17 May 2012

And whatever else comes along...

Busy times around Bella Baita these days. We've had a cool watery spring that has held us back from getting out garden in and so we are trying to make up for lost time or as we used to say in my part of the midwest, make hay while the sun shines. Having said that, our mountain garden tends to get put out quite a bit later than the valley as our temperatures and weather is just so much more unpredictable, so in some ways we aren't so terribly behind. Although when we go into the market and there is so much there early on and even all through the winter, it kind of makes me wonder how mountain people really did survive in the mountains in the old days. I am sure that some years, they didn't. In our little neighbor hood they use to keep a few cows or goats, so they had butter and cheese and lots of savoy cabbage, leeks and potatoes, now repeat. Springtime must have been such a welcome relief with dandelion, nettles and various other greens and porcini mushrooms poking up through the grey earth with a splash of color and enlivening the daily cooking pot after what might have been a long long winter.
This year we have entered a new phase by becoming members of Wwoof,  World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. That's a mouthful for sure, but it is a win win situation for people that could use a helping hand with their agricultural endeavors as well as provide room and board and useful experiences for someone wanting to live, learn and work close to the land with people wo are already living this life. It can be experienced all over the world. The organization started in the UK in 1971, by a woman  who wanted to have access to the countryside and thought others like herself might want to do so as well. You can read more about the history of Wwoof here. Her idea took root, evolving and spreading thoughout the world creating a world wide network of people dedicated to sharing their knowledge, work and homes, striving to not harm the environment but to sustain and nurture it along the way. We have some ideas ourselves about how we want improve and expand our gardent as well as incorporating a few animals and an extra set of hands is most welcome.
Rachel replanting peas
Rachel is our first helper on our new venture and arrived a week ago today. She has already made herself an integral member of our family and we're happy and honored to have her join us here at Bella Baita. She's hard at work with Fabrizio down at the garden right now as I write this post. I'm in charge of keeping everyone fed and fueled up, so I need to sign off and get that done now. I just wanted to make sure to welcome Rachel and share with you my readers some of the things that comes along on our way.  Rachel is here for about a month and then we have another young American coming our way and possibly someone else after that. Still to be determined. It another set of interesting people that we are happy to meet and share some time with. Maybe one of these days you'll find your way to our door as well. More stories to follow as we work our way down the road. If you want more specific information about the Italian program that we are involved with you can check out their newly revamped website here, Wwoof, Italia.
Cin cin..trying porcini and quince paste for the first time

01 May 2012

May Day and and Multi Frolla Cookie Crust

A happy, albeit somewhat soggy. "May Day" to all of you out there. I do hope you are still there. We have had odd weather, like most of the rest of the world, in that we seemed to have had a couple of weeks of summer back in March only to have April with more than it's fair share of showers, bone chilly too. That is normal, although it usually is broken up with more sun with warm and wavering temperatures. Oh well, at least the flowers are still blooming and furry creatures still want to scamper about. 
I wanted to share a recipe I have been working on ever since I stumbled across some multi cereal cookie bars in a bakery we popped our head in to a few weeks back. I'm not sure I have replicated their recipe, as mine seems far darker than their buttery, flavorful bars, but we found these to be quite tasty and thought you might enjoy them as well. My original recipe is in grams, as I have happily adopted what I think we were foolish not to adopt in America, the metric system. In cooking it just makes life, well actually baking,  so much easier, as it is so much easier to get even number to divide in and out and balance a ratio when needs be. I still seem to think in terms of cups as a first basis, as the lifetime of imprinting never seems to completely fade. I don't think I will ever get all that familiar with temperatures in Celsius other than hot or cold, as the temperature subtleties relating to outside temperatures are lost on me. I said all of that to say this... the cups and oz in the recipe may need slight adjusting as they don't always come out exact when adjusting on a conversion chart. The only thing you might need to adjust would be the amount of flour. If it seems like the cookies are spreading too much when baking add a little more flour when rolling out. I think it should be fine though. 
I didn't know what to call this recipe as it is a basic Italian pasta frolla dough, which here is used for making sweet tarts or pies and is in reality a cookie dough and so makes delicious cookies as well with a little adjusting. I didn't want to call it multi cereal as it had seeds also and I made a single crust apple tart with the dough as wel, so the name multi frolla cookie crust was born. Feel free to try other flours.  I really love the buckwheat flour here and am always trying to find more ways to use it. This being polenta country it seemed like a natural mix with the buckwheat. I think they gave it an intriguing flavor with the seeds giving it a nice bite. I think spelt or farro would be another nice addition or change. Give it a whirl and see what you think. The cookies were crispy for a few days and softened as they sat in my cookie tin. The softening is a good thing when used as a tart crust so that your tart doesn't go skittering across the plate when cutting it. The photo at the bottom of the post is a very simple apple tart that I normally add a crumb topping but didn't this time. I just thinly slice apples on to the prepared tart crust drizzle a fair amount of marsala wine over the apples and add a crumb topping. I keep it simple so the flavor of the crust comes through.  Without the crumb topping the tart is only slightly sweet and your apples may get a little brown, but it makes for a flavorful and not so sweet afternoon snack and dessert. i think the cookies would taste great sandwiched together with a dab of apricot jam. The possibilities are endless. So be my guest and enjoy my multi purpose "Multi Frolla Cookie Crust"

Multi Frolla Cookie Crust

Yield: 36 cookies approximately and 1-10” / 25cm crust


¾ c / 125 g Sugar, granulated
14T or 9 oz / 200 g Butter, softened 
2 Eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ c / 70 g buckwheat flour
½ c / 70 g cornmeal
1 T / 10 g each of sesame seeds, light and dark flax seeds, (3T / 30 g total)
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 ¼ c / 300 g flour, pastry, all purpose, plain


Place sugar with the butter in a medium to large mixing bowl.
With a whisk or hand mixer, cream until fluffy. Normally, I do this by hand, of course you can use a hand mixer.
Add two eggs along with vanilla and incorporate thoroughly.
Mix your 3 types of flour with your baking powder and salt before adding to you wet ingredients.
Mix until it starts to come together.
Finish by bringing the dough together with some flour on your hands, either in the bowl or on the table with a light dusting of flour.
Gingerly, knead into a smooth dough.
Flatten into a rectangle, divide in half if you want two uses and cover in a bag or your bowl.
Refrigerate for about a half an hour to an hour.
You can let this sit overnight as well if you wan to prepare ahead.
I used half for cookies one day and a couple days later made a tart out of the other refrigerated half.
Roll out on lightly floured table or between parchment paper for ease.  Make sure you keep lightly flouring and lifting the dough so it doesn’t stick to the table or paper.
Work somewhat quickly so you don’t let the dough get too warm as it will become sticky and more difficult to manage.
Roll out to about 1/4” (1/2 cm), thicker if you like.
Cut into shapes or bar lengths. I cut out scalloped rounds and cut out the center. The tiny centers fit perfectly on a small espresso cup and saucer. I also made some bars for dipping in our cappuccinos as well.
Bake at 350*F / 190* C for 8 -10 minutes depending on how thick your dough is and how quickly your oven bakes. Mine is convection and tends to bake quite fast. 

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