Category Archives: Italian

Scenes from Taylor Street Festa Italiana

This past weekend has been quite a whirlwind. Our family bakery participated in the street festival in Little Italy, where we will be opening this fall. My cousin Gio helped me bake, package, carry and sell over 4,000 cookies over the course of the week. Throughout the weekend family and friends would stop by to help, which was always fun. It was an exhausting and exhilarating week. The best part of every day was the stories. People who grew up in the neighborhood would talk about their favorite memories of Annette and the bakery. Everyone who’d ever eaten there had a favorite bakery item…and it was usually the pizza, the donuts, the turnovers and strudel. For the first time, I am assured we will not lack for business, though I have begun to feel the weight of everyone’s expectations. It will certainly add to the challenge.

Thank you to everyone who came out this past weekend. It was so great to see and meet everyone, I can’t wait to open our doors to you!

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Filed under Bakery, Italian

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant

Hello there, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I was so much better at updating this when I spent a large amount of my time sitting at home baking. I’m still baking at home whenever I get a chance, but between packing to move, working on my final project for school, my new job/stage at a restaurant in the city, and planning a dessert table menu for a charity event, my free time seems to be evaporating quickly.

And I love it. I haven’t been this busy in a long time, or as happy. I feel like I’m finally a contributing member of society again!

The most exciting thing happening is this new restaurant job, (unpaid, unfortunately, but expected). So as I recount my first real-world kitchen experience, I will share some pictures of things I’ve made in class and at home these past two weeks.

Keep reading…

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Filed under Bakery, Bread, Italian, Restaurants

Everyday Cakes

You know what I’d like to bring back?

Tea time, and not the golf kind. Those British are on to something. I mean, I’m not the biggest fan of tea unless I’m sick–I’m much more of a debilitating coffee addiction kind of girl. But the tea time ritual itself, that’s what I want. Because you get to take a break in the middle of the day and socialize. And more importantly, you get to eat cake. (Or at least you do in my version of tea time).

The best coffee/tea-time cake is deliciously simple. Butter, sugar, eggs, and flour, maybe a little flavor, (I am all about almond!), or jam filling. Everyday cakes are truly spectacular without the fuss. Unfortunately these kinds of cake don’t always satisfy as an after dinner dessert. They shine much more brightly mid-day, shared with a friend or two over coffee and tea.

Which is why we need to bring back tea time. And while we’re at it, afternoon siestas. I would advocate for brunch too, another excellent reason to make one of these cakes, but it is already a recognized and well-practiced tradition.

In conclusion, everyday cakes are a largely ignored yet glorious treat. I’m a big fan and you should be too. So I’m going to share with you three fabulous cake recipes that I made on a whim and was ever so glad I did!

Keep reading…

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Filed under Breakfast, Cake, Italian, Recipe

Home cooked meals

My sister Denise came home this past weekend from college. And since dorm food is often less than satisfactory, I was determined to make her a home cooked meal. Not to mention, it is so much more fun cooking for others than just for yourself.

I’d like to take a moment and talk about ciabatta. It is a pretty excellent bread. It can also be infuriating because the dough is so wet and sticky it is difficult to work with. So difficult that your first batch sort of looks deflated and you have to make another batch just to prove you can do it right, which you do. Then after sampling bread from the two batches you find they’re both quite delicious and now you have twice as much bread! At which point you forgive the ciabatta and become friends again.

But back to dinner. Although I love all sorts of food and cuisines, whenever I haven’t had Italian in a while, I crave it like crazy. It is my ultimate comfort food, and best when cooked and shared with others.

So we made homemade pasta, to go with my Nana’s famous tomato sauce recipe. We even figured out how to shape them into bowties/farfalle. It was a tremendous success.

Lastly, because a fabulous dinner is best followed by a fabulous dessert, we made a chocolate cake. The same one, in fact, that I made when I learned I could, with great effort, whip egg whites by hand.

And so, we made our cake and ate it too. Of course, my sister took dusting her cake with powdered sugar to a whole new level.

Then proceeded to eat it within the outline of the sugar. If you know Denise, you wouldn’t be surprised by this. Then again, maybe this is just what inhaling too much sugar does to your head.

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Filed under Bread, Cake, Chocolate, Italian, Savory

Pine nuts, cannoli, and figs, oh my!

A couple weeks ago, I held a taste testing party for my cousin and some of his friends. I made Italian cookies to practice and test out recipes for the bakery, and they ate said cookies and provided feedback. Wine was also part of the deal, naturally.

But first, let’s rewind to 48 hours earlier when I began this adventure in the kitchen. It started at my favorite grocery store which has almost any ingredient I could ever need, Italian or otherwise, and so inexpensive! It is a horrible enabler to my grocery shopping addiction.

In any case, I made my mother’s almond biscotti recipe, which I cannot seem to make without getting extremely frustrated. I cannot begin to fathom why this recipe just doesn’t cooperate with me. It’s not that anything goes wrong either, they just aren’t perfect. Grr. The pine nut cookies on the other hand, those were fun, if not very, very sticky. The cookies themselves are a chewy macaroon made with almond paste. Delicious. I skimped a little on the pine nuts, but those little buggers are expensive!

And oh the fig cookies.

These were big winners.

Then of course, there were cannoli. You can buy pre-made shells if you’re short on time, and then you just mix ricotta and powdered sugar until creamy, then add in your flavor, in my case, orange and cinnamon. Easy peasy.

Of course, even with all this baking I had three pounds of leftover ricotta cheese. So later that week I made ricotta and polenta cake full of honey and ricotta muffins, which were barely sweet but fascinatingly good. I think I was photographed out by this point because I documented neither item. However, ricotta is such a wonderously versatile cheese that I have a long list of ricotta desserts to try out, so this will not be the last you hear of it.

Of all the treats I made for the evening, I was most proud of my rosemary bread. It turned out better than ever before.

It was just divine. Most especially with butter. (Obviously). Unfortunately, I have since let my rosemary plant die. Oops! I don’t know how I will ever start and keep a garden.

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Filed under Bakery, Beer and Vino, Bread, Cookies, Fruit, Italian, Pastries

What to make when you break your oven

Why, donuts of course! Or bombolini in this case, little donut holes rolled in sugar and filled with cream, jam, or nutella. Is it donut or doughnut? I never know which to use, but for the sake of brevity (in typing) I will use the former.

You should make these even if your oven isn’t broken. Even if you didn’t stupidly pour water on a hot oven door, cracking the glass window rendering the oven useless and a glass-shattering hazard. (And even if you finished baking your bread with the glass broken, risking said hazard, because you were not about to waste good dough).

Or was that just me?

I was terribly distraught when I learned my oven would not be operational for an entire week. However, I can use this week to make things that do not require an oven. Or get other things on my to do list done without getting distracted by proofing bread or baking cookies.

Keep reading…

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Filed under Bread, Breakfast, Chocolate, Italian

Pâte à choux

These days, I’ve fallen in love with pâte à choux.

This special dough, which I only just learned to pronounce, is used to make cream puffs, eclairs, profiteroles, gougères (savory cheese puffs), and zeppole, (the Italian version of beignets typically made on St. Joseph’s day).

The best part about this dough is not only its delicious puffiness, but how wonderfully easy it is to make. It’s also unlike other pastry because you mix your flour, butter, milk and water over heat, essentially cooking the dough before you even bake (or fry) it.

Keep reading…

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Filed under Chocolate, Italian, Pastries, Recipe