Tag Archives: Dolcetti

MILLEFOGLIE or Millefeuille and CREMA PASTICCIERA or crème pâtissière

Millefoglie – a thousand leaves – is better known in Australia perhaps by its French name, Millefeuille.

As you can see in the photo, a Millefoglie is a magnificent and very fancy looking cake (a grand- finale- dessert), made with layers (or leaves) of thin and airy, flaky pastry. This one has three layers of pastry and two of different creams: the top layer is Chantilly cream, the other as you may guess by its delicate, green colour is crema pasticciera and ground pistachios. Look at the top of the Millefoglie and you have some crushed pistachios and some fresh strawberries. And there you have it, whether it is incidental, the red, white and green are the colours of the Italian flag.

Both France and Italy have perfected many versions of this sweet. In Verona they make Millefoglie Strachin. This is layered with Crema soufflé and as the name suggests, it is a light and airy cream filling. Icing sugar  is usually sprinkled on top.

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In Italy the Millefoglie is associated with celebrations, for example birthdays, baptisms and communions, weddings; the square shape makes it easy to cut into portions. The puff pastry is probably the most laborious to make and because it is usually a large cake it is customarily made by pastry chefs and bought from a Pasticceria.

Mine was a gift and it came from Marianna’s pastry shop called Dolcetti. I have written about Marianna’s sweets many times on my blog because I think that she is very talented and makes a great range of delectable sweets.

This Millefoglie looks stunning and tastes as good as it looks. I do not like over sweet desserts and I would describe this as being delicately sweet.

I will not give you Marianna’s recipe – this is her secret, but there are many do-able recipes on the web. For those of you who are not keen to make your own puff pastry there are good ones on the market

I did not have to look hard for a recipe on my bookshelves either. Those of you who are old enough to have Le Cordon Bleu or Raymond Oliver’s La Cuisine will find recipes for Millefeuille – for making the puff pastry, Chantilly cream and almond custard (not pistachio).

I also found a marvellous recipe in my copy of Grande Enciclopedia illustrata della gastronomia (Guarnaschelli Gotti).

There are many recipes for making crème pâtissière or crema pasticcera or pastry cream in books and magazines and on the web.

Here are two recipes from two belle dames of cuisine, one from Ada Boni and one from Julia Child.

See English – language version below the Italian.

Ada Boni’s crema pasticciera:

Per farcire una torta per 6 persone:

Zucchero in polvere, g. 90 (3 cucchiai colmi) – tuorli d’uovo, 3 – Farina, g. 75 (3 cucchiai) – Buccia di limone o vaniglina – Latte, l. 0,500 – Facoltativo: burro, quanto una noce.

Mettete in una casseruola lo zucchero e i rossi d’uovo. Mescolate con un cucchiaio di legno e aggiungete la farina e un pezzo di buccia di limone (evitando accuratamente la parte bianca) o un po’ di buccia di limone grattata, o una puntina di vaniglina. Mettete sul fuoco il latte e quando sarà quasi bollente versatelo a piccole quantità sulle uova, la farina e lo zucchero. mescolando e sciogliendo con una piccola frusta. Quando avrete aggiunto tutto il latte, togliete via la frusta e mettete la casseruola sul fuoco, mescolando continuamente col cucchiaio di legno. Vedrete che ben presto la crema si addenserà gradatamente. Continuate a mescolarla sempre e, raggiunta l’ebollizione, lasciate che la crema bolla per cinque minuti affinché possa perdere il sapore di farina. Appena tolta dal fuoco, se credete, aggiungeteci una noce di burro, ciò che le comunica una maggiore finezza. Mescolate ancora e mentre la crema si fredda non dimenticate di mescolarla di quando in quando per impedirle di fare la pellicola alla superficie.

Easy translation and interpretation of Ada Boni’s recipe:

3 egg yolks + 3 tbsp sugar + 3 tbs flour (I prefer to use corn flour) + 500ml milk.1 level tablespoon of butter, lemon peel, either grated or a thin shaving of the peel, vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways and placed into the milk as it heats).

In a saucepan large enough to hold the milk place the 3 egg yolks with 3 tablespoons sugar and mix it with a wooden spoon until it is creamy. Gradually add 3 tablespoons flour and mix it again till it is smooth. Add a thin strip of lemon peel or grated lemon and or a little vanilla.

Heat 500ml of milk until it is nearly boiling. Pour the hot milk slowly into the egg mixture, stirring continuously and thoroughly so as to avoid lumps (I use a whisk).

Place the pan on the heat and simmer, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes, until the cream thickens. Take off the stove and add the butter. Keep on stirring from time to time as the cream cools so as to prevent a skin from forming.

My notes:

To prevent a skin from forming, what I do and that is to place a piece of baking paper or cling film on the surface. Leave the custard to cool and chill it before using. Omit the butter and instead you could whip about 150ml cream and fold a little at the time into the cold custard.

Julia Child’s crème pâtissière:

1 cup sugar

5 egg yolks

½ cup plain flour

2 cups boiling milk

1 tablepoon butter

1½ tablepoons vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl, gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and continue beating for 2–3 minutes, until the mixture is pale yellow and forms a ribbon.

Beat in the flour, then gradually pour the boiling milk in a thin stream of droplets, beating continually.

Pour the mixture into a heavy saucepan, and set it over moderately high heat. Using a wire whisk, stir continually, reaching all over the bottom of the pan.

As the sauce comes to a boil, it will get lumpy, but will smooth out as you beat it. Once the mixture comes to a boil, continue

beating over moderately low heat for 2–3 minutes to cook the flour; be careful not to scorch the bottom (regulate the heat down, and keep stirring!).

Remove from the heat, stir in the butter, and the vanilla.

Dolcetti window

Dolcetti is a Sicilian inspired pasticceria focused on bringing the tradition of sharing exquisite sweets with family and friends to Melbourne.

A few of the other posts on my blog about Dolcetti and Marianna:

Giugiulena

Christmas Dolci and Dolcetti and Pistachio Shortbread

Christmas at Dolcetti in 2014 (and Recipe for Spicchiteddi – Sicilian Biscuits)

Zeppole, Fried Sweets

Dolcetti is a Sicilian inspired pasticceria focused on bringing the tradition of sharing exquisite sweets with family and friends to Melbourne.

Marianna’s website: Dolcetti

 

 

 

SCACCE and PIZZA and SICILIAN EASTER

It always seems a time for scacce in Sicily, but particularly at Easter.

I  have  already written about scacce (focaccia-like stuffed pastries) and for suggestions of fillings and the recipe and ways to fold the pastry, see the post called: Scacce (Focaccia-like Stuffed Bread).

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One of the most difficult things if you are a novice at making the traditional shaped scacce is the folding of the pastry. So, why not try just forming them into these shapes below instead. Use the same fillings and pastry as described in the post Scacce ( Focaccia- like Stuffed Bread) above.

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This scaccia (singular of scacce and not a misspelling) in the photo below is round and pie shaped. The filling is made from lamb and ricotta.

The braised greens on the side could also be used in a filling – spinach or chicory or broccoli- softened/ wilted and then sautéed in garlic, chili and extra virgin olive oil (but drain well).

There is a post for impanate with a lamb filling – a typical dish for Easter.

(link)‘Mpanata (A Lamb Pie, an Easter Treat)

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The photos for these scacce (and pizza) are from a small eatery in Catania. The filling is made from slices of fried eggplant, a little bit of tomato salsa and a little bit of caciocavallo ( Sicilian cheese) –  you could try provolone (cheese) instead.

Or you could try small pasty shapes as in the photo below (circle of dough = filling  on one side= fold over to make a half moon). The pastries in the photo below are  cooling on the racks in Dolcetti pasticceria (pastry shop  in Victoria Street Melbourne). Marianna is the pastry chef and her mum is Lidia –  and she is all Sicilian. Lidia visits Dolcetti  each Saturday to make these pastries. She calls her pastries impanate.  They are fabulous and she uses a variety of fillings.

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 What about just a pizza ….. These pizzas (in the photo below) are  from Pizza D’Asporto (Rifle Range Shopping Centre, Williamstown). They are made by Sicilians and are very good – worth a visit.

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Or what about a Sfincione?

(link) Sfincione di Palermo (a pizza/focaccia type pie)

There are other Easter type recipes on my blog….just key in Easter or Pasqua in the search space.

Go for it! Buona Pasqua!

PANETTONE AND PANFORTE for an ITALIAN CHRISTMAS

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Photo by Patrick Varney, Raglan Images for  Italianicious ( magazine) Nov- Dec 2010

I first posted the content of this post on Dec 20th, 2010. I called it: PER NATALE, COSA SI MANGIA? At Christmas, what do you eat?

I am able to view the stats for each of my posts and all of the posts about Christmas have been viewed many times, but this one has not been popular. Is it the title?

It contains some general information about the food that is common in Sicily around Christmas time but it also contains information about Panettone and Panforte – both popular at Christmas. There is also a recipe for Panforte.

Now, on Dec 15, 2014, it is time to post it again and give it another title:

PANETTONE AND PANFORTE for an ITALIAN CHRISTMAS

 

CHRISTMAS IN SICILY

You are probably wondering what Sicilians eat for Christmas in Sicily.

When the respected writer Mary Taylor Simeti (an expatriate American, married to a Sicilian organic wine maker and farmer and most importantly, one of the greatest authorities and writer about Sicilian food) visited Melbourne recently, she and I and pastry cook Marianna De Bartoli, who owns Dolcetti, a pasticceria in North Melbourne, were all asked this same question during an interview for Italianicious Magazine (Nov-Dec issue 2010).

We all gave the same answer, which is that there is no one answer since the cuisine and traditional food of Sicily is very regional. Sicily may be a small island, but the food is very localised and very different from region to region.

The three of us also agreed that Christmas Eve was more important than Christmas day – it is a meatless occasion and fish is the first choice. In some places Sicilians eat stoccofisso (stockfish) or baccala, where in others they eat eel. Usually families wait up and go to midnight Mass. And for those that do, Christmas lunch will often begin with a light first course. For example, chicken broth with maybe some pastina (small pasta suitable for broth) or polpettine (small meatballs) made with shredded cooked chicken meat, egg, a little fresh bread and grated cheese.

In Ragusa, where my father’s family comes they tend to eat the same foods as they do at Easter: scacce and large ravioli stuffed with ricotta dressed with a strong ragu (meat sauce) made with tomato conserva (tomato paste) and pork meat.

These are followed by some small sweets like cotognata (quince paste), nucateli  and giuggiulena (sesame seed torrone).

In other parts of the island gallina ripiena (stuffed chicken cooked in broth) is popular, while others may eat a baked pasta dish, for example: anelletti al forno. timballo di maccheroni or lasagne made with a very rich, strong meat ragu. This may be followed by capretto (kid) either roasted or braised.

There may be cassata or cannoli for dessert or the wreath shaped buccellato made with dried figs, almonds, walnuts, sultanas and spices (from Latin buccellatum meaning ring or wreath).

There are links to recipes for all the words in blue above.

PANFORTE or PANETTONE FOR CHRISTMAS

Both panettone and panforte are popular Christmas sweets in Italy.

In recent years panforte has become popular in Australia, but you are probably more familiar with panettone. This may be because there are so many different brands of panettone available and they are exported to many parts of the world, especially in countries where Italians have migrated.

Italians are very happy to buy both of these Christmas sweets and the big brands are of excellent quality. Generally Italians where ever they live would rather buy these than make them at home. I have never tried to make panettone but I have made panforte several times very successfully.

PANETTONE

This Christmas sweet bread is now popular not just in northern Italy where it originated.

It is said that the early version of panettone ( means bread big) was not the light textured, yeast perfumed, fruit bread we are familiar with, before it was made common by industrial production. It was a type of heavy, enriched, Milanese fruit bread baked at home and not just eaten at Christmas time. Panettone was made famous and affordable when it was commercially produced (from the 1920’s) and railed all over Italy. As a child growing up in Trieste the most famous panettone was the Motta brand (and still a well known brand in Italy) and part of the charm was opening the box and releasing the fragrance.

Popular brand of Panforte

PANFORTE

Panforte is from Siena (within Tuscany) and contains exotic spices of ancient times. It is made with dry fruit and nuts – candied orange peel, citron, chopped almonds, spices, honey, butter and sugar and very little flour to bind the ingredients; it has no yeast, has a very solid texture and is shaped like a disc. Panforte (from pane forte) means strong bread and in earlier times it may have been derived from the Tuscan pane pepato (peppered bread), meaning strongly peppered with spices.

Just like panettone there are some excellent varieties of imported panforte. I like Panforte Margherita (the light coloured version developed in honour Queen Margaret of Savoy’s visit to Siena). Panforte Nero is the dark variety made with dark chocolate.

Being a purist (or as my daughter used to refer to me as a food fascist) I cringe when I see ”gourmet” versions of panforte for sale, some of these contain glace cherries, or glace ginger; I even hesitate at the inclusion of pistachio or macadamia, not the norm, but could be more acceptable.

My favourite recipe is from The Italian Baker by Carol Field (recipe below).

In spite of writing recipes, I am not one for following recipes closely. I always improvise and adapt amounts of ingredients to suit my taste. For example I double the amount of pepper, nutmeg and coriander.  On occasions I have also included walnuts and pine nuts which were included in panpepato, a predecessor.

If I make Panforte Nero I add unsweetened cocoa (Dutch cocoa powder about 2-3 tablespoons) and some bittersweet chocolate.

 Ingredients:
1 cup whole hazelnuts,
1 cup blanched almonds
1 cup candied orange peel and citron, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
¼ teaspoon coriander
¼ teaspoon cloves, ground
¼ teaspoon fresh nutmeg, ground
½ teaspoon black pepper, ground
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup honey
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
Method:
Heat the oven to 180c.
Toast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet until the skins pop and blister, 10 to 15 minutes.  Rub the skins from the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet until very pale golden, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Chop the almonds and hazelnuts very coarsely. Mix the nuts, orange peel, citron, lemon zest, flour, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, nutmeg and pepper together thoroughly in a large mixing bowl.
Use a 9 inch springform pan; line the bottom and sides with baking paper Heat the sugar, honey, and butter in a large heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until the syrup registers 242 to 248 on a candy thermometer (a little of the mixture will form a ball when dropped into cold water). Immediately pour the syrup into the nut mixture and stir quickly until thoroughly blended.  Pour immediately into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.  The batter will become stiff and sticky very quickly so you must work fast.
Bake about 30 to 40 minutes.  The panforte won’t colour or seem very firm even when ready, but it will harden as it cools. Cool on a rack until the cake is firm to the touch. Remove the side of the pan and invert the cake onto a sheet of paper. Peel off the baking paper. Dust heavily with confectioners’ sugar.
Love this stuff!!

 

CHRISTMAS AT DOLCETTI in 2014 (and Recipe for Spicchiteddi – Sicilian biscuits)

It is Christmas time and this small Pasticceria/ Patisserie in Melbourne (callled Dolcetti) is packed to the ceiling!

Marianna with her angels and her elves have been very busy; they have been filling Dolcetti with delicious sweets, artfully wrapped and displayed.

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There is no need for me to say much, the photos speak for themselves.

Last year I asked her to provide a simple recipe (it was for Pistachio shortbread in 2013 ) and this year the recipe is for Spicchiteddi/ Spicchiteddi (Spicchitedda in Sicilian). I will  include the recipe at the end of the post.

Marianna has arranged her sweets and produce in a number of attractive packages.

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The price for the large box above is $85.There is even a gluten-free smaller hamper.

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Buccelati are definitely Sicilian…..those types of ingredients are a legacy of the Arabs.

Another Sicilian favourite is Pignolata… I must not leave out the Calabresi as Pignolata is also common in Calabria. The small Pignolata is $11

Notice one of her angels packing a child’s apron with a biscuit…..something for everyone! There are two types of children’s aprons…Both beautiful.

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Marianna makes a Dark and a White version of Panforte – this Christmas sweet originates from Siena.

I always fiddle around with Carol Field’s recipe when I make Panforte. I have written her recipe in a much older post called Per Natale, Cosa Si Mangia? At Christmas, What Do You Eat…apart From Panforte?  

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This Italian inspired fruit cake comes in three sizes: $5.20, $22.50, $64

Notice that Marianna uses Australian apricots – to me this is very important and demonstrates her use of local and quality ingredients.

Vincotto and biscotti

The small- snail like biscuits are spicchiteddi (spicchitedda in Sicilian). They are typical Christmas sweets from the Sicilian, Aeolian islands and contain almonds, citrus peel, cinnamon and cloves.  They also have vincotto ( vinocotto, vino cotto – ‘cooked wine’) and once again Marianna is using some local produce. This one is made by Paul Virgona.

I have used Vincotto in savoury dishes – it has many uses and I have written about this in an earlier post.

As you can see by the shape of the spicchiteddi, children could shape them – they could wear an apron (as mentioned above).

SPICCHTEDDI

Here is the recipe that Marianna gave me:
100gms unsalted butter
250 mls vinocotto
150 gms sugar
grated rind of 1 orange
675gms plain flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 pinch of ground cloves
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1/2 cup blanched almonds

In a saucepan gently melt the butter and vinocotto.
Remove from heat and add the sugar and orange rind, stir well and allow to cool.
Sift together the flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda.
Add the cooled vinocotto mix and mix lightly to form a dough.
Leave to rest for 10 mins.
Pinch off a tablespoon at a time and roll into a long thin rope approx 2cm thick.
Roll each end into a snail shape.
Decorate with blanched almonds.
Bake at 180c for 10 to 15 mins.
Brush lightly with extra vinocotto whilst still warm.

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CHRISTMAS DOLCI and DOLCETTI and Pistachio Shortbread Biscuits 2013

It is Christmas at Dolcetti; these photos speak for themselves (see link at the end of this post).

Marianna from Dolcetti is making so many traditional sweets for Christmas. There are too many to mention in this post but here are a few photos of what you can purchase from her Pasticceria (Italian for Patisserie) in Melbourne.

 

There are torroni ( plural of torrone) in various colours and flavours: almond chocolate, vanilla rosepetal, strawberries and white chocolate, chocolate baci, vanilla, roast almond and orange blossom, pistachio and almond……Marianna is famous for her hand made sweet things. f Some of you who live in Australia may have seen her on TV, Italian Food Safari (SBS) making her torrone (nougat). There is also a book of the series published by Hardie Grant.

Giuggiulena (also called Cubbaita) is also classed as a torrone. Click on link to see earlier post for description and recipe:

GIUGGIULENA (also CUBBAITA) – a brittle Sicilian toffee of sugar and honey with sesame seeds and almonds.

Also particularly Sicilian is the Buccellato (in dialect “cucciddatu”); This is made in the shape of ring and is  stuffed with nuts and dried fruit. Photo of Giuggiulena and Buccellato above.

Panforte is one of the oldest sweets in Italy; it is very popular in Siena and Pisa but is now found in most places in Italy and overseas .This is heavily scented and flavoured with medieval spices. Marianna makes both the dark and light version
(different ingredients) in various shapes and sizes. It’s served in thin slices like torrone and keeps very well.

One of my favourites are the dried figs filled with nougat and dipped in dark chocolate; a version of these are also a popular Christmas sweet in Calabria and usually stuffed with almonds or walnuts and candied orange peel.

There are also Italian Christmas cakes – moist, light in colour and laden with rum and marsala. (No images)

Pignolata is a typical sweet of Sicily and Calabria that is popular at Christmas and during Carnival festivities. These are balls of fried dough (they look like large chickpeas) and covered with warmed honey.

She is also highly respected for her different almond biscuits (she is of Sicilian heritage after all) and of these you will find many varieties, however she also makes similar ones with pistachio; one these are the Pistachio Shortbread Biscuits. This is Marianna’s recipe.

 

Pistachio Shortbread Biscuits

INGREDIENTS
250g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
160g pure icing sugar, sifted
2 tbs fine rice flour
2 tbs corn flour
90g almond meal
225g plain flour
1/3 cup unsalted pistachio nuts, very finely ground (like the almond meal)

PROCESSES
Combine butter and icing sugar. If using an electric mixer it is important that you do not overbeat the butter and sugar as this will add too much air to the mixture. Another way to view this is that the butter must remain yellow and not the pale colour that results when butter and sugar is beaten for a considerable amount of time.
Add ground nuts, and then the flours last of all and mix until mixture comes together. Once again, do not overwork it; being short breads using your fingers to rub in the flours may work best.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface and with a sharp knife or biscuit cutter cut into preferred shapes; Marianna has cut hers into Christmas trees.
Place the biscuits on oven trays lined with baking paper. Space them about 2cm apart.
Bake in 180°C oven for 10 -15 mins or until lightly golden (but being short breads they must still be pale in colour).
When they are still warm sprinkle with crushed pistachio nuts.
Cool and store in a tin.

 

There are other pastries and sweets that can be made to order in various sizes. Some ideal ones for Christmas are:
Fresh Fruit tart – think of Australian summer fruit!
Tronco di Natale is a Christmas log (Bûche de Noël), a popular Christmas dessert in many countries of Northern Europe.
Millefoglie, (the French call Mille-Feuille – flaky puff pastry interlayered with a rich chocolate crema in the bottom half and chantilly cream on top. Photo clink on link below:

Millefoglie

There are fruit mince tarts for those who wish to stick to the Anglo tradition.

Marianna and her pastry chefs are having a good time and inventing some sweets with whimsical names, i.e: Rudolph’s Karolina.

 

Tartufo tortina, is not particularly tied to Christmas, but who can resist these?

 

And there are so many more, too many to mention in this post.

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ZEPPOLE, FRIED SWEETS

What is it about zeppole that has everybody drooling?

Lidia, Marianna’s mother from Dolcetti, had customers lining up for hers at the Sweets Festival held recently at the Immigration Museum.

She began mixing her first batch of dough with ricotta – this is very traditional when making the sweet version of zeppole. The next batch had fennel seeds and a pinch of chilli; what was interesting about hers is that even this batch was rolled in caster sugar – I love that mix of savoury with the sweet that Sicilians are particularly proud of. By the end of the day someone was sent out to buy more flour and the zeppole were just plain dough rolled in castor sugar infused with vanilla bean and still the customers lined up and were prepared to wait for their order.

Dolcetti stall – frying zeppole at Immigration Museum Sweets Festival

Now the funny thing about zeppole is that they are called by different names in various parts of Sicily – sfinci, sfinci di San Giuseppe, sfingi, crispeddi, sfincia: Whatever they are called, they are traditionally eaten at the feast of Saint Joseph – who looks after the poor, and San Martino – he looks after wine. Some Sicilian variations include a ricotta filling (rather than in the mixture).

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Different versions of these fritters are found all over Italy. In Trieste and Venice they are called frittole – this version has sultanas (soaked in rum beforehand) and rolled in cinnamon in the castor sugar. When the Triestini side of my family made them, they also added lemon or orange peel to the mixture – these are traditional at the time of Carnevale. In Naples they call theirs graffe. Older people living in Adelaide may remember Asio from Asio’s Restaurant. He was from Tuscany and he called his frati. I knew Asio when I was a child and he used to make these for my family.

The traditional dough is basically a sloppy bread dough made with yeast and warm water with a little sugar and a little salt.

*You could cheat and use self raising flour and no yeast. They taste pretty good but remember that although you are making the easy version, they will not be traditional.

INGREDIENTS
plain flour, 3 cups
warm water, 2 cups (or more- the dough should be soft)
eggs, 3
yeast, 2 g active dry yeast,3 g compressed fresh yeast
salt , ½  teaspoon
sugar, 1 tablespoon
extra virgin olive oil, 1-2 tablespoons added to the dough
oil for frying – enough so that the zeppole to float (I always use olive, some use vegetable oil)
salted anchovies to taste ( 5-10, chopped)
fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon
salt and pepper – sprinkled on top at the end.
PROCESSES
Mix 1 cup of flour with ½ -¾ cup of warm water, sugar and the yeast. Add more water if necessary to make a sloppy dough.
Cover it and leave to rise in a warm place for about 45- 90 mins – the dough should be spongy and double in size. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the anchovies and the fennel seeds. Mix well; the mixture should be soft and pliable. Add the anchovies and the fennel seeds and gently mix through.
Heat frying oil, drop into the oil one tablespoon full of dough (cook only a few per time – do not over crowd the pan). To see if the oil is hot enough, test it by dropping small bits of dough into it – the dough should begin to cook and begin to gently bounce around. Turn the zeppole once to fry on both sides – they should be golden brown when cooked.
Sprinkle with a little pepper and salt.

 

Zeppole di san Giuseppe:

 

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GIUGGIULENA (also CUBBAITA) – a brittle Sicilian toffee of sugar and honey with sesame seeds and almonds

This is a photograph of Marianna di Bartalo from Dolcetti making giuggiulena – a brittle Sicilian toffee of sugar and honey with sesame seeds and almonds – said to be in part the legacy of the Arabs. I am holding the microphone.

Marianna demonstrated how to make giuggiulena to a group who attended the Sweets Festival at the Immigration Museum (18th March). Eager participants filled the small theatre, they watched as she made it, smelt it, sampled it and took home her recipe, which I will share with you (see below). There was plenty of interaction with the group and it was a pleasure to field questions and to participate in the comments and discussions. Towards the end of the session Lidia, Marianna’s mother also participated.

In some parts of Sicily giuggiulena is also known as cubbaita. e seeds). You may be familiar with torrone (nougat) which is common all over Italy and is made with almonds, eggwhites and sugar. Marianna and I had a discussion on stage about some versions also including honey – I know that a Sicilian friend of my mother’s adds this.

 

The Festival was an amazingly successful day and it drew a very large crowd. People came to see great performances, eat glorious food, attend cooking demonstrations and see the exhibition on Sweets: Tastes and Traditions of Many Cultures (Indian, Italian, Japanese, Turkish, Mauritian). As well as Marianna there were cooking demonstrations on how to make Japanese wagashi and moshi sweets and Indian sweets. Members of the Turkish, Mauritian communities demonstrated how to make halva (helva).

 

The range of food for sale from the participating communities was of extremely good quality.
Marianna’s Dolcetti stall was stocked with an array of Sicilian sweets from her pasticceria in Victoria Street, West Melbourne. There were people lined up all day to buy samples of her cakes, pastries and biscuits.

Gluten free hamper unpacked

Her mother Lidia was making batch after batch of Sicilian fritelle (also called sfinci) and those who worked on the stall did not have time to have a break, from the moment they set up until they had sold out of everything. I believe this was the case for most of the stall-holders with many saying that they did not get time to see the exhibition on the first floor of the Museum. Like me, they are going back. Although the festival was a one off event, the Exhibition (at The Immigration Museum, Melbourne) goes on and is really worth seeing (15 March 2012 to 7 April 2013).

 

One cannot help but see the Arab influence on Sicilian cuisine – the Arabs ruled Sicily for two centuries (in medieval times they were sometimes called “Saracens” or “Moors”) and contributed to the development of Sicilian culture, the agriculture and architecture, and had a profound influence on the cuisine of Sicily. They are credited with bringing or contributing to the development of certain produce used in sweets: sugar, pistachio, sesame seeds, citrus, dates, cinnamon and cloves are some of the produce considered they made ices and pastries stuffed with nuts and dried fruit. Sicily is a blend of cultures and obviously, one cannot give the Arabs all the praise, there were the Spaniards, French, as well as the Normans, Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks and original settlers as well as them.

Sicilian pastry chefs are renowned all over Italy and Marianna is no exception. Marianna’s little pastry shop is filled with handmade delicacies made with natural and fresh ingredients. Her dolcetti (little sweets) are a work of art and she is very proud of her Sicilian heritage.

As you would expect when giuggiulena (or cubbaita) is made in the various parts of Sicily, there are variations in the recipes – some use all sugar or all honey, some omit almonds. My relatives in Ragusa add cinnamon and I have seen recipes where a pinch of cumin is added.

This is Marianna’s recipe for giuggiulena.

INGREDIENTS
250gms sesame seeds
250gms orange blossom honey
250gms sugar
250gms whole raw almonds
zest of 1 orange (not too finely grated)

METHOD
Combine the honey and sugar in a pot and stir until it begins to melt and soften.
Add the sesame seeds and almonds and cook, stirring continuously until it begins to bubble.
Let it cook and darken to a dark golden brown color.
Add the orange zest.
Pour onto a sheet of baking paper lined with a touch of oil or oil spray or onto a lightly greased marble or granite surface.
Flatten it slightly with an oiled rolling pin.
Let it cool before cutting it into pieces
Keep stored in airtight container.

Giuggiulena is usually made for Christmas and more recently at Easter but because it keeps well, it is often served to visitors at other times of the year – it is particularly useful to have on hand in case unexpected guests come – one would not want to make a brutta figura.  My relatives wrap each piece of giuggiulena in cellophane or greaseproof paper.

 

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SWEETS: Tastes and Traditions from many cultures, Immigration Museum 2012 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

The majority of people love SWEETS and even those who are not gluttons for all sweet things are tempted by some sweets.

For example I am not a great fan of cakes nor large quantities of puddings but I do like dolcetti  (Italian for little sweet things) like biscuits, especially Sicilian almond biscuits and torrone.

Pasticceria Erice (Sicily)

 

How many of you have tried giuggiulena or know what it is? What about pignolata?  I love  small moist ricotta filled cannoli …. All Sicilian, all exceptional, traditional and exquisitely made….and where else (Melbourne and the world!!) besides Sicily will you be able to sample these sweets?

Pistacchio treat from Dolcetti in Melbourne

 

You can taste them in Melbourne at the small and brilliant pasticceria, Dolcetti, where Marianna di Bartolo carries on a Sicilian tradition of exquisite sweet-making inherited from her family. But you will also be able to taste and purchase her sweets at the Sweets Festival at the Immigration Museum on Sunday 18 March 2012 (11am to 4pm).

Dolcetti’s Marianna Di Bartolo, her sweets are ‘to die for’

 

And Marianna will not be the only one offering her sweets and demonstrating some of her craft. This one-day festival of food and culture is a feast of toothsome sweet (and savoury) food stalls, film, music and dance performances, cooking demonstrations and workshops. along with Marianna’s sweets there will be baklava, mochi,  moti choor ladoo and napolitains as well as numerous other delicious treats, along with flavoured teas, coffee and sherbet.

During the day there will be short tours of the Sweets: Tastes and Traditions from Many Cultures Exhibition – this exhibition begins on 15 March 2012 to 7 April 2013.

For the past six months I have been part of a group coordinating the Sweets Exhibition at the Immigration Museum. This is a Museum Victoria project and is also part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. 2012.

The Museum worked collaboratively with a number of Victorian communities to produce an exhibition and festival themed around sweets, highlighting shared cultural traditions, rituals and contemporary practices.The Italian, Indian, Mauritian, Turkish and Japanese communities have been invited to participate. Obviously I am a member of the Italian group.

These communities were chosen because of their differences in food traditions and their geographical diversity. I have always been interested in the historical and cultural significance of ingredients and cooking methods and the culinary variations between cultures and even within the same culture.

Readers of my blog and my book will know about my interest in the origins of Sicilian recipes shaped by the Greeks, Arabs, French and Spaniards. Mauritius, Turkey, Japan and India all have unique histories and very different cultural and climatic influences that are reflected in what they eat.

Cannoli in Palermo (Sicily)

There will be performances throughout the day at the Sweets Festival at the Immigration Museum on Sunday 18 March. Naturally there will be Italian performers but these are only some of the performances from the other cultures represented:

Tara Rajkumar Natya, Sudha Dance Company. The performance explores treats of two of the Hindu Gods – Ganesha’ s modakam dumplings and Krishna’s favourite pudding pal payasam.

A dance theatre performance by the Turkish Ekol School of Arts. Discover the importance of baklava at an Anatolian wedding.

A musical concert with a Japanese shiobue flute and taiko drumming from the Fuefukuro trio.

Sego Lebrasse and dancers will present a Mauritian sega.

The Bumbroo Dance of the Bumblebee by the Kashmiri Pandits Cultural Association.

A Japanese tea ceremony demonstration with the Chado Urasenke Tankokai Melbourne Association.

Small cassate Ragusa (Sicily)

 

I have just returned from a trip to Vietnam and loved sampling different foods and flavours from the street stalls to traditional eateries to sophisticated dining rooms. Desserts, as we know them, are not generally eaten in Vietnam. Meals are most likely to be finished with a selection of fabulous fresh fruit, if anything. But sweet snacks are available on the street all day long. Sweet cakes, snacks and specialties such as coloured glutinous rice enclosing sweet bean paste, are also made for special occasions, Buddhist festivals and other celebrations.

Sweet stall in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)

It seems that wherever you go, there is always something sweet to eat. They may not always be nutritious but they always nourish some part of us.

Sweet stall in Market in Hanoi(Vietnam)

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BOOK SIGNING OF SICILIAN SEAFOOD COOKING AT READINGS (and Fennel Frittata)

Christine Gordon intros Marisa @ Readings
EVENT | Thursday 17 November 2011 at 6:30pm

Marisa Raniolo Wilkins

Food, wine, book signing
Readings Hawthorn: 701 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn, Victoria, 3122
The event was organised by Christine Gordon.
 

After this event I went home and made a wild fennel frittata and had it with a bottle of Rocky Passes Estate syrah – a very fine wine and the only bottle left over from the book signing event held in Readings in Hawthorn (Sicilian Seafood Cooking).

readings

Friends Vitto Oles & Candi Westney own and run Rocky Passes Estate and they graciously donated the wine for the Readings event.

Rocky Passes bottle 2

Vitto is the viticulturist and wine-maker of exceptionally good Syrah and Candi is just as important because she is responsible for the entertainment – the music concerts, performances and art exhibitions. Both manage the cellar door and the range of appetising Argentinian/Spanish inspired morsels (tapas) that are available when you visit their winery.

Rocky Passes Estate is at the spectacular southern end of the Strathbogie Ranges, near Seymour in Victoria. If you look at their wine label you will notice two eagles – these birds are often soaring above their very attractive property.

The winery is relatively new and had its first vintage of Syrah in 2004 and every vintage since has been highly rated by James Halliday. The winery is open Sundays 11-5pm or by appointment and Tapas also served onthe last Friday of the month as well as during art openings and special events.

I love wild fennel and when I find it I use it.

Fennel fronds

I have written about frittata in a previous post and as you see it is not difficult to make. The fennel can be replaced by any wilted green vegetable, for example spinach, endives, spring onions or asparagus.

Wild greens are superb or you can use bulb fennel, but keep the greens.You can vary the amounts of vegetables but as a general guide I would use 3-4 eggs to a cup of greens. For this frittata I used 12 eggs and it fed 4 of us (we were greedy).
Remember to use a spatula to lift the cooked part of the frittata as it cooks and release the uncooked egg. Need I say that I only use free range eggs?

Frittata cooking

Then flip it over – I used a pizza tray. Finally, slide the frittata out. At the Readings book signing event I accompanied the Rocky passes with green Sicilian olives  (olive schiacciate), marinaded anchovies.

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Marianna Di Bartolo from Dolcetti made more fish shaped biscuits for this occasion and once again these were perfectly matched with Brown Brothers’ Zibibbo.

Zibbibo[1]

And once again it was an other fine celebration for Sicilian Seafood Cooking.

 

 

LAUNCH OF SICILIAN SEAFOOD COOKING AT COASIT, Marisa Raniolo Wilkins – Pushing out the boat

One upon a time, when people talked about “launching” something, they were usually talking about ships and the launch usually involved some celebrity smashing a bottle of champagne across the bow and standing back to watch the hull slide down the slipway and into the water! Or spectators crossing themselves and praying for the vessel’s safe voyages.

Richard+launches+book+adj

My feelings of anticipation, excitement and relief were just as intense when Richard Cornish launched my book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking, at the Museo Italiano in Faraday Street Carlton, last Sunday (6 November).

And while Richard didn’t crack a bottle of champagne over the lectern, and I did not make the sign of the cross, there was certainly plenty of wine, food and bubbles to float my book out into bookstores, and a great crowd of well-wishers who to lent a hand to see it on its way. All of them need to be thanked.

Crowd shot 1

First, thanks to the staff of CoAsIt and the Museo Italiano [link to http://www.coasit.com.au] especially to Carlo Carli who is the Coordinator of the Museo Italiano, and Rosaria Zarro, Italian Education Officer at CoAsIt, who hosted the launch in the spacious and well-equipped conference room in Faraday Street, Carlton.

Crowd shot 3

Special thanks to Richard Cornish, award-winning author and journalist. I have always admired Richard and his writing and I am deeply honoured and seriously grateful to Richard for launching Sicilian Seafood Cooking.

Richard [link to http://www.profiletalent.com.au/richard-cornish ] is best known to readers of Epicure (the Age) and Good Living (Sydney Morning Herald) for his articles on food, concentrating on ethical and sustainable production. Richard has also co-authored a series of books on Spanish cuisine with Frank Camorra, chef and owner of Melbourne’s Movida restaurants. The latest book MoVida Cocina is published in November 2011 so I know how busy he must be.

The Sponsors

Wine

The wine was generously provided by three producers – two of them, family companies, Coriole and Brown Brothers – and the other, a major producer of wines in Sicily, distributed by Arquilla Food and Wine.

Coriole 2

Coriole [link to http://www.coriole.com] provided two varieties of Sangiovese, a wine whose Italian origins are most closely linked to Tuscany. Led by Mark Lloyd, Coriole has ventured further and further into the production of Italian varieties in their McLaren Vale vineyards, south of Adelaide. Coriole began with Sangiovese in 1987, and followed by Nebbiolo and Barbera. The experimentation has continued with plantings of Fiano (recently awarded Best McLaren Vale White Wine), Sagrantino and Nero d’Avola, which is yet to have a vintage – maybe next year.

Brown Brothers [link to http://www.brownbrothers.com.au] provided a sparkling Zibibbo, the Sicilian name for a grape originally named Muscat of Alexandria. You can never finish a meal in Sicily without being offered a glass of Zibibbo! [link to http://www.snooth.com/varietal/zibibbo/] Brown Brothers, who established their first vineyard at Milawa in the lower King Valley, grow the grapes for their Zibibbo at their Mystic Park Vineyard beside the Murray Valley Highway about halfway between Kerang and Swan Hill.

Arquilla [link to http://www.arquilla.com.au] supplied traditional Sicilian wines, Nero d’Avola and Frappato, produced by Feudi del Pisciotto. [link to http://www.castellare.it/eng/introFeudiPisciotto.html] I first tasted the Feudi Nero d’Avola at my favourite Sicilian restaurant, Bar Idda, [link to http://www.baridda.com.au] another fabulous family affair in the hands of Lisa and Alfredo La Spina, with Lisa’s brother Anthony managing the bar and the drinks.

Food

The book didn’t just float out on glasses of Sicilian wine. There was a selection of tasty finger-food (or as they are called in Italian, spuntini).

Fiona Rigg and Richard Cornish

Fiona Rigg, who was the amazing food stylist for the book, made a Christmas caponata [made with celery]. Being very creative she made some sauces (cipollata and mataroccu) from the chapter Come Fare una Bella Figura from Sicilian Seafood Cooking. [link to http://www.fionalouise.com.au]

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Lisa and Alfredo from Bar Idda contributed roasted peppers [link to http://www.baridda.com.au] l Iove to eat at their restaurant!

Marianna%252C+Rita+and+Howard-250x250

The highly capable pastry chef, Marianna DiBartolo, who owns Dolcetti, [link to http://www.dolcetti.com.au] a Sicilian-inspired pastry shop (pasticceria) in North Melbourne, made special fish-shaped biscuits for the occasion, which were perfectly matched with the Zibibbo.

I was really pleased to see the editors of two important publications at the launch: Agi Argyropoulos editor and publisher of Seafood News 

[link to http://www.seafoodnews.com.au] which I contribute a recipe to every month. Agi held the publication so that he could include photos from the launch, which deserves a special thank you, and has given it a whole page in the November edition.

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And Danielle Gullaci from Italianicious, [link to http://www.italianicious.com.au] the bi-monthly magazine which celebrates all things Italian, and which is publishing an article on me in the January-February 2012 issue.

Others I would like to thank for their contribution to the success of the launch, include:

UCG Wholesale Foods at 58 A’Beckett Street Melbourne for the Novara Mineral Water,

The Sicilian travel experts, Echoes Events [link to http://www.echoesevents.com] for the posters of Sicily and a special thank you to the photographers on the day,

David and Rilke Muir, directors and cinematographers for Making of Movies, [link to http://www.makingofmovies.com.au]

Valerie Sparks, [link to http://www.valeriesparks.com.au]  and

Rita Price [link to http://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/125374/]

launch

NEXT EVENT IN MELBOURNE
 
EVENT | Thursday 17 November 2011 at 6:30pm

Marisa Raniolo Wilkins

Readings Hawthorn: 701 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn, Victoria, 3122
 
Food, wine, book signing
 
*Entry is free but you must book before Monday by phoning: 9819 1917. 
 
ADELAIDE
The Adelaide launch of Sicilian Seafood Cooking is at:
Il Mercato, 625 Lower North East Road, Campbelltown at 3.00pm
on Sunday 20 November.
Il Mercato specialises in Italian food, wine and culture.
If you wish to attend the launch please RSVP to Cynthia at Il Mercato:
CynthiaPorciello@ilmercato.com.au
Sicilian Seafood Cooking will be launched by Rosa Matto [link to http://www.rosamatto.com] – a great friend and a cook I’ve admired and respected for as long as I have known her.
Rosa and I will be introduced at the launch by the newly appointed Minister for Education and Child Development in South Australia, Grace Portolesi MP, the Member for Hartley (which includes Campbelltown).
AND A BIG THANKS TO ALL WHO ATTENDED

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