chocolate almond caprese cake

The lingering snow and frigid cold blanketing New York and  New Jersey finally started to thaw this weekend. Visible pavement on the sidewalk meant my little dog could complete her daily walk without immediately limping pathetically, paws encrusted with ice pellets and packed snow after a few steps. But today it’s snowing again; another day off for the kids and me one step closer to buying Alpine booties for the pooch.

I actually love it when a serious snowfall forces us to stay home — it  looks quietly beautiful through the windows of a warm house and there’s none of the dropping off, picking up or driving to and fro required on every other day.

It means that I have a few minutes to catch up here on this blog, something that’s been a challenge lately as I still work on getting my family settled into a new home – it’s been an enormous change in my life, to say the least. Nonetheless, there’ve been things percolating in my head foodwise, and as always, anything chocolate is a welcome solace and a motivation to bake something.

I bought a stunning new cookbook, Wild Rosemary & Lemon Cake. It’s a compilation of recipes and gorgeous photography from the Italian Amalfi Coast. Looking at the pages in the dead of winter and imagining myself on a cliffside patio in Positano sipping limoncello has a warming affect on my insides, not to mention my entire well being. [Read more...]

pistachio crumbly cake

pistachio crumbly cake from Modena

My daughter and her friend began to make this cake disappear one afternoon, tearing off pieces with their hands, letting the crumbs fall down to where the dog was waiting, eager to take on the role of floor-polisher.

Whacanacakeshis?”

Although I think my kids should be long past the stage of being wary of nuts in and around their food – they don’t have allergies or anything else to cause worry – they still hesitate before taking a sample of any cake, cookie or other sweet baked thing with clear nut visibility.

pistachio crumbly cake sbrisolona

Apparently this cake seemed appealing despite that slight defect, because half of it was gone before I could reply.

“It’s like a coffee cake…”

“Oh, yeah. I like coffee cake, but this looks kinda flat. Are you sure it’s a coffee cake?”

“It’s an Italian coffee cake, not puffy like the ones you’re used to. You like it?”

“Yahmmmmm…”

This is my take on sbrisolona, Italian crumb cake. Most traditional ones are made with almonds or pine nuts like this one from Mario Batali, but I wanted to use pistachios, so here you go.

It turns out properly crumby, not like a dry cookie but a slightly sticky crumble.

pistachio crumbly cake

pistachio crumbly cake

Yield: one 9-inch cake

This cake is prepared entirely in a food processor before baking. It keeps very well on your kitchen counter for a few days, if it lasts that long.

Ingredients

  1. For streusel:
  2. ½ cup shelled pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
  3. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  4. ¼ cup granulated sugar
  5. 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  6. 2 tablespoons melted butter
  7. For cake:
  8. 1 cup shelled pistachios, toasted
  9. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  10. ¾ cup granulated sugar
  11. 1 teaspoon ground anise seed
  12. ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  13. ½ teaspoon baking powder
  14. 2 eggs
  15. 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  16. ¼ cup melted butter
  17. Grated zest from 1 lemon

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees and lightly brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with olive oil or melted butter.
  2. To make the streusel, stir together all ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Grind the pistachios in a food processor until fine crumbs form; add the flour, sugar, anise seed and baking powder and pulse to combine.
  4. Whisk together the eggs, olive oil, butter and lemon zest until emulsified; add to the flour mixture in the food processor and blend just until the batter is smooth, about 30 seconds.
  5. Spread batter into the pan and top evenly with the streusel. Bake 25 – 30 minutes; the cake should spring back to the touch.
  6. Cool cake on a rack 10 – 15 minutes before removing sides of the pan; allow cake to cool completely.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/05/pistachio-crumbly-cake/

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/