Grandma Nat’s Authentic Sicilian Cannoli

The only other cannoli I’ve had that rivals my grandmother Natalie’s was from a now extinct pastry shop in Chicago called La Pasticeria Natalina, which was owned by a talented young pastry chef called Natalie Zazour. Interesting that the two Natalies made the best cannoli I’ve had in this country. Daniel and I are going to Sicily this fall to celebrate his graduation from college so I’ll keep you posted about the cannoli in Sicily. Zazour’s cannoli were different than mine, made with imported sheeps milk Ricotta, dark chocolate chips and a strip of candied orange. They were lovely and I’ve tried them with my family but I always return to Grandma Nat’s, at their insistence.

The first key to good cannoli is to fill them to order, So, if you see pre filled cannoli in the refrigerator case at a bakery, walk away.

The second key to good cannoli is the shell, which must be light and crisp in order to contrast with the creamy filling. That is why you can’t pre fill them. Every minute they sit in the refrigerator they soften from the moisture of the filling and the inherent moisture in the refrigerator case or your refrigerator at home. You can fill them really fast with a pastry bag, so it barely saves time if you pre fill them and stick them in the fridge. And no, don’t fill and freeze them. Just don’t. This recipe makes about 40 shells. Grandma Nat used to keep them in a shoe box on the top landing of her two flat. The staircase to her apartment wasn’t heated so the shells kept well in the dry chill of that space. Hers lasted about 6 months.

The third key to a good cannoli is a filling that is light and creamy and has the unique taste particular to ricotta. Whether you use sheep’s milk ricotta or cows milk, make sure it’s whole milk and it’s creamy. If it’s grainy, you’ll never be able to eliminate that grainy texture even if you work it through a fine mesh sieve or tami. If you live in or around New Jersey, I would recommend trying sheep’s milk ricotta. You can order imported sheep’s milk Ricotta from Pastacheese.com. I love it but it’s too expensive for me to get it shipped to me from New Jersey. When you shop for ricotta insist on tasting it. It should be smooth and creamy, tasting of fresh milk. My grandmother has a technique for lightening the ricotta that I’ve never seen elsewhere: she makes a biancomangiare, which is cornstarch pudding, with whole milk. It lightens the filling without adding richness or a competing flavor. I love mascarpone and I know those who use it for cannoli but in my opinion, it’s too rich and its flavor overpowers the ricotta. Some use whipped cream. It’s not traditional and not very stable and once again, you want your filling to taste like fresh milk, not cream. It would be worth trying to mix Italian Meringue into the ricotta instead of the biancomangiare. You’d have to reduce or eliminate the powdered sugar but the Italian Meringue might lighten the ricotta without affecting the flavor and would be more stable than the biancomangiare. I don’t know how it would affect the texture. However, for the home cook, the biancomangiare will be easier, and my family has forbidden me from altering the recipe. So, if you try Italian meringue let me know!

So, I offer you Grandma Nat’s cannoli and I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

SHELLS (makes about 35 shells)

  • 260 grams (two cups) all purpose flour (bleached will give you a more delicate shell)
  • 25 grams (2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
  • 23 grams(2 tablespoons) cold vegetable shortening (Crisco)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup white wine (you can use red wine if you prefer a dark shell. However, I think it makes it more difficult to determine when the shells are browned properly)
  • Cannoli forms
  • 2 gallons of canola oil
  • 1 egg white, whisked until loose up enough to brush it on with a pastry brush or your finger.

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  1. Place dry ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a few times to mix ingredients. Cut lard into a few pieces and add to the flour. Pulse until well incorporated. There should be no visible pieces and the flour should look a little crumbly. you can do this by hand in which case I would advise rubbing the lard in between your thumb and forefinger and then going back and rubbing it between the palms of your hands. Now, some suggest melting the lard and mixing it into the flour. I’ve tried that and didn’t like the result. I found that it made the shells too dense.
  2. Mix yolks and wine in a small bowl. With the machine running, add to flour and pulse just until the dough forms a ball.
  1. Remove dough from food processor and knead until dough is supple and smooth, about 5 minutes.
  2. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill for one hour.
  3. You can roll the dough by hand with a straight rolling pin. It should be rolled until thin enough so you can just see the pattern of the surface below it, whether it’s granite, marble or wood. However, if you have a lasagna attachment for your stand mixer, it’s so much easier. I use the lasagna attachment for my Kitchen aid and roll the dough to #4. You need to start at 1, then 2, then 3, then 4. I actually roll it through#4 two times.
  4. Cut 4″ squares of dough. I use a cookie cutter with a wavy edge. You could also cut a template of cardboard and cut the squares with a pie dough cutter/crimper Save your scraps. You must re roll them several times to get the number of shells called for in the recipe. At the end, you should be left with very little dough. 
  5. For the first shells, I like to oil the forms. It helps the first batch slip off easier. Thereafter it’s not necessary because some oil always sticks to the forms when you pull them out of the fryer. Place a square of dough diagonally under a cannoli form with the form parallel to you. So, it will look like a diamond shaped piece of dough with the form going across the center. Place a dab of egg white on the tip of the diamond shape, closet to you. Fold the the edge furthest from you up,over the form, towards you. Hold it in place while you fold the other edge over it. Press down to seal the dough. Set it aside and do the others. Don’t make them too tight or you won’t be able to get the shells off the forms.
  6. Heat the oil to 375 F and fry about three or four at a time until golden brown. My son Daniel does the frying and he likes to use a metal skewer to pick up the forms and place them on paper towels. It helps to have two people, one to fry and one to place the dough on the forms. If you are doing this alone, I would suggest rolling and cutting the dough and then covering the dough with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. Then, you can wrap the dough around as many cannoli forms as you can fry in a batch. I have a small fryer so I can o Lyndon three at a time.
  7. Let shells cool on the towels until you can pick them up and slide them off the forms. The forms will release their grip on the metal form as they cool so if a shell is sticking, give it a few more minutes to see if you can slide it off. there is a technique to taking off these shells. I like to place my whole hand on the shell and apply gentle pressure while twisting and pulling. If you’re having trouble get it getting the shells off the forms, you may be placing the dough on too tight. The shells should be completely cool before you fill them.

FILLING

  • 1 lb whole milk ricotta weighed then drained
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup citron
  • 1/2 cup (3oz) hazelnut chocolate, preferably Lindt
  • 1 drop cassia oil

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  1. Wisk together cornstarch and sugar
  2. Add milk a little at a time, wisking until smooth
  3. Place milk in a pot and cook over a medium flame until boiling. After it comes to a boil, wisk until,smooth and let it boil another minute.
  4. Remove from heat and put the pudding through a fine mesh sieve.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap making sure the plastic touches the top of the pudding so that it doesn’t form a skin. Chill until cold. This can be done 24 hours in advance.
  6. Push ricotta through a fine mesh sieve with a spoon, spatula or plastic scraper. The wider the surface area you have in the sieve the easier it will be. If you have a tami, use that with a fine mesh screen.
  7. Stir biancomangiare into ricotta. Don’t be tempted to use your food processor. You’ll over process it and end up with a loose cream. Not what we’re looking for. You can use a stand mixer with your paddle attachment set on low.
  8. Finely dice citron and coarsley chop the chocolate. Add both to ricotta. Chill until it’s time to fill the shells. This step can be done the morning of service.

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PLATING

Use a round or open star pastry tip with a fairly large opening. The size of the tip depends the size of your chocolate and citron bits. You need the pieces to get through the tip. Pipe the cannoli filling into a pastry bag and fill one end of the cannoli to the middle and then the other end. Dip both end in chopped pistachios and dust the shells with powdered sugar. Serve within the hour.

PS

Daniel and I did go to Sicily in October 2019. It’s such a lovely country and we had a fabulous time. The Sicilians we met were warm and friendly and very proud of their country and culture. Its history is fascinating. It’s a country that was invaded frequently and each time, the Sicilians blended some of the newcomers culture with their own, creating a civilization that is rich and varied.

However, having eaten cannoli in Palermo, Cefalu, Agrigento, Noto, Siracusa and Taormina we only found two places that rivaled my grandmothers: Cafe de Sicilia in Noto and Roberto’s in Taormina. The cannoli at Cafe de Sicilia used sheep’s milk ricotta with no embellishments. We found them a bit plain and wished for a bit of candied orange peel to make them more interesting. The cannoli at Roberto’s also used sheep’s milk ricotta but dipped the ends in candied hazelnuts. I would recommend both places.

Cannolo from Cafe Sicilia

Sicily is equally famous for its granita. If you go to Cafe Sicilia, be sure to try their almond or lemon granita, both of which are amazing. If you are in Taormina, go to Roberto’s but don’t miss Bam Bar for fabulous granita. Daniel and I fell in love with the combination of strawberry granita with almond granita topped with whipped cream.

Bam Bar granita

Daniel and me in Taormina

Yuzu Curd Tart

I’m really not a gadget person. I don’t have a lot of pots and pans or electronics. I’m not very technical. That being said, I do have a sous vide and I love it for steaks, chops that need to be tenderized, shrimp and lobster tails.

And now, curds. The texture of a curd made in a sous vide has a silky quality that is difficult if not impossible to achieve on a stove top. You do have to wait. It takes an hour to cook as opposed to 15-20 minutes in a heavy pot or a Bain Marie. I think the texture is worth the wait. The original recipe was on the Chef Steps website and was for a lemon curd which is just as amazing. I substituted Yuzu and I altered the way the ingredients are processed before being cooked. In my eyes, that gives me bragging rights.

You can fill little tarts with this curd, layer it between sponge cake, serve it with fresh fruit, make a pavlova or stand at the kitchen counter and eat it with a spoon.

The following recipe makes about six 3″ tarts or one 9″ tart

YUZU CURD

  • 175 grams sugar
  • 75 grams of first press Yuzu juice
  • 75 grams Yakimi Orchard Yuzu puree
  • 200 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled but still liquid
  • 129 grams egg yolk (about 8)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon asorbic acid (you can usually get this wherever they sell preserving supplies)
    pinch of salt

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  1. Set your sous vide circulator to 167 degrees
  2. Mix sugar, butter, salt, and asorbic acid together. Wisk into egg yolks
  3. Place mixture in a plastic zip lock bag and slowly lower the bag into the water with the top open until the water reaches the bottom of the ziplock mechanism. Be careful not to get water in the bag. Slowly zip up the bag and let it drop into the water.
  4. Cook for 60 minutes
  5. Empty contents of bag into a high sided bowl and use an immersion blender to mix the mixture for 1 minute. It will lighten in co,or and become homogeneous.
  6. Place curd in a container. Rap it on the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles or you can pulse a blow torch briefly across the top and that will do the same thing.
  7. Lay some plastic wrap right on top of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Chill a few hours until it’s cold and firm.

PATE SUCREE

Use your favorite or try the one I have posted on this blog

ASSEMBLE TART

    2 pints raspberries
    2 mangos, preferably Champaigne Mangos, cubed small ( they should yield to slight pressure and the skin should be tight and smooth and yellow for the Champagne mangos)
    tart glaze ( use the one I have on the blog or your favorite.
    Yuzu curd
  1. Fill your tart/tartlettes with the curd leaving yourself 1/8″ rim. This allows the glaze somewhere to go other than down the sides of your crust. I like using a piping bag with an 808 tip or just cut the end off the bag.
  2. Place a perimeter of raspberries around the outer edge
  3. Fill the center of the raspberries with the cubes of mango
  4. Glaze lightly, making sure you cover the fruit as well as the cream. You can test the glaze by heating it u til it’s a liquid consistency and painting a spare raspberry with a brush dipped in glaze. If it pearls up or dries gloppy, thin your glaze with water. You want the glaze to just stick to the fruit.

for the 9″ tart, I used one pint of Strawberries and about three Champagne mangos. Cut the mango off the center seed, lengthwise in two cheek. Then, peel off the skin with a very sharp paring knife. Next, cut each half lengthwise in very thin slices. The thinner the slices, the more flexible they will be and the more rose like. The rest you can infer from the picture.

Cranberry Pomegranate Tarts

I love curds: lemon, lime, grapefruit and passion fruit all make great curds because they are sour fruits. I recently came across cranberry curd tart recipes in The New York Times and the magazine ” Bake”. There are some differences in both those recipes and I also made some changes. The biggest difference is that I add the butter last, after the curd has cooled down a bit. This improves the texture of the cream.

This is a nice curd to do around the holidays. Both pomegranates and cranberries are in the stores fresh, from November-December which makes it a nice seasonal dessert.

CRANBERRY AND POMEGRANATE TARTS

  • 8 fully baked Pate Sucree 4″ tart shells or one 9″ tart shell ( see recipe on another page of my blog
  • 340 grams (12 oz ) fresh cranberries
  • 200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar
  • Zest of one large naval orange
  • Juice of one large naval orange and enough lemon juice to make up a 124 grams (1/2 cup) of liquid.
  • 114 grams (2 large) eggs
  • 36 grams (2) large egg yolks
  • 113 grams (1/2 cup ) unsalted butter cut in to 16 pieces
  • Salt

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  1. Rub the sugar and orange zest between your fingers to release the orange oil.
  2. Combine sugar, zest, orange juice, and cranberries in a 1 quart sauce pan and bring to a simmer.
  3. Simmer cranberries for between 5 and 8 minutes until most of the cranberries have popped and released their liquid. Be careful not to overcook.
  4. Run cranberries through a food mill with the finest disc. Discard the skins that won’t push through.
  5. Crack eggs and combine the whole eggs and yolks, wisking until homogenous.
  6. Temper eggs with some of the hot cranberry mixture and combine the rest of the cranberries and eggs.
  7. Place cranberry/egg mixture in a clean 1 quart sauce pan and cook over low to medium heat depending on your comfort level, wisking constantly. I like to use medium heat because I’m impatient but I always have a an immersion blender and a cold, wet towel folded on the counter near the stove. If it looks like it’s going to curdle I remove the pan from the heat and place it on the cold towel and whisk like crazy or use the immersion blender to smooth out the mixture.
  8. Wisk until thickened. The mixture should reach about 170 degrees and your wisk should leave tracks in the curd.
  9. Run curd through a fine meshed sieve and let cool to about 140 F.
  10. Using an immersion blender, blend butter in to curd, 4 pieces at a time. Once butter is incorporated blend another 3 minutes. This aerates the cream and makes it light and smooth. It also lightens the color so if you want a deeper color, just wisk the butter in gently.
  11. Pour curd into pre baked tart shell and smooth it with an offset spatula.
  12. Now, you have the option of popping the filled tart into a 350 F degree oven for about 8 minutes to set the curd and make it easier to slice. I wouldn’t bother doing this with the small tarts but for a large tart that you have to cut into individual pieces, there’s an argument for baking. It does change the texture of the curd a bit, losing some of that unctuous creaminess. This curd is fairly stiff so you will be able to slice it without baking it, but if you need super clean edges, setting the curd in the oven is the way to go. If you bake it, let it cool before you put the pomegranate seeds on it.
  13. Decoratively place some pomegranate seeds around the perimeter of the tart and chill until service.
  14. To plate this, you could serve it with a dollop of whipped cream on the side, or you could buy extra cranberries, make a coulis and use the coulis do some decorative smears on the plate. For the coulis, I would buy extra cranberries and repeat the first three steps of this recipe, however, instead of running the mixture through a food mill and pushing it through a sieve, I would place the mixture in a medium sieve and let the juices drip through, pushing gently on the cranberries. The goal is to get a pretty clear juice, not a purée.

11/2019

I revisited this recipe, having just done a lemon curd and then a Yuzu curd sous vide. Once you’ve made and sieved your cranberry purée,let it cool to room temp. Mix it with the egg yolks, whole eggs and butter that has been melted and cooled to room temp. Place all in a ziplock bag and proceed as per the instructions for the Yuzu curd on my blog.

Italian Spiced Plum Cake

This is quite a lovely recipe a version, of which was originally printed in The NY Times with the title “Plum Torte” and is deserving of all its devoted followers. It’s very like a cake my Sicilian grandmother used to make with apples. I made it last week and again this week. I’m obsessed! Fortunately, the season for Stanley plums, commonly known as Italian prune plums is coming to an end.

The NY Times recipe has a few versions, published at varying times. Depending on the publication, the cinnamon varies between 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon. The sugar varies between 1cup and 3/4 cup. I think 3/4 cup of sugar is plenty sweet and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon is likewise enough. The recipe doesn’t call for any flavoring in the cake, just cinnamon sugar on top. I love a combination of cinnamon, star anise and vanilla for plums and often make plum preserves with these flavors. So I added a bit of vanilla to the batter and added some star anise to the cinnamon and sugar that’s sprinkled on top. I also changed the granulated sugar to sanding sugar for the top as I like a bigger crunch.

The original recipe also gives you a choice of baking in an 8″, 9″ or 9″ springform pan. I think 10″ would be too big because the resulting cake would be very flat and 8″ too small because there wouldn’t be enough of the crusty top or enough plums. 9″ is just right. The original recipe calls for unbleached AP flour but I prefer bleached for cakes. It gives a more tender crumb. Finally, the NYT recipe doesn’t call for any salt. I salt everything so I added a pinch.

Ingredients:

  • 150 grams (3/4 cup) superfine granulated white sugar
  • 114 grams, 4 oz unsalted butter, softened
  • 125 grams (1 cup)bleached AP flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 12 italian plums (Stanley), halved and pitted (24 halves)
  • Pinch of salt (1/8 tsp)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  •  teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground star anise
  • 3 tablespoons of sanding sugar or granulated for sprinkling on top.
  • 1/2 a small lemon (this yields roughly 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Wisk together the 3 tablespoons of sugar and the spices
  3. Line the bottom of a 9″ Springform pan with a round of parchment. If it’s nonstick, you needn’t grease the sides otherwise grease and flour the sides of the pan.
  4. Cream the sugar and butter until light and silky
  5. Add in eggs, one at a time, reading until light and fluffy
  6. Wisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Sift over top of batter and beat gently to combine.
  7. Spoon batter into your greased springform pan, leveling the top with an off set spatula.
  8. Place plum halves on top of the batter with the skin-side up.
  9. Squeeze some lemon juice over the top
  10. Sprinkle with the spiced sugar.Bake for about an hour, until the top is brown and a toothpick come out clean.  I have some more ideas for this cake and for me this is the most interesting part of cooking and baking: using a tried and true recipe as a jumping off point for more exploration. Let me know if you try them:
  • Put the spices and vanilla in the cake and sprinkle the top with lemon sugar ( rub grated lemon rind in the sugar) It will be prettier than using cinnamon in the sugar you sprinkle.
  • Use some almond extract in the batter instead of vanilla. Substitute almond flour for some of the AP flour. This would be good with plums, peaches and apricots. You’d have to play with this. Almond flour will give the cake less structure and is less absorbent than AP flour. It might result in a denser, more buttery cake.
  • Walnuts are also great with plums. Use some ground walnuts in the batter and substitute some walnut oil for the butter. It won’t be a 1-1 ratio. Butter has some water and oil does not. I would suggest using about 2 tablespoons of oil and cutting back the butter to 5 tablespoons. Same caveats as above with substituting almond flour.
  • This cake might work well with apricots as well although apricots are dryer than plums. I’d try poaching them in a soaking syrup with lemon rind and juice just until they soften a bit, then drain them and use the partially cooked apricots. I’d put ginger or almond oil or both in the batter.
  • Sour cherries might be good but you would probably need a bit more sugar on top. Also, cherries are very juicy and for opposite reasons than the apricot, one might need to roast them in the oven for about five minutes and drain them so as to eliminate some of the juice.

Happy exploring!

Julie

Gladice’s Sweet Crepes

Gladice is a formidable Frenchwoman who tutored me and my oldest son in French. I met her through a local agency that gave children lessons in cooking, various languages, art and music. Most of the kids were under 6.

Gladice ran her classroom with an iron fist in a velvet glove a la Francaise. Those kids were lined up in neat little rows, all facing her, and were not allowed to speak until spoken to. No bathroom breaks until the designated break time. No arguing, no passing notes, no crying for mom and no mom’s peeking in the door. The mothers were terrified but the kids managed just fine.

At some point Daniel became too old for the class and started tutoring in Gladice’s home and I began lessons as well. It was then that we appreciated her true nature. She was warm, witty and delightful. She treated Daniel like a son and me like a friend. My lesson consisted of sitting on her front porch, drinking iced tea and gossiping in French. My son’s lessons were more structured with grammar and conversation but from time to time she would have some sort of a treat for him. One day she made crepes for him. He raved about them and she kindly gave me the recipe, written in French, naturalment.

Crepes are generally pretty straightforward: flour (all purpose, buckwheat or chestnut) eggs, milk and a bit of sugar for sweet crepes. Gladice put in a secret ingredient that made them delightful: a soupçon of rum.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 whole large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, fluffed up and spooned in
  • 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, still wrapped in paper, for the pan
  • Jam, granulated sugar and lemon zest and juice, Cointreau, lemon curd or Nutella to finish the crepes.

Instructions:

  1. Preferably the night before, put the milk, water, eggs, oil, sugar, rum and salt into a blender and blend on low until combined. If you don’t have a blender just wisk the ingredients in a bowl. With blender on low add flour 1/4 cup at a time. Pour in a bowl, cover and place in refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.
  2. The next day, heat an 8″ blue steel crepe pan or a 10″ non stick skillet over a medium flame
  3. Stir batter gently to blend.
  4. Place a bowl of ice cubes near the stove so you can run your fingers on the ice before you lift the crepe to flip it. If you have asbestos fingers you can skip this step.
  5. Holding the stick of butter by its paper wrapper and using it like a big crayon draw a thin film of butter over the surface of the pan.
  6. When the butter sizzles, take a quarter cup measure and pour 1/4 cup of crepe batter in the center of the pan. Quickly swirl the batter around the pan and pour any excess back in the bowl.
  7. Watch the edges of the crepe, when the start to brown and lift from the pan, run an off set spatula around the edges. If you shake the pan and the crepe is sticking anywhere, slip the spatula under the part that is sticking.
  8. When the crepe is loosened, grasp the edge of the crepe and flip it o we to the other side. Don’t let it brown too much or your crepes won’t be flexible. You just want to make sure that the this side has no raw batter on it and that it’s cooked a little bit. It will be pale, flecked with little brown specks.
  9. Once the crepes are cooked, you can spread them with whatever you like. We tend to stand around the kitchen grabbing the crepes out of the pan as soon as they are cooked. You can certainly do more elaborate preparations, nicely plated to serve to guests but in a house full of boys, it’s catch as catch can.

I like to rub the zest of a lemon into about 1/2 cup of sugar. I put some sugar on the crepe and sprinkle it with some fresh juice. I fold it in quarters and eat them hot out of the pan. Daniel likes them flambéed with Cointreau. Place the crepe back in the pan, pale side down. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of Cointreau and ignite with a match or tip the edge of the pan towards the burner flame to ignite it. Let the flame die out and spread the crepe with a little melted butter and a squeeze of orange juice. Nutella needs no explanation but to cut the sweetness and add a little crunch I like to sprinkle the crepes with chopped toasted hazelnuts, once I spread the crepe with Nutella. Crepes spread with lemon curd or passion fruit curd (rarebirdpreserves.com) and fresh fruit is also lovely.

Daniel home from college, making crepes.

Skillet Lemon Cake

imageDaniel is in a cook off with another boy in another fraternity, to raise money for charity.  They are allowed a hot plate, a grill and a sous vide, since they both have one.  I have to chuckle here as it’s not the customary possession of a college boy and yet, Daniel found possibly the one other boy in this huge University that owned one as well.

The boys were to prepare an entree using pork tenderloin, a side dish and dessert.  Daniel is making prosciutto wrapped tenderloin which he will cook to temperature in the sous vide and finish in a hot pan.  We discovered this technique at one of Jean-George Vonderrichten’s New York City restaurants, “Nougatine”. We had some unbelievable Berkshire pork chops which were tender with a crisp surface.  The sous vide Is perfect for tough cuts of meat, like pork chops, because you can cook them for a long time to tenderize them without overcooking them. In addition to the pork, Daniel will make a butternut squash risotto with rosemary and sage.

I was tasked with finding a desssert that could be made solely on top of the stove, that didn’t require any pre made items or special equipment and could be cooked in 30ish minutes. Hmmm!

My immediate thought was poached fruit served with creme fraiche or Greek yogurt, sprinkled with some lightly toasted nuts for crunch.  Too easy!  Serious Eats has a skillet cobbler that sounded good but I wanted something that was more Mediterranean in nature.  I’d been looking at Mark Bittma’s skillet lemon/almond tart and decided to try that.  However, it would have to be adapted as it was cooked for a few minutes in a skillet and spent the rest of the time in the oven to which Daniel would have no access.  I’m going to refer to the Bittman tart as a cake because in my mind it’s closer to a cake than a tart. There was also a discrepancy between Mark Bittman’s video and the recipe published by the New York Times that would have to be addressed.  The article gives you the option of using 1/2-3/4 cup of sugar and the video calls for 1/2 cup.  Since I was going to bake this entirely on the stove top I opted to go with 1/2 cup of sugar in the batter and save the 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top and caramelize. The recipe calls for the juice of one lemon, which I find to be unecesarily imprecise.   I did in fact use the juice of a lemon but it was a huge freakin lemon and I think it was more juice than necessary.  When I looked at the video it looked like there was twice as much cream as lemon juice and the recipe called for 1/2 cup of juice, so, I figure, 1/4 cup of juice is fine.

The next issue was the cooking method.  My Italian grandmother never used her broiler and taught me how to make a frittata using only the stove top and a covered pan. I thought that might work for this dessert which seemed to be essentially a sweet frittata.  They key is to put the batter in  a non stick pan with sizzling fat (butter or olive oil) so it doesn’t stick and so you can slide it out and flip it back into the pan to brown the other side.  Now, if you don’t want to mess around with flipping the cake I don’t think it’s critical.  Just make sure you place the cake in the plate so that the browned side is up.  This can easily be done by placing a plate on top of the pan and flipping the plate and pan as a unit so the pan ends up on top, the plate on the bottom and the cake drops out of the pan in one piece.  If if the cake does’t come out in one nice piece, don’t panic.  Smoosh it together, sprinkle some toasted almond slices on top and dust it with powdered sugar, or place the reserved sugar on top and hit it with a blow torch.

Julie

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  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds plus more for decoration
  • 1/2 cup cold whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar for batter plus 3 tablespoons for the top
  • 1/4 cup cold lemon juice
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

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  1.  Mix eggs until well combined, but not fluffy, into a homogeneous yellow mixture.
  2.  Add the cream, salt, and lemon juice to the eggs and mix well.  (Combining lemon juice and cream can curdle the cream. Keeping the ingredients cold reduces the likelihood that will occur. Also, the longer you let the cream and juice sit together the more chance you give the juice to curdle the cream so don’t let the mixture sit around).
  3. Rub the lemon zest into 1/2 cup of sugar and add to the eggs along with the almond meal and sliced almonds. Combine well
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter to an 8″ skillet and melt over medium heat foaming subsides
  5. Pour batter into the pan and cover it.
  6. Lower the flame to low.
  7. Cook for about 5 minutes and check it.  You are looking for the liquids to be set.  If you stick a wooden skewer into the mixture it should come out with mois crumbs but not wet.  If it’s not ready, cover the pan for another 5 minutes and check again.
  8. When the tart is completely set, loosen the edges from the side of the pan.  Take a plate and place it on top of the pan.  Take a deep breath, cross your fingers and flip the plate and pan unit upside down so the pan is now on top.  With any luck, the tart will release cleanly.  If it’s doesn’t scrape out the remainder in the pan and pat it on top of the cake.
  9. Now you have two options:  you can scatter some toasted sliced almonds on top and dust it with powdered sugar or you can sprinkle the top with granulated sugar and caramelize it with a blow torch.

Earl Grey Ice Cream Cakes

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My family loves Earl Grey tea and begged me to try and tackle an ice cream cake with that flavor.  Earl Grey tea is a black tea flavored with Bergamot, a citrus fruit. I love the combination of Earl Grey and chocolate.  It also works well with other citrus fruits and with nuts, particularly walnuts.  So I thought a moist walnut and chocolate cake would be a nice base for the cakes.  If you don’t want to make a cake and prefer something crunchy, you can make a chocolate cookie crust.  Or, you can do none of the above and just scoop some in a dish and eat it plain or drizzled with sauce

Finding a chocolate cake recipe proved tricky. I didn’t want something too rich, like a brownie.  I thought about using my favorite chocolate butter cake recipe but butter cakes don’t like to be cold. They get hard and dry with refrigeration and I wanted to be able to assemble the ice cream on top of the cake and freeze the whole thing. So I started trying chiffon cakes which use oil instead of butter.  Oil doesn’t freeze so I figured the cake wouldn’t freeze hard. One recipe by Rose Levy Barenbaum in “The Cake Bible” caught my eye.  Apparently when her mother gave  her the recipe she told her the texture was perfect even right out of the freezer.  So I gave it a shot but it didn’t have a deep enough chocolate flavor and the texture was too fluffy so  I tried again, adding another 25 grams of cocoa powder and that seemed to do the trick. It had a deeper chocolate flavor and the texture improved as well.

This recipe makes about a pint of ice cream.  The number of cakes you get depends on the size of your molds. I use molds that hold about 4 oz so I get 8 cakes.

Julie

Earl Gray Ice Cream Cake Componants

  • Earl Gray Ice Cream
  • Chocolate walnut chiffon cake
  • 1/2  cup Caramelized walnuts ( see my post on Caramelized nuts)
  • 1/4 cup chopped candied orange peel (see my post on candied fruit)
  • 1 cup Bittersweet chocolate sauce
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  • Chocolate/Walnut Chiffon Cake

    • 38g (7 Tablespoons) Cocoa powder
    • 88g (6 Tablespoons) water
    • 87g  bleached cake flour
    • 187g (3/4 plus cup 2 tablespoons)superfine sugar
    • 1/4 salt
    • 1 tsp  baking powder
    • 1tsp vanilla
    • 80.5g (3 Tablespoon) walnut oil
    • 27g (1 Tablespoon) Canola oil
    • 3 eggs separated (55g)
    • 2 additional egg whites (150g)
    • 2 grams (1/2 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon) cream of tartar
    1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a 17″x12″ aluminum jelly roll pan lined with a silpat.
    2. Wisk together flour, salt, baking powder and all but 2 tablespoons of sugar.
    3. In a separate bowl pour 6 Tablespoons of boiling water over the cocoa powder.  Wisk until smooth.  Wisk in the three egg yolks, oils and vanilla.
    4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the chocolate mixture in the middle
    5. Beat for 1 minute until smooth and glossy.
    6.  In a clean, grease free bowl beat the 5 egg whites at medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar. When egg whites are at soft peaks add sugar in a slow stream. Raise beater speed to high and beat to whites to stiff peaks.
    7. With a balloon wisk fold one quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen up the batter.  Fold in the rest of the whites just until blended.
    8. Pour batter gently into the sheet pan. Keep the bowl close to the pan so your not deflating the batter by pouring from a great height.  Even out batter with an off set spatula.
    9. Bake for 13 minutes until a tooth pick crumbs out with a few moist crumbs attached to the toothpick.  image
    10. Cool to room temperature and freeze. You get a cleaner edge when you cut it frozen.
    11. Cut to fit the bottoms of your molds.
    12. Freeze the rounds, separating each one with parchment paper.
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  • Earl Grey Ice Cream

    • 3 Tablespoons Earl Grey loose tea (I like the Earl Gray Royal from the Tea House which I buy on line. It has real pieces of dried bergamot as opposed to bergamot oil. I think it makes a difference).
    • 400g (2 cups) whole milk
    • 300 g (1.5 cups) cream
    • 50g (1/4 cup) glucose
    • 150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
    • 100g (5) egg yolks
    • 1 tsp commercial stabilizer pereferably Cremodan 30 (optional but recommended)
    1. Wisk together stabilizer, if using, and sugar.  Place milk, cream and glucose in a pot and wisk in sugar.
    2. Bring to a simmer and stir in tea leaves. Remove from heat, stir in loose tea and cover. Let steep three minutes
    3. Strain dairy through a fine mesh sieve into a clean pot.  Press firmly on tea to release as much flavor as possible. Discard tea leaves.
    4. Wisk egg yolks in a heat proof bowl. Stir about 1/4 cup of the base into the egg yolks to temper them and gradually wisk in the rest of the base.
    5. Place mixture in a clean pot and stir constantly on a medium low flame.  Cook the mixture at least until 145 degrees to pasturized the yolks. When the mixture coats the back of a spoon and you can draw a line down the center of the spoon’s back and the edges don’t flow back together, the base is done. I’ve seen a lot of ice cream books say you need to cook the mixture until 180 degrees but I don’t think that’s necessary.
    6. Strain once again through a fine mesh sieve to get rid of any particles of yolk.
    7. Chill overnight in a covered container.
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  • Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce

    I have other hot fudge and chocolate sauces but this one is good for this dessert because it’s a little thinner and has a more delicate chocolate flavor

    • 8 oz fine bittersweet chocolate ( not chips but callets are fine.  For this sauce I like Callebaut semi sweet chocolate callets)
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 1/4 cup glucose or corn syrup (I prefer glucose as it’s not as sweet and is more viscous)
    1. Chop chocolate into fine pieces and place in a heat proof container.
    2. Place glucose and cream in a pot and bring to a simmer.
    3. Pour hot cream over chocolate.  Cover and let sit about five minutes.  With a wisk, start from the center of the bowl and gently mix together the chocolate and cream, widening the circle as the mixture begins to amalgamate.  The purpose is to get a smooth mixture without air bubbles.
    4. Refrigerate until needed but warm it up before using.
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  • Assembling

    1. Freeze whatever molds you are using whether it’s silicone or a stainless steel loaf pan or ring. I love, love, love silicone as the ice cream pops right out.  If I use a loaf pan, I line it with parchment paper. I prefer it to plastic wrap, which wrinkles. Of course, you can go commando and not use a liner but then, in order to unfold, you need to blast the mold with a blow torch or dip it in hot water. Too messy!
    2. Churn the ice cream and fill the molds.
    3. Take the cake and presss it gently on top of the mold. When you unfold, the cake will be your base.
    4. Freeze at least 6 hours
    5. Unfold and plate.  Garnish with toasted walnuts and candied orange peel.
    6. You can garnish with other sauces as well: fresh oranges poached in orange marmalade and fresh juice, rhubarb compote perfumed with lemon or orange zest.  Anything with citrus will work. Just don’t use too much or it will overwhelm the flavor of the tea.  In the top photo I used some pink grapefruit which I poached for a minute in some of my blood orange marmalade and a bit of fresh orange juice. If you don’t have blood orange marmalade hanging around strain some Seville orange marmalade, thin it with a bit of fresh juice until you have a saucy consistency and throw in some supremed orange segments.  Easy, peasy.

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