Showing posts with label bread. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bread. Show all posts

Monday, October 24, 2016

Fall is In the Air ...

Well finally the feeling of Fall has hit southern Italy these past few weeks and I love it! I came down with a really bad cold last week but I'm feeling much better now. I had such a lovely and relaxing weekend. I didn't do anything exciting but it was just nice to stay at home and relax. Mr. Amore and I fixed things up around the house, I cleaned as I usually do on Saturday mornings, and then I went for a run and took in the fresh autumn air.   I don't run on a regular basis but I like to on the weekends when the weather is nice. 

I decided I was in the baking mood over the weekend and  I happened to have 4 very ripe bananas laying around that I was probably never going to eat so  I made some delicious Banana Nut Bread so that they wouldn't go to waste.  I've been having a slice every morning with my coffee and I love it. 

I love banana nut bread. I have some Italian readers that follow my blog so before you say ...boring another banana nut bread recipe... let it be known that this is a very typical American recipe so I'm happy to share it with my International friends.

Silvana's Banana Nut Bread Recipe

4 ripe bananas
400 grams of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
50 grams of walnuts
50 grams of butter
120 grams of sugar
1 egg

It's a simple recipe, it's delicious and your house will smell great.

Mash up the bananas with a fork and mix in the ingredients. That's it. Complicated, no? I like to add the walnuts last and keep them whole. I prefer them that way but you can chop them up if you like.

Grease and flour your baking pan and bake for about 25 minutes at 200°C.

...and there you have it...


On a different note, I still haven't done much fall decorating but the pictures my mom sent of the pumpkin patch ride my sister and her friends went on have put me in the fall mood so hopefully soon I'll show you my fall decorations....better late than never right? 

Fall in Pennsylvania is just gorgeous. Here are some pictures of the beautiful pumpkin patch my sister visited. I so wish I could have been there with her. 

Those ladies in the back (including my mother) are angels on earth. They are so good with all of the children. It puts my heart at ease and I thank God everyday for the care they give these children. 

This looked like such a fun place to visit. I wish we had a place like this in Italy. 

The farm is called AGA Farms and here is the link if you're in the area and would like to visit. 

I guess I'll just have to make due visiting through Face Time calls from across the Pond! 

Have a great week ahead and God Bless! 



Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Random Act of Kindness

So my blog friend Manu started a linky party on her blog that I thought was really sweet and such a wonderful initiative especially since we're in the time of Lent. So with this I'm linking to Cooking Manu's RAK week!

I usually give something up for Lent but this year I have decided to do things differently. Instead of giving things up, I want to make an effort of DOING things. Doing random acts of kindness every day is something that I'm sure will make all of us feel better about ourselves. Everyone has problems and whenever I meet someone who is in a bad mood or grumpy I always try to remember that I don't know what this person has gone through/is going through. There probably is a reason that he or she is being mean, or is in a bad mood or doesn't smile all the time.

I too have been going through some personal issues right now and I recognize it in myself that at times I can be rather hurtful towards the people that love me the most. Sometimes I'll close up and not be the best at keeping in touch with friends of mine or just be too indulged in my own problems to worry about others. So I'm going to try and make an effort of being more present and loving towards the people in my life.

Sunday was Valentine's Day and I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from my Love. He really is my rock and I would be lost without him.

To me Valentine's Day is kind of a dumb "holiday"... I think that a couple should celebrate Valentine's Day all year round and not just one day a year.... but I guess I see how it can be a special day. I didn't get my sweetheart anything but I wanted to do something special all the same.

You know how my friend Alessandra got me to start making sourdough bread? I've talked about her many times on my blog. She is an exceptional person and I'm sure she would have many RAK to share on Manu's blog! Well, for Christmas she sent me this proofing basket.

I haven't been making bread in a while even though I have been refreshing my sourdough and keeping it in good "health" in my refrigerator....  Even my sweetheart mentioned a while back that he noticed I stopped making bread at home.

He's the one that actually got me to start making homemade sourdough bread because I know how much he loves it.  I don't know what it was...I just wasn't in the bread-making mood I guess. So for Valentine's Day I decided to surprise him by making a loaf of bread in the proofing basket that my friend Alessandra gave me. I woke up on Valentine's Day ready to bake some bread!

(Make sure to flour the basket well or the dough will stick!!)

I know it may seem dumb and insignificant but it was a special act that my sweety appreciated greatly and I was happy to use my sourdough again that I had put so much time, effort and care in making. I also wanted to use the basket for the first time and now I can't wait to use it again!

Bear in mind that I have never used a proofing basket before. Alessandra sent it to me in late November and it's been sitting in my kitchen cabinet since then.  It's supposed to shape the bread and absorb the moisture from the dough while it's rising.

I added poppy seeds and sunflowers seeds all around the dough. 

I made sure to coat the bottom of the basket with seeds as well and placed the dough in the proofing basket to rise. 

I left it to rise for 7 hours. I probably should have left it another couple hours but I couldn't wait any longer! It was just beautiful and it flipped over without sticking at all. 

So I baked it on parchment paper for about an hour and it was good and done!  My house smelled A-mazing!

With this post I would like to point out that I was also the reciever of a Random Act of Kindness when my friend Alessandra who never even met me before sent me this wonderful present <3

Thank you Manu for the linky party! I will be joining with this post on Friday and I invite others to join in as well!

Hope you all are having a wonderful week!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Panettone with Pasta Madre - Italian Fruit Cake with Sourdough Starter

My dear friends, I haven't written in a while because we had a long weekend and I was out of town. In Italy the Immaculate Conception, December 8th, is a national holiday so I had Monday off and therefore I was able to go visit some relatives. 

My dear friend Alessandra who I've talked about before encouraged me to try making a fruit cake with my sourdough because she is convinced, and now so am I, that it tastes so much better than a store bought panettone (Italian fruit cake). She told me to try this recipe from because she said that this is one of the better ones. 

I will start out by saying that making a home made Panettone with sourdough is a long procedure. It takes about 2 days to make and before serving it you must let it sit for at least 18 hours. I really was convinced that I would not have been able to make it and that it would turn out like crap but I can say for a fact that it was the best Panettone I have ever tasted in my life....literally. I have never eaten homemade Panettone and always bought them in stores. It has a completely different taste to it. It is much softer than the store bought stuff and tastes like a delicious brioche with pieces of dried fruit and raisins. 

The dough gets kneaded out and left to rise twice. This is why it takes about two days. Both leavening times take about 10-12 hours each. 

Ingredients for the 1st leavening:

 - 290 grams of bread flour
 - 160 grams of sourdough (pasta madre)
 - 3 egg yolks
 - 95 grams of water
 - 70 grams of white sugar
 - 75 grams of butter

Begin by melting the sourdough in the water, add the egg yolks, sugar, butter and little by little add the flour. Knead everything for a good 40 minutes (this is definitely easier done in a mixer). 

In the picture above I am breaking up the sourdough in the water. 

Mix in the flour with a spoon in the beginning and then once you add it all in, you can begin kneading. 

This is what the dough looked like after the first kneading. I left this to rise over night, so about 12 hours. 

This is what it looked like the following morning. At this point you will be kneading it again incorporating other ingredients. 

Ingredients for 2nd leavening:

 - 145 grams of bread flour
 - 25 grams of white sugar
 - 12 grams of powdered milk
 - 3 egg yolks
 - 45 grams of water
 - 5 grams of salt
 - 5 grams of honey
 - 5 grams of malt (I didn't have malt so I used maple syrup instead)
 - 75 grams of butter
 - 130 grams of raisins
 - 60 grams of dried cedar
 - 60 grams of dried orange
 - 1 tablespoon of rum
 - one teaspoon of vanilla flavoring

What I did was mix in a separate bowl the water, honey, syrup, yolks and rum.  I took the leavened dough and mixed it with the dry ingredients. Then little by little I added the wet mixture. Leave out the raisins and dried fruit until the dough has been kneaded for a good 50 minutes. 

Once the dough is nice and elastic (after 50 minutes of kneading it should be!) add the dried fruit and knead by hand into the dough mixture. 

At this point weigh your dough. Mine weighed 1.4 kilos. The form for the panettone that I used was for about 1 kilo of dough but I decided to put it all in there anyways and I was safe because luckily it didn't overflow....pheww!

I left this to rise covered lightly with a clean kitchen towel over night and at 7am this is what it looked like.

It had reached the top! How beautiful it was seeing it the next morning. I immediately called my friend Alessandra and she gave me instructions on what to do next. 

I made a cross on top of the dough and let it sit for another hour. 

I preheated the oven to 200°C and put the panettone in the oven with a small dish of water that created a more humid environment for the fruit cake so it won't dry out too much. I turned down the heat to 190°C and baked it for about 45 - 50 minutes. It should not be baked any longer than that.

This is what it looked like after it was done. It grew even more in the oven. I left it to sit out until dinner that evening and we tasted it for the first time. All that hard work and patience but let me tell you my was just heavenly!

I would like to thank my friend Alessandra for everything she has taught me about sourdough. She has such a passion for working with pasta madre and when I hear her talk about it she is so enthusiastic that she got me into it as well. She is a great friend and I thank God for having met her. She writes a cooking blog where she shares her bread making skills and the techniques that have worked best for her. 

When I got home yesterday from my long weekend I found this package at my front door. It was from Alessandra and this is what she sent me:

She sent me a bamboo tray for leavening bread and a container that is specifically used for rising dough. I am so appreciative of our new friendship. We have never met in person yet because she lives far away from me but this summer we are planning a trip to visit each other. Grazie di vero cuore Alessandra. 

Alessandra's blog: 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sourdough starter - "Pasta Madre" Part 2

So I started the Part 1 post saying that I was dreading writing it because of how complicated it would be to explain. That post is one of the most popular posts on my blog.  Today I post Part 2 and am so happy because I'm proud to say that my sourdough is complete after a little over a month. 

The foto above is right after refreshing it. 

And this is my PM after 4 hours from the refresh. 

How did I know it was ready, you ask?  My "teacher" Alessandra (she's the expert by the way and the one who taught me everything) noticed. I would send her pictures before and after refreshing the dough every night and she told me that it was almost ready. One evening she told me to refresh the PM and instead of throwing away the remainder of the sourdough, try making a loaf of bread to see if it rises. So I followed step by step what she told me. I will give the details in another post but I basically mixed about 150gr of PM with a cup and a half of water, added about 500gr of bread flour and placed it covered in my oven (with only the light turned on) for the whole night. So it was left to rise from 11:30pm to 6:30am.

Here it was before leaving it to rise. When I woke up the next morning I went straight into the kitchen to see what had happened. Did it rise? Maybe my PM is not ready yet? What if it's no good? These were all questions that were running through my head before getting out of bed. Well friends, this is what I saw when coming into the kitchen...

The dough was overflowing!! It was sooo ready! I felt like a little girl on Christmas morning! I called my friend Alessandra at 7 am and sent her the pictures. She was even more surprised and happy than I was! Do you guys realize that there are no artificial yeasts here? There is nothing other than flour and water basically and the dough rose like this?!? It really is a magical thing. 

So I made my first sourdough bread. It's not the most wonderful bread to look at but ohhh the taste! 

Making the bread takes some practice and I will dedicate a whole post on that with a step by step tutorial but it turns out delicious I can assure you! There are somethings that I would like to improve for example the height and the shape but I know that that is pretty much trial and error. 

So I've been practicing using my sourdough for more than just bread. It can be used in place of artificial activated yeasts for all recipes. 

Yesterday I made homemade croissants and we had them for breakfast this morning. Just yummyyyy! 

I'll also post about those next week as well. 

So there you go, I wanted to update you guys on my Pasta Madre and wish everyone a blessed Sunday :-) 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sourdough starter - "Pasta Madre" Part 1

I've been dreading writing this post because I already know it will be rather complicated to explain but my friend Alessandra who gave me this recipe convinced me last night on the phone that if I don't document my "Pasta Madre" I will end up regretting it in the end. So here it goes....

What is "Pasta Madre"? It is the naturally produced yeast that is used in making sourdough bread. The literal translation for Pasta Madre is Mother Dough. It is called this in Italy because genuine Pasta Madre (I will abbreviate PM from now on) is not sold in grocery stores. It is a natural yeast that must be made at home. It must be cared for and "refreshed" to keep it alive or else it will die. Yes I know I'm sounding a little crazy but I'm trying to make it easy to understand because when I first started reading about it, it seemed extremely complicated and I hardly understood anything about it.

Alessandra was so informative and made everything so easy to understand. She told me "Silvana, you have to act as though it is your child! That is the real reason it is called Mother Dough!" So there you have it. I have been raising my "child" for about 10 days now and I'm proud to say she is growing big and strong! :-)'s a she by the way...I named her too. You have to name your's a must! If you're interested her name is Maria :-)

Alessandra has had her PM for over 2 years! Can you believe that?! The longer you have it the stronger it gets and it makes the most delicious sourdough bread and baguettes you have ever tasted!

So where do we start? You only need three things:

1) 100 grams of Manitoba Flour: you must use a strong flour or Manitoba flour as it's called. You should not use regular all-purpose flour or else you will not achieve the right yeast growth.

2) 50 grams of room temperature water: notice that it is exactly half of the amount of flour you have used. Use bottled water if you can instead of tap water.

3) One tablespoon of honey: you need some form of glucose to activate the yeast and this is the preferred method of my friend. It's the easiest and the purest method. Some people even use raisins in place of honey but by using other activators, you run the risk of mold forming which you must then immediately throw out and start over. Using honey is the "cleaner" approach and it makes for a beautiful and robust PM.

That's all you need! Now mix the three ingredients together by hand and you should end up with a ball the size of a tennis ball. Place the ball in a tall glass container that you will then cover with plastic wrap. Put one hole on top of the plastic wrap with a toothpick and let it sit on your counter top for 24 hours. Never place it in the refrigerator. The PM must produce naturally-occurring lactobacilli and yeast. This starts the fermentation process and will cause your PM to grow in size and expand.

This was Day 1 for my PM
After the first 24 hours you won't see much of a difference. For the first 3 days actually you won't see much change in size but on the fourth day you start to see the magic taking place!
So after 24 hours, you must refresh your PM for the first time. You should refresh every 24 hours for 30 days. I know...I know... I thought the same thing. It's a long time. But it really only takes 10 minutes a day. I do it before going to bed at night and it really is not a hassle at all. As I said before, my PM has been growing for about 10 days now so you will see it larger and of a different consistency than it was the first time I refreshed it. Now I will show you step by step the refreshing process which was the most complicated part for me.
This is what you need for the refreshment:
1) 100 grams of Manitoba Flour
2) 100 grams of your PM
3) 50 grams of water

Remove the top layer of your PM and discard. With a spoon take 100 grams of your PM from the middle area which is the most active, weigh it on a scale and place in a bowl.

Weigh out 100 grams of Manitoba flour and place in the bowl with the PM.

Then weigh 50 grams of room temperature water and mix together kneading well by hand, you don't have to knead for very long. Like I said before the whole process takes me no more than 10 minutes. Knead until you have formed a ball.


If you find that it's still too sticky, go ahead and add a little more flour.

This is how the PM should look after it has been refreshed. It's now ready to rest.
Discard the rest of the PM that you had left over and wash the glass container with ONLY hot water and dry well with a paper towel. Never use soaps or other chemicals. Only hot water. The PM will be very sticky so what I do is let the glass container soak overnight in hot water and place my refreshed PM in another tall glass container. Cover with the same plastic wrap with the hole on top and place on the counter again. Let it sit and repeat the process after 24 hours.

Each day you will see it grow larger and larger. It truly is an amazing process...It's like magic as my friend says! Once the PM is ready to be used, after 30 days, you will keep it in a closed container in the refrigerator and you don't have to refresh it every day. It usually should get refreshed once a week. I can't wait to make my first sourdough bread! I'm excited to see how it will turn out.

This is what my sourdough looks like now. In about 2 weeks it should reach the top of the container and be completely active for my first bread :-)
If you want to try it, don't be intimidated. Just give it a go! You have nothing to lose...
Here are some pictures of typical sourdough bread to get you motivated. Hopefully mine will turn out this yummy!! We'll just have to wait and see.... 



To be continued....

Update: Part 2 here