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Anybody baking for Christmas gifts?
Posted: 10 December 2007 02:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Our family doesn’t much believe in keeping family secrets when it comes to food - we like sharing the love whenever possible wink

When I was a little girl, my Nonna and my Bisnonna would sit down in the basement and make these one at a time by the hundreds (Italian woman always seem to have a second kitchen in the basement).  They used an old-fashioned pizzelle iron they’d flip back and forth over a gas flame and the cookies were always perfect.  The cookies I produce with their recipe on my two-at-a-time electric pizzelle iron today are delicious, but there is absolutely no comparison.

The baking times are approximate.  Believe it or not, when I learned to make them, my very Italian, Roman Catholic grandmothers taught me that saying “three Hail Marys” would yield the perfect pizzelle.  And that’s how I still do it myself to this day.  I worked out the actual times one year for my friends of other faiths after I teased them that they’d have to learn how to say a “Hail Mary” to make them .. and they looked at me like a deer caught in headlights wink

If you like the taste of anise, you can substitute anise flavoring for the vanilla.  And sometimes, my Nonna would also toss in a shot of whiskey or rum.

Bisnonna’s Pizzelles

6 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 lb unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift flour and baking powder together; set aside. Beat butter with sugar until very light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, then beat in vanilla extract. Stir in flour mixture just until well-mixed. This is a soft dough, so feel free to refrigerate it for a bit to help it firm up a little (but not too much or it will affect your baking times).

Roll into 1” balls and bake for approximately 25-35 seconds on a heated pizzelle iron or until barely taking on color. Let cool on wire racks.

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“There is no such thing as reconstituted lemon juice, only reconstituted taste buds.” - Bert Greene

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Posted: 10 December 2007 03:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Thanks for the recipe.  I especially like the Hail Mary tip.  I’m sitting here trying to calculate how big a batch I’d have to make to say a whole rosary with a 4-pizzelle iron.

My grandmother liked to use anise in cookies, but I can’t say I’m a big fan.  I’ve also tried whiskey, but I always go back to just vanilla.

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Posted: 11 December 2007 09:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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I don’t much care for anise or spirits in these cookies either ... I’m a plain vanilla girl when it comes to my pizzelles.

If you figure out the rosary method, let me know wink

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“There is no such thing as reconstituted lemon juice, only reconstituted taste buds.” - Bert Greene

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Posted: 17 December 2007 06:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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As a newbie to this forum I’m just lovin’ it!  Thomas, do you have a recipe for the Italian bread pictured with your post?  We used to go down to little Italy in Manhattan to buy loaves like that - or Arthur Av in the Bronx. And the frizelles [sp?] - those hard, flavorful biscuits were made from either left over bread that didn’t sell, or else the dough. I loved the ones with cracked pepper - they were so hard they gave the gums exercise!

But a serious question:  any suggestions for something one can bake [fairly easily] and send maybe 3-5 days in the mail and still have it tasting good [other than a fruit cake?]

Tiffany, I love reading about your Nanna and bisnanna. I’d love to have the pizza recipe my tiny grandmother made - to die for!  And pizza frita [sp?] from my late grandmother-in-law - I don’t know if she made up the name. She’d make something like a zeppola dough, then poke her finger in a ball of it, and stick in some allegia [anchovy], or mozzarella and tomatoes, dressed in olive oil w/seasonings and garlic. Oh heaven! When they came out of the frying oil . . . there was nothing like it!

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Posted: 18 December 2007 08:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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I wish I had recipes for all my grandmother’s dishes, but she never used recipes.  No recipes, no measuring, everything done by eye and by taste.  I’ve been trying for about 20 years to replicate her mulignan [eggplant], but I haven’t even come close.

The bread recipe is still evolving, but here’s the latest version:

No-Knead Bread
Makes one loaf, about 25 oz.

17 oz (weight) unbleached bread flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
13.6 oz (weight) ice water

All ingredients should be cold, and dough should go immediately into refrigerator.

Whisk together flour and yeast.  Whisk in salt.  Stir in water and fold mixture until a uniform ball of dough forms.  (Don’t knead.)  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove dough from refrigerator at least 8 hours before you want to eat the bread.  Line covered skillet with parchment paper.  Wet hands and remove dough from bowl.  Fold and flatten in hands several times, keeping hands wet.  Fold corners down to form a rough ball.  Place in parchment-lined skillet and cover.

Let dough rise in warm place until it doubles in size, about 4 hours at 75 degrees.  An hour before baking, place heavy covered pot on baking stone on bottom rack of oven and preheat to 550.

Just before baking, cut 1/2-inch-deep slit in dough.  Remove pot from oven and remove lid.  Lift dough by parchment and lower into pot. Cover pot and place in oven. Lower oven to 475 and bake covered for 30 minutes. Turn pot halfway around, remove lid, and continue to bake until deep reddish-brown, about 20 minutes more.  Peel off parchment and cool on wire rack for 3 hours.


TIPS:

I keep my flour and a small container of salt in the refrigerator, and my yeast in the freezer.  Before I start, I put a pint measuring cup with cold water and a few ice cubes, along with the empty mixing bowl, into the freezer.  I mix with a dough whisk.

I usually have the dough in the refrigerator for about 24 hours, but the exact time isn’t critical.

The wet dough is sticky, but if you pull it away from the bowl carefully, you can get almost all of it out.  Some bits of dough may stick to the bowl, but you can pick them up by pressing the dough against them.

I let the dough rise in the oven with the light on.  It will get too warm if the door is closed, but you can close the door on a folded kitchen towel to keep it open a crack.  By adjusting the thickness of the towel, you can keep the temperature right where you want it.

For the pot, cast iron, enameled cast iron, and ceramic work well.  Anything that’s at least 4” high, heavy enough to retain heat, and can withstand 550 degrees (no plastic handles) should work.  I use a $20 Cabela’s 5-qt. cast iron camp oven (bottom diameter 8”).  If the lid doesn’t fit tightly, cover the pot with foil after the bread goes in, then cover with the lid and crimp the foil around the seam to make a tight seal.  The skillet should be about the same diameter as the pot.

The wet dough is hard to slash.  Even an oiled razor tends to just tug at the dough without cutting it.  I find a thin, sharp pair of scissors works best.  Stick the bottom point of the scissors into the dough, lift and snip, and repeat to extend the slash.  If you don’t cut deep enough, the slash may close up again.  I make a cross, which gives a well-rounded loaf.  When you lift the dough by the parchment, the slash may squeeze shut, but it opens again when the dough starts to rise in the oven.

Try not to cut the bread until the temperature in the center is no more than 80.  The starches are still gelling while it cools.  If you don’t let it cool completely before cutting, the starches remain moist, and you end up with soggy bread.

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Posted: 18 December 2007 09:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Thomas - the next time I make the no-knead bread, I’m trying your version!

MaryMS - I think most sturdy cookies would probably hold up for the length of time that you mention.  Just about any cookie I’ve made and mailed over the years has lasted at least a good 10 days ... I usually mail about the 16th and many of the recipients serve the cookies Christmas day.  They’ve always been just fine.

Something else I forgot to mention about the pizzelles earlier ... like all good, plain baked goods where butter is the predominant ingredient/flavor, these improve with age after they’ve “mellowed” for a time.  I think they start tasting their best a week after being made.

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“There is no such thing as reconstituted lemon juice, only reconstituted taste buds.” - Bert Greene

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Posted: 18 December 2007 02:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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I just replied, but it didn’t ‘post’. Go figure!

Thanks, Thomas, for your very thorough, detailed bread recipe. My husband is our bread baker, I will encourage him to try it - he tends to less it better, keep it easy, but I think he’ll try it as he always wonders why he doesn’t get those big holes in the bread.  Thanks for a bit of memory lane - I haven’t seen or heard the Italian word for eggplant in so many years I didn’t know I knew it, and how to pronounce it. A smile spreads across my face as I recall voices of family members long gone.

Tiffany, your encouragement is very helpful. I will give it a try sending cookies and not try a cake. I have a great recipe for very hearty/hardy cookies that keep decently [they don’t usually last long enough to know just how long.] They include a cup each of: ww flour, toasted and ground coconut, oatmeal, and almonds. Depending on my mood I flavor w vanilla [always], cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg [I love nutmeg], plus currants, maybe choc. chips.  They don’t have the elegance of butter cookies, or the drama of cookie cutter cookies, but they taste great and feel substantial. We’ll see what happens. Thanks again.

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Posted: 18 December 2007 04:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Tiffany, let me know how the bread turns out.

MaryMS, don’t let the length scare you, it’s really easy.

Most of it is tips, anyway.  They’re just for the meticulous (like me).  I always say you can tell a recipe was written by a baker if it takes longer to read than to make.

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Posted: 19 December 2007 01:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Hey, MaryMS,

I send cookies by mail regularly, and find that if I put each individual kind within it’s own ziploc bag, they tend to keep well, and the flavors don’t mingle. I tend to use those snack sized bags, that are big enough to hold a good sample of each kind, but not so huge that the recipient feels overwhelmed with any one kind.

I don’t send anything that’s not likely to age well, whether or not it’s been shoved in a box and sent across the continent, so iced cookies of various types are out. Fruitcake does well, if you want to send just a few slices, it tends to work okay too.

I do tend to double box my cookies, putting the ziplock-bagged cookies inside a tin or other container, then putting that inside a larger sturdy box that’s full of crumpled up paper or styrofoam peanuts, or whatever you have that’ll cushion the inner container from all four sides. Center the cookies within the box, so that when you seal up the box, the weight’s in the center, not toward the bottom or top.

My sister used to have a husband in the military, and she’d pack him brownies, wrapping each individual one in plastic wrap. The boxes took forever to get to him, but wrapped that way, at least the mangled crumbs stayed in rather coherent clumps for snacking. smile

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