04 April


No Knead Bread

April 27: Feast Day of St. Zita

Today’s blog post is dedicated to Islander’s baptismal godmother whose name is Zita. Apparently she was named after her patron saint, Zita of Lucca, Italy (1218-1272), whose feast day is on April 27.

The patroness of domestic servants, poor Zita worked for the Fatinelli family who owned a prosperous wool and silk weaving business in Tuscany. She was sometimes beaten or insulted by them and her jealous co-workers because of her faith. But with patience as a virtue, everyone realized just how valuable she was to the household and eventually her employers changed their attitude and converted to Christianity.

Legend has it that she was late to work on baking day because she stayed a little longer at daily mass or was donating bread to the poor. But there were angels in the kitchen preparing the loaves for Zita to help her catch up with her chores. Today people bake bread in her honor as they celebrate her feast day.

We have done the same by making a no-knead bread. With only four ingredients—and also virtuous patience to let the dough rise—this bread is delicious when dipped in flavored olive oil, toasted and buttered or eaten plain when it is still warm.

Follow the tradition of the Tuscans and bake no-knead bread for the feast day of St. Zita.

Recipe

Adapted from Sol S.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour (plus extra)
  • ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups water (plus 1-2 tablespoons if needed)

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the bread flour, yeast and salt. Stir in the water until a sticky dough forms.

Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature or in a dark oven overnight. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface (we use parchment paper for easy cleanup). Use a bench scraper to fold over the dough about 4-5 times.

Pick up the parchment paper and place it all in a large bowl. Cover with a cotton (not terry cloth) towel and let rise at room temperature for two more hours. At least 30 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place a Dutch oven, covered with lid, into the oven to heat it up. Use gloves to remove the Dutch oven and carefully open the lid. Pick up the whole parchment paper with the dough and dump it in the Dutch oven. Cover and return to the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Remove the lid and bake uncovered for another 5-10 minutes to let the top brown. Take the Dutch oven out. Carefully dump the bread onto a wire rack to cool for another 20-30 minutes, discarding the parchment paper. Cool the bread. Slice and serve with butter, jam/jelly or flavored olive oil dipping sauce.

Notes

  • Zita passed away at age 60 at the Fatinelli house where she worked since she was 12 years old (48 years!). Her body lies incorrupt encased in glass where she is venerated at the Basilica of San Frediano in Lucca, Tuscany, Italy.
  • Search our blog for other bread or Italian-inspired recipes.

Pretzel Bars

April 26: National Pretzel Day

Here is a literal twist for a recipe on National Pretzel Day. Instead of serving the salty snacks, sweeten the celebration by making peanut buttery chocolate pretzel bars. This quick snack only has five ingredients and does not require baking. Pretzel bars are a delicious indulgence in observance of this fun food holiday!

Recipe

(Adapted from the Food Network)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pretzels chips or rods, crushed
  • 1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, melted
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup creamy peanut butter, divided use
  • 1 ½ cups chocolate chips

Directions

In a zipper top bag, place the pretzels. Roll and crush them into a fine powder. Combine in a bowl with the sugar. Melt the butter.

Mix in the melted butter into the pretzel-sugar mixture. Add ONE cup peanut butter and stir until moistened and it comes together. Press into an ungreased 8×8-inch square pan.

In a separate bowl, melt the chocolate chips the remaining ¼ cup of peanut butter by microwaving in 30-second intervals. Stir until melted and smooth. Pour over the pretzel mixture and spread out the top with a spatula. Refrigerate for an hour to set the chocolate. Cut into squares.  Yield: 16 squares.

Notes

Lilikoi (Passion Fruit)

Butter Mochi Cake

April: Easter Season (Palm/Passion Sunday)

On the last Sunday of Lent, a week before Easter, we attend Palm/Passion Sunday mass and listen to scriptural readings about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. With a symbolic palm leaf that we receive at church, Highlander would make a cross for Islander to decorate our dining area. She usually prepares a Hawaiian or tropical meal for dinner with a dessert featuring lilikoi as an ingredient. These are our little Palm/Passion Sunday traditions.

Lilikoi is the Hawaiian word for passion fruit. It is aromatic and tart and grows abundantly on the islands. When we do find them on the mainland, the lilikoi is overpriced and overripe. So we settle for the much cheaper passion fruit pulp in the frozen section of our grocery store. It works fine as an ingredient for our Palm Sunday desserts and adds a fragrant and flavorful twist to a regular butter mochi cake.

For a Palm/Passion Sunday-inspired food, start a little tradition and make something with passion fruit, like lilikoi butter mochi cake.

 Recipe

(Adapted from Hawaii Magazine)

Ingredients

  • 1 box (1 pound) mochiko flour
  • 3 cups sugar, granulated white
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 can (12-14 ounces) coconut milk
  • 4-6 tablespoon lilikoi puree (we substituted defrosted passion fruit pulp)

Directions

In a mixing bowl, combine the mochiko flour, sugar and baking powder. Melt the butter. Cool slightly.

Pour the melted butter into the mixing bowl. Add the eggs, vanilla and coconut milk.

Stir in the lilikoi puree. Blend well. Pour into a greased 9×13-inch baking pan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 40-50 minutes, testing the cake with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from the oven. Cool slightly and spread glaze on top (optional—see Notes). Slice with plastic knife to prevent from sticking to the blade. Yield: 2 dozen.

Notes

  • Glazing the top of the cake is optional. To do so, mix together 1-2 cups powdered sugar with 2-4 tablespoons of lilikoi puree. Stir until it is a smooth consistency. Spread on top of the cake while still warm.
  • Try our regular butter mochi cake and poi mochi cake recipes.
  • Our final food photo of the lilikoi butter mochi cake above is set on a red tablecloth. Red is the liturgical color for Palm/Passion Sunday.

Battenberg Cake

battenbergcake

April 30, 1884: The Wedding Day of Princess Victoria and Prince Louis of Battenberg

As marriage sponsors at church, we are always intrigued with foods related to weddings. Battenberg Cake, with its distinctive checkered pattern and quilt-like markings, has a royal wedding history. It was reputedly created in honor of the German Prince Louis of Battenberg and Princess Victoria of Hesse-Darmstadt when they were married on April 30, 1884. The princess is the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England. Though the royal groom was born in Austria and raised in Germany, the family name eventually became Anglicized from Battenburg (Battenberg) to Mountbatten to disassociate with the Nazis during the World War. The cake itself seems to represent the alliance (marriage) between Germany and England with the two colors!

Battenberg Cake is a terrific teatime treat. Try this royal recipe for bridal showers, nuptial celebrations and the anniversary of the Prince and Princess of Battenberg.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 box pound cake mix (we used Betty Crocker brand)
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • red food coloring
  • yellow food coloring
  • apricot jam
  • 2 packages marzipan

Directions

Prepare the pound cake mix according to the directions on the box. In a mixing bowl, combine the pound cake mix with the butter, eggs and milk. Add the almond extract.

battenbergcakesteps1

Mix until the batter is smooth. Divide the batter equally in two bowls. Tint one with red food coloring and stir until the batter is pink. Tint the other with yellow food coloring and mix well. Pour each into two separate, same-sized greased loaf pans.

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Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 35-45 minutes, testing the cakes for doneness. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Trim off the brown edges from the four sides of the cake.

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Level out the tops. Stack one cake on top of the other. Slice down the middle to create long, rectangular strips of cake.

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Stir the apricot jam in a small bowl until smooth. Generously spread the jam on one side of the cake strip. Attach an opposite colored cake strip to the side. Brush more jam on the top of the two cake strips. Repeat with the other cake strips, topping them with opposite colors. Brush all crumbs away and spread more jam on the sides, including the top and bottom of the cake.

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Knead the marzipan to soften. Roll out on a clean, flat surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Keep rolling until the size is large enough to cover the sides of the cake. Brush apricot jam on the marzipan. Carefully wrap the marzipan around the cake.

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Trim off the excess marzipan. Make a neat seam on the bottom and overlap the edges. Turn the cake around and make light criss-cross markings on the top. Chill until the marzipan and jam are set (around 15-30 minutes). Slice off the ends to make the cake look neat and finished. Cut ¾-inch thick portions and serve during tea time.

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Notes

  • In lieu of the apricot jam, a thin layer of vanilla frosting may be used to “glue” the cake strips together.
  • Search our blog for other royalty-inspired recipes.

Saltimbocca alla Romana

saltimbocca alla romana

April 21: Birthday of Rome (753 BC)

We were fortunate to have visited Rome, Italy, twice, in our lifetime (so far!). The first time was for Highlander’s 50th birthday (April 20) and the second time was for a family vacation to visit Islander’s brother at his congregation’s headquarters where we got to meet his Superior General and other brothers and sisters from around the world serving in God’s missions.

While in Rome, Islander did as the Romans probably do and ate veal cutlets with prosciutto and sage. The tender beef combined with the salty and earthy flavors were a “jump in the mouth” (the literal translation of “saltimbocca”). We ate different delicious foods in Italy, occasionally treat ourselves at Italian-American restaurants on “date nights” and “month-aversaries” and sometimes cook Italian dishes and post the recipes on our blog.

To celebrate the birthday of Rome, we made Saltimbocca alla Romana. Try this tasty recipe and experience the flavors of Italy jumping in your mouth!

Recipe

(Adapted from Italian Chef)

Ingredients

  • 6 veal slices for scallopini
  • 6 sage leaves
  • 6 slices prosciutto
  • flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup dry white wine

Directions

Use a meat tenderizer to pound the veal into thin pieces. Place a sage leaf on top of each veal slice. Cover each with prosciutto.

saltimbocca alla romana

In a flat dish, combine the flour with salt and pepper. Dredge both sides of the veal in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess. In a large skillet, melt the butter and olive oil. Slip the veal slices prosciutto side down into the skillet and cook on medium high heat until brown on one side. Flip to veal slices and brown on the other side. Transfer the veal to warming plate lined with paper towels to absorb the grease.

saltimbocca alla romana

In the same skillet, mix a tablespoonful of the seasoned flour into the meat drippings/grease to make a roux. Stir in the chicken broth and white wine and heat until thickened (may stir in another tablespoonful of seasoned flour, if necessary). Serve the veal hot and spoon the gravy over it. This veal meal is perfect with pasta!

saltimbocca alla romana

Notes

  • Avoid overcooking the veal or it will be tough to chew.
  • Make Marsala Veal for a similar dish to Saltimbocca alla Romana. Both Italian dishes have a flour coating and are served with a wine-based gravy.
  • Search our blog for more Italian recipes.

 

Animal Cracker/Cookie Pie

April 18: Animal Crackers Birthday

Animal crackers and cookies were among our favorite childhood snacks. Even now as adults, we still light up like little kids when we find a box of Barnum’s stuffed in our Christmas stockings or open one up as an extra birthday preview present (you know—the prelude to the main gift).

We wanted to nosh on some nostalgia in celebration of Animal Crackers Birthday by making an animal cracker/cookie pie. The pie crust substitutes graham crackers for animal crackers. The filling is frozen pink-lemonade ice cream to match the colors of the animal cookies, although any flavor is good (guava, strawberry, raspberry, etc.). We also decorated the pink pie with white whipped cream swirls and colorful sprinkles for a final, festive touch. Animal cracker/cookie pie looks pretty for a party and is perfect for Animal Crackers Birthday.

Recipe

(Adapted from Real Food Real Kitchens)

For the animal cracker pie crust

  • 1 2/3 cup crushed animal crackers
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions

Crush the animal crackers (pulse in a food processor or place in plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin) into a fine powder. Place the crumbs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the butter and honey and mix until everything comes together.

Press in a 9 or 10 inch pie plate, covering the sides and bottom well. Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from oven cool completely on a wire rack. Freeze the pie crust to make it firmer (optional).

For the pink lemonade ice cream filling

  • 3 cups vanilla ice cream
  • ½ – 1 can frozen pink lemonade juice concentrate, thawed (to taste)
  • few drops of red food coloring

Directions

In a large bowl, mix together the vanilla ice cream with the pink lemonade (½ – 1 can according to tartness and taste). Add a few drops of red food coloring to get the desired shade of pink. Spread the filling mixture into the pie crust. Cover and freeze until firm.

For the decorations

  • whipped cream
  • colorful sprinkles
  • frosted pink and white animal cookies

Directions

Swirl some whipped cream on the edges of the frozen pie (we used Wilton tip 1M and a decorator’s piping bag). Sprinkle some colorful non-pareils on the pie. Garnish with frosted pink and white animal cookies. Freeze until ready to slice and serve.

Notes

  • Learn more about the history of animal crackers from the Real Food Real Kitchens website.
  • Learn more about the history of frosted animal cookies from Mother’s Cookies brand website.
  • There are many brands of animal crackers and cookies—even chocolate flavor!

“Soylent Green” Tea Cookies

soylentgreenteacookies

April 1: Soylent Green Day and April Fools’ Day

What a coincidence that Soylent Green Day falls on April Fools’ Day. Why not fool some friends by serving them some “Soylent Green” tea cookies?!

Spoiler alert: Unlike the fictional food depicted in the film, they are not made of people but are made of matcha (Japanese green tea powder), they are not crackers but cookies and they are not mass produced at a mysterious factory but baked in small batches in a home kitchen.

Soylent Green tea cookies are sweet but have an earthy taste about them, which comes from the matcha flavor (or from its movie equivalent the “high-energy plankton gathered from the world’s ocean”). Soylent Green crackers were favored over its predecessor products, Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow. According to movie trivia, the word “soylent” comes from “soy” + “lentils”, implying that the crackers were protein-rich and nutritious. But the world’s ocean was unable to supply enough high-energy plankton to feed the masses so Soylent Green was rationed. Only human remains were a suitable substitute for the plankton-protein but this was not revealed until the film’s climax. Therefore, “Soylent Green is people!”

Have some fun on Soylent Green Day and April Fools’ Day by snacking on Soylent Green tea cookies, watching the classic movie and fooling friends with freaky food.

Recipe

(Adapted from Japanese Cooking 101)

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons matcha
  • ¾ cup cornstarch
  • ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon cake flour
  • ¾ cup cornstarch
  • 5 tablespoons butter, softened
  • ¼ cup granulated white sugar
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon soy milk (as in “Soylent”; the original recipe uses regular milk)

Directions

Over a large bowl, sift several times the matcha, cornstarch and cake flour until well blended. In another bowl, cream the butter with both the granulated and powdered sugars. Beat in the two egg yolks.

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Mix in the soy milk or milk. Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until a cookie dough is formed. Cover in plastic film and refrigerate the dough for at least half an hour.

soylentgreenteacookiessteps2

Divide the dough in two balls. Roll out each between two sheets of waxed paper about ¼ inch thick. Use a 1-inch square cookie cutter to cut out shapes OR slice into perpendicular lines with a pizza cutter or knife to cut out squares. Place the squares on lightly greased baking sheets about an inch apart.

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Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes, being careful not to overbrown the edges. Remove from the oven. Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for about five minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool to a crisp. Serve in rations by placing a few Soylent Green tea cookies in a plastic bag.

soylentgreenteacookiessteps4

Notes

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