Tag Archives: Italian recipe

Casatiello: Italian Brioche

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I’ve been trying to guilt myself into finishing what needs to be finished lately and in the process have confirmed what I suspected:  I am a closet un-finisher — someone who can run a great race then come to a dead stop inches from the finish line.  Perhaps a quarter of a lap is more accurate, but you get the idea, I hope.  With respect to my on-going obsession with food, this translates to a few projects I’ve become involved in then haven’t completed.  In particular, tops on the list is the project Nicole of Pinch My Salt gave birth to, the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge .  Then there was my own quest to work through Bittman’s “101 Simple Salads for the Season” to help keep me healthy in the time leading up to the holidays. That would be the holiday season of 2009. It seemed completely reasonable to make five salads in a seven day period at the time.  Most sadly, the Daring Bakers challenges have passed by, one after the other, and the months along with them.  The first two projects have been long neglected in my writing, but I think of them from time to time because of the photos I’ve taken of the recipes completed.  It’s torturous being reminded of one’s shortcomings in such vivid color and clarity. With respect to the Daring Baker challenges, I’ve got much more to make up than available time on my food calendar.

I’ve just sighed.  You know that feeling, right?  The one that lets you know you’re not all you’re chalked up to be.  Yes, that one.

It’s humbling.

Nevertheless, I’ve decided that some attempt to breathe life into what I once considered worthy goals is important.  I’ll blame this bit of retrospection on having to rebuild my photo libraries due to a new Mac and software.  Viewing all of those photos provided me the opportunity to revisit quite a few recipes I made and enjoyed but never wrote about.   It’s not quite like finding the perfect little black dress purchased on sale, then hung in the closet and forgotten until needed for a special occasion, but close.  It’s all about promise.

Bread is like that — about promise.  It generally promises that after all the steps — kneading, waiting, punching, shaping, and then waiting some more — you’ll actually get to taste it and share it with someone you know will like it. With respect to brioche, a bread containing a high percentage of butter, there is quite a bit of waiting.  Most brioche dough has to rest overnight in the refrigerator, so it does take some thinking ahead if you are like I am — someone who doesn’t make bread as often as she’d like.  I have made brioche before with good results, thanks to Sherry Yard’s Lean Brioche recipe.  I’ve also made Reinhart’s Poor Man’s Brioche, but I’ll save that one for another time because his recipe for Casatiello is more interesting.

Casatiello is a savory Easter celebration bread from the Campania region of Italy.  It is traditionally made with lard and baked in paper molds. The incorporation of salami and cheese are related to ancient associations with rites of spring and fertility.  Today, lard is often omitted or in some cases, shortening used in its place.  Additionally, many bakers use different types of cheese and meat.

I’ve added fresh sage to my adaptation of Reinhart’s recipe.

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Grape Foccacia: The Joy of Artisan Olive Oil Dough

I love bread.  It doesn't really matter which type of bread — I love it.  There are some kinds I enjoy more than others, but when it comes to the hypnotic smell of yeast and the contrast of a chewy crumb encased in a crunchy dark golden crust, I'm hopeless.

Nothing compares to home made bread.  Most of my adult life has been so busy, that as much as I've always made time to cook, baking was pushed aside.  The time to knead and proof a lovely loaf never fit into my plans.  To be honest, it's also because I have no patience for much of anything, and what I do have, I've learned over years of practice.  When you spend hours each day in front of energetic middle school kids who'd rather be anywhere than sitting in an English class, having a window to gaze out and the will to slowly count until your class is focused builds one's abilities in the patience department.  Trust me.  Invariably, one of my students would shush the rest in high dramatic fashion and hiss, "She's counting…"  Calm would materialize and the lesson would resume.  Ahhh….some very good memories there.

So what does all of this have to do with today?  Well, considering that the Internet was effectively saturated with Peter Rinehart's pizza dough yesterday due to the very fine Daring Bakers, I thought I'd share what I've been working with lately.

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Fresh Cherry Gelato

When my husband and I got married oh so many years ago, we couldn’t afford an extravagant honeymoon, but we were able get away for a few days just to dream a little about possibilities.  So we headed to San Francisco and stayed at what was then the Four Seasons Clift, a luxurious hotel where fluffy white robes waited for us, chocolates were placed on our pillows after housekeeping turned down our beds for the night, and room service —  decadently ordered on our first night there —  introduced us for the first time to gelato.

I’ll never forget the heavenly, creamy texture, and the just right sweetness of the vanilla scoops we enjoyed that night.

The hotel has changed ownership since then, and although still beautiful, it barely resembles the traditionally elegant place we spent the first few days of our married life.  It’s now a sleek, sophisticated looking place that I’m not sure I’d feel entirely comfortable in.

I wonder if they still have gelato on their room service menu?

Next week,when we taste our first sample of gelato in Italy (and the following 10 or 15), I know we’ll smile and remember those three perfect days.

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