25 December 2010

Merry Christmas and Buone Feste a Tutti

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We're enjoying a white Christmas and hope you all are enjoying a pleasant time with the ones you love. If you want to see a little of what we are up to at Bella Baita, then play our Smilebox for a taste of Bella Baita. I'll be back to posting real soon.
Wishing you peace and prosperity and maybe even a visit with us at Bella Baita, Italian Alps Mountain Retreat in 2011!

16 December 2010

Candied Orange Peel

I will be the first to say that this may not be a recipe that everyone will be rushing to make, but for those of you who want to try your hand at candying orange peel, this a great recipe. It takes a bit of organization of your time, but it really is worth it, especially if you are like myself and can't always find ready made candied orange peel that you trust isn't full of preservatives and coloring. You still have time to get this made for Christmas, especially if you use the great suggestion of my chef friend Michelle in Portland. She suggested using a dehydrator to get your peel to the storage stage not only quicker, but more assuredly when you live in the land of the moist.  Here in the alps, it is certainly drier than the northwest, but noting like the rockies where everything dries out whether you want it to or not. I just finished a batch each of lemon and orange peel drying them both in my dehydrator. Wonderful results. The orange peel took a bit longer as they are fleshier than the lemon peel and the orange peel takes a double dose of poaching  syrup to insure the peels are completely covered. I also find that the citrus syrup that is left over when you go to dry your peels makes a welcome addition any number of things, like  a fruit salad or your second cup of coffee for the day, just to name a couple. Noting really goes to waste. I make Pannetone and ricotta cake at Christmas time and through the winter, so I have plenty of uses for these lovely jewels. One of my favorite and colorful cheese maker/vendors from the Pinerolo market is regularly petitioning me for my ricotta cake made with his ricotta, of course. You can find that recipe here. I think I'll make some florentine wafers as well which uses candies orange peel as well.  You might find any number of new ways to enjoy them too once you realize what a treat they are and not the oftentimes sticky, gaudy colored fruitcake mix you find in the mixed candied fruit selection during the holiday season.  I dipped some thin slices of the orange into melted chocolate and am now looking to making another batch as those went down just a tad too easily. 

This recipe comes from Inge's "Candied Organic Lemon Peel" recipe over at "Vanielje Kitchen", who seems to be on an indefinite hiatus from blogging, but her blog is chock full of great recipes. I hope some day she returns to her blog as I miss her voice and wonderful stories.  In the mean time have a nosey around her site. I have changed very little from her original recipe, except to double the liquid and sugar when making orange peels to insure the bulky orange peels are covered and added a few of my observations. The dehydrator is a great way to speed up the drying time and make for, I think, a more consistent  final product, due to having some control over the drying process. I've made them with and without a dehydrator, so don't let that stop you from making them if you don't have one, but do utilize it if you do have one, as you can cut the process down to a much quicker process with excellent results.

The recipe below is for the peel of 6 oranges. Try to use organic oranges, which means the peel is both unwaxed and pesticide free. If you can’t get unwaxed or organic oranges, scrub the fruit with a clean bristle brush in warm soapy water. Rinse well and dry.
Candied Orange and Lemon peel

Candied Orange Peel 
(**Candied Lemon  Peel also **)
DAY 1:
  • Cut your oranges in half and juice them, reserving the peel or remove the peel in quarters and reserve the flesh to juice later. I tend to remove the peel in quarters.
  • Scrape away much of the pith with a small knife edge, leaving enough to giv the peel some body. I scraped all of the pith away once and found it was thin and dried out too much, making it brittle and not the nice chewy pieces we're looking for
  • Place the peel in a saucepan, cover with water and simmer for 30 minutes
  • Drain the peels, return to the pan and cover with fresh water
  • Simmer for a further 45 – 60 minutes
  • Drain, reserving about 3 cups (750g) of the orange water, and set the peels aside
    ** If making lemon peels use 1 1/2 cups (375ml) of the lemon water **
  • Add 2 cups (500g) of granulated sugar to the pan, with the reserved water
    **1 heaped cup (250ml) granulated sugar for lemon peels**
  • Stir on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and then bring it to the boil.
  • Once the sugar syrup reaches boiling point add the peel and turn down the heat, simmering for a minute or so.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  • Once cool decant into a sterilized bowl, cover and leave in a cool place for 2 days.
DAY 2:
  • After 2 days remove the peel and decant the syrup into a pan.
  • Add 3/4 cup (188g) of sugar, heating slowly to dissolve.
  • Add the peel, bringing to a boil, then simmer until the peel is translucent.*
  • Cool, then store in a covered bowl for 2 weeks.
If using a dehydrator you can skip to the drying stage now *
DAY 15:
  • Drain the peel, discarding the syrup
  • Lay the peel on a rack, not touching and cover with a sheet of wax paper. This will keep the dust off while the peel dries. Air should be able to circulate.
  • Put in a warm dry place to dry for two days, turning the peels occasionally to ensure they dry evenly.
Sprinkle with caster sugar and store in an airtight container. Best kept in a cool place, dark place of possible.

*Dehydrator method
  • After boiling the sugar water and peel till translucent, cool until able to handle, but while still runny, remove peel.
  • Place peel on a wire rack, like one used to cool cookies that has been placed over a clean cookie sheet and allow the excess syrup to drip off. If you don't have a wire rack you can just place then on a cookie sheet or parchment paper to drain. Once fully drained, arrange the slices on your dehydrator racks and dry till dry to the touch, but still pliable. 
Cooks notes
It is really important to cook the peel to the translucent stage. It will look physically different. It takes a while to get to that stage, but don't stop too soon, or the peel won't keep it's chewy quality or you run the risk of the slices molding later on.
It took me a few hours, but not overnight to get the slices dried to where I wanted them. The next day I had a couple of the slices that seemed to still be quite wet, so I dried them separately a little longer. I also found that I didn't need to dip them in the caster sugar. If I find later on that they are too moist, I may then press them into the sugar, but at this point I don't think I will need to.

03 December 2010

Golosaria at Torino

Golosa. Yes, that is what I would say most of us attending the Golosaria in Torino this past Monday could be characterized as. What does goloso mean? It's a polite and quaint way of calling you greedy.
Golosaria is a gathering of tasty food and drink offered up for the sampling of the greedy. 
We did our part of coming along to sample what was on offer and enjoy it all being served up in Torino's ever so elegant Teatro Regio.  Each year there is a different venue keeping it always interesting to discover new places. Walking into the plush red lobby of the theater, definitely got me to thinking about how wonderful it would be to attend an opera there. This years season seems to be all Verdi all season. Not a bad choice in the lot. 
Ah yes, back to the sampling and schmoozing. 
There were a smaller gathering than usual this year and could be a sign of the economic times, but there was a good turn out of samplers and that hopefully was good for sales for the exhibitors.
The unmistakeable aroma of truffle greeted us and it didn't take long to follow the scent to this booth.
White truffle from Alba for your gastronomic pleasure, fresh to enjoy now, grated over risotto and whatever else strikes your fancy or truffle oil to drizzle later.
There were numerous offerings of wine, digestivi, chocolate, cookies, confiture and marmalades of every persuasion. Colorful potatoes from the mountains on the other side of our valley and Toma from Lanzo valley were particularly enticing.
Finishing off the day with a stroll back to the train station, the store windows beckon to continue on the culinary feast. Torino really is a feast for the senses, with its architecture and old world elegance. It takes its food and cafe culture very seriously, like most Italian cities, so there is no shortage of opportunity to indulge in a bit of low fat window shopping.

So until our next visit to the big city I hope you enjoy this peek into Torino. 
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