Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Plum Streusel Cake

A streusel cake is always a winner. Streusel cake makes people happy. Serve a streusel cake for dessert and people will reward you with big smiles... And since plums are in season right now, why don't you bake one with plums...?! Add a large pinch of cinnamon and there goes a perfect combination!

(slightly adapted from Coopzeitung 35/2010, original recipe in German here)

for the cake dough / streusel:
200g plain flour
75g sugar
a pinch of salt
0.5 teaspoon of baking powder
1 lemon, grated zest
100g butter, liquid, cooled
1 egg

for the filling:
50g sugar
2 egg yolks
1 lemon, grated zest and 1 tablespoon of juice
50g grated almonds
25g plain flour
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 egg whites
1 pinch of salt
2 tablespoons sugar
400g plums, cores removed

Preheat the oven to 140°C. Line a 25cm cake tin with parchment paper.

Cake dough: Mix flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and lemon zest in a bowl. Mix butter and egg together and then add to the other ingredients and mix well with your hand mixer until the batter is crumbly. Fill half of this batter into your prepared cake tin.

Filling: Mix sugar and egg yolks with the hand mixer. In another bowl, add lemon zest and juice. Mix almonds, flour and cinnamon. Beat the egg whites and the salt until firm. Add sugar and beat until gleamy. Mix about a third of the egg white-batter with your sugar-egg yolk-batter. Then alternately fold in almond-flour-mix and egg white-batter and mix carefully. Pour the batter into your cake tin. Add the rest of the streusel and bake for about 40 minutes.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Baked Figs with Parma Ham

I actually can't remember the last time I've made dessert! Wait, I think it was for my Italy-inspired dinner and unfortunately, I don't even have good pictures of my first ever ricotta tart... I really haven't made a cake since then. That's definitely too long! But I plan to bake a cake this weekend so stay tuned ;-)

For now, I have another antipasto for you.

(adapted from: Annemarie Wildeisen's Kochen)

6 figs
0.5 tablespoon liquid honey
1.5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 thin slices of parma ham
parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to about 150°C.

Wash the figs carefully and then cut in crosswise. Mix honey and balsamic vinegar. Wrap each fig with a slice of parma ham and place onto a baking tray. Drizzle the honey-vinegar mix over the figs and season with salt and pepper. Bake the figs in the oven for about 10 minutes. Place onto a plate and decorate with slices of parmesan cheese if you like.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Zucca all'agrodolce

The Sicilian kitchen has many influences from different cultures. There are a lot of dishes with ingredients and flavours that are remains of the Byzantine and Arabic past of the island. As for instance this sweet and sour pumpkin.

This dish was part of my antipasti variations of last Sunday's menu. I was a bit anxious about it at first because it has such a special taste. I don't consider myself an expert when it comes to seasoning dishes, especially with dishes that have unusual flavours. I prepared it around noon and I kept trying bites from it during the whole afternoon in order to decide whether it was ok and whether I should really serve it or not. I think I ate about half of it beforehand :-)

My guests really liked it and I too, was happy with the outcome in the end. This dish is something else for a change. And I just looove the colour of the pumpkin. Look at that...

(from: Ursula Ferrigno - VegItalia)

1kg pumpkin, peeled and pitted
5 tablespoons of olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon sugar
1 handful of mint leaves, chopped
1 pinch of cinnamon
8 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
black pepper

Cut the pumpkin into dices of about 1cm. Roast in a frying pan in olive oil together with the garlic clove for about 3 minutes. Take the garlic clove out of the pan as soon as it begins to change colour.

Take the pumpkin dices out of the pan and pour onto paper towels so that the oil might drain. Pour the pumpkin dices into the pan again and reduce the heat.

Add sugar, mint and cinnamon. Mix well, pour white wine vinegar over it and season with pepper (I also added a little salt). Cover the pan and let the vinegar vaporize.

Serve warm or cold. I served it cold because in Italy, many dishes of this kind are served cold. However, I warmed the leftovers up for dinner the next day and I think it's better if served warm.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Focaccia with Parmesan and Rosemary

This weekend, Mauro and I invited our dear friend Stephanie and her mum Diana for dinner. Diana herself is famous for her fabulous dinner partys and she really is one of the best cooks I know. So I have to admit, I was a little nervous. But I had a lot of fun putting together a menu for our two friends. Inspired from our holidays in Sicily, I decided to have an Italian evening. Mauro and I spent practically the whole sunday in the kitchen preparing our antipasti.

The focaccia was one of my favourites in the end. I have never made focaccia before and I was very happy with the outcome. You don't need many ingredients and baking utensils, it doesn't take long to make and it is really easy. The addition of parmesan and rosemary gives it an aromatic taste.

(from: Betty Bossi - Wähen Pizzas Flammkuchen)

500g flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon of rosemary, coarsely chopped
20g fresh yeast
4.5dl water, lukewarm
2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Add parmesan and rosemary. Dissolve yeast in the lukewarm water. Mix water and olive oil with the flour and stir with a ladle until you got a viscous dough. Pour the dough onto a baking tray lined with a baking sheet and spread until you got a rectangle of about 30x40 cm. Let the dough rise for about 30 minutes (I gave it about 60 minutes). Press your fingers into the dough to make dimples. Put the baking tray into the cold oven and then heat the oven to 220°C. Bake the focaccia for about 30 minutes.

When you take the focaccia out of the oven, brush it with a little olive oil and pour some sea salt onto it. Serve warm or cold.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Cheesecake, my Love...

I probably told you already that I am a fan of cheesecakes - well, who isn't?! I figured, it was time to try a new recipe. This one probably caught my eye because it said ricotta somewhere on the ingredients list :-)

I personally love this cake and I will definitely bake it again. It is not as heavy as other cheesecakes. The berries where my idea, it originally comes with a coating of raspberry jam but I like it better this way. This decoration is simple, yet an eye-catcher.


150g petits beurres (graham crackers or digestive biscuits)
75g sugar
100g butter

400g ricotta
150g mascarpone
2 sachets vanilla sugar (40g)
75g sugar
2 tablespoon lemon juice
4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 24cm diameter springform pan with parchment paper.

Crumble the biscuits in a cutter or put them into a plastic bag and beat them with a rolling pin. Put the crumbs in a bowl and add sugar. Melt butter in a little pan and add to the crumbs. Mix this well and spread it onto the base of the springform pan. Put the springform into the refrigerator.

In a bowl, mix ricotta, mascarpone, vanilla sugar, sugar and lemon juice. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and then add them to the cheesecake mixture. Pour the batter onto the biscuit base.

Bake the cake for about 50 minutes. Then, take out of the oven and let cool. Decorate with mixed fresh berries.

By the way: The recipe says that, if you want to bake a smaller cake, you can half the ingredients and bake it in a 16cm diameter springform pan. That would be a nice cake for two. On the other hand, the cake keeps in the fridge for a few days so why not bake a big one ;-)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Bella Sicilia!

Let me tell about my holidays in Sicily!

I usually like to come home again after being away for a while, but with Sicily it was different. I would have loved to stay a little longer. I have never been there before and now I am totally in love! I had at least one gelato every day, ate the best pasta ever and met the nicest people! The beach was beautiful and I even felt comfortable with the hot temperature. I think the sun and the sea water really did me good.

We stayed in a little village near Palermo where a part of Mauro's family lives. Our holidays where a nice mix of excursions (Palermo, Cefalù, Catania and Taormina), days at the beach and family dinners and let me tell you, these dinners where a real delight! I was really overwhelmed with the warm-heartedness of these people and of course, with the way they cook. Everything is really simple but just delicious. I think it has something to do with the joy and devotion they make their food with. And of course with the fact that they grow practically everything they cook in their own garden. Really, the vegetables and the herbs taste more intense... I got a glass of oregano as a farewell present and everytime I open it, the scent reminds me of Sicily... I can't wait to go there again...

I want share some photos with you just to show you what I am talking about. I got a lot of inspiration for cooking of course and I want to try so many things!!!

Mmmmh... that lovely crostata di ricotta... I still dream about that one! The best thing is, I got the recipe for it :-) I celebrated my birthday in Sicily and I wished for the recipe as a present and of course, they were happy to share it with me. I think, this is one of the best presents I've ever gotten ;-)
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