Category Archives: Desserts

Almond Tart

almond tart
A few weeks ago my little girl turned 5 and I organised for her a rainbow party with rainbow colour biscuits, rainbow lollipops biscuits, rainbow cupcakes and many other sweet treats. However for the mums I decided to bake something more enjoyable and without any food colouring at all. I baked for them my almond tart.

Surprisingly the almond tart was as successful and popular as the rainbow cake I baked for the kids. Some mums asked me for the recipe, they said it was so yummy they wanted to bake it for their own family and eat again.

Well here it is:

Ingredients for the pastry:
180g unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup icing sugar (or caster sugar but I personally prefer icing sugar for this pastry)
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups of plain flour sifted.
30g (about 3 tbsp) ground almonds

For the filling:

175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs
175g finely ground almonds (although I love almonds so I like to have mine nice and crunchy)
2 tsp plain flour
1 table spoon finely grated orange rind (if you don’t have orange use mandarin. I have used it a few times and it taste even better)
1/2 tsp almond extract
icing sugar to decorate
soured cream (optional) to serve.

1- To make the pastry beat the butter and the icing sugar together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract and egg, then slowly add the flour combined with the ground almonds and a tiny pich of salt. Bring together to form a rough dough.

Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead to combine. Shape into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.

2- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface until 3mm or 1/8 inch thick. Use to line a greased 25cm/10 inch tart tin. Return to the refrigerator for 15 minutes, then cover the pastry case with foil and fill with dried beans or pasta. Place in a preheated oven, 220C/425F/Gas, and bake for 12 minutes. Remove the dried beans or pasta and foil and return the pastry case to the oven for 4 minutes.
Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 200C/400F/Gas.

3- Meanwhile, make the filling. Beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Beat the eggs, 1 at a time. Add the almonds, flour, orange or mandarin rind and almond extract and beat until blended.

4- Spoon the filling into the pastry case and smooth the surface. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden and the tip of the knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack, then dust with sifted icing sugar. Serve with a spoonful of soured cream, if using.

5- ENJOY IT AND PLEASE POST YOUR COMMENTS!

Crostata di Prugna – Prune or Plum Jam Tart

crostata

The Italian equivalent of English tea at 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon is the merenda, where most children eat a slice of what every Italian mother can make (except for mine) – jam tart. It is usually filled with a good home-made jam such as peach, cherry, apricot or prune like I do.

My husband’s aunty makes the best crostata with cherries using her own home-made cherry jam but I like it with prunes and being a nuts lover I add ground almonds to my pastry – not to be confused with almond meal, I actually ground my almonds for this. However it’s up to you whether you like to add almonds or not.

This is my recipe which will be enough for about 6-8 people.

180g unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup icing sugar (or caster sugar but I personally prefer icing sugar for this pastry)
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups of plain (00 flour if you can find it in the supermarket) flour sifted.
2/3 cups of your favourite jam ( I normally use plum jam but you can use the one you prefer)
30g (about 3 tbsp) ground almonds – this is optional but I find it does give more texture and flavour to the pastry.
pinch of salt
1 egg beaten
icing sugar, to dust

Beat the butter and the icing sugar together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract and egg, then slowly add the flour combined with the ground almonds and a tiny pich of salt. Bring together to form a rough dough.

Turn out onto a lightly flourd work surface and knead to combine, then divide into 2 rounds. Wrap each round in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 26cm loose-bottomed tart pan. Remove a dough round from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface to fit the tart pan, then use to line the pan. Spread with the jam, leaving a 1cm border. Roll out half the remaining dough to a 26cm rectangle. Cut into 10 strips. Lay 5 strips across the jam then remaining strips the opposite way. Trim excess pastry, then roll remaining pastry into a thin-sausage shape. Fit around edge of tart as a border.

Brush with egg, then bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Cool and serve dusted with icing sugar.

Perfect for afternoon tea or morning tea with your coffee or tea!

PLEASE LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS AFTER YOU BAKE IT. I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!!

San Sebastian – Spain – my favourite little town with the most Michelin-starred restaurants!

San Sebastian

stunning sunset in san sebastian
I have travelled almost all around Spain but my absolute favourite is San Sebastian. A gorgeous, cozy and stylish little town with the most Michelin-starred restaurants: Alameda, Arzak, Miramón Arbelaitz, Martín Berasategui, Mirador de Ulía, Kokotxa, Akelare, Mugaritz, Zuberoa. A total impressive number of 17 stars!!!

When we decided we were going to Spain, we could not resist so we booked Arzak about 10 months in advance! Our dinner reservation was at 10:00pm!! I said to my husband: “10:00pm??” and he replied “yes and they said it was an early reservation time!”. They were not wrong, we were almost the first to arrive!! In San Sebastian everyone has dinner after 10pm!!

Unfortunately I was so impressed by everything and absolutely starving that I forgot to take photos. Only one I remembered to quickly take because it’s presentation was incredible. Here it is
arzak

It was a vanilla cream dessert, so delicious as the rest of every single dish we had. An unforgettable experience that I highly recommend to everyone to have in their own “bucket list”.
Come on then, if you go to Spain you cannot miss having dinner at ARZAK http://www.arzak.info/arz_web.php?idioma=En
Address: Avda. Alcalde Jose Elosegui number 73, phone: 943 278 465 / 943 285 593, (fax: 943 272 753, email: restaurante@arzak.es). Open From January to June: Closed Sunday evening, Monday and Tuesday. From July to December: Closed Sunday evening and Monday. Closed for holidays: June 15 to July 2 and November 2 to November 26. Three Michelin stars restaurant. Avg. Price: Euro 80-100 plus drinks. About Euro 150 per head by the time you’ve added the wine etc., but well worth it!

San Sebastian is also famous for its bars as well as for its restaurants. Each bar is busting with Tapas, called Pintxos, cold and hot, generally enjoyed together with a glass of wine or a small beer, and the Spanish tradition suggests to have one pintxo and a glass of wine in one bar and move on to the next bar. There are just so many bars full of these pintxos on display that it’s very difficult to choose one! Believe me if you go to San Sebastian do not worry about your figure and don’t you ever go when you are on a diet, it’s just not worth it!! However if you love food just like me then this is heaven!!!

Pintxo(tapas)-San Sebastian

When you enter the cold pintxos are displayed on the bar as you can see in the above photo. Just ask the barman for your drink and pick the pintxos yourself. If you need a plate, just ask: “Me puede dar un plato por favor?”. Hot ones must be ordered from the barman and they take a short time to be cooked. There is always a hot tapas menu hanging from the wall.
Only one advice from me: do not go there when you are starving or you will end up having so many and paying quite a bit at the end of it. Each of them cost around 1 to 5 euros.

Also if you love clothes, amazing boutiques and shoes this is a city not to miss!!! None of the cities I have been to in Europe compare to San Sebastian! Every single person is well-dressed, elegant and stylish! Not even in Italy I have seen a town like this! You will need a lot of extra money to spend because I can assure you, you will not leave without breaking your budget in clothes and food!!

So come on what are you waiting for?!! Plan and book your next holiday to San Sebastian!! You will love it like I do!!
night in San Sebastian

If you have any questions or if you like to have more information please do not hesitate to contact me here or on my facebook page!

Does coffee help to burn fat?

I love coffee! Who doesn’t! But did you know that it actually helps to burn fat?
The caffeine it contains speeds up the metabolism. In nutritional circles, this effect is called a metabolic enhancer and believe me I know – I have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis disease and since then I’m always searching for food that will help speed up my metabolism. Anyway, we all know that caffeine is a stimulant, and studies have clearly demostrated that it can help burn as much as 10 per cent more calories than normal.
Health experts advise you to limit your intake to a single cup in the morning and another one in the afternoon.
If you do not drink your coffee black, use skim milk instead of whole milk or cream and try it without sugar – you’ll be surprised how quickly your tastebuds adjust. I stopped adding sugar to my coffee when I was 14 years old and since then I cannot drink coffee with sugar, it just doesn’t taste the same!

If you are not like me and you find it just too bitter without sugar, add a piece of vanilla bean or cinnamon stick or a bit of vanilla, almond or your favourite extract to the grounds during the brewing process.

Buying Tips: Buy coffee in a vacuum-packed container. If you are buying coffee, make sure the retailer sells a lot. The flavour decreases the longer it is exposed to air.

Consumer Tips: Coffee loses most of its flavour after it has been ground. If you can, invest in a small coffee grinder and grind just what you need at the moment. Store whole beans or ground coffee in an air-tight container.

Health Plus: Studies show that caffeine is effective in alleviating asthmatic symptoms.

Go on there is no reason not to enjoy coffee – in moderation, of course!!

Here it is a nice recipe with coffee beans if you don’t like to drink it!

Espresso Bean Biscotti
coffee bean biscotti

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Total cooking time: 40 minutes per batch
Makes 40

1/2 cup (80g) almonds
1 1/2 cups (185g) plain flour
1/2 cup (60g) self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 cup (250g) caster sugar
1/2 cup (40g) espresso coffee beans, placed in a plastic bag and crushed
3 eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

1. Preheat the oven to warm 170C. Bake the almonds for 5 minutes, then set aside to cool. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

2. Sift the flours, bicarbonate of soda, a pinch of salt and the sugar. Add the crushed coffee beans and almonds. Lightly beat the eggs and mix in the oil and vanilla. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the egg mixture adn mix to a dough.

3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until smooth. Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a log 4 cm in diameter. Place one of each prepared tray and flatten the top slightly.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until firm and lightly golden. Leave on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

4. Cut the logs into 1 cm slices. Lay on the baking trays and bake for 6-7 minutes, turn over and bake for a further 6-7 minutes, or until crisp. Cool on a wire rack.

IF YOU LIKE THIS STAY TUNED FOR ONE OF MY FAVOURITES – CAPPUCCINO SOUFFLE’ PUDDINGS with coffee and Kahlua….YUM!!!

Mexican Flans De Coco – Coconut Flans

Well since I’m half Italian half Mexican, after sharing my Italian Tiramisu with the Mexican twist of Kahlua now it’s time to share with you my Mexican coconut flan!

Like most of my desserts please begin making them one day ahead; they must chill overnight before serving.
IMG_5963

This recipe makes 8 flans. I promise you it’s delicious!

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup water
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
400ml can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split lenghtwise in half
8 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons triple sec

Whisk oil and 1 tablespoon of water in small bowl to blend. Brush inside of eight 3/4-cup ramekins with oil mixture. Combine 1 cup sugar and remaining 1/4 cup water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber color, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling occasionally, about 9 minutes. Immediately divide caramel among prepared ramekins. Using oven mitts, tilt each ramekin to coat bottom with caramel. Place cups in large roasting pan.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread coconut on baking sheet. Toast in oven until light golden, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Combine coconut milk and milk in another medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to boil. Remove from heat. Cover; steep 10 minutes. Remove vanilla bean. Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar in large bowl until thick and pale, about 4 minutes. Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture. Whisk in triple sec. Stir in 1/2 cup toasted coconut.

Divide custard among caramel-lined ramekins. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of custard cups. Bake until custards are almost set and move only slightly when cups are shaken gently, about 50 minutes. Remove custards from water. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered overnight.

Run small sharp knife around ramekins to loosen. To unmold each ramekin, place plate atop ramekin. Firmly grasp ramekin and plate and invert, shaking gently and allowing custard to settle on plate. Sprinkle custards with remaining 1/4 cup toasted coconut and serve.

SIMPLY DELICIOUS!! PLEASE POST YOUR COMMENTS AND PHOTOS OF YOUR COCONUT FLAN AFTER YOU MAKE IT. I REALLY WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU, GOOD OR BAD COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS MORE THAN WELCOME!

The Special Ingredient

It all started with a Tiramisu. I love desserts, I always had but Tiramisu is my inspiration, is what gave me the love to start cooking and baking.
The first time I made tiramisu I was only 13 years old. My family didn’t have an oven so this dessert seemed really easy to make. However the day I decided to do it our fridge was broken! I was and I still am quite stubborn so that was not going to stop me. I remember that day like if it was yesterday, it was February and I wanted to make it for my dad’s birthday – he loved Tiramisu. February in Italy is nice and cold so I decided to go ahead, make it and then leave it outside in the balcony overnight to preserve it and bring the flavours together. A fridge was not longer needed.

I didn’t have a recipe to follow just some instructions in my head given to me by one of my friends’ mum. I didn’t know how it was going to taste and if my parents were going to like it. The following day however the tiramisu was nice and cold, the natural fridge had worked perfectly, and my parents loved it. Seeing my parents happy and impressed with what I have done gave me confidence. I could see in their eyes how proud they were and in their empty plates how much they liked it.

Love was the special ingredient in this recipe. After that day I have made it for my special friends and even after many years they still remember it. This is why I like to cook, I want to show my love and appreciation to my friends and family through my food hoping they will like it and remember it just like my Tiramisu.

Now, after so many years I decided to share with you my own version of Tiramisu. Give it a try and I promise you, you won’t be disappointed…and who knows your own friends might remember it as a memorable dessert like mine do.

Kahlua Tiramisu

tiramisu

This is my own recipe for 4 people

3 egg yorks and 2 egg whites
3 tablespoons of castor sugar
250g mascarpone
100g double thick cream
250g Savoiardi biscuits
50g crushed roasted hazelnuts
1 1/2 cup of strong “Lavazza” coffee
50ml Kahlua
3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Grated dark chocolate

Mix together the warm espresso, half of the sugar and half of the Kahlua in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar until creamy, using a hand-held whisk on maximum speed. Stir in the mascarpone one spoonful at a time (beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth) and then stir in the tick cream using sweeping movements from the bottom to the top. This will make it easier to fold. Add the vanilla extract and the rest of the Kahlua.

On a separate bowl beat the egg whites with a whisk until it becomes white and fluffy and gently stir in the white into the cream mixture so as not to knock out all the air you just whisked into it. Spread a layer of this cream mixture over the base of a square baking dish or plastic container (or like in the photo above, use some nice martini glasses).

Dip the Savoiardi in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each Savoiardi to the square baking dish, placing them side by side.

Sprinkle the cream mixture with half the crushed roasted hazelnuts, grated dark chocolate and the cocoa powder.

Repeat to create another layer, using more Savoiardi and the cream mixture for the top layer. Cover carefully and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.

To serve, sprinkly the tiramisu with the bitter cocoa powder, the rest of the hazelnuts and the grated dark chocolate. Cut into individual portions and serve.

Come on give it a try, I can assure you, you will be surprised of my own version of Tiramisu!