Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Raspberry and goat milk yogurt muffins with red fruits sauce

I would probably have posted this recipe earlier this month, hadn't a violent storm hit our town and crashed down our laptop computer and internet connection.

Luckily we have managed to recover most of our data thanks to a friend, but we have been cut off from the cyberworld for about week (which in itself was not as bad as I thought...).

But let me tell you about the muffins.

Muffins are surprisingly easy to make, as they require less than 20 minutes to cook. Moreover, being highlgy addictive, you'll probably bake another batch of them even before you've finished eating the first one.

No wonder this recipe is one of my favourite ones, especially this cold and rainy April.

They add a shaft of light on the most dark and damp day.

As for the muffins recipe, at first I strictly followed the instructions I read in an old issue of Elle à table magazine. Then, after the third, fourth batch, I started adjusting the recipe to my own taste. I basically just cut down on the sugar and used the blond cane variety instead of the superfine one. I would also suggest you to try different combinations of flavours or textures (adding i.e. coconut flakes, or almond meal to the batter) to personalize these little cakes.

The red fruits sauce, instead, is 'my own work'.
I always keep in store some organic frozen berries for a last minute dessert here at home, and they quite inevitably end up in this decadent and flavoursome sauce: a perfect accompaniment to cakes,fruit pies, tarts, and ...muffins!

Ingredients (makes 12 muffins):

unsalted butter: 100 gr – 3,50 oz - room temperature
blonde cane sugar: 90 gr - 3, 15 oz - 1/2 cup
goat milk yogurt: 125 gr - 4,30 oz - 1/2 cup
free-range eggs: 2
all-purpose flour: 300 gr - 10,60 oz - 2 cups
organic lemon zest: 1 pinch
baking powder: 4 teaspoons
salt: 1 pinch
frozen raspberries: 100 gr - 1 cup

Ingredients for the red fruits sauce:

mixed frozen berries: 150 gr - 5,30 oz - 1 cup + 1/3 cup
blonde sugar cane: 3 tablespoons
filtered water: 80 ml - 2,70 fl oz
plain yogurt: 1 tablespoon - optional

Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
Line 12 standard muffin cups (or a 12 muffin tin) with paper liners.

In a large bowl cream butter and sugar.
Whisk in the eggs and the yoghurt first, then add the flour, salt, lemon zest and the baking powder. Stir just until all the ingredients are well combined.

Divide mixture evenly in each muffin cup, top each muffin with three or more frozen raspberries.

Bake for 20 minutes approximately, until slightly golden on top.

Place frozen berries, water and sugar into a large non-stick saucepan. Stir to combine. Heat over medium heat until bubbling. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Puree with a hand processor. 

Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Stir in a dollop of plain organic yoghurt (see photos above) if you like to add a sour note and balance the sweetness of the sauce.

Store it in the fridge - in an airtight container - for three or four days.

Friday, 13 April 2012

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.”

William Blake, "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Lemony glazed italian Easter cookies - SCRIPT & RECIPE

INT. HOUSE. DAY. Early Sunday morning.

My daughter M. wakes up and reminds me of a promise I made earlier that week.

'Facciamo i biscotti, Mamma?' 
(Shall we make cookies, Mummy ?).

I smile. Yawn. I give her a drowsy nod. She immediately gets excited at the idea of picking her favourite cutouts from our ever-growing collection.

'Facciamo le colombe per Pasqua?'
(Shall we make pastry doves for Easter?)

'E anche le farfalle e i fiorellini, per├▓!'
(And butterflies and little flowers, too!)

I give her another nod. I perfectly agree with her.

Doves are getting quite boring these days...


Here in Italy, they are as common as Easter bunnies 
in North America or Northern Europe. You just have to look around in pastry shops and supermarkets, they are everywhere: dove-shaped cookies-sweets-candies-chocolates, and Easter dove cakes, of course (a soft and orangey flavoured cake with an almond topping).

As to our family traditions, we usually prepare a nest with a wicker basket and fill it with straw and chocolate eggs.
This year I fancied a change, though. As we rolled out the dough and cut tiny butterfly-shaped cookies out of it, I imagined them hanging beautifully from an old tree branch. Dancing and floating in the air as a cool spring breeze blows into the house through the open windows. I suggested the idea of making an Easter tree and decorating it with the cookies, but Maddalena was quite reluctant at first. She was determined to eat them all, offering them to a class-mate and her visiting family. At last I managed to convince her (she is quite a stubborn kid sometimes), and I stored some biscuits in the cupboard, almost hiding them... 

As for the doves I was so eager to do... I baked a dozen this time, decorated them with an immaculate white lemony glaze and carefully placed them in an origami box filled with straw. I also made some marzipan eggs and placed them in the nest too. 
Sweet, cute little eggs.

 'Mi piacciono tanto!'
I love them!

'Anche a me.'
So do I.

We exchange an affectionate glance.


Ingredients for the short-pastry:
(yields 5 dozen cookies)

all purpose flour: 250 gr - 8,8 oz
rice flour: 50 gr - 1,7 oz
granulated sugar: 90 gr - 3 oz
unsalted butter: 175 gr - 6 oz - room temperature
free-range egg: (50 gr/1,7 oz approximately)
salt: 1 pinch

Ingredients for the icing: 

organic lemon juice: 60 ml - 1/4 cup
sifted powdered sugar: 100 gr - 1 cup
lemon extract: 3 drops
red&blue food colorings (optional)

Sift together the two flours in a large bowl. Add granulated sugar and salt and mix carefully. 

Make a 'well' or a 'fountain' in the centre of the dry ingredients. Add butter and eggs in the well and mix the batter roughly with a fork, then knead the mixture with your hands until you form a ball.

Divide dough in half. Wrap each one with plastic film and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F). Roll out the first dough ball (while you keep the other one in the fridge, of course) on a lightly floured surface to 3/4 mm (1/8-inch) thickness. Cut out dough using Easter or Spring cookie cutters of your choice, such as doves, flowers, bunnies, eggs, bells and butterflies. Place cutouts on an ungreased parchment paper. Repeat the same process with the second dough.

Bake for approximately 10/12 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are golden or light brown, rotating the pans from top to bottom once or twice meanwhile. Let them cool down completely on a wire rack.

Prepare the lemony icing: pour the lemon juice and extract in a small bowl, gradually whisk into it the confectionary sugar until you get a smooth, sticky - but pourable - glaze.

Divide it into three different small bowls and tint two of them with one or two drops of food colouring, as desired, leaving one white (for the doves).

Decorate Easter cookies with the lemony glaze, adding assorted sprinkles and candies if you wish so. Enjoy!

Maddalena's pastry leftovers turned into a happy clown face!

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