Category Archives: Desserts/Dolci, Sweets and Baking

PUTIZA, from La Cucina Tipica Triestina

One of my readers has asked for this recipe and because she does not seem to be very familiar with the English language, I am providing a screen shot of the recipe from one of my books about La Cucina Triestina.

Trieste, Ponte Rosso

It is from this book:

The recipe is for Putiza. It is described as a Panettone ripieno (filled).

Putiza is called Potica in Slovenia.

It is a delicious, rich, yeast bread dough stuffed with walnuts, chocolate, pine nuts and  sultanas soaked in rum. It can be made at home, but is easily found in many pastry shops especially during Easter and Christmas.

There are no photos in the book, but this is what it looks like:

See also:

PRESNIZ and GUBANA (Easter cakes in Trieste)

Traditional Easter Sweets in Trieste in Friuli Venezia Giulia

In memory of Zia Licia, my aunt from Trieste – recipe for Fritole

My last surviving aunt, Zia Licia, died last week. She died in Adelaide and the funeral was a couple of days ago, but because I live in Melbourne I was unable to attend.

I was visiting friends in Pambula, on the south coast of NSW when my brother rang  last week to give me the news about Zia’s death and since her death, I have been remembering many things.

Zia Licia was from Trieste and was married to my mother’s brother, Pippo.

My mother’s family moved to Trieste from Catania, Sicily, when my mother was five years old.  She lived in Trieste till my father, mother and I come to Australia. I was eight years old but my memories remain strong.

I consider myself very lucky to have roots in Trieste, Sicily and Australia.

Just like my Sicilian aunts, Zia Licia liked to cook.

 

 

When we came to Adelaide we shared a house for a while with my  Zia Licia and her husband, Zio Pippo.

My mum did not cook much in Trieste, my parents went out to eat or  Zia Renata, my other aunt in Trieste would often cook.

When we came to Australia, mum and Zia Licia cooked together. It was a form of entertainment… what else could you do in a new country when things were so different? Of course my uncle also enjoyed cooking and because he worked on weekdays, he joined in on weekends. There were the three of them on a Sunday morning cooking up new things for the guests we often invited for Sunday lunch.  Those lunches were special, and I was required to help in the kitchen.

Maybe that is where my love of cooking comes from?

My Zia Licia had a good sense of humour and a way of laughing that brought fun into any situation; as expected we all  laughed a lot during these cooking sessions.

One of the very first things that I can remember really enjoying  was the making of Fritole (Frittole in Italian, from fritto, fried).

So what are they?

Fritole are fragrant  and flavourful balls of sweet dough. Once fried they are  coated in granulated sugar (and cinnamon, optional); the spoonfuls of batter were once most likely fried in lard but in recent years, olive oil.  Some may use vegetable oil but I think that olive oil has a special fragrance that enhances the taste of Fritole.

The batter is made with flour, yeast, milk, eggs, sugar, lemon zest,  raisins or sultanas soaked in sufficient dark rum (sometimes in grappa) to rehydrate the raisins. In most recipes  pine nuts are also added, but not always.

Frìtole are also a well established sweet in Venezia, especially during  the Carnevale. The Venice Carnivale takes place each year in February. It begins around two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on Shrove Tuesday, also known as Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French or Martedi Grasso in Italian).

Trieste and Venice are neighbours, so sharing this recipe is not surprising, but in Trieste Fritole are popular at Christmas time. Bakeries, pastry shops and Christmas street markets all have Fritole and they are also made at home.

We had no recipe for Fritole, so we relied heavily on Zia Licia’s memory of making Fritole because Zia  would have helped her mother make them in her Triestinian kitchen. Having eaten them very frequently in Trieste we also relied on our collective memories of how Fritole should look, taste, smell and feel…and always eaten warm and fragrant – so important when it comes to reproducing recipes.

I cannot remember how the adults felt about the Fritole, but I remember enjoying them very much as a child.

In those days we did not add pine nuts to our Fritole; we had no access to them and it was a nut not familiar in Australia at that time.

I found various recipes for Fritole in the large number of books about the cooking of Trieste (in Friuli Venezia Giulia) and in the Veneto regions of northern Italy and  the recipe below is probably  the closest to what we would have made. The instructions in the ancient Italian recipe I’ve chosen, are not very specific because it is assumed that cooks would know what steps to follow, so I  will spell them out.

Ingredients: 3eggs, 30g fresh yeast, 400g plain flour, cinnamon, milk, 50g sugar, lemon peel (grated), rum, 50g raisins (or sultanas), 40g pine nuts.

To the above, add a little salt to the batter. If you wish to use dry yeast, 10g should be sufficient. As for the milk , you will need at least 2 cups, but maybe more – the mixture should be like a thick batter.

Place the raisins or sultanas in a small bowl and pour some dark rum or grappa over them (to cover). Set aside for a few hours or overnight.

Place about a cup of warm milk in a mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Mix well to incorporate the yeast into the milk. Add about half of the flour and mix it in gently. Cover the bowl with a cloth and set aside to rest for half an hour. The mixture will bubble as the yeast activates.

Drain the raisins or sultanas and reserve any rum in a small bowl. Toss them around in a little flour to coat lightly; this will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the Fritole as they fry.

When the yeast mixture has risen, use a wooden spoon or spatula to incorporate all the ingredients  – the remaining flour, raisins sugar,  egg, lemon zest, rum and pine nuts (if using).  Add more warm milk as necessary to ensure that the mixture is like a thick batter. Cover the bowl with cloth again and set aside in a warm and draft-free area for at least 30-45 minutes to rest – it should double in size and the batter should be bubbly and airy.

Use a heavy-bottomed pot to heat sufficient oil (for the batter to swim/float in). The oil needs to be hot. Use a spoon to carefully drop the batter into the hot oil. It is better to fry a few Fritole at the time and not overcrowd them in the pan.

Once fried, drain the Fritole  with a slotted spoon or tongs and place them on paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Roll them in sugar and cinnamon.

In the last few days I  have  found myself bursting into old Triestinian songs…like Le Ragazze di Trieste and Trieste Mia. I will need to stop myself otherwise i will drive my partner mad!

I have returned to Trieste on many occasions and the photos  of Trieste have been taken over a number of years .

 

 

 

 

BUDINO made of chocolate and Autumn fruit

It all started with my purchases at the Queen Victoria Market and the fabulous autumn fruit.

I love persimmons.

I also bought, feijoas, rhubarbpomegranates and quinces. And then I saw some small pears and bought them too.

Friends were coming to dinner and I was unsure about what to make as a dessert.

I thought about making a fresh autumn fruit salad with walnuts, a persimmon crumble or the always a favourite, baked quinces. I then thought that the pears  could be added towards the end of the baking of the quinces .

A chocolate budino rather than a chocolate sauce would go particularly well with the pears.

 

Budino

In 1957 when I came to Australia with my parents my mother used to make budino for dessert. Unlike my Australian friends who had some form of dessert every night (even if it was tinned fruit and ideal milk instead of cream), my Italian family finished off a meal with fresh fruit.

My father would have his small pairing knife and peel fruit for our little family. Desserts were for special occasions and Sunday lunch was considered special, even when we did not have guests.

Although the English translation for budino is pudding, it is nothing like any form of  English pudding, whether steamed or baked.

Basically, budino is a thick custard, cooked on the stove and then allowed to set. We had no moulds, so my mother used to use a clear glass bowl. Our budino was two tone. She made two budini mixtures, one was vanilla and the other was chocolate. The slightly cooled vanilla budino was poured into the glass bowl first and once it was well on the way to setting it was topped with the slightly cooled chocolate budino. Sometimes she even managed to make some swirls. Later she started making apple strudel – Strucolo de pomi – rather than budino for guests.

When we lived in Trieste, if we were eating at home or had guests we always purchased pastries, as did my Sicilian relatives, but in Australia, we did not have access to the same range of pastry shops (we lived in Adelaide). Over time my mother taught herself how to make sweets of a higher standard and budino disappeared from her repertoire.

The budino as prepared by my mother was made of milk, corn flour, sugar, vanilla essence, butter or cream (to enrich it), and egg yolks. A bit like crème anglaise. Most of the recipes for budino do not include egg(s) and unlike many recipes for budino she did not heat the milk before making the custard. It all commenced in a thick bottom saucepan with cold ingredients.

It is dead easy to make and it tastes great.

The cream and butter enrich the budino and if you prefer a leaner version use  less of each or just one.

Chocolate version of budino

3 cups pf whole milk and 1 cup of cream (4 cups = 1 litre)
2 tablespoons of butter, if using unsalted add a pinch of salt
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/4 cup corn flour
1-2 egg yolks
150g + dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (add more if you want a stronger taste)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In the saucepan, mix the egg yolk(s), sugar, corn starch and cocoa. Add a little milk and stir to make a paste. Pour in the milk, vanilla and cream and continue to mix, trying to prevent any lumps.

Place the pan with the ingredients on the stove and over medium-low heat keep on stirring until the mixture is thick like custard. Add the butter towards the end.

When it begins to cool, place in the bits of chocolate and stir gently. Some of it will melt into the budino.  if you would like to taste firm chocolate, wait until the budino is cooler before you add the chocolate.

Pour into a mould  (or bowl) and when the mixture is cool, cover it and place it in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, until completely chilled. If you do not want a skin to form on top, use some baking paper or butter wrapper and cover the surface.

Sometimes I pour the budino into  individual small serving bowls or cups or glasses as I do with a mousse. If you are using a mould, the budino can be turned out onto a plate as I would do with a jelly.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Although budino was always presented plain in my childhood, berries and baked fruit is always a good accompaniment.

It keeps well for a few days.

Above, budino with poached rhubarb and apples. Below, with baked pear.

 

BIANCOMANGIARE and GELO

In Sicily, they make Biancomangiare (Blancmange).

it is also called Gelo. This too  is thickened on the stove and set like a budino. It is simpler to make and much less rich.

AUTUMN FRUIT and baked quinces

A Tale about QUINCES

GELO DI MELONE (Jellied watermelon)

CARRUBA (Carob) and its uses

 

CASSATA Explained with photos

I have written about  making cassata many times and rewriting the recipe is not necessary so I will provide links at the bottom of this post.

I did take a few photos. The photos and a few notes tell the story.

Make or buy a sponge cake.

Slice the sponge and line the mould with the sponge cake. It helps to line the mould with some foil  to ensure that the cassata can be inverted easily. You may also like to use a little apricot jam to stick the different parts of the sponge together. I did not have any apricot jam and I used marmalade… not too much, it should not taste bitter. Honey could be OK too.

Tub ricotta is not very good, both in taste and texture. Buy full cream ricotta from a good deli.

Beat the ricotta with some cream, castor sugar and good vanilla essence. The amount of cream you use will depend on the creaminess of your ricotta. I do not like my cassata sweet and may not add as much castor sugar as someone else would. Taste the mixture and see if it tastes to your liking, then add chopped  pistachio nuts,  citrus peel including some cedro.

Next some cinnamon  powder and some chopped dark chocolate. Fold through.

Dampen the sponge cake with some liqueur, some use marsala, I like an orange based  liqueur and mostly use Cointreau, but do not make it soggy.  Most cooks dilute the liqueur with sugar and water. I do not – give me the full  taste anytime.

Fill the ricotta cream into the mould lined with sponge cake.

Put a slice of the sponge cake on top as a lid. Dampen it with liqueur, cover it with foil and put a weight on top. Keep it in the fridge till ready to decorate. I like to make the cassata  the day before I decorate it and eat it.

Marzipan. Make it the day before and keep it wrapped in foil or baking paper or whatever you use :

As you can see I use  much more almond meal than icing sugar. Mix it with a little water and a little vanilla and knead it to bring it together. Like when baking dough, add more almond meal or icing sugar to make it the correct consistency.

Most cassate are coated with ‘glassa’ made of sugar and water. I find this sickly sweet and prefer the old fashion marzipan. Traditionally the more commonly decorated cassate include a pale green colour. This may have been because the green may have been made with pistachio meal and the white with almond meal. Some people do not like eating marzipan so  do not be surprised if you find some guests struggling to eat it.

I made two lots. of marzipan. The green vegetable dye was far too intense., but i was not going to throw the ingredients away. next time i shall use a dropper.

Roll the marzipan out… rolling it between two pieces of greaseproof paper may help.

Ready to decorate.

I really enjoyed this part, however the way I decorated my cassata may not be like the cassate you are likely to see in Sicily.  Most people buy cassate from pastry shops, they leave it to the experts. This is also the case for cannoli.

My cassata  over all is definitely less sweet. I used every bit of the marzipan. I used toothpicks to keep the flowers in place.

Sicilian cassata coated with  a shiny ‘glassa’ is the most common cassata. Usually glace fruit is used to decorate the top.

Ornate cassate: in noteworthy pasticcerie.

 

I decorate cassate as the mood takes me. Thesa are some cassate I have made in the past:

For greater details and recipes see:

SICILIAN CASSATA and some background (perfect for an Australian Christmas)

SICILIAN CASSATA and MARZIPAN AT EASTER (Food and Culture in Sicily, La Trobe University)

CASSATA (It is perfect for an Australian Christmas)

CASSATA ( Post no. 2) Calls for a celebration!!!

 

Marmellata di cigliege (Cherry jam) and Zuppa Inglese

When your partner comes home from the market with an abundance of cherries, pick out the best looking ones to place on the table (the glossy ones that have fresh green stems) and make jam with the rest of them.

And the jam turned out very well, so good in fact that I used some of the cherries as a topping for a Zuppa Inglese, an iconic Italian dessert. I will also use the jam as a topping for ice cream or to make ice cream.

The cherries: remove the stems and wash them. cut out any blemishes.

Weigh the cherries.

Place the cherries in a heavy based saucepan.

Use a potato masher to crush about 2/3 of the cherries to release their juices. Add the zest and juice of 1 lemon to the potand place over low heat ( I had about 500g of cherries, add more lemon  and zest if you have greater amounts). Cook them on low to medium heat until the cherries are tender

If you look at recipes for making cherry jams, most  advice is to use equal amount of sugar to the weight of the fruit.  Commercial jams may use even a greater ratio of sugar to the fruit. I like to use less sugar – which is usually half the quantity of fruit. If I have 500g of fruit I add 250g of sugar.

Add the sugar and cook on moderate heat, stirring, for  about 20 minutes (or longer) until sugar dissolves and you have a jam like consistency…. test the setting point by placing a little jam  on a saucer that has been in the freezer .

Remove the jam from the heat and set aside for 10 -15 minutes.

Choose glass jars with an airtight lids  and sterilize them. There are different ways to do this but I usually do this by pouring boiling water in them and submerging lids in boiling water. Washing them in a dishwasher is also effective but you will need to coordinate the time of cooking the jam and the wash cycle.

Ladle hot jam into jars; I always use jars when they are still hot.

And here is the Zuppa Inglese with the cherries on top.

Zuppa Inglese is one of the easiest and most decadent desserts to make BUT without Alchermes liqueur it cannot be Zuppa Inglese.

Alchermes is a Florentine ancient liqueur, red in colour and specifically used for making certain desserts.

In the photo above you see savoiardi (sponge fingers), egg custard and Alchermes.

The Zuppa Inglese is layered, just like a trifle – biscuits soaked in Alchermes, custard, biscuits… 3 layers.

Top with  a layer of whipped cream (with a little caster sugar and vanilla = Chantilly cream)… and the cherries.

See more detailed recipes for:

ZUPPA INGLESE, a famous, Italian dessert

LONG LIVE ZUPPA INGLESE and its sisters

ALCHERMES/ALKERMES (The liqueur used to make Zuppa Inglese)

A special Birthday menu for my friend, in the cloud

It is one of my friend’s birthday today and I am wishing him well, there in the cloud. I have cooked him some of his favourite food.

I hope that he will enjoy the homemade pappardelle dressed with a duck ragù.

I

I was not able to buy him boar (cinghiale) or hare (lepre) as you can in Greve from that butcher who has a stuffed boar in front of his Macelleria. But I know that he is quite fond of duck; he will be just as pleased.

I have kept some of the dough from the pasta to fry and make into crostoli.  I will sprinkle them with caster sugar. We can crunch on these later.

Now he’s no longer unwell, he can once again enjoy the Barolo and the Amarone I have selected for this occasion. I know that he is fond of Sicily and I have a bottle of Nero d’Avola. Perhaps we could have a little of this with our cheese?  We will try to drink in moderation. I can return the wines from the decanters to bottles and put stoppers in them…I will be happy to drink them tomorrow.

I was able to find some early spring produce and I have stuffed some zucchini flowers with some stracchino, rather than the ricotta I usually use,  a little egg with a few fresh breadcrumbs to bind the stuffing, and some fresh marjoram ... not chervil, I am afraid, as it is not in season, this being  his favourite herb.  He particularly liked it on scrambled eggs.

I almost forgot!  I was able to order a great bottle of Riesling from the Barossa. Peter Lehman’s son – David Franz – Makes it. I love his wine and I am very fond of David’s colourful labels. I think my friend shared a bottle of this wine when I last saw him. This will be a perfect accompaniment for the zucchini flowers.

I have a bottle of Cynar for when he arrives and a little Averna for those who wish, right at the very end. 

There will be no second course, the pasta will be enough. The ragù smells fabulous and will be quite rich. Perhaps a little Mâche , or matovilc as we called it in Trieste…. lamb’s lettuce for others.  I can add some thinly sliced fennel too – this could be the palate cleanser before the dessert.

My friend does like a good Zuppa Inglese. I think that it’s the savoiardi soaked with Alchermes that he likes, although the delicate egg custard is also a winner. He will understand that I was unable to get the gooseberries or the greengage plums that he is so fond of. They are out of season. My friend was able to buy these for a very limited time of they year from one stall in the Adelaide Market. Gosh, that was a few years ago! The stall holder was a gentle and kind Sicilian man who used to grow most of his produce. I will never forget when the stall holder found out who my father was, he almost hugged me. My dad was liked by so many people my friend was popular too, and liked a chat or two. 

Idid find some Josephine pears at the Queen Victoria Market today, so I have purchased some to present with some cheeses I selected ripe, juicy pears, just as he likes them. He always expressed his dissatisfaction about fruit that was picked too green.

I have not forgotten the cheese to go with the pears. He is fond of a little cheese. Walnuts too. He likes to crack his own. I know he quite likes a little aged Parmesan with pears and I was also able to buy a good selection of  Italian and French Cheeses, some are quite smelly and I had to put them out on my balcony overnight.


Bob has baked some bread, my friend prefers to eat cheese with bread. I do too,  perhaps I learnt this from him.

So my friend, up in the cloud, I hope you enjoy what I have prepared for you. Happy Birthday from all of us, here below. We all remember you fondly and miss you.

PAPPARDELLE (Pasta with Hare or game ragù)

ZUPPA INGLESE, a famous, Italian dessert

STUFFED ZUCCHINI FLOWERS 

SALAD GREEN: matovilc, also called lamb’s lettuce and mâche

ALCHERMES/ALKERMES (The liqueur used to make Zuppa Inglese)

LONG LIVE ZUPPA INGLESE and its sisters

Savarin and citrus flavoured liqueurs

Once upon a time, about 20 years ago when people had dinner parties and cooked for days to prepare a four -five course meal,  I sometimes used to make Savarins, 2-3 per time and I kept them in the freezer till I was ready to use them. Savarins took care of the dessert component for different guests on different occasions.

The dough is easy to make.

Savarins and Baba au rhum (as called by the French) are made of the same dough – a rich yeast cake or sponge made with eggs, flour, milk and butter saturated in syrup made with alcohol, usually rum, and sometimes filled with pastry cream.

A Savarin is a bigger version of a baba au rhum, and it is baked in a ring mold (with a hole in the centre) instead of a dariole mold and like a baba,  it is soaked in rum syrup .

Although the traditional alcohol to use is rum, there is no reason why other alcohol and liqueurs cannot be used. For example, you could have a good time matching fruit with various  types of alcohol:

Citrus flavoured liqueurs , e.g.  Cointreau,  Grand Manier,  Curacao, Mandarino,   Limoncello , Strega and Galliano  with citrus fruit,

Armagnac with prunes,

Maraschino with cherries,

Bacardi with berries,

Southern Comfort with peaches,

Apricot brandy with apricots etc.

I have three different sized Savarin tins and on this occasion I used the smallest tin:

Placed in the hole in the centre of the Savarin could be one or more of the following: pastry cream, Chantilly creme,  poached or fresh fruit.

Raisins, sultanas or currants may be included in the dough.

I decided to soak my Savarin with Cointreau a French liqueur with flavours of of sweet and bitter orange peel.

I poached mandarin segments in some sugar syrup –  2  cups  water and caster sugar.  I used less  than 1 cup, but this depends on how sweet you wish to have the syrup and traditionally  the ratio can be 3 cups of water to 2 cups of sugar.  Use a little vanilla too –  I keep my caster sugar in a large jar with plenty of vanilla pods.

I drained the mandarins from the syrup, added 1 cup Cointreau and used this to soak the Savarin. 

This amount of syrup was sufficient for the size of my Savarin.  I used the smallest Savarin tin I have =18cm, see photo above.

I kept the Savarin in the tin until i was ready to use it,  pricked it all over with a skewer and then added the hot syrup slowly – the Savarin needs to be saturated with the syrup.

Turned it out on a plate.

I  warmed a little apricot jam with a tiny bit of Cointreau and glazed   the dough. then filled the hole with pastry cream and decorated it with the mandarin segments.

See recipe and information about Baba and Savarins:

Babà al rum, Baba au rhum, Rum Baba and Savarin ; facts and legends

The baked Savarin dough, kept in the mold (baking tin) keeps well  in the freezer.

we all have our own way to store foods in our freezers. If you wish not to use plastic, wrap it tightly in a tea towel or in a couple of layers of  paper and then place it in a re-purposed plastic bag or glass or metal container (with a nice snug fit) and keep it in the freezer until ready to use it.

Babà al rum, Baba au rhum, Rum Baba and Savarin – facts and legends

 Go to Naples and eat Babà al rum. Neapolitans will claim them as their own.  But are they?

While I was looking for my Moulinex, a seldom used appliance in my top cupboard, I found other infrequently used appliances, like Baba and Savarin molds.

A Baba au rhum (as called by the French) is a rich yeast cake or sponge made with eggs, flour, milk and butter saturated in syrup made with alcohol, usually rum, and sometimes filled with pastry cream.

A Savarin is bigger version, baked in a ring mold and soaked in rum syrup and usually placed in the centre could be one or more of the following: pastry cream, Chantilly creme,  poached or fresh fruit. Raisins, sultanas or currants may be included in the dough.

The Neapolitan Babà al rum are usually made as mignons (small shapes) but the larger Savarins are also popular in Naples.

My partner has been experimenting and baking mainly with sourdough but also with fresh yeast. He bought too much yeast. I am not one to waste ingredients, so I suggested that he makes some rum babà – a very easy process but with enjoyable results. I gave him a few recipes and suggested that he may also like to look at how the French made them as well as the Neapolitans.

Before his bread baking sessions, my partner likes to find bakers/chefs demonstrating how they make the bread on YouTube, and he did the same this time when he was preparing to make the babà. Among the many YouTube videos he found, he showed me a very amusing one that had a highly reputed Italian pastry chef pinching up pieces of baba batter and twirling around his fingers to almost flick the very elastic batter into molds. Another YouTube demo featured Rita Chef who introduced her lesson on make babà with stories, about the origins and the legend of babà. Both chefs in these YouTube sessions speak in Italian so my partner didn’t quite understand Chef Rita was saying.

Chef Rita, does mention France and Poland but the account of the origins of babà is slightly twisted.

Chef Rita tells us that a sovereign who lived in Poland did not enjoy what his chefs had made as a dessert … a dry cake. The angry sovereign forcefully pushed the cake to the end of the table. And guess what?

At the end of the table was a bottle of rum and when the cake hit the bottle, the rum was spilled on the cake. In Chef Rita’s version of events the sovereign and his courtiers at the table were ‘inebriated’ by the combined fragrance of the cake and the rum and so the cook was given a reprieve and ordered to experiment with the ingredients and perfect the making of a rum-soaked cake.

At the time, this Polish sovereign was reading and enjoying the Arabian classic, A Thousand And One Nights. You can guess what’s coming … he called the dessert Ali Baba.

In a further twist to Chef Rita’s story, the Polish sovereign was later exiled to France. There the French chefs refined the recipe and soaked it in a syrup with alcohol of some sort, but it was only when it came to Naples that the Ali was dropped from Ali Baba and rum was added.

The Neapolitan chef’s story is very amusing, but there seem to be more realistic accounts about babà. Here are some:

  • Poland and Ukraine have a tall, cylindrical yeast cake called babka meaning “old woman” or “grandmother” and in most Slavic languages; babka is a diminutive of baba.
  • There are many similar versions to the Babka in Eastern Europe but also the Gugelhupf of Alsace Lorraine, France.
  • The deposed King Stanislas Leszczynska was exiled from Poland and came to France in the 1600s because Stanislas’s daughter married King Louis XV.
  • King Stanislas Leszczynska either returned from a trip to Poland with a Babka cake or he found a Gugelhupf version in the area. The alcohol he added to sweeten and moisten it may have been Hungarian sweet wine.
  • Stanislaus’ daughter’s pastry chef, Stohrer, went with her to Versailles and he added rum for the first time. Later he opened a pastry shop in Paris, Patisserie Stohrer and the Rum Baba became famous and claimed the French it as their own.
  • Rum Babà was brought to Italy by visiting French pastry chefs.
  • The legends vary in different texts but this one seems the most popular: Stanislas found the French cakes too dry and dipped them in rum. The chefs then experimented using brioche dough, and some added raisins.
  • In Larousse Gastronomique it says that a Parisian Maitre Patissier omitted raisins from the dough, giving the cake another shape and soaked it with a syrup made with secret ingredients and created and called it the Brillat-Savarin (celebrated French gourmet and writer on gastronomy), which later became simply savarin.
  • Alan Davidson in the Oxford Companion says that in the 1840s one of the Julien family of Parisian pastry-makers, set his mind to experimenting with the baba recipe and he named this rich and tasty dessert in honour of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826).

My partner used a combination of recipes but in the end this is what he did:

The recipe is for 6 babas and one small savarin, or 8 small babas

220g flour, 12g fresh yeast, salt, 50g sugar, 2 eggs, 70ml milk 100g butter

Stir the yeast, a little sugar in the warm milk together into a mixer bowl (to use with a dough hook in your electric mixer) and allow the yeast to dissolve and froth (about 5 minutes).

Mix in 25g of flour, place in a warm place until double in size.

Once the dough has risen, slowly start mixing the dough and gradually add the remaining flour, sugar, salt in a bowl and then add eggs, one at a time, blending after each.

Progressively add butter and beat it until the dough then increase speed to high speed and beat it until it is smooth and glossy and almost coming away from the sides.

Cover the dough with a tea towel and allow to rise in a warm space for about 30 mins.

Divide dough among 8 greased dariole moulds, cover with a tea towel and set aside to prove until dough reaches tops of moulds. Use 180 C oven and bake until golden.

Turn out to cool completely, prick them all over with a skewer then place them in a large airtight container until required.

All of the recipes use an incredible amount of sugar (400g per litre), we used 2 litres of water 400g sugar 400ml rum and we found that sweet enough.

For the rum syrup, in a saucepan mix water, sugar, lemon zest from1 lemon and juice from 1/2 lemon and over medium heat stir until sugar dissolves, then simmer until syrupy (5 minutes). Add the rum and gently place the babas in the syrup, turning lightly until soaked through.

Drain them and leave until ready to serve.

I presented them with poached pears and egg custard.

To Make Custard:

3 egg yolks, tablespoons caster sugar infused with a vanilla bean, a pinch of salt 2 tablespoons of cornflour, 400 ml of milk, rind of 1 lemon, and a cinnamon stick.

In a saucepan, mix the egg yolks with the sugar and slowly add the flour, salt and a little milk to make a smooth paste – a whisk could be useful. If you do not have sugar that has been infused with a vanilla bean, use a little vanilla essence (not artificial).
Add the rest of the milk and incorporate to dilute the mixture evenly.
Using a vegetable peeler remove the rind in one piece from ½ lemon. Add this to the milk mixture. Add the cinnamon stick.
Use low – medium heat, stir it constantly with a whisk or a wooden spoon and slowly bring it to the boil- the custard should have thickened.
To make a creamier pastry cream, add a few pieces of room temperature butter while the custard is warm. Add a bit at a time, and whisk until well blended.
Cool before using. To prevent a skin from forming, I place a piece of baking paper or butter paper on its surface.
You may like this Italian dessert:

ZUPPA INGLESE, a famous, Italian dessert

AUTUMN FRUIT and baked quinces

And this is just some of the Autumn fruit (Victoria, Australia)!  Last week, I bought two other types of my favourite autumn fruit, Figs and Persimmons.

The Prickly Pears  were still around a few weeks ago.

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This week, I bought the Quinces from the Queen Victoria Market, the Pomegranates were dropped off by one of my friends and the next day another friend and neighbour left a bag of the Feijoas (the egg-sized green fruit) and the Strawberry Guavas (the small, round deep magenta coloured fruit)  on my doorstep. All things considered, it was not a bad week.

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I am familiar with all of the fruit except the Strawberry Guavas, soft fruit that taste like strawberries and roses and as aromatic as the Feijoas, that I also love. I first ate Feijoas in New Zealand.

I like to eat these two fruit just as they are.

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Pomegranates are fairly well established in Australia and the ruby moist seeds can be just popped in your mouth to eat, or to juice or use raw in cold food or in cooking, from savoury to sweet dishes.

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Persimmons can also be used in cuisine in savoury and sweet dishes, but once again I just like them as they are – both the vanilla variety  or the squashy ones.

The Quinces are cooked, although I must admit that I also like to nibble on raw Quinces when I cut them to cook. Once again, Quinces are used in both savoury and sweet dishes. Cotognata (quince paste) and Quince jelly are pretty common in Australia but they are mostly eaten baked.

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For someone who writes recipes, i never follow recipes. I get inspired by recipes and then do my own thing, so every time I bake Quinces I do something different.

However, some components are important.

Sweetening is important so I may use sugar, honey, jam or jelly.

I use some sort of acid – wine, oranges, limes or lemons.

Partly finished bottles of alcoholic beverages get drained in there at times, this could be all types of liqueurs, spirits, or wine and sprit based aperitivi (aperitifs) or digestivi (digestives).

Flavourings, like cinnamon or mace bark, star anise, cloves, fennel seeds, bayleaves, black peppercorns. Use water as well as wine –  the proportions are up to you.

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In this batch I used water, white wine, Fejoia jelly (a friend made and I had in my pantry for a while), cinnamon, star anise, cloves, lemon slices and bay leaves.

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Scrub the Quinces first, then quarter them. I do not remove anything – I leave the seeds, membranes and the skins – these miraculously transform the juice into jelly. The liquid should come up to half way up the fruit because they are cooked for along time – 2 hours at 170C. I covered the fruit with foil and took it off about 15 minutes before finishing time.

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This is the result, and I can assure you that the fragrant smell will linger for days in your kitchen.

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More recipes for Quinces:

A Tale about QUINCES

AUTUMN FRUIT Cumquats (Kumquats) and Quinces

MOSTARDA and COTOGNATA – Sweets in Moulds

PRICKLY PEARS Fichi d’India and a paste called Mostarda

NOT A STRUDEL FROM TRIESTE! BUT ALMOST

A friend who was going overseas  gave me a packet of phyllo pastry (unopened) and not being a person who throws food away, I used it to encase a filling of a strucolo di pomi, an apple strudel as made in Trieste.

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I have to say that I would much rather make my own pastry as I found the phyllo extremely annoying to use. It kept on breaking and although I covered it with a cloth it also dried out. There was no way that I could make a strudel of any size with it so I made a pie.

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Walnuts roughly chopped and raisins (usually sultanas are used) soaked in Grappa.

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Add cinnamon, apples, grated lemon rind and sugar.

Some chopped chocolate and lemon juice.

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Toast some fresh breadcrumbs in some butter. Cool.

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Line a baking pan with some baking paper, butter it. Place 5 sheets of phyllo pastry on top of the paper. Make sure that you brush each sheet of pastry with a mixture of some melted butter and oil (I use extra virgin olive oil as this is what is used to make the common pastry for the strucolo.

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Place the filling into the baking tin lined with the pastry and cover with 5 sheets of phyllo, greased between each sheet as before.

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Try to roll the edges as best you can. Phyllo is very brittle and I found this difficult to do. Brush with butter and oil mixture again.

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I presented it warm with some home made mascarpone. This is not difficult to make, it is economical and you will end up with more than a 250g tub, the size for shop  purchased mascarpone.

APPLE STRUDEL (TRIESTE: Strucolo de pomi)

MASCARPONE and its many uses. How to make it at home.