Croquembouche for the New Year

Most every year we throw a big party at my house for New Year’s Eve, inviting upwards of 50 people for food, tombola, sparklers, and dancing.  Good thing we do, because I remember one year that we didn’t have the party, I went out with a friend to this terrible house “party” which consisted of about 10 people I didn’t know passed out on a couch and some half-eaten bags of M&M’s and pretzels.  Very sad.  So I’m really happy to stay home for the night and ring in the new year with friends, family and tons of great food.

This year, I wanted to make a dessert that would fit the New Years spirit of flashy spectacle, so I decided to make a classic show-stopper of a dessert, the croquembouche (literally “crunch-in-mouth”) or less elegantly, the cream-puff tower. Continue reading “Croquembouche for the New Year”

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Torta alle Nocciole (Hazelnut Cake)

I am 10 hours and one exam away from being done with the first semester of sophomore year! While it has been a great semester, I am sooo ready to go home and not sit and stare at books for hours and hours every day.  With the excuse of using up the excess of eggs that I have before leaving for vacation, I procrastinated studying for chemistry to make this lovely cake.  Baking is chemistry, right? Continue reading “Torta alle Nocciole (Hazelnut Cake)”

Pasta di Mandorla

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According to the food bloggers of the world, we are now in the throes of Christmas cookie season! I think everyone can agree that cookies are pretty great, so I will conform to the rest of the internet and present you with a cookie to celebrate with: paste di mandorla, or almond cookies, a Sicilian specialty.  These are available year-round in pasticcerie (pastry shops) across Sicily, but if you add Christmas colored candied cherries, they dress up nicely for the holidays. Continue reading “Pasta di Mandorla”

Torta di Ricotta

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Sicily is famous for its desserts, many of which feature ricotta.  Cannoli, cassate, cream puffs, and various tarts and cakes all have ricotta as their star ingredient.  Whenever we have some ricotta in the fridge, I know that it is destined to become this cake.  Today, I wanted to do something different with the ricotta because we always make the same cake, but I ended up making it anyway, because it is really the perfect incarnation of ricotta in a dessert.  However, ricotta here is a world apart from what you can find in supermarkets in the US; that stuff is plastic.  Whereas “ricotta” in the US is usually a gummy white paste sold in plastic tubs, ricotta here is a creamy and delicately flavored whey cheese sold in little plastic baskets that separate the cheese from its watery whey. Continue reading “Torta di Ricotta”

Crostata Al’Arancia

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I am not a patient person.

Sometimes, I hit this beautiful, laid-back, patient mood where I could wait forever and not get anxious.  When that happens, anything I decide to cook is gold.  Recipes are followed to a tee, read with care, and made with love.  But that happens extremely rarely. Because my thoughts toward food are generally “get in mah belly!”, the part where I have to wait for chemistry to happen and things to turn delicious is usually quite difficult for me.IMG_4489

So today, when boredom struck and my mind turned to images of buttery, crunchy-gooey crostata, I obviously did not want to wait the hour the recipe told me to refrigerate the dough before rolling it out and putting it in the pan.  So I didn’t, and guess what, it turned out delicious anyway.

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I made this with orange marmalade because the boyfriend gave me a ton of oranges from his orchard in Sicily and so after gorging myself on them I turned the rest into copious amounts of jam.  This crostata is the perfect outlet for jam or conserves of any kind, so feel free to mix up the filling however you like.

Adapted from La Cucina in Sette Volumi, Dolci e Gelati

Crostata al’Arancia

300 g flour

1 egg

150 g sugar

175 g butter

1 jar orange marmalade

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, egg, and butter cut into small pieces.  You should probably use your hands to do this, making sure to incorporate the butter into the flour by squeezing it between your fingers.  Once the mixture has formed a dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.

Butter a pie dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut off 1/3 of it, putting that third back in the refrigerator.  Sprinkle flour on the counter and roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch, then line your pan with it.  Spread on the orange marmalade.

Take the remaining 1/3 of the dough out of the refrigerator and roll it out as you did for the other dough.  Cut it into thin strips and place them in a lattice on top of the marmalade filling.

Bake for 40 minutes. Enjoy!