January 17, 2010

Hola- Divina Cucina on the Road

As I sit here in my friend Ruth's apartment, waking up to see sunrise over Mexico City from her home in Condensa, I am finally feeling less exhausted.

This trip began with an early flight from Florence and a 5 hour lay-over in Amsterdam. I was thrilled when I saw the YoHotel- and although was a little weary of sleeping for a few hours in what I immagined to be some sort of a sleeping pod, I was so physically weary I went for it.

Am I glad I did- a small room with a very futuristic bedroom and bath. The bedspace was the size of a train sleeper- but much, much nicer. ( I will take foto's when I stop on the way back too!).

A fabulous single mattress a space in the wall which created a sleep cave- a choice of soft lighting, or reading lights and a flat screen t.v. built in the end of the wall at the foot of the bed.

There was space to pull down a tabletop and a folding chair- Free internet access, made me wish I had brought my computer. I had paid 6 euro, about 10 dollars for 30 minutes in the airport space. Across the room ( about 3 feet away) was the bathroom space, with toilet sink and a fabulous "monsoon" shower, one of those HUGE shower heads. I snuggled down to sleep in what turned out to be one of the best mattresses and fabulous linens. A down pillow and comforter made it a perfect nest.

When it was time to board, I left myself enough time to have an order of sushi and walked rested to my 12 hour flight to Mexico City. We arrived on time and my lugge arrived too, which always makes me happy. Cleared customs with the green light, which meant I got in all my food products I was bringing for class. Now praying that the books I sent over a week ago with Fed Ex also arrive in time.

I will catch up on my posts- as I figure out how to download the foto's on friends computers.

Adios! The adventure begins.

January 6, 2010

Buona Befana

La Befana vien di notte con le scarpe tutte rotte

The Befana comes at night with broken shoes

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Santo Stefano ( the 26th), New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and now the Befana- finally the Italian holidays are over! Except, technically Carnivale starts now and Easter comes early this year, April 4th.

The bad weather has put a crimp on the holiday celebrations today in the piazza where I live. Usually the local firemen dress up as the Befana ( men usually make the best as they can be really ugly) and "fly" from the local tall building down into the square to hand out candy to the kids that were good this year.

Usually children get a calza, like our christmas stockings, filled with chocolate and small gifts if they were good and chunks of black coal,made from sugar, if they were bad.

Doesn't sound too bad to me either way!

This year I bought some coal, to fotograph for the blog and was going to make some so you all could try at home. Then I thought- who really wants to buy black food coloring to add to their candy? I remembered a trick for making peanut brittle foamy and did some research and found a recipe for American honeycomb candy.

It is basically the same as making the Italian carbone- so if you have any black food coloring- go crazy-

Italian Carbone for La Befana adds 2 tbs of a powdered sugar and egg white glaze at the end and the American version adds baking powder.

American Honeycomb Candy

1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons baking soda ( bicarbonata di sodio)
(for the italian "carbone" mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with 1 whipped egg white, use 2 tbs)

Prepare a 9x13 pan, covering with foil. ( if you have a silpat sheet, slip that on to the bottom).

Mix the sugar, corn syrup, honey and water in a thick bottomed pot that is high-sided.
The mixture with expand when the baking soda is added.

Place over med-high heat and cook to the hard crack stage 300F or 140C.
Do not stir- you should clean the sides of the pan of any sugar crystals by letting water drip down off of a pastry brush.

Remove the pan from the stove and add the baking powder all at once and whisk!

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and let sit for an hour to set.

Remove from pan and break up into smaller pieces using a knife.

Save in a airtight tin, to keep it crunchy.

Buona Befana a tutti!!!
Note: next time I am going to use the egg white/powdered sugar mix - I think the baking soda leaves a funny taste, sort of bitter.