November 16, 2005

Virtual Cookie Swap

I love Cookies!
So when I saw this Sugar High Friday on Domestic Goddess
I saw a woman after my own heart!
She and Alberto of Il forno are having a virtual cookie swap! Perfect timing for the holidays.
When they post all the cookies they are having a contest, Vote for your favorite three by email on their sites.. hope my Riccarelli is one of them!

I go wacko at christmas breaking out all my old recipes and making zillions of cookies. Every year I give bags to all my favorite vendors at Florence's Central Market which gives me a special place in their hearts!

One of my favorite cookies anytime of the year is a simplified Renaissance cookie called Riccarelli. Much like Almond paste or Marzipan, my version is less sweet and quicker to make.Serve with a lovely rich dessert wine, like Vin Santo from Tuscany, a Recioto from Verona or a Passito di Pantelleria and you will be in heaven!

These delicate Christmas cookies are said to be shaped like the almond eyes of madonnas by Renaissance painters.

The traditional cookies are a three day process,ground almonds are mixed with a sugar syrup and then let to rest for a day, then formed the next day and let to rest again, then baked. I find the traditional cookie to be sweeter and more marzipan-like.
I prefer instant satisfaction.
Often I will form the cookies and then bake them right before I serve them, so they are warm right out of the oven. Really special, but not traditional.
I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

These are the traditional Riccarelli at Nannini's pastry shop in Siena.

I have given these recipes to many people for their cookbooks and they have translate my ingredients incorrectly and they come out wrong. Good, but wrong.
The dough should not be too sticky and firm enough to form. It should not spread out when baking. If there are problems, try adding more flour.

, grinding the almonds in the food processor isn't fine enough and the almonds won't absorb the whites and will spread!

Ricciarelli (Sienese Almond Cookies)
Makes about 36 cookies.

Like all Italian almond sweets, they were called "marzipan" for centuries. They are a popular dessert treat in Italian homes.
Here's the recipe!

2 cups Almond flour or almond meal
( you may need an additional cup of almond flour if your dough is soft)
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups powdered sugar ( 10x , icing sugar )
1 tsp almond extract ( I use Bitter almond extract) add more for a stronger flavor.

1 cup Extra powdered sugar for rolling the cookies before baking

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1.If you don't have almond flour you can make your own. I use a manual Swedish nut grinder,a food processor doesn't do it right.
If you are making your own almond flour, use peeled unroasted nuts for the classic cookie.

2.Add the powdered sugar.

3. Combine the baking powder with the flour and fold in.

4.Beat the egg whites until stiff and mix into the almond mixture.

5. Add the almond extract and blend until you have a soft paste.

6. Place some powdered sugar on a clean, dry surface. Form one tablespoon of dough into a small ball, roll in the sugar, and then form the traditional diamond shape, flattening the cookie with the palm of your hand.

7. Place the cookies on a baking sheet covered with baking paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden. Cooking them at a lower temperature for a longer time will make a softer cookie. I like the contrast of the crunch.

One of my variations
Ricciarelli are fabulous with tiny cubes of candied orange peel or candied giner rolled into them and then dipped in chocolate.

Also great with hazelnuts or rolled in pineuts.

November 8, 2005

CICCIA- Bistecca alla Fiorentina

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

I recieved an email from a student, asking why the recipe for cooking Florentine steak wasn't in my cookbook.
It is so easy, I didn't even think about it, as really it is more of a non-recipe.

I then began to think, it is usually the easiest recipes that are the hardest to reproduce!
So here are some of my thoughts on the Tuscan T-Bone.

Of course the secret to great great meat! Using the best will let the flavor of the meat shine through!

Source out a fabulous butcher!

The beef here grazes and is very lean,not pumped up with antibiotics, so needs to be left really rare to be tender.
I look for lean meat, no marbling, but with a nice layer of white fat on the outside, my favorite part after grilling!

In Florence, I can choose from one of many in the market. I walk around looking that day at the different steaks. Today I picked the Chianina steak from Emilio

Buy a 2 pound T-bone steak ( this one was 1,200kg, which was about 2 1/2 lbs)
Leave it at room temp.

It should be three fingers high!

Get the coals going, or wood...
Or heat up a cast iron skillet or griddle.

When the heat is right ( coals and wood should not be flaming,but hot coals.. White and red..)
Skillet HOT.

Put the meat on to cook.
No seasonings.

In America, this may set off your smoke detectors, so I suggest outdoor grilling when possible..and on wood or coals for the best flavor.

.. gas grills???
I am sure it imparts a flavor too..
I am not an expert on gas grills,maybe someone can do a taste test for me!
Do they impart a flavor too?

Leave the meat to cook 3-5 minutes per side.
( depending hot HIGH the steak is cut, it Italy it is three fingers high)

Often, they also cook the steak for the last 5 minutes, standing up on it's bone, to get that last bit cooked around the "T".

After the steak is cooked, let sit for 10 minutes before cutting.
If you cut the meat right away, it will bleed and lose all it’s juices, drying out!

You want it to be black and blue, seared crispy on the outside, then with a grey layer, then the red , almost raw steak.
Think Prime Rib?

Cut the meat off the bone, into large serving sizes, divide the filet also.
Sprinkle with sea salt and if you like you can also drizzle with olive oil . Many like to serve a lemon wedge.

Secrets.. Buy the BEST!

Keep it simple.
Meat,sea salt and olive oil!

Spend more time shopping than cooking!