Friday, October 29, 2010

Week 5 of Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies - Lemon Glazed Christmas Wreath Cookies!

This week in Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies I am presenting a gorgeous tangy lemon cookie! As good as these are on a plate they would be wonderful tied to the tree with festive ribbon! These can be a little tricky to twist at first and shape into a wreath but a little patience and refrigeration of the dough certainly helps! I hope you enjoy these elegant cookies!

Lemon-glazed Christmas Wreath Cookies
(adapted from Australian Women Weekly COOK)

Makes 40

450g self raising flour
125g butter, chopped coarsely
60ml milk
110g caster sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind

Lemon Icing
480g icing sugar (powdered sugar)
lemon juice

Preheat oven to 180C. Line trays with baking paper.
Combine sugar and milk in small saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves.Add extract and cool for 5 minutes.
While you are waiting sift the flour and rub in the butter. I did this in the food processor. Stir in the warm milk mixture and the egg into the flour mixture.
Knead lightly until smooth.
Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Roll small teaspoons of dough into 13 cm sausages. Twist two sausages together, form into circles press edges together. Place 3 cm apart on oven trays. Bake 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
 Meanwhile make the lemon icing. Sift the sugar into small heatproof bowl, stir in enough juice to make a firm paste. Stir over small saucepan of simmering water until pourable. Add more lemon juice if required.
Dip the tops of the cookies into the icing; set at room temperature.

Check out my fellow Christmas Cookie Bakers!
Week 5 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

October's Daring Bakers Challenge - Doughnuts!

Yesterday I was part of a group of volunteers at my son's school who made a record (for our school or maybe there is World Record for making cannoli shells?) 2700 cannoli shells in preparation for a stall we hold annually at our local festival. It occurred to me that it has been almost a year since Lisa Michelle
of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives  challenged us to prepared cannoli. At that stage I had only been blogging for a month and had been a member of the Daring Bakers for 5 months. Since that time I have enjoyed a years worth of challenges, learnt so many techniques, made wonderful friends with other like minded people and had so much fun. Thank you to everyone who reads Marcellina in Cucina and for so many kind comments. So I didn't exactly celebrate a "blog anniversary" but it is a milestone which when recognised makes me realise the rewards that have come my way in the past year.
Anyway, onto the main reason for this post. Our challenge this month involved deep frying as did those cannolis last year. This  make many a baker uncomfortable as we are "bakers" not "fryers" but that is the whole point of a challenge. 
The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Lori gave us the option to make yeast or cake doughnuts, fried or baked. The only mandatory requirement was that we were to use one of her recipes of which Lori provided four - Yeast Doughnuts,Bomboloni, Buttermilk Cake Doughnuts and Pumpkin Doughnuts. I wanted the real deal so I opted to the yeast doughnuts DEEP FRIED! Mmmmm!
Also coincidentally I had recently bought cardamom pods in order to recreate Finnish Sweet Bread and Finnish Jam Doughnuts I yearned for from my childhood. I was raised in a multicultural area where my mum befriended other women from various countries around the world and loved swapping recipes.My Italian mum became a true Finnish woman when she prepared her sweet Pulla (Finnish Bread).  Sadly, my mum passed away before I was old enough to learn from her. Though I have tried her recipe and recipes given to me by the dear Finnish ladies, I haven't ever replicated Mum's delicious Pulla. Mum's Pulla was baked with love and to the child in me, the taste will never me replicated.
As wonderful as Mum's Pulla was she never attempted Hillomunkit (Finnish Jam Doughnuts) which we children devoured at our Finnish friends birthday parties (yes, they were some birthday parties!). So here was my opportunity. Alton Browns Yeast Doughnuts seemed similar to Hillomunkit recipes I had seen. 

So the Challenge was on!     


Alton Browns Yeast Doughnuts:

Preparation time:
Hands on prep time - 25 minutes
Rising time - 1.5 hours total
Cooking time - 12 minutes

Yield: 20 to 25 doughnuts & 20 to 25 doughnut holes, depending on size

Milk 1.5 cup / 360 ml
Vegetable Shortening 1/3 cup / 80 ml / 70 gm / 2.5 oz (can substitute butter, margarine or lard)  I used butter
Active Dry Yeast 4.5 teaspoon (2 pkgs.) / 22.5 ml / 14 gm / ½ oz
Warm Water 1/3 cup / 80 ml (95°F to 105°F / 35°C to 41°C)
Eggs, Large, beaten 2
White Granulated Sugar ¼ cup / 60 ml / 55 gm / 2 oz
Table Salt 1.5 teaspoon / 7.5 ml / 9 gm / 1/3 oz
Nutmeg, grated 1 tsp. / 5 ml / 6 gm / ¼ oz  I omitted this
All Purpose Flour 4 2/3 cup / 1,120 ml / 650 gm / 23 oz + extra for dusting surface
Canola Oil DEPENDS on size of vessel you are frying in – you want THREE (3) inches of oil (can substitute any flavorless oil used for frying)


1.Place the milk in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat just until warm enough to melt the shortening. (Make sure the shortening is melted so that it incorporates well into the batter.)
2.Place the shortening in a bowl and pour warmed milk over. Set aside.
3.In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let dissolve for 5 minutes. It should get foamy. After 5 minutes, pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer and add the milk and shortening mixture, first making sure the milk and shortening mixture has cooled to lukewarm.
4.Add the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer (if you have one), combine the ingredients on low speed until flour is incorporated and then turn the speed up to medium and beat until well combined.
5.Add the remaining flour, combining on low speed at first, and then increase the speed to medium and beat well.
6.Change to the dough hook attachment of the mixer and beat on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth, approximately 3 to 4 minutes (for me this only took about two minutes). If you do not have a dough hook/stand mixer – knead until the dough is smooth and not sticky.
7.Transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size

8.On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to 3/8-inch (9 mm)thick. (Make sure the surface really is well-floured otherwise your doughnuts will stick to the counter).
9.Cut out dough using a 2 1/2-inch (65 mm) doughnut cutter or pastry ring or drinking glass and using a 7/8-inch (22 mm) ring for the center whole. 

Set on floured baking sheet, cover lightly with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.


I divided the dough in half before the first rising. Allowed it to prove and then shaped one half into doughnuts with holes as above. To the other half I added 1 tablespoon of freshly crushed cardamom seeds and allowed it to prove (rise). I cut rounds with a 2 inch cutter , plopped a small teaspoonful of raspberry jam into the centre and brush the edge with water.I topped this with another round and sealed the edges well.

With some I tried cutting a large round, plopping on the jam and then gathering up the edges to seal in the jam. Both ways worked well, though the second method was more difficult to seal.

Set on floured baking sheet, cover lightly with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.

10.Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 365 °F/185°C.
11.Gently place the doughnuts into the oil, 3 to 4 at a time. Cook for 1 minute per side or until golden brown
12.Transfer to a cooling rack placed in baking pan. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes prior to glazing, if desired.

The Hillomunkit were everything I remembered and transported me back to those parties running under the cool shade trees.

At my son's request I glazed some of them and though the glaze never really set like I would have wanted it to, they were better than anything I have taste from the doughnut franchises popping up around our part of the world. The great thing is that I found all the varieties could be frozen successfully. Just zap in the microwave to warm when the Doughnut munchies hit!

Thank you  Lori! I enjoyed this challenge soooo much!  Check out Anakalia and Almost Bourdain for some great doughnuts and Audax for great tips on doughnut making!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Week 4 of Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies - Salame Dolce

Welcome to the 4th week of Christmas Cookies! This week my cookies is not quite a cookie but every time some one tries a piece the comment is "Oh, this would be great for Christmas!" So I bring you the Salame Dolce!

My readers will know that earlier this year my family and I hosted an Italian student. We all had so much fun sharing our ways and ideas. We also shared recipes. This is a recipe was kindly provided by our student's mum. I have slightly adapted it, reducing the quantity and omitting the eggs which being an no-bake sweet sort of freaked me out a bit. Yes, I know I shouldn't be that squeemish but raw eggs just don't sit well with me. So this is my adaption of Salame Dolce - Sweet Salami! No, it has no salami in it but is it made to look like salami. Clever, isn't it!   I know you will like it as much as we do. You can make this now and freeze it for Christmas - a great "do-ahead" recipe!

Salame Dolce

200g crushed sweet biscuits, I use Arnotts Nice - you could use Marie or similiar
100g crushed Amaretti
50g toasted almonds
50g cocoa powder
150g icing sugar (powdered sugar)
100ml liquid I used Marsala but you could try orange juice for a non-alcoholic variety or rum, brandy or whisky for an adults only version. 
150g butter, melted
100g dark chocolate, melted

Mix the dry ingredients then add the wet ingredients.
Cut two lengths greaseproof paper, one for each "salami". Divide the dough between the two sheets of paper and spread out into a line. Roll it up into a log pressing to form the shape. Twist the end of paper to seal. Place on a baking tray (so they keep their shape) and refrigerate for a few hours. Or freeze if you are keeping it for some time.
When you are ready to serve. Remove the wrapping. You can dust the salamis lightly with flour to resemble the skin of the salami. Slice and serve. Keep it chilled to retain the shape.
If you slice it diagonally it will look more like real salami.
Week 4 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"A Baker's Odyssey" Personal Challenge # 1 - Lebanese Pita

Freshly made pita bears little resemblance to the plastic-packaged, store-bought variety and it is not difficult to prepare. I like to use these are the Lebanese do as wraps, putting filling onto around, rolling it up to eat. This recipe, though slightly adapted, comes from the wonderful cookbook "A Baker's Odyssey" by Greg Patent who writes "To the Lebanese, bread is an integral part of the meal because it is used as a case to enclose the food itself. Bread and food are thus entwined."

You will need a baking stone for this recipe. They are easy to come by in good kitchenware shops or you can have a terracotta tile cut to suit your oven.

Lebanese Pita

2 1/2 cups warm water
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
6 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus about 1/2 cup more
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoon olive oil

If you have a heavy duty electric mixer you can make use of it to make the kneading a bit easier. 
Into a large bowl (or the bowl of your mixer) put 1/2 cup of the warm water and stir in the yeast and sugar. Let stand for about 10 minutes, until bubbly and frothy.

To the yeast add 1 cup of flour, the salt and the remaining 2 cups water and beat well with a wooden spoon (or in the electric mixer with the paddle attached). Add 2 more cups flour and beat until smooth and has the consistency of pancake batter. Beat in 2 tablespoons of oil. If you are using the mixer change to the dough hook at this stage. Gradually stir in the remaining 3 cups flour to make a firm slightly sticky dough. Knead by hand or mixer for about 10 minutes adding the extra 1/2 cup flour if needed. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
Rub a large bowl with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Shape the dough into a ball, place in the bowl turning the dough so all surfaces are coated with oil. Cover and let the dough rise at room temperature for about 2 hours. After which time if you press a finger into the dough and remove it, the depression should remain, then you know it is ready.

An hour before baking, adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and place a baking stone on the rack. Preheat the oven to 250C.

Turn the dough onto your work surface and pat it gently to deflate. With a sharp knife cut it 16 pieces. Shape each into a ball and place on a flour dusted baking tray. Cover lightly with a kitchen towel and let rest for about 20 minutes. 

Roll out only one ball of dough at a time to about a 8 inch round, flipping it over as necessary using a floured surface. Let the round rest for a minute or two.

As you can see, compared to a matchstick, the dough is rolled out quite thinly.

I  use an upside down baking tray as an baker's peel. Set the dough round on the end of floured baking sheet or baker's peel if you have one, and slide it off onto the baking stone. Work quickly to maintain the oven's heat. Within a minute it will start to puff up into taut pillows as the water in the dough converts to steamy pockets in the oven intense heat. Bake for about 2 1/2 minutes.  

Slide a large egg flip or baker's peel under the bread and remove it from the oven. Be careful, the breads are hot! Slide them onto kitchen towels and over with another towel. Using pot holders gently press on the bread to deflate it. Keep them wrapped in a kitchen towel to cool. Continue with the rest of the balls of dough.

You can be rolling the next dough round as one is baking.

Enjoy your fresh pita as a wrap or a pocket! Once you try making your own you will never buy them again. They are that good!
Stay tuned for my favourite pita filling!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Week 3 of Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies - Coffee Snaps

Hasn't this week just flown by! Here we are at week 3 of Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies. I decided to share with you one of mine and my family's favourite cookie - The Coffee Snap! With an intense coffee flavour and satisfying crunch these cookies are bound to become your favourites too! They keep well in an airtight container or even in the freezer ready to welcome an unexpected guest.

Coffee Snaps

125g butter
250g brown sugar
3 teaspoons ground coffee beans
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
110g self raising flour
110g all purpose flour
approx 70 coffee beans for decoration

Preheat oven to 170C. Beat butter, sugar, coffee and extract with electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the egg, beat until just combined.  Stir in sifted flours. Roll small teaspoons of the mixture into balls. Place 3 cm about on baking paper lined oven trays. Top each with a coffee bean. They may seem small but remember they will spread during baking.  

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until browned.  Stand for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.

This recipe make about 70 cookies!

Week 3 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Prawn Saganaki


Prawn Saganki is is basically prawns (or shrimp) baked with tomato and feta. Simple but tasty.  A delicous Greek dish often served as entree but makes a delicous meal with crusty bread to mop up the juices. You could even toss through al dente pasta to create a Greek style pasta marinara. This recipe is adapted from George Calombaris' cookbook "Greek Cookery from the Hellenic Heart"

For about 4 people I started with about 1 kg good fresh green (raw) prawns which I peeled and deveined. Heat a heavy based pan add some extra virgin olive oil and fry off 3 onions, peeled and sliced until they start to colour. Throw in your prepared prawns, 3 sliced cloves of garlic,chilli to taste and a spoonful of dried oregano. Cook for a few minutes.

Add 2 cups of crushed tomatoes and a small cup of water. Simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste. Stir in some shredded parsley and crumble over 100g good fetta cheese. Pop this under the grill until golden. Then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Week 2 of Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies - Chocolate Snowballs

I have joined a new baking group - 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies! Every week the members of the group bakes and then posts on Friday. In Australia we don't have a "Christmas Cookie Baking tradition" but I love baking cookies (or biscuits, as we know them) and I never need an excuse. This is actually the second week as I joined a little late.

This week I chose Chocolate Snowballs or Crinkles as I see them called occasionally. This is a recipe I jotted down while watching a cooking show hosted by Gabriel Gate` quite a few years ago. I have since adapted it a little adding a bit more flour and dark chocolate. I love the result and so does my family. I hope you do, too!

Chocolate Snowballs

200g plain flour
195g sugar
50g cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
80g butter
100g dark chocolate, chopped
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
200g sifted icing sugar, approximately

Place flour, sugar, cocoa and baking powder in the food processor. Whizz for 30 seconds to combine. Add butter and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add chocolate, process again to break down the chocolate into finer pieces. Don't worry if there are a few chunks of chocolate. Add the eggs and vanilla. Process until it combines and pulls together.
Like all biscuits dough this benefits from 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Form small balls and roll in icing sugar. I don't like to tap off the excess so I simply place the sugar coated balls directly onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake at 170C for 10-12 minutes.
Don't overcook them they are meant to be soft and almost brownie like inside.

Week 2 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Baci di Dama - Ladies Kisses!


"Caffe` Italia" by Liz Franklin is one of my more recent cookbook acquisitions. Liz Franklin is the author of 11 cookery books and runs a small bed and breakfast in Abruzzo, Italy where she also conducts cookery lessons. The one time winner of UK Masterchef, Liz is also a freelance writer and food stylist. This gorgeous cookbook is filled with 30 delicious recipes and heaps of information on the Italian coffee culture and making great coffee at home.     

On the front cover is a bowl of mouthwatering cookies - Baci di Dama and what better place to start baking from this book than the front cover. I did alter these a little using ground hazelnuts as well as ground almonds mainly because that's what I had. Also I doubled the quantity thinking that 20 biscuits weren't going to last long in my house!! And I wasn't wrong. These buttery biscuits are irresistible! Liz suggests using Nutella as a filling if you are short on time.

Baci di Dama (adapted from Caffe` Italia by Liz Franklin)

200g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
100g ground hazelnuts
200g flour

Chocolate butter filling
100g 72% dark chocolate, broken
40g butter

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Work ing the ground almonds, hazelnuts and flour until the mixture forms a stiff dough. Break off 40 pieces the size of walnuts and form into balls. Arrange on baking sheets, leaving a little room between each. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until golden. remove from the oven and transfer to wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate in a bowl wet over a saucepan of gently simmering water ( microwave on low power stirring occasionally until melted). Remove from heat stir in the butter and leave to cool. When the biscuits are cool use the chocolate butter to sandwich them together.