Sunday, December 30

Indulge Before Your New Year's Resolution Begins with Profiteroles & Chantilly Cream

 It's still the holiday season so indulge one last time before your New Year's resolutions and devour two too many of these light and creamy profiterols filled with Chantilly cream. Stack the golden cream puffs on a tiered cake stand and serve with bubbly Prosecco as a perfect way to ring in the 2013!

Jason made these years before in cooking school at The French Culinary Institute (called choux à la crème) but I wanted to find an Italian version. So I emailed our friends Paola and Antonio the owners of our favorite artisan gelateria, Maki and asked them for their favorite profiterole recipe. Anything dessert related especially if chocolate is involved they are our favorite place to turn. Below is the recipe Antonio learned while taking a cooking courses at La Cucina Italiana as well as the "Profiterole Pyramid" topped with a healthy helping of chocolate cream!! 

Profiteroles - Cream Puffs - Choux à la Crème
makes 50
250 ml water
150 gr flour, sifted
100 gr butter
4 eggs (both yolk and white)
salt/sugar: just a pinch

Bring the water, together with the butter, the salt and a pinch of sugar, to the boil.

Add the flour and mix well keeping the pan on the fire for just a couple of minutes, until the mixture is well amalgamated and it comes off the sides of the pan.

Let it cool down a little before adding the eggs, one at a time: mix well the egg before adding the following one.

Put the mixture into a sac a poche or pastry bag and place the profiterole or 'choux' (they should be as big as a walnut) on a baking tray covered with parchment paper.

Cook for about 15-20 minutes at 180/200° C until they puff up and get a nice golden color.

Tip:  Antonio would reduce the amount of butter (20gr less) should he need to fry the profiterol (he would also add a pinch of baking soda) while the above recipe is good if you want to cook them in the oven.

Filling: ( You can also fill with custard cream or even whipped cream)

284 ml/10fl oz whipping cream
1 vanilla pod
powdered sugar (icing sugar) to taste

Place the cream into a bowl. Cut the vanilla pod in half lengthways with a sharp knife and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the cream.

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Add icing sugar, to taste, and mix in gently.

Topping: Since we asked chocolate makers for their recipe, of course they top their profiteroles with a healthy drizzle of chocolate sauce.

500 ml milk
5 egg yolks
150 gr sugar
35-40 gr corn flour, sifted
250 gr dark chocolate
250 ml cream

Bring the milk to the boil then add the chocolate.

In a separate bowl, mix sugar and egg yolks. Then add the flour, mix and finally add the end the hot milk/chocolate

Cook the mixture very gently for a couple of minutes just until it starts boiling. Remove from heat and add the cream.

Tip: If you want the classic profiterole pyramid, just dip them into the chocolate sauce (after you've filled them with cream) and place them on a plate and decorate.


photo: Food&Wine

Thanks Paola and Antonio for sharing this recipe!!

Wednesday, December 26

Fresh Baked: The Bread is Rising

An update on Jason's winter project of bread baking with a natural starter. The latest loaves are spot on! So here's what's changed, in Jason words (a cook who hates to measure precisely): I controlled everything a lot better especially the temperature and weights.  I also worked my dough a lot more at the beginning to give it better structure.  Most importantly I learned to watch the dough not the clock, just because it says it should be 3 hours that could vary greatly.
Thanks for all the suggestions on places to warm the dough. I put the dough into a cold oven with a pan of boiling water added to the bottom and that did the trick. I get twice as much oven spring as I did before!

Before: Bake #2 , After: Bake #7

For those of you that requested the recipe, I am using Chad Robertson's famous country loaf from Tartine Bakery. Rather than putting the recipe here, I’ll link to the article in Martha Stewart Living where the basic recipe was featured. The recipe is simple, it's all in the procedure which is several pages long.  For a lot of my bread baking questions I have been visiting for videos & troubleshooting tips from serious bread bakers.
For the Dough:
  • Water (80 degrees), 750 grams
  • Leaven, 200 grams
  • White bread flour, 900 grams
  • Whole-wheat flour, 100 grams
  • Salt, 20 grams

I have the luxury of time right now so I am baking bread daily, tweaking ever so slightly here and there keeping notes on everything. 

Monday, December 24

**Merry Everything**

'Tis the season for chopping wood, cracklings fires, baking bread, slow roasted meats and rich buttery desserts!

Holiday Greetings from your friends in snowy Le Marche, Italy

Auguri ~ Ashley & Jason Bartner

Friday, December 21

Christmas in Italy = Cappelletti in Brodo

Christmas celebrated in Le Marche, Italy is not complete without a heart-warming bowl of cappelletti in brodo or little stuffed hats in broth. I was once told is a dish served for only those you love because it takes so much time & patience to make!  In our area this dish is traditionally served on Christmas day for lunch and New Year's Eve for dinner.

Take the time and make it from scratch, buy the freshest eggs (it will make the color of the dough nice & golden) and enjoy this homemade pasta the way it was meant to be eaten - surrounded by family. (Plus they freeze well so you can have them on-hand, at the ready all winter long!)

Cappelletti in Brodo

 1 whole chicken in pieces
1 beef bone
1 tomato
2 stalks of celery, chunked up
2 carrots, chopped in chunks
2 large onions, chopped in chunks
sprig of parsley
healthy pinch of salt
In a large stock pot add all ingredients and cover with water. Bring to a boil, skim the fat and impurities that come to the top.
Then lower to a very low simmer.
Simmer for 3-4 hours.
Strain stock - discard vegetables.
Now you have a delicious stock to be used in an array of dishes & soups.

Pick the meat off the bone & use in the soup, chicken salad or any other dish.
(Stock will last a week in the fridge or you can freeze in usable portions.)

Pasta Dough Recipe:
(serves 4)
400 grams of flour (type 0)
pinch of salt
4 eggs

To make the dough - follow our recipe - click here

6 oz. lean beef cubed
4 oz. pork loin, cubed
half a chicken breast, cubed
1 sausage, without casing, cubed
1 carrot, diced finely
salt & pepper
a healthy pinch Nutmeg
handful of grated parmesean cheese
1 egg
pad of butter
glug of olive oil
salt & pepper

In a pot, melt the butter & toss in all the meat & carrot.  
Cook over medium heat, until meat is cooked & 2/3 of the liquid is reduced.
Set aside & let cool.

When the meat is cool toss it into the food processor & pulse until it resembles ground beef - not a paste.

Add the egg, salt & pepper, nutmeg & cheese - mix with your hands.  (It will hold a ball when squeezed together, but not wet)

Roll out pasta dough into about 2mm thick sheets.

It may help at this point to watch this clip on youtube (fast forward to about 6 minutes in): How to close your cappelletti:

Cut into 1 inch squares.  Place a pea size amount of filling in each square.

 Fold the square into a triangle - making sure to seal the edges very well! (Super important)
This is when it gets difficult to explain...Then take legs of the triangle & pinch them together.

Make sure not to over-stuff your cappelleti & to seal them properly - otherwise they will burst when you boil them.

Boil in brodo (broth) until they float - if they are fresh about 2-4 minutes. Jason suggests that when they start floating - try one.

To freeze for later: Let the pasta sit & dry overnight in a cool dry room in a single layer with parchment paper underneath.

Approved clip found on youtube - next year we'll have to make our own video - but she makes them right!! (Spoken language: Italian with English subtitles)

Sunday, December 16

Fresh Baked: The trials & tribulations of baking bread in a cold stone farmhouse

 Inspired by the book and video by Tartine Bakery, Jason's love for bread baking has been re-ignited! He lovingly feeds his mother/starter every morning created by natural yeast in the air and flour from the fields surrounding our farmhouse. He takes notes on everything, the bubbles in the starter, the smell, the airy pockets in the dough, the time each step is started/completed. The Tartine Bread Book is not just about simply baking bread but becoming a bread baker. Join us as we chronicle the steps of baking bread in a cold stone farmhouse in Italy!

Crust and color looks good but still pancake like and heavy in hand, not light. There's no rise in the oven.

Again here, notice the right side droops down.  The dough rises near the kitchen fireplace, the warmest place in the house - but you can see the final product is still a bit flat.

Some air pockets have formed around the crust but the middle still looks too dense and compact. There are three possible causes for the dense crumb: 1. Keeping a constant temperature in my cold kitchen during the bulk fermentation or the first rise. 2. The starter isn't ripe enough when I mix it for the leaven. (Again - cold temps) or 3. I'm not shaping it right which is why I'm not getting it to spring up when it bakes.

Any bread bakers out there with experience in high hydration doughs let me know! I'll keep trying in the meantime....

Wednesday, December 12

Podcast from Italy: A Trip to Rome & Norica

 In snow covered Le Marche, Jason and I chat about a recent trip to Rome, Antica Ostia and Norcia (Umbria) sharing the best places to eat along the way. (Check out photos of Rome on our Facebook page.) In Norcia, a village famous for their pork & butchers, we really pig-out! Jason then explains the trials and tribulations of baking bread in a cold stone farmhouse.

Roscioli -Rome, near Campo de' Fiori

(A full post on Norcia will follow shortly....)

Sunday, December 9

The Hunter's Hideaway {Eating Out in Le Marche}

So where do we like to go when Jason wants a night off from cooking? If it's not to the sea for fish then it's the 'hunter's hideaway' high up in the hills above neighboring Apecchio.  A no-frills, no menu, family-run, filled with locals, place to eat grilled meat known as Acquapartita or Martinelli's (the family name). The house/restaurant are one in of the same because that's all there is up there. (For any of you that have visited our inn/cooking school they are even more remote than us!) As you climb higher and deeper into the foothills of the Apennines you begin to wonder if you've made a wrong turn as there is nothing but a few farmhouses and far reaching views of the rich fertile valley below. You'll know you've arrived once you see a half dozen country cars and mud covered panda 4x4's parked haphazardly along the side of the road.

The warmth of the fireplace and smell of grilled meats welcomes you and ignites my growing hunger. Now, settle in, because this is gonna be good!
The menu varies a little by season, usually there are three pastas and three sauces to choose from. During the fall and winter is best to visit while hunting season is open. I suggest ordering TWO pastas: half moons (agnolotti) filled with meat paired with the wild mushroom sauce and pappardelle with boar (cinghiale) sauce. For the meat course, if you have a buona forchetta (hearty appetite) I suggest that the table order TWO dishes: share a plate of mixed grill which will consist of sausage, lamb chops and pork ribs AND the grilled steak with aged balsamic, arugula and parmesan (tagliata di manzo). Then go for the gold and order the fried potatoes, they taste so good because they are fried in strutto and not to be missed! Just to round it off nicely get the salad, it's light and fresh and just what you need after all that! Some opt for cheese at the end of their meal, delivered as a whole wheel of pecorino on a wooden board with a knife to slice as you like. 

(that's the guy from Pesaro to Jason's left and the most delicious dessert from his mamma.)
On our most recent visit we were befriended by the table next to us, intrigued since I was taking so many pictures of my food, they began to comment on what they thought would make a good shot! We joined tables, introduced ourselves, poured more local red wine and chatted about food. The two guys told us that they have been coming here to this restaurant for over 30 years, when it was just this one tiny room. Now they escape work in Pesaro (over an hour away) every Friday for lunch in the mountains here among old friends. They asked Gabriele to bring us some plates and the tort from the back. As it arrived at the table they lite up and said "Please have a slice of tort made by my mamma." Incredibly and wonderfully Italian, the man from Pesaro beamed with pride. Yes, he loves a big lunch here, followed by dessert made by mamma, "because she makes it best." And it really was the best way to end the meal.

Acquapartita / Martinelli's / Hunter's Hideaway
Localita' Acquapartita 19, 61042 Apecchio, Italy
+39 0722 90216  - It is best to call to make sure they are open before you make the drive. I recommend reservations and booking for lunch.
You'll always find trucks, trees, a hunting dog and a full belly outside!

Friday, December 7

{Featured In}Tastes of Italia: Holiday Feasts in Le Marche

The November/December 2013 issue of Tastes of Italia includes a lovely article about Jason and I living in Le Marche during the holidays and a few of our tried and true Christmas recipes.  The article "Holiday Feasts in Le Marche, A young American couple embraces tradition in a 13th Century Italian village" written by Susan Van Allen is a heart warming look at how we celebrate Christmas in Le Marche - surrounded by food, family and friends. Plus the rest of the magazine is filled with countless great recipe ideas for your holiday menu from some of your favorite celebrity Chefs!

Pick up a copy today!

Saturday, December 1

Podcast from Italy: A rainy day Thanksgiving recap with tips on cooking risotto & a secret hunter’s hideaway for lunch

A rainy day podcast, we recap Thanksgiving and helping a neighbor build a greenhouse. As usual the conversation turns to food with an update on Jason's bread starter, born and raised here in Le Marche plus talks of a 'secret' lunch spot, the hunter's hideaway in the hills above Apecchio. Jason then shares tips for making creamy delicious risotto. This week's podcast is short & sweet. Let us know any suggestions you have or requests for topics to talk about!
Thanks for listening -  Ashley & Jason 

Let the Holiday Season begin.....
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