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My Five Inexpensive Kitchen Essentials

Beet Ravioli with Goat Cheese

Wednesday
Mar192008

Italian Easter Bread


Buona Pasqua!  I've made this Easter bread for years for my kids. It's a sweet bread, made with milk and sugar and has an Easter Egg in the middle! There's a lot of Italian recipes for Easter breads, some are savory and some are sweet. This one is fun.

Italian Easter Bread

for a printer friendly recipe, click here
makes 6 individual loaves
Ingredients:
  • 1 package Rapid Rise yeast
  • 1.25 cups scalded milk, cooled to room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour (approximate)
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
  • 6 dyed Easter eggs
  • sprinkles
 

tip: the Easter eggs do not need to be hard boiled. They cook when the bread bakes. I usually just dye the eggs right out of the fridge, without hardboiling them. Saves time. Just be careful they don't crack!

Instructions:

In a large mixer bowl, combine yeast, warm (not hot) milk, salt, butter, eggs and sugar. Add about half the flour and beat until smooth with dough hook.   Slowly add the remaining flour to form a stiff dough. Don't worry about how much flour it ends up being, just keep adding until the dough is not sticky anymore.  Knead until smooth with either dough hook attachment or turn out on floured board and knead. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.

Punch dough down, divide into 12 pieces. Roll each piece to form a 1 inch thick rope about 14 inches long and, taking two pieces, twist to form a "braid", pinching the ends,  and loop into a circle.

Place on a greased baking sheet or line your baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Cover and let rise until double, about an hour again. Brush each bread with beaten egg wash. Put on the sprinkles. In the middle of each bread ring, gently place an Easter egg, making an indentation with the egg.

Bake at 350 degrees until golden - about 20 - 25 minutes. Cool on rack.

 

** Note:  For an updated version of this bread, see my most recent Easter Bread post.  It's made with golden eggs and pearl sugar:


Another cute idea for Easter is making these Edible Egg Nests for your table:

 

 You might also like to try Italian Easter Torta (Torta Pasqualina): 


Sunday
Mar162008

Almond Tart


This is one of our favorite desserts.  In fact, Brian and I think this could be the best dessert we've ever had. And that's not surprising because it's Lindsey Shere's Almond Tart from Chez Panisse and it was the most popular dessert on that menu for thirty years. I have to provide dessert for a progressive dinner this weekend and I knew this was what I was going to fix.  I fixed a couple of them.  We love it. Serve this with a glass of Amaretto and it's just about the perfect thing.

I am using the recipe given in the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook by Alice Waters. Lindsey Shere, the original pastry chef who developed the recipe, gives a slightly different version in the biography that Thomas McNamee wrote last year about Alice Waters*.  She also talks at length about how to bake the tart.

Lindsey's Almond Tart

 

for recipe only, click here

serves 6-8
  
Ingredients: 
 

for the tart pastry:

  • 1 stick butter (real butter)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 drops each of almond and vanilla extracts
  • 1 tablespooon water

for the filling:

  • 1 cup unpeeled raw sliced almonds
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
  • 1 tablespoon kirsch
  • 2 drops almond extract

 

Instructions:

for the tart crust:

Put the flour and sugar in a food processor. Process til blended. Add the butter in slices and process. Add the extracts and water and process til it gathers up in a ball. Wrap in plastic and chill until you are ready to use it. Then take it out and bring it to room temperature.

Press the tart pastry into a 9-inch tart form with a removable ring. You can't really roll out this dough - it's easier just to press it in.  Press the dough evenly over the bottom and sides about 1/8 inch thick. Refrigerate for about an hour. Bake the tart in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until it begins to set and brown. Remove the tart to a rack and cool to room temperature.

for the filling:

In a heavy saucepan, mix all the of the filling ingredients and cook mixture over low heat until sugar dissolves and the texture is silky, about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool the mixture slightly and pour it into the tart shell.

Place a second oven rack under your baking rack and line with a piece of foil. This tart will bubble over and the foil will catch the mess. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. The filling will bubble up a lot most of the cooking time and then at the end it will begin to caramelize. When the filling is golden, remove tart to a cake rack and let cook to room temperature before cutting.

*This biography of Alice
Waters and Chez Panisse
 is a wonderful read. 
Thomas McNamee interviews 
so many of the original characters
 from Chez Panisse, including
 Jeremiah Tower. A lot of 
"behind the scenes" 
interesting, funny stories.

 

Thursday
Mar132008

Finding Recipes on the Internet








How many of you use the internet to find recipes? A lot of people do. But the best place to find recipes is on food blogs. The content of some of these sites is amazing. They just don't give out recipes, they offer a lot of great information and amazing food photography. Deb and Alex over at Smitten Kitchen have a post about a new food blog search engine that was created by some other food bloggers and powered by Google. This is a great resource when you are looking for a recipe. I have added their search widget at the bottom of my web page.  Anyone can use it or, if you like, just add this link to your bookmarks: foodblogsearch.com

Buon Appetito!