A cloud of white that transforms into a soft dough, rises in the oven, changes shape and consistency in our hands to become a croissant or a tart, Colomba cake or rum baba. Flour is simple and miraculous, the basic ingredient for all the infinite marvels of baking. The second issue of Sweet Journal starts here: with all the different kinds of flour, its thousands of possibilities. We are accompanied in this fascinating journey by master bakers, starred chefs, food bloggers and also chemists, nutritionists and experts. We simply cannot do without it, because without flour the world has no sweetness.
For Alice, crumble is a very special pudding, full of happy memories and comforting whenever she eats it. Her recipe is simply exquisite, but there’s no need to follow it to the letter, feel free to add your own personal touch.
by Alice Agnelli
5 crisp red apples
6 tbsp of cane sugar
1 tbsp of vanilla sugar
1 tbsp of Madagascan vanilla powder
a handful of white mulberries
a handful of red berries
100 g plain flour
110 g butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp of cinnamon
Put the peeled, sliced apples into a pan, sprinkle over the juice of half a lemon and 4 tbsp of water, the cinnamon and vanilla. Add the mulberries and red berries. Cook for about 15 minutes over a medium-low heat.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180°C.
In a large bowl, rub the butter with the sugar and the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Rest in the fridge for twenty minutes.
Pour the apples into a buttered oven dish and cover with the crumble mixture. Bake for about thirty minutes.
Serve the crumble still warm, with sour cream or, if you prefer, vanilla ice cream.
linked to the
You were the first to bring cooking to television with La prova del cuoco. What is the secret of such long-lasting success?
Ours is not a real cookery programme, it is show cooking, entertainment linked to the kitchen. Born and bred in the provinces, I asked myself… What does my mum do at midday? She cooks! It would be perfect for her to have a few recipe ideas while she’s busy getting lunch ready. This was the idea I started out with, when everyone reckoned I was mad.
Where does your passion for cooking come from?
I have always enjoyed my food… I really like eating, that’s where my passion for cooking comes from.
“cakes and pastries
are our Sunday
The Dolci dopo il Tiggì programme has brought to light your sweeter side: what do you think is the strong point of Italian baking?
Italian cakes and desserts are homemade in origin, cakes and pastries are our Sunday must-have. This is its strong point.
What is the baker’s golden rule for the success of a perfect dessert?
In life it is always important to know the fundamentals, the basic techniques. You cannot build the foundations of a building if you are not an engineer, otherwise it will collapse. The same goes for baking, which is the most mathematic of the culinary sciences.
“you must learn
the great classics.”
Your latest recipe book came out in October. Describe La cucina di casa Clerici (Cooking at home with Clerici) for us.
Simple, quick and scrumptious.
Your advice to a novice cook?
We often want to start with elaborate recipes, special ones, without even knowing the basics. Whereas, first of all you must learn the basics of cooking, the great classics. There’ll be plenty of time later on for the fancy stuff.
cream and raspberry cake
This sweet recipe is taken from the latest book by Antonella Clerici, La Cucina di Casa Clerici (Cooking at Home with Clerici) (Rizzoli). The presenter of Dolci dopo il tiggì loves homemade cakes, delicious and not too complicated. This is her fresh ricotta cake, simple and scrumptious.
by Antonella Clerici
Ricotta, gianduja cream and raspberry cake
500 g ricotta, fresh and well-drained
240 g superfine sugar
2 dessertspoons of flour
300 g gianduja cream
250 g fresh raspberries
Use a wooden spoon to beat the ricotta in a bowl with the sugar until smooth. Add the sieved flour and the eggs and stir all the ingredients together with a hand whisk.
When the mixture is nice and smooth, pour it into a 24 cm diameter hinged cake tin, lined with parchment, and bake at 170°C for 40 minutes. The cake is ready when it feels firm to the touch when pressed gently on the surface.
Once baked, leave it to cool completely, then turn out onto a serving plate.
Spread the gianduja over the surface, arrange the whole raspberries on top and serve.
and vanilla fleur de sel
by Alice Agnelli
The recipe from A Gipsy
in the kitchen is a soft,
hot, fragrant cake:
a veritable tribute
to chocolate, simple,
exquisite and gratifying
all five senses.
read the recipe
fleur de sel
300 g dark chocolate
240 g butter
400 g icing sugar
140 g plain flour
half a dessertspoon of baking powder
vanilla fleur de sel
Slowly melt the chocolate in a bain marie, then beat in the butter. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar with the eggs, flour, baking powder and vanilla pods. Add the melted chocolate and butter to the flour mixture. Pour into a buttered cake tin and dust with fleur de sel. Bake the cake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 30 minutes. Your chocolate fondant is ready.
by Fiamma Sanò
In her Ricomincio dal
Cavolo blog (literally “rethinking
the cabbage”), Fiamma Sanò includes
delicious recipes with very few
calories, the perfect balance of
healthy eating and taste. This is
her version of the cheesecake:
ideal even for those on a diet.
read the recipe
Ingredients (serves 6)
750 g low-fat vanilla yogurt
12 plain biscuits
lots of fresh raspberries, at least 6/7 for each bowl
a bar of 70% dark chocolate
a few mint leaves
Take a glass or clear bowl, crumble two plain biscuits into the bottom, pour in the yogurt, decorate with five or six fresh raspberries and a mint leaf. As a final touch, grate the dark chocolate over the raspberries. Enjoy your totally guilt-free light sweet!
Life is a mug of cherries
by Sorelle Passera
The irresistible Sorelle Passera,
Marisa and Gigì, cooked
a delicious chocolate
pudding in a cup for us,
in just three minutes:
«Zero pain, maximum gain»,
read the recipe
Life is a mug
m’è dolce in
4 dessertspoons self-raising flour
2 dessertspoons of mixed seed oil
2 dessertspoons of milk
6 teaspoons of sugar
4 teaspoons of bitter cocoa powder
two pinches of bicarbonate of soda
2 pinches of salt
two handfuls of dark chocolate chips
sour cherries in syrup
boeri (chocolate liqueurs)
Choose a microwavable cup. Pour in the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt and bicarbonate. Add the oil and milk and stir it all for about half a minute. Pour into the mixture the chocolate chips and “drown” one (or two) chocolate liqueurs in it. Microwave for a minute on maximum and your cake in a cup is ready. Perfect eaten hot, with freshly whipped cream and sour cherries in syrup.
In the heart of Val D’Orcia, set in a chestnut wood surrounded by the Tuscan hills,
lies the little town of Piancastagnaio with its four thousand inhabitants and a cake shop called Marron Glacé,
famous for its family cakes. This is where Rossano Vinciarelli's story started, the master pastry chef who last
November triumphed in the Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg, winning the gold pastry chef medal
in one of the world’s most important cooking competitions.
With a career in baking since he was 15, Vinciarelli has taken part in many international competitions and this time outdistanced his competitors by using all-Italian flair: from the ingredients of his recipes, «hazelnuts, citrus fruits and almonds», to the theme of his artistic piece, the historic Millemiglia vintage car race. «I am proud to be Italian, that was my first thought when I won». And yet Vinciarelli is quick to criticise Italian baking. «We are the best at combining flavours, but many countries beat us on a technical level. We are still lagging – we need to innovate, experiment new techniques». At the next world pastry chef championships, scheduled for October during the Expo in Milan, Rossano Vinciarelli will be “on the bench” as the coach for the Italian team, together with Christian Beduschi (another former world champion). His advice to the young pastry chefs competing? «Be creative, focus on manual skills and avoid waste in the kitchen».
This recipe is inspired by Rossano Vinciarelli’s homeland,
Val d’Orcia and its woods filled with the scent of chestnuts.
«The sight of the hills near my home fills my heart, I would not
change this place for anything in the world», admits the world pastry
chef champion. The original cake can be tasted at the Marron Glacé
cake shop in Piancastagnaio in the province of Siena.
Flavour from the woods
for the sweet vanilla shortcrust pastry
125 g butter
60 g icing sugar
15 g egg yolks
185 g flour
1 vanilla pod
1 g orange zest
for the sweet vanilla shortcrust pastry
250 g mixed berries
160 granulated sugar
7.5 g lemon juice
for the chestnut frangipane
125 g butter at room temperature
75 g icing sugar
125 g chestnut flour
115 g whole eggs
100 g confectioner’s custard
40 g cake flour (bread or plain, 180 W)
For the sweet vanilla shortcrust pastry – Put the flour, butter and flavourings (vanilla and orange zest) in to the mixer bowl. Blitz to give a sandy, floury consistency (until it looks like breadcrumbs). Add the sugar and egg yolks, mix to give a smooth dough. The pastry should be made the day before and stored in the fridge.
For the mixed berry jam – Blitz the berries for at least 8 minutes. Put into a large pan and bring to the boil. Add the sugar and boil for 3-4 minutes. Take off the heat and add the lemon juice. Cool and keep in the fridge in a sealed container.
For the chestnut frangipane – Use an electric hand-held whisk to beat the softened butter (either left out of the fridge for a few hours or heated for a couple of seconds in the microwave), icing sugar and chestnut flour. Gradually add the eggs, confectioner’s custard and finally the flour.
Assemble the cake - Line a cake tin with the pastry, rolled out to a thickness of 3.5 centimetres. Spread a layer, about 0,5 cm thick) of jam over the base then fill the pastry case to the top with the frangipane. Bake for about 25 minutes at 180°C. Cool, take out of the tin and overturn the cake: decorate as liked and serve.
Every year at Easter time, the Colomba cake flies back onto Italian tables:
from north to south, this soft dove-shaped cake is a true tradition.
Flour, butter, eggs, sugar, candied orange and almond glaze: everybody
loves it, but only a few know its history…
The Colomba cake has a story interwoven with ancient
medieval legends of kings, saints and battles, all telling
of the “miraculous” origins of this famous Italian Easter cake.
The real story, however, would seem to be much more recent and linked
to a famous Milan-based baking industry… History and legends - this
is where the myth of the Colomba first started.
King Alboin and the twelve “doves”
It was the day before Easter in the year 572 when Alboin, king of
the Lombards, managed to finally storm Pavia with his hordes of
barbarians following a three-year siege. As a sign of surrender,
the city gave him twelve splendid maidens.
To honour the peace on Easter Sunday, an
old craftsman brought the king the gift of
a dove-shaped cake and struck by this man’s
goodness, the sovereign granted the city
peace and promised to respect doves,
a symbol of peace, forever.
When he finally asked the maidens their names,
they all answered “Dove”. The king realised
he had been tricked, but kept his promise.
The doves against Frederick Barbarossa
There are those who say that the origins of the Colomba cake date back to the time of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. During the battle of Legnano in 1176, a condottiero in the Lombard League fighting against the imperial army saw doves flying out of the graves of three saints and come to rest on the Carroccio (the standard-bearing ox-drawn cart taken in battle): this miracle made Barbarossa and his men flee. To celebrate their victory, the Lombards made dove-shaped loaves of bread.
The miracle of Saint Columbanus
Another legend is linked to the story of Saint Columbanus. In about 612, shortly after this Irish abbot arrived
in Pavia, the Lombard sovereigns organised a rich lunch in his honour. The table was laid with plates of game, but
Columbanus and his monks refused to eat them out of respect for the Lenten period preceding Easter.
In order not to offend Queen Teodolinda, Columbanus raised his right hand to bless the
food, which turned into white doves of bread. Before this miracle, the queen gave the
abbot the territory of Bobbio, where the abbey of Saint Columbanus still stands.
Colomba cake for Easter: an ingenious idea
The real origins of the Colomba cake have none of the appeal of these ancient legends: no miracles, just a bright idea. Dino Villani, advertising director for Motta, invented this cake in the thirties. Similar to panettone, it meant that the machines and dough used for the famous Italian Christmas cake could be exploited to the full. He gave it the shape of a dove or Colomba, a symbol of peace, and marketed it as an Easter treat. This is the real Colomba recipe: a clever idea, a tasty mixture and a good dose of marketing.
Soft, fragrant, aromatic, the Colomba is the traditional Italian Easter cake. Making it however is not an easy task. Baker Ernesto Milani reveals his recipe to Sweet Journal, together with advice for perfect proving of the dough. «The choice of flour is the most important thing», he explains, «for such a complicated dough you need a strong flour, with excellent quality gluten and balanced amylase activity». When in doubt, it’s best to ask your local millers. To taste Milani’s Colomba, you need to go to Rovigo, and the Dolci Tentazioni pastry shop, also featured in the Gambero Rosso. Here are two recipes, the first for professionals, the second to be tried at home by all keen bakers.
Quantity for about 60 Colomba cakes, each weighing 750
grams or for about 50 weighing one kilo each.
for the first proving (evening)
3 kg fast acting yeast
3.5 kg water at 30°C
3.5 kg sucrose
8 kg strong bread flour
4.5 kg egg yolks
5 kg softened butter
for the second proving (morning)
2 kg strong bread flour
700 g sucrose
4 vanilla pods
1 kg egg yolks
1.5 kg butter
240 g salt
750 g honey
10 kg candied orange cubes
For the glaze
1 kg almonds
300 g apricot/peach kernels
3 kg sugar
100 g rice starch
For the first proving (evening) – Make a syrup with the water and sucrose. Once the sugar has dissolved, blend with the sourdough starter, add the flour and knead until the dough stretches without breaking (this means the gluten network has formed and that the dough has reached the right level of elasticity, - Ed.) Gradually add the yolks, followed by the butter, again gradually. At each stage, check that the dough is tight and strong. Put the dough into trays and leave to prove well at no warmer than 25°C (even outside the proving room if the environment is sufficiently warm). Low-temperature fermentation controls the acetic and lactic acid balance.
The next morning, or when the dough has tripled in size, proceed with the second proving.
For the glaze – The glaze must be prepared the previous day. Blitz to a powder all the ingredients apart from the egg whites. Add the egg whites, beat thoroughly and leave to rest overnight. When using, thin the glaze with egg whites or a little water if necessary.
For the second proving (in the morning) – Add the flour to the well-cooled dough from the previous evening and knead again until it stretches without breaking. Add the sugar, honey and flavourings, then the yolks, salt and finally the butter. Again, the dough must stay tight and strong between the addition of one ingredient and the next. Finally, add the fruit and leave to prove for about 30 minutes. Mould the individual cakes into the typical colomba or dove shape, and leave to prove for about 4/5 hours at 28°C.
Glaze the Colomba cakes with the glaze prepared the previous day.
Bake the one-kilo cakes at 170°C for an hour.
Bake the 750g cakes at 170°C or 45 minutes.
(Open the valve for the last 10 minutes).
for home making
for the dough
650 g strong bread flour
200 g butter
150 g sugar
15 g salt
100 g egg yolks
250 g candied orange cubes
50 g fresh brewer’s yeast
grated orange and lemon zest
approx. 100 ml of warm water
for the glaze
100 g almonds
30 g apricot/peach kernels
300 g sugar
10 g rice starch
For the glaze – The glaze must be prepared the previous day. Blitz to a powder all the ingredients apart from the egg whites. Add the egg whites, beat thoroughly and leave to rest overnight. When using, thin the glaze with egg whites or a little water if necessary.
For the dough - Dissolve the yeast in water and make the dough with the flour, yolks and sugar. Knead until the dough stretches without breaking (this means the gluten network has formed and that the dough has reached the right level of elasticity, - Ed.) Add the salt and butter, knead until it is tight and strong. Finally, add the flavourings and candied fruit. Divide into two pieces, each weighing 700 grams and leave to rest in a warm place, covered with cling film, for about 15 minutes. Mould the dough into two dove-shaped cakes, put in tins and leave to prove until they rise to the top of the tin. Pour the glaze onto the Colomba cakes and bake at 170°C for about 40 minutes.
Imagine a mill wheel turning, moved by the wind or the river current, the fields embraced in silence, the grain slowly being turned to flour... Images from a lost world. And yet you can still enjoy this atmosphere from yesteryear with discovery of mills throughout Europe that have been turned into big-appeal holiday spots.
– Treviso, Italy
In the sixteenth century, Treviso was known as “the granary of Venice”. Thousands of mills lined the banks of the Sile, the longest resurgent spring river in Italy and they ground the grain to make flour for the Serenissima Republic. The wheels of the old mills can still be admired today among the “Cagnani” (canals) in the city centre and in the surrounding countryside.
The Locanda RosaRosae is housed in a mill dating back to 1570 and the owners, Elisabetta and Silvio, have renovated it all, right down to the last detail, with exposed brickwork and wooden beams, preserving all its stern appeal. This is a peaceful place where guests can sleep and enjoy candlelit meals, leaving behind the frenetic pace of modern life.
Another must-visit is the mill in the Cervara oasis in Santa Cristina di Quinto. Surrounded by luxuriant vegetation, it still houses millstones from various eras and some frescoes.
– Eindhoven / Rotterdam, Holland
Holland is the land of windmills. Some still work, like Nostro Mulino, 15 kilometres from Eindhoven, where you can get a close-up look at the miller’s art and, at the same time, stopover in the bed & breakfast with all modern comforts. Famous are also the mills in Schiedam, not far from Rotterdam; at 33 metres in height, they are the tallest in Holland. They once ground the wheat for the production of flour and, more importantly, of jenever (juniper), Dutch gin. Today De Noordmolen is a restaurant serving typical local cuisine, while Die Nieuwe Palmboom (The New Palm) houses the Schiedam windmill museum.
– Norfolk, Great Britain
Lovers of the rolling English countryside will be charmed by Cley Windmill, in Norfolk. Built at the turn of the nineteenth century, this big windmill is today a hotel with a true British feel, both in its vintage luxury bedrooms with the most modern facilities and in the restaurant, offering excellent dishes from the most traditional of British cooking.
– Nimes, France
In Nîmes, the lively tourist town in the Languedoc, Le Moulin de Maitre Cornille dates back to the eighteenth century. With its sails still moving, it has been turned into a romantic location featuring three bedrooms, a pool and a magnificent view over Pont Du Gard. All around, the countryside is fragrant with rosemary, thyme and lavender – the perfect Provençal postcard.
- Cyclades, Greece
The Meltemi is the wind that blows across the Greek Islands, dotted with their white windmills. Many of these are tastefully furnished tourist resorts, equipped with every facility and offering breath-taking views. One of the most famous is Windmill Villas on Santorini, the jewel of the Cyclades, perched on a clifftop over the Aegean Sea. On Milos you can also stay in the Marketos, Karamitsos, Drouga and Anastasia windmills near to the village of Tripiti with their wonderful view of this island of Venus, its white beaches and crystal clear water.
– Odemira, Portugal
Mill on the hill is an oasis of peace and quiet on the top of Odemira hill,
a picturesque city in the heart of Portugal. The mill is close to the beaches,
the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina; the perfect place
for a totally relaxing holiday, surrounded by nature and silence.
“Is pardulas” are cheese tarts, a typical Sardinian treat, linked to the island’s shepherding tradition. The main ingredient is fresh sheep’s cheese, unsalted, called casu e matula. This is the original recipe from the Crem Caramel bakers in Ales, in the province of Oristano, a little town in the Marmilla region with just 1500 inhabitants. Here Giuseppe Montini and his family have preserved ancient local traditions for over twenty years. With a pinch of innovation.
Is pardulas –
for the su pillu pastry
500 g remilled semolina
1/2 dessertspoon of lard
a pinch of salt
for the filling
1 kg fresh sheep’s cheese. As a lighter alternative, sheep’s ricotta can be used, which is even softer
2 oranges and 1 lemon (grated)
150 g plain flour
200 g sugar
1 sachet of vanilla-flavoured baking powder
1 sachet of saffron
First make the pastry (su pillu in Sardinian dialect), kneading together the semolina, lard, salt and finally enough water to give a smooth even dough.
Make the filling: the cheese must first be ground. If you are using ricotta, push it through a sieve before mixing it with the other ingredients, so that the finished result is free from lumps. After working the cheese, add the sugar, eggs and flavourings (the oranges, lemon and saffron). Mix well then sieve in the flour and baking powder together.
At this point roll out the pastry on the worktop until one millimetre thick and use a biscuit cutter to make small circles. Place some filling on each one. Pinch the edges to give the desired shape.
Bake at 180°C for about 40 minutes. Once cooked, brush the cheese tarts with some good Sardinian wildflower honey heated in a bain-marie and decorate as liked with tragea (hundreds and thousands).
The latest product that draws on the experience of Agugiaro&Figna is for professional bakers: Semina, a type 2 soft wheat flour that includes the wheat germ during the milling process. Presented at Sigep 2015, it is part of the Le Sinfonie range for professional bakeries.
croissant di Agugiaro & Figna
Semina is like freshly squeezed wheat, the result of a milling process inspired by the principles of distillation. The components of the grain are separated, preserving only the “heart”, keeping the starch, the fine proteins of aleurone, together with the best fibres and the vital germ, a source of vitamins. The result is a firm, smooth, stretchy dough, with an intense flavour, warm colour and inebriating fragrance. Semina is suitable for the widest of uses in the production of baked goods, such as these delicious croissants.
1 kg Le Sinfonie Semina flour
10 g K2 bread improver (1%)
400 g approx. water
20 g salt
100 g whole eggs
150 g sugar
25 g fructose
30 g fresh brewer’s yeast
50 g butter
Machine knead the ingredients to give a velvety smooth dough (at a temperature of about 24°C).
Roll out and rest in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. Then fold the twice dough using the letter fold method (into thirds over itself). Before folding for the last time, rest the dough in the fridge again for about 15 minutes. Complete the third and last letter fold and rest in the fridge for another 30 minutes or so.
Once the dough is cold, roll out to a thickness of 6-8 mm. Cut the dough into strips and then into triangles weighing 60-80 g. Roll them up to form the croissants. Leave to prove as required: bake at 190°C without steam for 20-30 minutes.
Your croissants are ready.
The Panificio Bonci bakery in Rome
introduces us to a new trend: healthy
baking, using only plant-derived ingredients.
the future lies in baking with plant derivatives
Get ready to say goodbye to butter, eggs and milk: vegan is the new frontier of baking. Roberta Pezzella, chef and baker at the Panificio Bonci in Via Trionfale, in Rome, is the spokesperson for this healthy new trend. Animal proteins are banned, “we only use water, stone-ground flours, organic oil, raw cocoa butter, soy lecithin and organic Indonesian coconut sugar with a low glycaemic content. The best quality ingredients».
We tried it at Identità golose 2015, the international cooking congress held in Milan from 8 to 10 February, where Roberta prepared her vegan products for a sweet-toothed, curious audience.
A soft, fragrant croissant, accompanied by raw chocolate; a light mixed seed brioche, oozing with raspberry jam; crumbly biscuits made from water and flour. Light baking, with intense flavours, perfect for the needs of clients who pay increasing attention to what they eat.
In order to work alongside her first maestro, Gabriele Bonci, Roberta Pezzella left Heinz Beck’s La Pergola, the Michelin three-star restaurant where she was responsible for the bread basket. Panificio Bonci is a place of research and continual experimentation: «This is only the beginning: the future lies in baking with plant derivatives».
For Easter, Panificio Bonci makes a vegan Colomba: water, flour, sourdough starter, corn germ oil and soy lecithin (instead of the eggs). This healthy version of the classic Italian Easter cake is perfect not only for vegans but also for those who simply want to eat light.
When pasta becomes a dessert
In the starred Christian & Manuel restaurant
in Vercelli, two young brothers have invented
a new way of cooking: based on risottos (25 on
their menu) and on pasta… served for dessert.
«Pasta is like a blank canvas for the painter, you can
do with it what you like»: 23-year-old Manuel Costardi, has
decided to turn it into a dessert.
In the Michelin one-star restaurant Christian & Manuel,
pasta is on the dessert menu. «We have never had a pasta dish
on our menu as our restaurant specialises in rice, a typical
local ingredient», explains Christian, the elder brother and
chef. One day Manuel felt the urge to put pasta on the menu,
«but in an original manner, not like everyone else does».
This was the birth of his pasta puddings.
At Identità Golose 2015 we tried one of Manuel’s latest recipes:
Oriente, his chocolates noodles. An extraordinary revelation
for those who have never gone beyond the "classic" pasta.
«Rehydrate the noodles in water with sugar and orange, then cool them on ice so that they lose the last of their starch and to stop them sticking together. The dish is served in a noodle bowl with pieces of brownies, a little Japanese chilli, some cardamom, a twist of pepper and a pinch of salt. Finally the client pours over white chocolate ice (which we made by melting the chocolate and putting it into liquid nitrogen) and chocolate broth».
«This is pacchero pasta(large hollow tubes) cooked in infusion (following chef Davide Scabin’s method, the pasta is boiled for just two minutes, taken off the heat and left to infuse in the water until cooked, - Ed.) with sugar and lemon, then cooled and fried twice. We fill it with buffalo ricotta cream, orange zest, lemon zest, sugar and a tiny pinch of cinnamon. On top of the pacchero, a drop of melted chocolate, some orange zest and a shaving of salt, the signature to all my desserts»
…focus on her
Carrot cake with thyme and almond flour
Carrot Cake with thyme topping is a very light cake made from carrots
and almond flour: perfect for breakfast, as a snack or a delicious dessert.
by Claudia Biondini
and almond flour
for the cake
300 g almond flour
350 g carrots
3 level dessertspoons of oat bran
200 g white cane sugar
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1x16g sachet baking powder
a pinch of whole sea salt
for the topping
400 g icing sugar
100 g cream cheese
15 g butter
the leaves off a sprig of thyme
For the cake - Heat the fan oven to 180°C. Peel and trim the carrots and cut into pieces. Blitz the carrots with the lemon juice to stop them turning brown to give an evenly grainy mixture. Beat the eggs with the sugar and add the almond flour, carrots, oat bran and a pinch of salt. Stir well.
Line a cake tine with parchment.
Add the baking powder to the mixture and stir well.
Pour into the tin and bake for about 35 minutes.
For the topping - Meanwhile, make the topping: blitz the icing sugar, cream cheese and softened butter to give a smooth consistency. Stir in the thyme.
Refrigerate until needed.
Cool the cake and spread the topping over it with a spatula.
It only takes thirty minutes, a few tricks and a little imagination to create delicious bakes.
So says Claudia Biondini, authoress of the 30-minute recipe book Ti cucino in mezz’ora (Il Cairo), in bookshops from mid-March. Her book contains lots of tasty recipes, innovative and, most importantly, quick: cakes, ice cream and also antipasti, first courses, main and side dishes. Dedicated to all those with their eyes on the clock who still want to eat well. (Available in Italian only)
How many kinds of flour are there? Is gluten bad for
your health? Is organic flour better than the traditional kind?
Used for cakes, dough, bread and a thousand recipes, flour is one of the staple ingredients in our diet. Suffice to think that in 2013, over 4 million tonnes of it were used in Italy. This is why it is important to know its characteristics, debunk a few myths and learn to choose the best product for any requirement.
To help us explore the world of flour products we have called on some experts in the sector.
Veronica Borello, doctor in food sciences and technologies, introduces us to the different classifications of flour on the market; Giovanni Battista Quaglia, chemical technologist, looks at the important issue of food safety; Pietro Antonio Migliaccio, nutrition doctor explains the role of flour and sweet products in a balanced diet. Finally, we have asked the opinion of professionals on gluten-free products. Their advice?
FROM THE FIELD TO THE TABLE
- From a grain of wheat…
Flour is a food product obtained by grinding dried plant substances. The word flour is commonly used to indicate the variety made from soft wheat, while flour obtained from hard wheat (and generally used to make pasta) is called semolina. The wheat grain, or caryopsis, has three main components: the germ, the bran (the external part), rich in mineral salts and fibres, and the endosperm, made up of granules of starch and protein, mainly glutenin, which makes the dough strong and elastic and gliadin, which makes it stretchy. On contact with water and due to a mechanical action, glutenin and gliadin bind together to form a protein complex called gluten, which, as the dough rises, traps the carbon dioxide released by the yeast, making the dough strong and elastic.
Dal campo alla tavola
- to the sack of flour
After harvesting and storage of the wheat in silos at a controlled temperature and low humidity levels to prevent the formation of mould, the caryopses are cleaned and hulled to remove all foreign substances of a mineral and plant nature. During conditioning, the seeds’ moisture levels are adjusted to facilitate separation of the teguments. The grinding process is carried out by a series of machines called rolling mills, which break the grain. The resulting product is collected in vibrating screens that capture the larger fragments, allowing the finer ones to fall through in a process called sieving. The larger particles are then reground. At each subsequent stage, the screen mesh gets finer and finer to give coarse, fine and very fine flours.
Flour on our tables
In compliance with Italian legislation (law no. 580/67, amended by Presidential Decree no. 187/2001), soft wheat flour for retail sales is classified according to its protein, ash and humidity content. Wholemeal flour is not sieved and therefore contains all the ground caryopsis and has a higher bran and fibre content. This content gradually decreases in Italian type 2, 1 and 0 flours (equivalent to the British very strong, strong and bread and American first clear, high gluten and strong all-purpose), through to the most refined, 00 (soft or pastry) flour, high in starch and low in protein. Flour is then further divided depending on the consistency of the dough it gives, which is also called strength and measured using the W index. This gives us weak, medium force, strong or strengthened flour.
Weak flours (W between 90 and 160) have a low protein content. They are used for making plain biscuits, wafers, crackers and crumbly cakes.
Flours with medium force (W between 160 and 250) are used for making tarts, puff pastry and rum baba.
Strong flours (W between 280 and 370) are used when the end product requires lengthy proving, such as traditional Italian pandoro, panettone and colomba cakes and brioche.
Strengthened flours (W over 400) have a high protein content and are used mixed with other weaker flours to balance their strength.
Another parameter is the P/L index, where P stands for the tenacity of the gluten and L the possible stretch of the dough. It is used to indicate the stretchiness of flour. Flours with values between 0.45 and 0.50 are suitable for sponge, sweet shortcrust pastry, cream puffs and croissants; flours with values higher than 0.55 and lower than 0.60 are used for panettone and pandoro cakes. To guide the consumer through such a wide selection, milling companies generally give the recommended use on the packet of each kind of flour.
The “other” flours
Some alternatives to the classic kinds of flour, suitable for baking.
Whole wheat flour: this contains all the bran and therefore has a very high fibre content. It can be used instead of plain flour in any recipe. Whole rye flour: Rich in fibre. Mixed with wheat flour, it gives excellent quality bread and cakes. Whole oat flour: rich in protein, it has no gluten but contains avenin, a protein very similar to gliadin in wheat and not recommended for those with coeliac disease. It is very rich in fats and has a high vitamin B1 content. It is generally used mixed with classic flour to make cakes and biscuits. Whole spelt flour: low in fats but high in vitamins and mineral salts. Suitable for making cakes, pasta and bread. Not recommended for those with coeliac disease.
The Centro Informazione Farine (infofarine.it) or Flour Information Centre is a project set up to shine some light on the world of dietary flour. It is a portal edited by an expert scientific technical committee that gives detailed information about all the aspects linked to flour products: from the history of wheat to production processes, from food safety to nutrition properties, from the different kinds of flour to advice about the best ways to use them.
The website infofarine.it, promoted by Italmopa (the Italian association of millers) and launched at the 2015 Sigep trade fair in Rimini 2015, reveals all the secrets of a product that is a main player on our table every day.
Interview with Giovanni Battista Quaglia Chemical technologist and flour expert
Giovanni Battista Quaglia, chemical technologist and flour expert, university lecturer in Agro-Food biotechnologies and vice president of the Foundation for the Study of Food and Nutrition, is on the Infofarine.it scientific committee. Together with him we looked at a fundamental aspect of flour: food safety.
Is the flour we use
every day always safe?
Safety is the fundamental prerequisite for all the flour we find on sale. Different kinds of checks are carried to guarantee the safety of flour, both on the wheat and on the flour. The first is by the official national bodies, which control both the wheat produced in Italy and imports. 60% of the wheat used in Italy is in fact imported, mainly from the United States and Canada. The second check is carried out by the milling companies, which are legally obliged to guarantee, through application of self-monitoring systems, compliance with EU-established hygiene and health regulations. The efficiency of these company self-monitoring systems is, in turn, checked by the competent public supervisory bodies during their inspections.
What should we do if we come across flour
that does not comply with the law?
If a consumer encounters abnormalities in flour, he or she can report this hygiene hazard to their local health authorities (ASL in Italy). Once the authorities receive the report, they carry out the relative checks which, if deemed necessary, include an on-site inspection or official sampling to check the hazard. Based on the results, opportune measures will be taken to eliminate/correct the problem and, when necessary, the fact will be reported to other competent authorities.
How big a part does organic
farming play in the flour sector?
Organic farming is thus called because it used organic products for growing the crops, excluding the use of fertilisers and pesticides. This sector, which has developed since the eighties, has expanded greatly, but is still a niche. 50,000 tonnes of organic flour is produced in Italy today, compared with 3.5 million tonnes of traditional flour.
Is organic flour better
than its traditional counterpart?
From a quality point of view, organic flour can, for certain aspects, be considered “healthier”, as it is produced practically without the use of chemical fertilisers or pesticides (or with only a very low amount of these substances). On the other hand, however, organic farming means that the end product has different technological characteristics from traditional flour which, moreover, as already mentioned, offers maximum hygiene and health guarantees. Attempts are currently being made through research to select varieties of wheat that adapt best to organic farming, with the aim of arriving at a good product that, at the same time, guarantees protection of the environment, the health of those working in the fields and that of the end consumer.
SWEET THINGS AND FLOUR?
PERFECT FOR OUR DIET
Interview wih Pietro Antonio Migliaccio
Pietro Antonio Migliaccio, President of the Italian Society of Food Sciences (S.I.S.A. Società Italiana di Scienza dell'Alimentazione), nutrition doctor and dietician, is one of the experts at the Flour Information Centre. Thanks to him we discovered that flour is good for our health and that we can eat sweet things without feeling guilty… even when on a diet.
Flour is one of the
staple ingredients of our
daily diet. What are its
nutrition properties and
to which aspects require
Flour is a very important food, with an enormous nutrition value, as it contains medium biological value proteins, complex carbohydrates (clean energy for our energy needs), very little fat, vitamins, minerals salts and fibre. Flour does not represent any problem for our health or diet, on the contrary, it has a positive effect. Therefore we can eat it quite happily, as long as we do not eat too much.
What role can sweet
things play in a correct,
Sweet things are fundamental, even when on a weight-loss diet and must not be banished. As a nutrition doctor, I often recommend replacing a meal with something sweet, which is an important source of nourishment, as well as being gratifying. A weight-loss diet without anything sweet is destined for failure. It is often better to eat a little less during a meal and leave some room for dessert.
“to get back on
track, you can
stick to the
Christmas and Easter are
when we tend to “drop off the wagon”.
Can you give us some advice for what
to eat at Easter, without having
to give up on Colomba cake
and chocolate eggs?
Over Easter is absurd to try and diet: just enjoy yourselves and eat what you like (Colomba included), without feeling guilty. In the days that follow, to get back on track, you can stick to the "compensation diet": for example, a whole day eating just fruit and vegetables, a fresh, pleasant diet.
Gluten free debunking the myths
Our expert’s opinion
Which are the gluten-free flours used most often?
Veronica Borello: «Native rice flour is made by grinding rice; it is high in starch and low in protein. It can also be used for weakening wholemeal flour. Corn flour is used for making bread, cakes and other sweet products, also mixed with wheat flour, corn or potato starch. It is low in protein and especially in B group vitamins. Ground chestnut powder, high in carbohydrates and mineral salts, is ideal for a wide variety of recipes, to which it gives a fragrant, intense aftertaste. Ground almond powder is high in calories and has a good unsaturated fatty acid, protein, sugar and vitamin content. It is used to make cakes and other sweet products due to its excellent aromatic note. Native corn starch has no protein, fibre or fat and is mainly used a thickening agent or to add lightness to proven products. Potato starch, is mainly starch and is used to thicken creams and sauces. It helps baked products to rise better, making them more elastic. In the production of gluten-free flour and products, other plant products such as buckwheat, amaranth or quinoa are often mixed with the rice and corn».
Gluten free debunking the myths
Our expert’s opinion
Let’s talk about gluten-free flour: what are their characteristics compared to traditional flour?
Giovanni Battista Quaglia: «Gluten-free products may contain special additives and emulsifiers in an attempt to recreate the consistency of products with gluten. What’s more, those eliminating gluten from their diets are also giving up other nutritional substances contained in wheat, such as vitamins and minerals. For these reasons, gluten must not be considered a harmful substance in itself. It is a normal protein, and only to be avoided if you are intolerant».
Gluten-free products for those with coeliac disease are used more and more frequently also by those who are not intolerant to this protein.
Do they help you lose weight?
Pietro Antonio Migliaccio: «Let’s not make the error of thinking that eating gluten-free food helps us lose weight, because this is ridiculous. Gluten-free products are only suitable in the case of an intolerance to this protein. Coeliac disease is a problem that affects about 1% of the population in Europe, while some people show a sensitivity to gluten that causes problems, but that can be solved by eliminating it from their diet for a period of 6 months to 2 years».
Di farina in farina (From flour to flour)
Marianna Franchi – Guido Tommasi Editore
Amaranth, oat, spelt, kamut, buckwheat… This books guides us in our discovery of lots of different kinds of flour, alternatives to the classic plain variety. There are ten of them altogether - tasty, healthy and still little used in our cooking. Marianna Franchi, authoress of the blog Menta e Liquirizia (Mint and Liquorice), shows us how to make 120 tasty original recipes. Each chapter deals with one flour and its thousands of uses in both sweet and savoury dishes. A true revolution in taste. (Available in Italian only)
The baking bible
Rose Levy Berandaum – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Rose Levy Berandaum is the “dessert diva”: a legendary baker, with her books (which include the famous The Cake Bible) she has won the most prestigious awards and is considered a luminary in the world of food writers. The Baking Bible is her latest “holy writ”. Published in November 2014, it contains the best recipes for cakes, tarts, biscuits, muffins, bread and much more. Each dish is described in the smallest details and accompanied by advice from Rose to ensure perfect results.
Flour: A Baker's Collection of Spectacular Recipes
Joanne Chang – Chronicle Books
Flour Bakery is the go-to address for all those living in Boston: cake shop, cafeteria and meeting place for foodies, it has become famous for its divine cakes, from its Milky Way Tart to its chocolate cookies, from its croissants to its tarts. In this book, Joanne Chang, an economics graduate from Harvard and the creator of this universe of sweet things, reveals her best recipes and gives tips for copying the delights of Flour at home.
Phil Vickery – Kyle Cathie Ltd.
This book will be a true revelation for those who cook without gluten. 70 recipes for cakes, muffins, cupcakes and biscuits in gluten-free yet seriously good versions. In the first part of the book, starred chef Phil Vickery explains the zero-gluten diet, listing the fundamental ingredients and giving useful instructions for home-blending of the flours suitable for his recipes at home. Must-bakes are Chocolate brownies, Apple and sultana teabread and Marshmallow rice krispies.
Paola Buzzini, professional figure in the field of contemporary art and
a keen cook, will choose the most fascinating design objects
for Sweet Journal, reworking them in unusual sweet recipes.
The rolling pin has always existed. In the thirties
it was partially replaced by small hand-cranked machines.
But real lovers of pasta use the rolling pin.
And when you have to improvise?
We have all, at least once, used an empty glass bottle, the classic green sort. This reuse of articles is precisely what inspires designers. Antonio Cos, industrial designer and not only (www.antoniocos.com), has started with this fascinating object, its shape and function and moved in three different directions.
The first is Contrepéterie, where the body of the bottle becomes a kitchen utensil thanks to an insert in wood and metal. The second, Matterello, is made entirely from beech or lime wood. In the third version, Sono un matterello (I am a rolling pin), it is the label that suggests a new use.
For our recipe we will use shortcrust pastry because it is as fragile as glass, the material at the base of the study by Antonio Cos. In the first design piece, Contrepéterie, the body of the bottle is used as a container: in parallel, in our recipe, the shortcrust pastry is the container that wraps around the fennel cream. Fennel is in season and here it is cooked in an unusual way, sweet with icing sugar: in this way, the vegetable plays an unusual role, like the bottle, which here has a new function thanks to the label by the designer on his third piece, Sono un matterello – I am a rolling pin.
cream and almonds
for the shortcrust pastry
300 gr spelt flour
150 gr butter
a pinch of salt
for the fennel cream
3 fennel bulbs
50 g peeled almonds
50 g icing sugar
Cut the cold butter into small pieces and rub into the flour, with the salt and two dessertspoons of cold water. Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for about an hour. Work the dough as little as possible, to prevent the butter getting too soft.
Toast the almonds in the oven, then chop coarsely with a knife.
Roll out the pastry between two sheets of parchment and flatten it with the rolling pin until it is 3-4 millimetres thick. Cut the pastry into small circles and use them to line the holes in a bun tray to make the tarts. Rest the pastry in the fridge for 10 minutes before baking at 180°C.
Cut the fennel into pieces and steam. Take some of the strips of fennel and cook in water and sugar to make candied fennel.
Blitz the steamed fennel with the icing sugar.
Fill the tarts with the fennel cream and decorate them with candied fennel and almonds.
The concept of this famous bakery in Melbourne has been devised to enhance all their characteristics: bread and cakes in every shape and size are displayed on wavy wooden shelves covering walls and ceiling. The counter is an enormous wooden chopping board, with room for the till and the tools of the trade: scales, knives and trays. Packaging is refined and ironic, playing on the contrast between the artisan tradition of those who, for centuries, have worked with flour and contemporary design, with a surrealist touch. Walking into Baker D. Chirico is an unexpected experience: like plunging all five senses into an overflowing basket of soft goodness.
Baker D. Chirico, 178 Faraday St., Carlton Victoria 3053, AUS
INTERSICOP, one of the main international fairs for
professional bakers, ice cream makers and chocolatiers,
will run from 13 to 16 at the Feria de Madrid.
A busy agenda of events, presentations, courses and
workshops for sector operators, providing updated
news and showcasing sector trends.
gluten free fest
gluten free fest
The fourth “gluten free” festival will be held
in Perugia from 29 May to 2 June. The calendar of
events includes guided tasting sessions, cookery
lessons, seminars, workshops and activities for kids.
The happening is devised and organised by the
Sedicieventi Agency, with the patronage of AIC,
the Italian Coeliac Association.
Thanks to the press offices of:
Rai, Motta, Identità Golose, Infofarine.it, Bibliotheca Culinaria Editore, Guido Tommasi Editore, Flour Bakery, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
This number has been realized thanks to the collaboration of :
The mission of the International Federation of Pastry, Ice Cream
and Chocolate is to form a capillary network of all the businesses
in the sector on a national and international level (schools,
wholesalers, associations, businesses, etc.). Its objective is to
promote collaboration and support growth in the sector,
offering visibility to artisan companies and local products.
To this end, the Federation organises professional training
courses, events and fairs.
To subscribe to the International Federation of Pastry, Ice Cream
and Chocolate download the registration form and follow the
instructions on the website:
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