Malto Mario


The Lady & Sons

1,000 Italian Recipes

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July and Buttercream.. Two Bitter Lovers

Chris from Mele Cotte was our hostess this month - and a lovely hostess at that! Chris chose Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream as our Daring Baker challenge for the month of July.

I had mixed feelings.. I won't lie. Since my "lifestyle change" is still in effect, when I saw the cake included buttercream and chocolate, well I could feel my adrenaline start pumping and there seemed to be an instant bounce in my step.. CHOCOLATE. OHMYGOD HOW I MISS THEE SO MUCH.

On the other hand, as much as I love the buttercream, ugh.. I've had enough of it to last me a good long while AND the temps in NE Ohio are pretty high with the mugginess at about 593% - just a smidge uncomfortable in these parts. ;) I'm a lucky gal as we've got central air but I wondered if it'd be enough to keep my buttercream thick and workable.. Mmmm hmmm..

I present to you the answer to that question:

Filbert Gateau OHMYGOD

Allow me to fill ya'll in on the July Kitchen Disaster of 2008.

I was on vacation the week I decided to make the cake - it was the perfect time because we were going to a sleep over at 2 of my bestest friends' house and I knew I could unload the fat/calorie laden cake on them.. so I started on Monday and made the pistachio (Bless Chris' heart, she gave us lots of room to personalize this cake.. changing the nut being one of them) flour and pistachio praline. Both went off without a hitch.

I got back to the cake on Friday.. making the cake was, again, no problem.. my 2 layers puffed up nicely and were quite pretty in an green kind of way. hee! I decided to go with my go-to buttercream recipe from Jacques Torres because I'm confident in my ability to make that frosting without problems and wasn't really up to trying yet another buttercream recipe in the heat and humidity of my kitchen. Well, I guess it didn't matter what recipe I went with.. my house was just too warm and sticky even with the A/C BLASTING at Antarctic temperatures. I couldn't get this stuff to thicken up for the life of me. So I threw it in the freezer - and by that I mean, I literally threw the KA mixing bowl full of delicious buttercream soup into our chest freezer. :D

Saturday morning.. I OF COURSE get side tracked on DB stuff and email catch up duties.. so I've got about 2 hours to crank this cake out and make the 3 snackers I had planned on bringing. You know, I've been in this position more times than I can count.. actually every time. I am late for everything - the quintessential procrastinator extraordinare. Seriously. And it doesn't matter how many times I rush to finish something before the deadline - it doesn't matter that I'm a heaping sack of nerves, angst and perspiration as I bolt out the door to get where I'm suppose to be within an hour (or two) of when I was suppose to initially be there. It doesn't matter how I call myself names and then give myself the silent treatment for being such an ASSHOLE every single time. I conveniently forget all of that the next time I'm procrastinating about something.. GAH.

So this shouldn't come as a shock, but the very second I stepped foot in my kitchen that morning, the sky started to cloud over, I could smell the smoke from the firey depths of hell tickle my nostrils, I could sense pending disaster in the air.. yet I actually ignored it all and sliced my two layers into 4 layers. I added the praline to my barely thawed buttercream that barely thickened up after the deep freeze. I made a so-good-you-could-drink-with-a-straw soaking syrup of sugar, orange juice and Grand Marnier. I got out my brush, my offset spatula and my plastic lazy susan thingie that cake decorators use and I bravely began assembly.

First layer of cake and buttercream looked good! I had hope! Second layer.. not so much.. buttercream started to thin again.. but that's okay because my plan was to throw it in the fridge the very second I had all 4 layers together so it could set up while I started my antipasto salsa (mmm mmm good, btw!) and brie/strawberry jam filled phyllo cups (swoon).. third layer? Well.. the leaning Tower of Pisa came to mind.. and I started looking for my bamboo skewers.. fakk it, it won't take but a second to get that fourth and final layer on! Instructions said to soak the cut side of that final layer with the syrup and then flip it over so the even side was on top.. at least that's what I thought I read - to this day I'm not really sure if I was imagining that step or not.

Anyhoo.. soaked she be.. carefully flip her over on the top of the lean-to and then.. and then I'm holding a piece of the layer in each hand and the rest of it kinda just flooped onto the top of the cake.


It took a few seconds for me to get over the shock of the breakage. I mean, I know I shouldn't have been surprised - this is par for the course when I'm baking - but I was like.. "You've got to be fucking kidding me. WHY NOW?? DEAR GOD, WHY NOW???" And then I started laughing. Kinda like Tom Hanks in The Money Pit when he poured the last bucket of hot water into the tub, causing the tub to go crashing through the floor.. that kind of laugh where you are pretty damn sure you have just lost the very last semblance of your fucking mind and are also expecting Candid Camera personnel to pop out from behind the Frigidaire, pointing and laughing at you?

Filbert Gateau OHMYGOD

Only no one came popping out and apparently I had partial control of my mind because the panic started to set in.. I had less than an hour to finish all this AND get my butt into the shower so I didn't smell like buttercream and goat.

I simply turned my palms over and let the two pieces fall where they may.. I kinda nudged the part that flooped out on the cake over and like a puzzle, tried to put the pieces together. I probably would have had more success if I had chosen to move the pieces with the Vulcan Mind Meld technique than adding the heat from my hands to the buttercream.. but again, there wasn't much of my mind left at this point.

I finally cried UNCLE! And realized this cake wasn't going anywhere.. so the cake, complete with plastic lazy susan cake decorator thingie was thrown into the upright freezer in my kitchen. Course that would be after I opened it's door and half the contents came flying out at me - frozen blocks of tuna, bag of hard lil meatballs, 3 pound sack of sharp strawberry chunks, various ice cubes and I think there was a package of chicken sausage that came at me like a torpedo. So yeah, once I dodged all of that, the cake went in, I slammed the door and decided to stop thinking about it.. LALALALALALALALAALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU! YOU DON'T EXIST FUCKING SPLOOGEY MELTY BROKEN CAKE LALALALALALALALALAAAA

I didn't think about the cake the rest of the night and managed to at least accomplish the goal of getting completely hammered. I was suckin' down jello shots through a turkey injector, people! YEEE HAW!!! I have no recollection of saying good night to my fine hosts.. I have no recollection of finding the guest room.. getting into bed.. nothing. All I know is that I woke up the next morning and WANTED TO DIE. My hairs hurt. My clothes hurt. I hadn't been that hung over since way back in my drinking days say.. oh.. 10-15 years ago? Holy mother of a hairless Chin. I thought for sure I was going to meet my maker at any second.

Filbert Gateau

So as you might imagine, the thought of that cake didn't enter my mind AT ALL on Sunday either. Monday night rolled around and I was still hung-over, I shit you not. But now I was hungry again and nothing was going to cure what ailed me other than chocolate and buttercream, so I took that frozen bitch out of the freezer and whipped up a delectable ganache. I sliced the uneven (to say the least) sides off and poured that sweet sweet nectar over the top.. I even salvaged a lil buttercream from the other freezer and made a pretty decoration...

Filbert Gateau


Okay, horror stories aside, ultimately I'd like to make out with Chris for chosing such an amazing cake.. the taste was phenomenal. I'm not sure if it was the flavors I chose (pistachio, orange, chocolate and raspberry [the preserves I slathered all over it before pouring the ganache]) or if it was because I truly SOAKED the layers in that syrup.. but it was sooooo moist and the orange/choc/raspberry together was just over the top.

Filbert Gateau
Did I mention that I SOAKED the cake in the syrup? NOM NOM NOM *slurp*

I did NOT take this cake in to share with the co-workers. NO. I. DID. NOT. I sliced her up and froze the slices :D Oh yes my friends.. Lissee will not share this cake with anyone, cellulite be damned. As of today, there are 8 slices left.. let's see if I can make it through the entire summer before depleting my supply. HAR!

Excellent challenge! Loved it! Will most likely NEVER make it again! At least not in the summer months.. hehee

Ya'll know the drill.. start clickin' on that blogroll and commence with the droolage!


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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thanks, Sherry!

Most of the food blogging world already knows, but we lost a dear friend last week. Sherry of What Did You Eat? passed away suddenly. :(

As a tribute to Sherry, many of us prepared one of her recipes this past week and are blogging about them today in tribute to such a wonderful woman.

I found Sherry's blog a couple years ago and became a fan from the beginning. She made me laugh and her recipes sounded delicious. And then she joined the Daring Bakers and we got to know each other a little better through e-mail. She was a joy to chat with and I really loved getting to know her through her stories on her blog.

I've many memories of things she'd said to me, but there is this one comment she made that had me absolutely rolling - tears streaming down my face and an effort to catch my breath.. it was regarding a certain recipe we were making and what a bitch it was. No one was having any luck and we were all frustrated. But she managed to find the exact right words to make it all seem not so bad - I have a feeling she did that often in her life.. helped those she loved and cared about feel better when they weren't in a good place.

The world is a sadder place now that she's gone. Fortunately, many of us have memories to keep her close to our hearts and we've got her recipes to keep us thankful she was such a great cook! So in tribute to that beautiful woman, I made one of her many recipes that I've got tucked away in my recipe file..


This is a vegetarian dish that she enjoyed and was written by her favorite chef and cookbook author, Deborah Madison. The book she chose this recipe from is Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and it's called Fideos, Dry Mexican Soup.


This is a perfect recipe for a warm day.. it was easy to put together and didn't take much time in a hot kitchen. The changes I made were to use organic chicken stock from Trader Joe's, but adding the same spices to it that Sherry did. Since Hubbs loves noodles and carmelized onions together, I just mixed them into the noodles instead of pureeing them. And finally, thanks to a left over rotisserie chicken, I shredded some breast meat and threw it into the mix for a lil protein. I served it simply with sliced cukes from our garden dressed in balsamic vinegar and a lil olive oil.


It really was delicious and will become a regularly made dinner for us. I thought about Sherry the whole time I prepared it and while we were eating it and I couldn't help but feel that she was smiling down upon us in approval.

Thank you Sherry, for the laughs, the insight to your life, the friendship and for my knowing I've been blessed to have you in my life, for however brief that time might have been.

Ya'll can read about the recipe on Sherry's blog here


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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Italians Know Their Cake!

***UPDATED with Whipped Cream/Cream Cheese frosting recipe below***

Well this is going to be the quickest blog post I've ever written. Life is pretty chaotic lately!

Cassata alia Siciliana

Our lil group of baking friends got together on Skype again this past Sunday and baked one of the prettiest cakes I've ever made! We even had a guest baker who was a joy to meet, Hi Halley! :)

I have to thank Ivonne, Ben, John, Helene, Steph, Marce, Chris and Mary for indulging me this time around by baking an Italian Cassata cake. I've never made this cake before but have been DYING to do it.. and bless their cotton socks, they all agreed. Ivonne provided this exceptional recipe from Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano cookbook. I must say, if the rest of the recipes are this delightful then this is a book I need to purchase in the very near future. :)

Cassata alia Siciliana

Everything went along without a hitch, which is refreshing after the last baking disaster I went through... (stay tuned for that lil gem!). The sponge was a lil disconcerting as the batter, before the egg whites are introduced, is very stiff - almost doughy. So folding delicate egg whites wasn't the easiest of tasks. But it all came together eventually and my cakes baked up light and fluffy.

The filling was super easy to put together and if anyone would dream of having a doubt, I doubled the chocolate called for in it. Me no get chocolate anymore *sniff* so when I do.. I double it. :P I left the nuts out of this cake. I'm not a huge nut fan and I knew some of this was going to my mommy and she can't eat nuts. Didn't make much of a difference in flavor, I'm sure. The filling did have the consistency of cannoli filling and it was very good - I just kind of wished that the chocolate would have been maybe melted into the cheese or even a cocoa powder used to flavor it. I don't know.. I've never been a fan of lil slivers/bits of chocolate in a filling - it seems like it's there for texture moreso than chocolate flavor and OHMYGOD I'MSOSURE chocolate was NOT meant as a textural ingredient for crissakes.


Sorry.. lil protective of the chocolate over here.

Other than the omission of the nuts, I made one other change and that was using a different frosting recipe. I didn't like the sounds of this cake with a glaze - every Cassata I've ever had was covered in a whipped cream frosting. So Mary passed along a recipe she had found that was a combination of whipped cream and cream cheese and it was just delicious. I don't have that recipe in front of me at this time, but will update this post as soon as I can with it. :)

Anyhoo, this cake put together is gorgeous and truly tasty. I urge you to give it a whirl.. if you like Cassata cake and/or Cannoli, I'm pretty darned sure you'll like this recipe. :)


Cassata alia Siciliana
Cassata alia Siciliana
Makes one 9-inch cake, 10 servings

2 cups bleached cake flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch
8 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 cups granulated sugary
3/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup rum

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup shelled whole unsalted pistachios
3 cups fresh, whole-milk ricotta
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Freshly grated zest of 2 medium oranges

2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 large egg white
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds, toasted and
cooled, for garnish
Maraschino or amarena cherries, for garnish(optional)
Candied orange zest, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F and position a rack in the center. Lightly grease two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans with butter or nonstick cooking spray, line them with parchment paper, then grease the parchment.

To make the sponge cakes: Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, use the whisk attachment to beat the egg yolks with the sugar on medium speed until very light and pale yellow in color and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract, followed by the melted burte: Transfer the egg mixture to a large, clean mixing bowl. Fold in the dry ingredient-quickly and lightly, using a rubber spatula, stopping just before they are fully incorporated. Clean the whisk attachment and mixing bowl.
Place the egg whites and the pinch of salt in the cleaned bowl of the electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment on medium-high speed, beat the egg whites until the-form firm peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter quickly and lightly; this will also incorporate any streaks of dry ingredients that remain.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans, smoothing the tops with a spatula. Bake the cakes for 35 to 40 minutes, or until they are golden brown, a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cakes have begun to pull away from the sides of the pan. Allow the cakes to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then carefully rum them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cakes are cooling, prepare the rum syrup: In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, water, and rum. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring the contents to a boil, then lower the heat slightly and allow the syrup to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool.

Next, prepare the filling: Using a microplane or box grater, grate the chocolate into fine, feathery shreds. Using a sharp knife, finely chop the pistachios. Place the ricotta, confectioners' sugar, and cinnamon in the bowl of an electric mixer and, using the paddle attachment, beat until the ricotta is creamy and soft. Add the grated chocolate, chopped pistachios, and orange zest and beat just until combined.

To assemble the cassata: Have ready a 9-inch springform pan. Using a serrated knife, carefully split each cake layer in half horizontally to make four layers. Place one of the layers in the bottom of the pan and, using a pastry brush, moisten it generously and evenly with some of the rum syrup. Spread the cake layer evenly with one third of the ricotta mixture. Repeat twice with another cake layer, more of the rum syrup, and another third of the ricotta mixture. Place the final cake layer on top and generously brush with the rum syrup. Wrap the springform pan tightly in plastic wrap; this helps the layers fit snugly on top of each other. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

To prepare the icing: Place the sifted confectioners' sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the egg white and water and beat the ingredients together with the paddle attachment on medium speed until the mixture is smooth. Beat in the almond extract.

To finish the cassata: Remove the cassata from the refrigerator and carefully remove the sides of the pan. You may need to run a hot knife around the sides first. You may leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan, or carefully transfer it to a cardboard cake circle with an offset spatula. Place the cake on a wire rack to ice it; you can place some parchment or wax paper underneath to catch any drips.

Spread the icing over the top and sides of the cake, spreading it evenly with a spatula. Scatter the toasted almonds over the top and let the cake sit until the icing sets. Return the cake to the refrigerator to chill until you are ready to serve it, at least 3 hours.

Before serving, carefully transfer the cake to a platter or cake stand, and, if desired, decorate the cassata with maraschino or amarena cherries and some strips of candied orange zest.

Cassata alia Siciliana
Yesssss.. this is the fourth photo of the same slice of cake still just sitting on the plate not doing much but looking pretty.. :P

Leftovers should be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 additional day.

Oh! Speaking of pretty food - my lastest post is up for FoodieView - check it out if you want to see some absolutely beautiful and colorful dishes. :)

Whipped Cream/Cream Cheese Frosting

1.5 cups of heavy cream
1 tsp gelatin dissolved in 2 TBS water
1 cup 10X sugar (confectioners' sugar)
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz of cream cheese, softened

Combine cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla. beat until smooth. Melt gelatin in water and add to whipped cream at soft peak stage. Continue to whip until stiff and then gently fold into cream cheese mixture. I took about 1/3 of the whipped cream and stirred it into the cream cheese mixture to loosen the cream cheese up and then I folded the rest of the whipped cream in gently in two additions.

(thanks for reminding me, Tina!) :)

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The First Official Daring Bakers Interview! Yeah!

Ivonne and I were interviewed by a lovely gal named Stef.. it was a conference call between the three of us.. and we laughed and giggled the whole time. You'd think it was nerves, but it really was because Stef made us both feel so comfortable.

At least ya'll will see.. I can be the BIGGEST DORK practically anywhere.. not just this silly lil blog. :P

Hi George! Nice jeans, Gordon! Paula? I really do want you to have my children and Ivonne really does want to marry Bobby!

*how embarrassing*



First part is HERE and there's a link at the bottom to read the second part HERE. :)

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

101 Calorie Springrolls with a side of 3908 Calorie Fried Zucchini :)

I figured the goodness of the springrolls would certainly outweigh or equal out the badness of the fried zucchini. Yes?


Too bad.. both were equally delicious :D

We're on vacation this week! WOO HOO! We've done absolutely NOTHING! Not so woo hoo. We've had plans.. and then things have popped up totally destroying our plans.. we ended up doggie babysitting for 2 days, killing our plans to head out to some fresh air markets we've never been to. The weather has not cooperated, squashing our desire to get out on the lake.. BUT there has been no work so therefore, we are happy campers. heee!

Fresh Springrolls

One thing we discussed at the beginning of our vacation was that we had been straying from our Cooking Light recipe list the past couple weeks and that we wanted to get back on schedule again. So I've picked 5 recipes for our dining pleasure this week and being Wednesday, we finally tried the first one. Gah. Okay so being on vacation kinda takes away the desire to prepare dinner every night. Who knew? Anyhoo, we did try one tonight and it was another winner from Cooking Light.

Fried Zucchini / Fresh Springrolls
Please try to contain your jealousy over my hot pink styrofoam plates :P

Fresh Spring Rolls with Dipping Sauce was easy to prepare, I got to work with rice paper spring roll wrappers - something I've never done before, and they were incredibly good. Add to it, only 101 calories, 0.8 grams of fat and 16.8 grams of carbs for TWO rolls PLUS 2 teaspoons of the dipping sauce and I'd say this recipe is a keeper for sure!

Following the measurements exactly, this recipe does not make 6 spring rolls as stated. I have no idea how they came up with that number, because I got 12 HUGE spring rolls and still threw the left over ingredients into a salad. Not to mention, they called it "6 appetizer servings" - at the size they ended up being, using 3 strips of this and that and 4 slices of halved shrimp, they turned out to be as big as your average eggroll from many Asian restaurants. I could not even finish ONE of them. Hubbs had 2. We had 9 left over. Thank goodness we had some unexpected company show up.. they took the 9 home with them. :)

Ingredients for Fresh Springrolls

Crispedy carrots, cukes, bell peppers and bean sprouts.. I added a couple strips of spring onion as well.. decided against the lettuce and went with a small handful of baby spinach instead and 2 (size 26-31) shrimp sliced in half were piled into the middle of the spring roll wrapper that had been softened in warm water - then wrapped around the contents snugly. The dipping sauce was super easy as well.. a matter of juicing a lime and whisking in a few other ingredients. Once I got the hang of dealing with the sticky rice paper, the rolling went quickly and I had a dozen spring rolls in less than 30 minutes.


Fried Zucchini on styrofoam plate :D

As a side dish.. heh heh.. we took advantage of the first harvest of zucchini from our garden. Most gals living a lifestyle change, would steam or grill the zucchini. Thank GAWD I'm not most gals. Oh hells no. I dredged each zuke coin into an egg, then flour, salt and pepper.. then I dropped those beauties into a skillet containing sizzling hot canola oil and fried 'em up to golden brown perfection! teee!

C'mon.. you can't fault me for that can you? I know Hubbs didn't.. if we weren't already an old married couple, I'd bet my last dollar that he would have proposed tonight by the look on his face when he ate the first fried slice of zucchini heaven. :)

Fried Zucchini / Fresh Springrolls

I've got 4 more recipes to go.. with 3 days left (can't count Saturday- we're headed out to my hometown for a slumber party at my soul sistah's house - I will not be held accountable for anything that passes these lips that night as I can guarantee after 3/4 of a bottle of vodka it will be a free for all)



That didn't sound right.

Uhmm.. 'kay never mind. Anyhoo.. 4 recipes left - ya'll might see another post here again this month before the Daring Baker challenge. I KNOW! I'll be shocked too! heheee


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