide, shallow glasses. You can use ramekins, dessert bowls or go all out and use a special trifle bowl if you have one, just cut the cake into pieces to fit.
  10. Layer cake, berries and cream into whatever serving container you’re using, ending with berries on top. Refrigerate 30 minutes to one hour before serving.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/05/strawberry-and-cream-trifle/

popovers with black pepper, chives & parmesan

FamilyStyle Food

Last week I attended a conference for food professionals {IACP} in Portland, one of my very favorite cities for eating and living well. What a great experience – with so many people representing a huge array of expertise in the field of food and cooking, the exchange of information is amazing and energizing; I love that we all have something to learn from each other.

I found myself sitting next to pastry chef Cindy Mushet during one session. Cindy is the author of  the award-winning The Art & Soul of Baking, a big door stopper of a book. I have to admit it’s not one I invite into bed with me since it must weigh in at more than five pounds, way too unwieldy to perch on my teetering pile on the bedside table.

But the other day I needed to get busy baking something, so I flipped through it; there’s lots to learn in there, the book is full of beautiful photos and basic techniques as well as some advanced recipe variations for more adventerous bakers.

I wasn’t feeling like spending the whole day baking, so when I saw a recipe for Parmesan Herb popovers I was all in. Popovers are the best at delivering bang for the buck; minimal ingredients, time and technique but big on the “wow” factor.

FamilyStyle Food

They are also delicious. Warm out of the oven and popped into your mouth they have a crisp exterior and a soft, almost creamy interior. Popovers are commonly sweet, but I like the idea of savory ones to serve instead of  the usual rolls or bread for a dinner party. Popovers are so easy to make at the last minute, and you can flavor them however you like.

I took Cindy’s basic recipe and tweaked it by adding freshly cracked black pepper, lemon zest and some of the chives that are blooming in big clumps in my yard right now.

While my popovers rose impressively, I noticed when I cut one open that they weren’t hollow inside as popovers typically are, but had a more substance. I might have to make another batch to practice my baking science, since I’m not sure why that happened. Did I use too much flour? Don’t know, but they were still light and delicious to eat.

Popovers with Black Pepper, Chives & Parmesan

Yield: 12 popovers

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups milk
  2. 4 eggs
  3. 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  4. 2 scant cups flour (10 ounces)
  5. 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  6. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  7. 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  8. 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  9. 1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Lightly coat a 12-cup popover pan or muffin tin with melted butter or oil.
  3. Whisk together the milk, eggs and butter in a large bowl until blended. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  4. Place the empty pan in the oven to heat for 7 minutes. Carefully remove from the oven and fill the cups evenly with the batter (this is less messy if you transfer batter to a 4 cup liquid measuring cup).
  5. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking until the popovers are deep golden brown, 15 - 18 more minutes.
  6. Cool briefly in the pan before removing and serving. You can reheat cooled popovers in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/05/popovers-with-black-pepper-chives-parmesan/