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Filtering by Tag: recipes-dessert

A Little Cup of Italy

Beth Ribblett

I'll never forget the first time I had an affogato.  Simultaneously exhausted and invigorated after a long flight to Roma and a puddle jumper to Catania, we had just arrived in Sicily.  It was October and our first try at organizing a wine and food tour in Italy.  As one of our partners in crime, Cynthia Nicholson, went to the rental place to start the long process of Americans renting cars in Sicily, she sent us across the street for a shot of caffeine, an obvious necessity for two deliriously tired women who were preparing to drive a car from Catania, up the slopes of Mount Etna to our agriturismo.

As many times as we've been to Italy, we still marvel at the quality of espresso/cappuccino you can get at a simple roadside stand or gas station.  So here we were in this dinky little place across from the car rental office (think Airline Highway...), and there it is on the menu, affogato al cafe.  How could one pass up this creamy, sweet, bitter darkly rich beverage on a day like this when a little sugar and caffeine will go along way?  Freshly brewed espresso poured over a scoop of gelato and served in a glass, it was the perfect jump start for the drive up the volcano and set the tone for the rest of the trip where amazingly good food and drink abounded!

So I got a little craving for it today, and although there are a number of places I could order affogato in New Orleans, I just wanted to make it myself and sip on the sinfully delicious beverage as I typed this blog entry.  But that required a stop at my favorite Italian cafe, Brocato's, because I knew that I had to have my current flavor obsession, their panna cotta gelato.  Kerry wanted to kill me for coming home with not one but two pints of liquid sugar, but how could I pass up the seasonal blood orange ice while I was there?  

Anyway, affogato al cafe (literally drowned coffee) is about as simple as it gets.  Brew a shot or two of good expresso and pour it over a cup of your favorite flavor of gelato.  How little or how much of each you use is entirely up to you and your waistline.  I used a good sized scoop and about a shot and a half of espresso.  I finished it off with a little sprinkling of amaretti cookies and I am just buzzing my way through this entry! 

Decadent and Delicious Meyer Lemon & Cardamom Ice Cream

Beth Ribblett

Ever since my post, When Life Gives You Lemons, I've been dreaming about making the Meyer Lemon & Cardamom Ice Cream recipe.  So our dinner invite from a few of our friends tonight provided me the perfect excuse to try my hand at making ice cream, because with as much as Kerry and I cook, neither of us have ever made it!  But I have a feeling it is going to become a very dangerous item in our cooking repertoire!  And being that we only  have a few Meyer lemons left on our tree, it was time to act! 

We went to the farmer's market in the morning where I picked up fresh eggs and locally made whipping cream by the Rocking R Dairy.  We stopped at the new Rouses in the Warehouse District for Rock Salt for the ice cream maker and I had organic, unbleached sugar in the pantry with lots of cardamom pods from our Indian cooking.  Exotic and highly aromatic, cardamom is one of my absolute favorite spices.  It originated in southern India (no wonder I love it so much!) and is used commonly in both savory and sweet dishes like curry powders and chai tea. 

Kerry picked me 3 big lemons while I read the directions from the ice cream maker, given to us by our friend Mary.  I was ready!

This recipe is from the LA Times and besides the few adaptations I made, I found it to be pretty spot on.  But beware, there is nothing light about this.  It is rich, creamy, tart, tangy and sweet all at the same time with that hint of cardamom under all of that delicious lemon flavor.  It made enough for me to pack a quart container to take to dinner, and a half pint that I took to the shop for Mike and Michelle to try. 

Servings: 8

*3-5 Meyer lemons
*1 tablespoon cardamom pods, seeds removed and husks discarded, then lightly crush the seeds with a mortar & pestle
*1 cup half-and-half
*1 cup sugar
*1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*6 large egg yolks
*3 cups whipping cream

1. Peel 1 lemon with a vegetable peeler, taking care not to cut into the bitter white pith. Place the peel in a nonreactive medium saucepan with the crushed cardamom, half-and-half and sugar. Scrape the vanilla pod seeds into the pan and drop in the pod. Heat over high heat to just under a boil. Remove from the heat, and allow to steep for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks, and then pour in some of the hot half-and-half mixture, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a wooden spoon, 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Pour the mixture through a strainer into a bowl. Finely grate the zest of 2 lemons and add it to the mixture. Allow to stand for 10 minutes.

4. Add the cream to the mixture. Juice 3-5 lemons and add the juice (you should have about three-fourths cup) to the cream mixture. Give it all a quick mix with a spoon, cover with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.

5. Freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. (Makes 1 quart.)

A Very Blueberry Cake

Beth Ribblett

Every visit home to Pennsylvania always involves lots of great eating and this trip was particularly focused on desserts.  The abundance of fresh blueberries, black raspberries, watermelon and peaches yielded some excellent after dinner treats.  My mother and my sister-in-law are both avid bakers, something which is definitely not my forte, so I always appreciate their efforts.  I really wanted to post the recipe for my mother's black raspberry pie, but it was devoured before I even got to take a picture.  My other favorite was my sister-in-law Missy's Very Blueberry Cake which I was able to snap a quick shot of the very last piece before it got finished off.  Not my best photo, but the cake was to die for.  I also love the combination of blueberries and lemon and this moist, delicious cake really complements both of them.  You might remember Missy's recipe for Pumpkin Roll that I published over the holidays...

Very Blueberry Cake

½ cup butter softened
½ cup shortening
1-½ cup sugar
4 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ t. baking powder

1 T. all purpose flour
2 t. cornstarch
1 t. quick cooking tapioca
4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 t. grated lemon peel

1 Cup confectioner sugar
2 T. Milk
1 t. lemon juice

In mixing bowl cream together butter, shortening and sugar.  Beat in eggs on at a time, and then mix in extracts.  In another bowl, combine flour and baking powder, mix and add to creamed mixture, blending well.  Spread 2/3 of the batter in a greased 15x10 pan, reserving the other 1/3 for the end.

For filling combine flour, cornstarch and tapioca in a large bowl.  Add ½ cup blueberries, mash with a fork and stir well.  Add lemon peel and remaining blueberries, toss to coat.  Pour blueberry mixture evenly over batter in pan. Drop remaining batter in rounded tablespoons over filling.

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes until golden brown.  Combine glaze ingredients and drizzle over warm cake.

Cycling Mount Etna

Beth Ribblett


Mount Etna Pennsylvania that is....we've just returned from visiting my family for a few days, enjoying the beautiful weather, rolling hills and a pristine fresh water lake.   My sister brought over a few bikes for us so we were able to get in a little training while away.  Some challenging hills kept us huffing and puffing on Sunday, so we followed it up yesterday with an easy 35 miles on one of the Rails to Trails routes, the Lower Trail, reportedly one of the best kept secrets in Pennsylvania.  Riding along the peaceful Juniata River, through small rural towns and farm land, it's really nice to get away, if only for a few days.  We ate a lot of great food and I was able to snag one of my sister-in-laws recipes for her Very Blueberry Cake, made with fresh blueberries from my sister's garden.  Look for the recipe in tomorrow's email... 

The trip put me behind in my weekly email, so I will be sending it out tomorrow.  Happy Trails!

A Sweet Sunday Respite

Beth Ribblett

Most Sundays start with a long bike ride. Usually by noon, we've ridden 40-50 miles, eaten a big burger washed down with a few beers and are ready for a nap. But Sundays are also the day that I finish up all of my blog posts for the week, so an afternoon cup of coffee or tea are usually on the menu too. Having ridden exceptionally hard today, I treated myself to one of the Biscotti Amaretti that I made yesterday as well.

I've been on a mission with these nutty flourless Italian cookies since I first had one when we were in Chicago early in the year. Finding a recipe for something similar, I made the pistachio version a few months ago, but I felt like the texture was just not right, a little to gooey. Recently I found this recipe, using almonds, in a new cookbook I bought by Maria Filice called
"Breaking Bread in L'Aquila" , and it is absolutely perfect! The cookies are satisfyingly dense, chewy and nutty, and one is all you need for your afternoon coffee.

The book itself is a beautiful tribute to the style of cooking from the small town of L'Aquila in the Abruzzo region of Italy, where the author spent much time visiting her late husband's family. You may remember that this area was devastated in 2009 by a terrible earthquake. Upon a recent visit after the disaster, Maria reports:

"When I was leaving L'Aquila on my short visit in September 2009, in the lobby sitting next to me was an older woman, relocated there from her crumbled home in the city. We made eye contact. I smiled, and she asked me what I was doing in L'Aquila. I told her that I was finishing my book and that I had wished to see L'Aquila once more before I could put closure on my book's introduction. She looked at me and gripping my hand, said, "Don't forget about us." I was moved. This deepened my resolve to complete the book, and release it on April 6th 2010–the anniversary of the earthquake–as a reminder to readers of the Abruzzo region's suffering. I promised the elderly lady that I would help by donating the net profits of my book to L'Aquila."

I've posted the recipe below, and click here if you'd like to check out the book. It is cleverly organized by days of the week and each day features seven courses of an Italian meal starting with the antipasti and finishing with the dolci. Simple recipes, with easy to find ingredients and for a good cause, I'm happy to have it in my collection!

Biscotti Amaretti
from Maria Filice's "Breaking Bread in L'Aquila"

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

  • 3 cups whole almonds with skins, plus an additional 36 whole almonds
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups of confectioner's sugar, spread on a large sheet of wax paper for rolling
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Lightly grease three baking sheets with vegetable spray or line with parchment paper.
  • Using a food processor, pulse the 3 cups of almonds until they are finely ground. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, sugar, and almond extract. Add the ground nuts and gently fold them together until you have a moist mixture that you can form into balls.
  • Using a teaspoon or your fingers, scoop up the batter and form balls, and then roll them in the confectioner's sugar. Place the balls at least an inch apart on the greased baking sheet. Prior to baking, press one whole almond into each ball.
  • Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cookies are golden in color and firm to the touch.
  • Let them cool before removing them from the baking sheets.
Make a good cup of coffee or espresso, put your feet up and enjoy!

Sicilian Pistachio Cookies

Beth Ribblett

Remember those Sicilian pistachio cookies we loved so much from that little cafe in Chicago? Well, I've been thinking about them ever since and have been scouring the web for a recipe that will give me that same delicious nutty flavor, natural greenish hue and somewhat chewy middle. So I settled on a recipe, went to whole foods to get what I needed and came home to experiment with my first batch.

Both Kerry and I agreed that the cookies did not seem to have any traditional wheat flour, so I found one made with almond flour, basically finely ground blanched almonds. When I mixed everything up, the batter seemed very reminiscent of what we had so I kept my fingers crossed and put them in the oven.

The shape isn't quite the same, but on the whole, they are so delicious and simple and perfect with coffee, tea or an after dinner drink.

Makes about 50 cookies

¾ cup (4 ounces) shelled, unsalted, raw pistachio nuts, plus 5o for garnish
2 tablespoons plus 1 cup sugar
1 ⅔ cup almond flour ( I used Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour)
2 large eggs beaten
1/4 cup powdered sugar

In a small processor, combine the ¾ cup pistachios with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and pulse until the nuts are ground, but still a little chunky. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and add the flour and the remaining 1 cup sugar. Mix on low speed to combine. On medium speed, add the eggs, mixing until incorporated. Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper (or use a Silpat). Scoop up spoonfuls of the dough and roll between your palms into little balls about ¾ inch in diameter. Arrange on the prepared sheet pans, spacing them about 1 inch apart. You should have 50 balls. Press a pistachio into the top of each ball, flattening the dough slightly.

Bake the cookies, rotating the pans back to front at the halfway point to ensure even baking, for 10 to 12 minutes or until they spread slightly and are lightly browned on the edges. Let cool on the pans on racks for 5 minutes. Put powdered sugar in a sifter, lightly dust the tops of the cookies and then transfer to the racks to cool completely.


Missy's Pumpkin Roll

Beth Ribblett

Dessert at my parent's house on Christmas day always presents a dilemma as we have to chose between my mother's fresh pumpkin and apple pies as well as my sister-in-law's homemade pumpkin rolls. But since we are all such good dessert-loving-sugar-addicts, everyone take a small piece of all three ("small" being defined very differently between the males and females of the family), topping off the pies with a little whipped cream or ice cream. I always save roll for last, the moist pumpkin spiced cake with its silky cream filling melt in your mouth and make it the perfect end to the perfect meal! Thanks Missy for sharing your recipe!

-3 eggs
-1 cup sugar
-2/3 cup pumpkin
-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
*you will also need a clean dish towel sprinkled with powdered sugar to keep from sticking)

Cream Cheese
-1 cup powdered sugar
-1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
-2 tablespoons butter
-3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
-Powdered sugar for topping (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, mix together eggs, sugar and pumpkin.
2. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and cinnamon.
3. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until well blended.
4. Line a 10 1/2" by 15" jelly roll or cookie sheet with wax paper that extends over the lip of the pan. Pour the batter onto the cookie sheet, spreading evenly.
5. Bake 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
6. Prepare a clean kitchen towel by sprinkling heavily with powdered sugar.
7. After baking, turn the cookie sheet onto the towel, the cake should slide out onto the towel. Keeping the wax paper, start at one end and roll up the cake up lengthwise into the towel. Cool 30-40 minutes.
8. While the cake is cooling, make the filling, by stirring together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla and butter. Mix well.
9. After the roll has cooled, unroll it, removed wax paper and spread the filling evenly over the cake. Roll back up without the towel. Wrap in foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or until filling is firm.
10. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving if desired.

Pistaccio di Bronte Cake, A Sicilian Delight!

Beth Ribblett

One of the highlights of our wine and culinary trip to Sicilia was the cooking classes we participated in as we moved from region to region. Putting on our aprons and rolling up our sleeves we were taught how to prepare wonderful Sicilian recipes using products that were specific to the area we were visiting. As we learned new cooking techniques using fresh local ingredients we had a blast interacting with the local chefs who proudly taught us family recipes passed down for generations. And in true Sicilian style, after a few hours together in the kitchen we then sat down at the table and ate what we cooked, enjoying every delicious bite!

During the first part of our journey we stayed at the Scilio Agriturismo in Linguaglossa on the north eastern slope of Mount Etna. This beautiful property has been in the Scilio family for four generations and the current owners are Giovanni and Elisabeth Scilio. In the cucina, our gracious hostess Elisabeth and chef Carmella, gave us our first taste of the most sought after pistachio in the world from the tiny town of Bronte. Bronte is perched at the top of slope of volcanic rock, located about half a mile northeast of Etna.

The Arabs, who once controlled the region, are responsible for bringing pistachio trees to Sicily from the Middle East. Sicily is the only place in Italy where pistachios are grown, and have become quite expensive due to their limited production. Pistachio cultivation in Sicily is laborious work. The trees only bear fruit every two years and the steep volcanic slopes prevent the use of machines to harvest the fruit. The intense, full flavor and grassy aroma of Bronte pistachios comes from the mineral rich soil and the Sicilian sun and air. Bronte pistachios are an essential ingredient in many Sicilian cakes and cookies but also find their way into just about everything from pasta to meat dishes and of course the infamous gelato.

This pistachio cake was the simplest dish we prepared on the trip and is amazingly rich and sinful. Elisabeth Scilio was kind enough to share her house made walnut liqueur with us that evening and the pairing was heavenly. I had to convert grams to ounces and Celsius to Fahrenheit so hopefully everything will come together!

8 large organic eggs whites
14 ounces (400 grams) of sugar
1.5 t. pure vanilla extract
14 ounces (400 grams) of ground pistachio, shelled, skins removed
3.5 ounces (100 grams) of cake flour ("00")

Preheat the oven at 325°. Mix all ingredients together to form a moist paste. Pour the mixture into a well greased spring form pan. Bake for about 30 minutes until an inserted knife comes out clean but moist. Dust with powdered sugar and drizzle with chocolate sauce if desired.