Eat

Ciambella

First of all, if you tell me there is a cake that is acceptable to eat for breakfast, I will be all about it. Normally I'm not a big cake person. I think it's because I don't love frosting. But Italians just do cakes right. 

Ciambella is an Italian bundt cake that is perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, midnight and any other time you can think of. It also happens to be light, melt in your mouth, and lemony which is great for summer. 

Baking for me will always be a love affair. It reminds me of my Nonna and it's my "go to" therapy when I'm feeling blue or stressed or pregnant. *shoulder shrug* The problem with my love for baking is I really need other people to eat the results because I also have major dessert guilt. So, come on over friends, these treats won't eat themselves. 

INGREDIENTS

Cake:

  • 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons fine sea or table salt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Finely grated zest of half an orange
  • 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (325 ml) grapeseed oil 
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (about 185 grams) plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (20 ml) vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups (390 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • About 3 tablespoons (45 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice

Make cake: Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray and coat with granulated sugar. Knock out any excess sugar from pan.

Place sugar and salt in a large bowl and use your fingertips to rub the zest into it to release the most flavor. Whisk in oil, mascarpone, yogurt, and then eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add baking powder and whisk thoroughly into the batter. Add flour and use a rubber spatula to stir just until batter is smooth.

Drop batter equally around your cake mold, then smooth, and drop on the counter a few times to ensure there are no trapped air bubbles. Bake for about 40 minutes checking in at the 30-minute mark to rotate the pan for even coloring. The cake is done when a toothpick or tester comes out batter-free. 

While the cake bakes, make the glaze: Whisk sugar and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice together until smooth, adding the last tablespoon of juice just if needed. This glaze should be thicker than normal. 

When cake is done, let it rest on a cooling rack for 3 to 5 minutes, then remove it from the pan while it's still hot. Brush or drizzle glaze evenly over the top of the cake, and sides if you wish and it will set as it cools.

Enjoy enjoy enjoy. 

A Recipe: Nonna's Cookies Redone

So, this may not seem like that big of a deal to all of you, but Nonna's Cookies are a bit of a treasure around the Picone households. My Nonna used to have bags and bags of these cookies stacked in her freezer. Dominic and I would walk to her house in the mornings to have these cookies in a bowl of chocolate milk as kids (and as we got older, a bowl of coffee). We would take these cookies to school as snacks, and when I was in high school and could eat whatever I wanted with no consquence to my thighs, I would smash these cookies up in a bowl of ice cream with a scoop of peanut butter. (Who AM I?!) I feel like I should also clarify that these aren't so much a cookie as they are a scone, but for some reason they are known around our house ascookies, so cookies they shall remain.

When Nonna passed away, it became my responsibility (and pleasure) to continue the making of these cookies and according to Nonno, I make them just like her. (And trust me, the man is sweet but hard to please, so when he's pleased with your cooking you've won.)

Recently, Brighton discovered the joy of Nonna's cookies and I couldn't help but feeling like I needed to make a healthier version. BLASPHEMY. I know. But when it comes to my baby girl, I felt like all the sugar and unhealthy oils was just a bad idea. So I decided to see if I could make these cookies healthier. Now let's be real, cookies are still cookies. And nothing will ever taste as good as something filled with refined sugars and melted butter. But hey, it's worth a shot. So as I was looking through my pantry I noticed coconut oil and flaxseed meal and I wondered if I could replace all the butter and vegetable oil with coconut oil and then remove some flour and replace with flaxseed meal. So I did, and you guys, they taste amazing! Still that wonderful, nostalgic, sweet treat, but with a little less guilt. Just a little ;) So these cookies are now officially dairy free and maybe someday I can bring myself to figure out a solid gluten-free recipe so I can eat them without regretting it. (Enter Digize.)

So here they are ladies and gents. P.s. Don't ever show these to my Nonno. This is probably just as bad as when I left Catholic Church and started going to a "non-denom". 

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup flax seed meal
  • 1 3/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flaxseed meal, flour, and baking powder. Mix eggs, and pour in vanilla, melted coconut oil, and sugar. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. The dough should be moderately stiff. So, still moist, but will hold its shape when you roll into a round cookie. 

Form cookies in round balls by hand. Bake for around 15 minutes or until bottoms are just golden. Dip that goodness in coffee for breakfast, enjoy it as a snack, take in all the glory of this yummy cookie. 

A Recipe: Pignoli

Yup. Another almond flavored treat. I'm telling you, they are the best. What's even better is these cookies are gluten-free! Hooray! Nonna made a MASSIVE batch of these cookies (as well as the Venetians) as the gifts for my wedding. Every place setting had a little box with her cookies. Everyone went home with a piece of Nonna and some of our families favorite treats. 

These cookies are much easier to make than Venetians and don't take as long. However, the results can vary based on the brand of ground almonds that you use. I recommend using a superfine almond flour. The finer grind of the almonds helps replicate regular flour and keeps the cookies fluffy. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 16 oz ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 egg whites
  • 4 tbs almond extract
  • 8 oz pine nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 


Mix together almond meal and sugar. Beat together egg whites and almond extract until soft peaks forms. 


Gradually fold egg whites into the ground almond mix. Cover a pan with parchment paper. 
By the tsp full, drop cookies into the pan. Top with pine nuts. 


Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. 

Arancini

Who doesn't love something deep fried? The more I dive into all of Nonna's recipes, the more I realize that it's all carbs and oil. But I suppose that's why it's all so darn good. Arancini was a classic in Nonna's house. To me, it's comfort food. When I traveled to Italy or when I find a good Italian restaurant in San Diego, I am overjoyed with I see these on the menu!

These are fairly simple to make, but a tad time consuming since there a few steps. It is worth it!

Arancini
(ah-ran-CHEE-nee) Stuffed Rice Balls

For the Filling:
1/4 cups peas
2 oz ground beef
1 minced garlic clove
4 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp olive oil

For the Rice:
3 cups cooked rice
1 egg beaten
1 tbsp minced parsley
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
Vegetable Oil


Makes 4 - 6
Heat olive oil in small sauce pan. Over medium heat sautee garlic until they are transparent, but not brown.
Add peas and ground beef. Cook until beef is fully cooked and juices are evaporated. Add tomato sauce and cook for 5 minutes.
Combine rice, beaten egg, parsley, tomato paste, s+p with fork.
Put 2 tbsp of rice in hand, press thumb in center, place tsp of mixture in center and cover with two more spoons of rice.
Shape into a ball, roll in bread crumbs and place on wax paper.
Heat oil to 375 degrees in deep fryer or a saucepan. Fry the rice balls for 4 - 5 minutes until coating is golden brown. 

Serve warm and enjoy!