Copyright Piacere - Food & Travel without rules! 2023 - Theme by ThemeinProgress
When my grandparents moved from Italy to American in 1896 to about 1912, they anticipated the beginnings of a better life. Living in the same areas of communities with others of their nationality seemed to give them comfort that their world would continue somewhat like the old country. In their country they came from small villages where everyone was the same nationality, religion, spoke same language, and their lives were clones of each other’s. Kids married into neighbors or friends families and arranged marriages were common in those days. The only difference was that the burden of support shifted and a new member provided another helping hand in support of the family.
In their new country they weren’t the only nationality in the community and their children had some ideas of their own. Suddenly children were bringing home friends of different nationalities and religions. Marriages sometimes broke a family up rather then bring them together. It was one thing for a child to marry a person of another nationality, but to marry outside of the religion caused, at times, irreparable breaks in relationships.
Italian food wasn’t the only food on the on the table any more. This brought new insights into other nationalities cuisine, and we didn’t need any encouragement to embrace especially the desserts. One of my uncles married into a Swedish family and an aunt into a Greek family. The results were sweet indeed as our culinary world opened up to some wonderful new foods.
My aunt learned to prepare a number of Greek specialties that we all were happy to add to our already large Italian recipe box. One in particular is Baklava. My aunt’s recipe isn’t overly sweet and for large group parties it is a winner.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour @ 350ºF
Yield: 32 pieces
1 1/2 pound package phylo dough
1 1/2 pounds butter, melted
1 1/2 lbs. walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup superfine sugar
6 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/2 orange or lemon, zest only
1 cup honey
Combine the nuts, sugar, and cinnamon and set aside.
Brush the bottom of a 13” x 9” pan with melted butter. Take half of the phylo dough one layer at a time brushing each layer with melted butter. Spread the walnut mixture all over the top. Using the remaining phylo dough, follow the same process of buttering each layer until the complete package is used.
Before baking, cut through the layers to form triangles. Cut from corner to corner. This is done at this point because it will be very fragile after it has been baked. Cover the top with wax or parchment paper. Bake @ 350º F for 30 minutes and reduce the oven to 300ºF. Remove the paper and bake for 30 minutes more or until it is golden brown. Remove the baklava from the oven and finish cutting through the layers.
Five minutes before the baklava is done baking, prepare the syrup.
Cook water, sugar rind, and cinnamon over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the honey and vanilla, and stir until well blended.
Pour the syrup over the hot baklava and allow it to completely cool. Let it sit for 24 hours, lightly covered, but not in the refrigerator.
I tried many carrot cakes and always feel as though I can’t ever finish it. They are usually heavy and all seem to be somewhat the same. This is a very old recipe of my mothers and is lighter with an Italian twist. The original recipe was topped with cornflakes, however I have replaced the cornflakes with chopped walnuts sprinkled at the bottom of the mold pan so that the top of the cake is decorated with walnuts and doesn’t need the cream cheese frosting. Put a dollop of cream cheese or Mascarpone maple cream topping on the side or make two carrot cake molds and fill the middle of the cake with the topping. I find that the cream cheese topping done this way helps to keep the cream cheese moist and prevents it from drying out and cracking.
Pecans can be substituted and the cream cheese topping can be substituted with Mascarpone Cream. Add little maple syrup and crushed walnuts or pecans to the Mascarpone for a different variation.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour @ 350ºF
Yield: 14 servings
1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 cups solid vegetable shortening or half shortening and butter
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 cups grated carrots
Cream Cheese Frosting
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 oz. butter, softened
1 1/3 cups confectionary sugar
Mascarpone Maple Cream Filling
Yield: 1 1/2 cups
1 8 oz. container Mascarpone Cheese
6-8 tablespoons of maple syrup
1/4 cup pulverized walnuts/pecans
Other Things Needed
1 bundt pan, greased
In a mixer, place the shortening and sugar and beat until blended. Add the eggs one at a time while mixing. Put in the lemon juice. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder and add it a little at a time to the mixing bowl, blending it before you add more flour. Once the batter is smooth, fold in the carrots.
In a well-greased bundt pan, spread the walnuts/pecans over the bottom of the pan. Pour in the batter and place the pan in a larger pan of hot water. The water should come up to about the middle of the pan.
Put it in a 350ºF oven for 1 hour. Allow the cake to cool before adding the filling.
NOTE: Put the larger pan on the rack in the oven, pour the hot water in the pan and place your cake pan into it. This way you don’t risk dropping the hot water or splashing water into your cake batter. It is much safer than doing it on the counter and bringing it to the stove.
Two mold pans can be used instead of one. Fill the center of the cake with your Cream cheese or Mascarpone cream filling.
Mix the softened cream cheese with the softened butter and add the vanilla and sugar blending it until it is smooth.
Mascarpone Maple Cream
Bring the Mascarpone to room temperature. Pulverize the nuts in a food processor. Mix all the ingredients together until the cream is smooth. You can adjust the recipe to make it stronger. Add other varieties of syrup or chopped dates, chopped fruit etc. to compliment your dessert.
During WWII while my father was fighting in Europe, my mother supported us by working at the Table Talk Pies Inc. Located in Worcester, Massachusetts and established in 1924. Like many other business of that time, they started as a very small neighborhood business and sold their pies in horse drawn carriages around town. Table Talk still exists today with distribution and production all around the country.
My mother perfected her pie baking and was the expert among our family and friends. She sold her pies in our family business “Turo’s Market” on Shrewsbury Street, Worcester MA. (no longer exists). We moved to the country in a house my parents built in the middle of an apple orchard. Every Sunday she would baked all sorts of pies of the season and family and friends filled our house for coffee and pie. When the fruit was first in season she would make us all our own pie and set it down in front of us for one big start of the season pie feast. She made a large assortment of pies but two were always the most popular and that was blueberry and apple pies (apples picked in our backyard).
To this day everyone in our family remembers these Sunday afternoons with such fond memories. Besides always having a huge crowd around our house on the weekends, the sent of fresh baked pies in her country kitchen still lingers with me today. Everyone in our family tries to create the very same flavor that she perfected. Somehow we never are able to recreate the same taste, but that is probably because we just can’t duplicate those wonderful times that went with friends, coffee and a piece of pie with ice cream. Pies are still a large part of our family get-togethers and she still fills our discussions as we compete for the title of best family pie baker.
Fruit pies are very simple and only require the minimum amount of ingredients. Sugar, cinnamon, lemon zest, butter, a little flour or cornstarch and that is it. If you try to complicate it, you will affect the fresh flavors of the fruit. Fresh fruit pies are not about being creative, but about the clean flavors and the juices of ripe fruit -and there is the key, ripe fruit.
Make sure when you are buying blueberries that they are firm, plump, fragrant, and dark blue. Remove stems and any berries that are green or not ripe. Most of us today use cultivated berries and they can also be bought frozen. We always went blueberry picking at farms and collected large quantities that we froze and had blueberry pies all winter. They freeze beautifully and are great just to pop a few in your mouth as a snack frozen. You can put them into your pie frozen and you wouldn’t know that they had been picked months before.
Blueberries are also well known for their health benefits. Enjoy my Moms recipe!
Basic Pie Crust
2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cold solid vegetable shortening (one cup of shortening if you eliminate the butter)
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (the butter makes the crust flaky)
2/3 cup ice-cold water (as needed)
Other Items needed
Mixer or rolling pin
9” pie plate
DOUGH USING A MIXER OR PROCESSOR
Mix the flour, shortening, and salt until it looks like a crumb mixture. Add the butter to the crumb mixture. The mixer or processor does a good job of crumbing the mixture. The butter should only be pulsated a few times to assure it isn’t over processed. The original recipe calls for a total of 1 cup of shortening; you can use a mixture of butter and shortening. Remove it from the mixer or processor and mix 2/3 cup of ice-cold water a little at a time until the dough forms. You may not need the entire amount of water. DO NOT OVER PROCESS OR KNEAD THE DOUGH. Once you have brought all the ingredients together, cut it in half and form a disk shape by patting it with your hands and put it in plastic storage bags. Refrigerate them for at least 1/2 hour.
If you are mixing the dough by hand, place the flour in a bowl and add a pinch of salt. Cut the shortening into small pieces and crumble it either with you hands or with a fork. Cut in the butter, in larger chunks. Add the ice-cold water and bring it together into a ball, the same as the directions above.
NOTE: You can add a little cinnamon, lemon zest or sugar if you like into the flour mixture.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 52 minutes, 12 minutes at 420º F, 40 minutes @ 350ºF
Yield: 8 servings
6 cups fresh blueberries, enough to fill a 9” pie plate
3/ 4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 lemon (zest only)
1/8 pound butter, cut into cubes
Other Things Needed
3 ziti pasta
Roll out one half of the dough and place it into a 9” pie plate. Refrigerate the other half for the top.
Put the blueberries into a bowl and add the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and zest and toss the berries until they are completely covered with the ingredients. Pour them into the uncooked piecrust and dot the top with butter. Roll out the second piece of dough and cover the top of the pie. Even out the dough around the rim and crimp the edges. With a knife, puncture at 3 holes and stick in a piece of ziti pasta in each hole. The ziti will act as little chimneys and let out the steam.
Bake in the middle of the oven at 420º F for 12 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350º F and cook for another 40 minutes. Remove the pie when it is brown on the top and put it on a rack to cool. Once at room temperature, put it in the refrigerator.
Serve cold with vanilla ice cream.
NOTE: You can brush the top of the piecrust with an egg wash or cream to give it a more golden color or sprinkle a little sugar on the top.