Tag Archives: Desserts

Toddler’s First Taste: Doughnuts (Sfinge)

13 Sep

As mentioned previously on For Antonina, my niece Gia has an exceptional appetite.  And she generally eats very healthfully– lots of fruits and vegetables, and she especially loves cheese and milk.  Lately, as a toddler, her tastes have shifted over to the sweeter side, and while she doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to eat junk food, her parents give her the occasional sugary snack.  She’d never tasted a doughnut until a few weeks ago.  In fact, when asked to identify them, she simply said, “Cake?”  The excitement only built from there.

After Gia’s newborn baby sister Claire was put to bed (for her customary post-feeding nap), my brother and I decided to break in his never-been-used “Dough-Nu-Matic” doughnut maker… his awesome birthday gift from yours truly.  While the limitations of the machine required us to slightly alter the recipe and doughnut shape from the one in T’s book, they’re essentially based on the same ingredients.  And after using the monstrous machine, I realize that simply pan frying (as instructed below) is probably a LOT easier.

SFINGE (makes two dozen)
2C all-purpose flour
1/4t salt
3t baking powder
1/4t nutmeg
2 eggs
1/3C sugar
1/2C milk
Vegetable oil for frying

Combine flour, salt, baking powder and nutmeg.  Beat eggs with sugar; stir in milk.  Add to the flour mixture and beat until smooth.  Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.

Heat oil in heavy pan.  Using a scant tablespoon of dough, deep fry until golden.  Drain on absorbent paper and add toppings.

We put together a bunch of different toppings: a glaze made of equal parts milk and powdered sugar (with a splash of vanilla extract), melted chocolate chips, plain powdered sugar and a mix of granulated sugar and cinnamon.  We even added sprinkles!

These doughnuts are best right out of the hopper– they do NOT hold up the morning after (who does… ha!), so have a hungry crowd ready to chow down.  We ate these as an evening dessert and my brother paired them with a Rogue ale, based on a famous Portland, OR doughnut (the bacon maple at Voodoo).  Deelish.

Jammies on, Gia is disturbed that it’s bedtime and doughnut time is over.

As for Gia, her reaction to the sweet treats was nothing short of psychotic.  A normally sweet girl, she repeatedly screamed, “DOUGHNUTS!  DOOOOOOOUUUUUGHNUUUUTTSSSSS!” even when explicitly told it was time to go to sleep.  She continued to request them for the next three days straight.  Trust me, Baby G, you’ll have plenty of time to stuff your face when you’re older.  Mangia!

Kids in the Kitchen: Easter Basket Cookies (Pupi Con Uova)

5 Apr

It’s Easter and Passover weekend which means a lot of family, food and fun for many of you.  I always remember Easter spent at T and Popo’s  house with the enormous freshly-picked bouquet of daffodils on the table; the cousins would hunt for eggs and everyone would eat the traditional Easter fare– ham, various veggies and an antipasto tray.

Of course, as with any celebration, we had cookies.  Easter meant the special Easter egg cookies that were such a kick for kids and a great way to use extra dyed eggs.  So gather the troops in the kitchen this weekend (working with dough is always fun for little ones) and get to work!

Rosie and Carol help in the kitchen

5 1/2C all-purpose flour
1t baking powder
1/8t salt
1/2C butter or margarine, softened
1/2C shortening
1C sugar
2t anise extract
4 raw eggs
12 colored hard-boiled eggs

1 1/2C confectioners’ sugar
2 to 2 1/2T milk
Non-pareils for sprinkling

Mix together flour, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl, combine butter, shortening, sugar and anise extract.  Beat with mixer until light and fluffy.  Add raw eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat for about two minutes.  Gradually add flour mixture until well-blended.  Shape dough into a ball.  Flatten and wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for an hour.

Roll pieced of dough into 11 1/2in. long, thick ropes.  Form in a loop (cursive lower-case “l” shape).  Place dyed egg in loop.  Roll short, thin pieces of dough and form a cross over each egg.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degreese for about 20-25 minutes.  Frost with icing and sprinkle with non-pareils.

Photo taken from http://www.cookaround.com

These are a yummy treat and unusual, too– I’ve never known another family who makes them.  Happy Easter and mangia!

Happy Birthday, T!: Sicilian Slice Cookies

12 Mar

This week, a special guest post from T’s fourth-born and one of my very favorite people on the planet, Aunt Lisa!  She even baked, too!

On March 12th, my mother will turn 88.  These days, gifts are difficult to buy.  So, I’ll send her something I know she’ll enjoy– cookies.  I’ll use one of her favorite recipes and send a small box, packed for minimal breakage.  I’ll wrap each cookie individually just to make sure.  It’s the least I can do because for years that’s exactly what my mother did for me.  Holidays and birthdays found me running to the mailbox for her special treats.  I’d open the package, close my eyes, and inhale deeply.  With this, I could be with her in her kitchen, laughing, talking, and cooking.  I could be “home” even though I lived thousands of miles away.  Eating the cookies was almost as good.

Greece, 1977. Featuring Lisa, T and T's sunglasses

My mother used traditional flavors, which I seldom cook with now, like anise and coconut.  And nuts… she poured them in, measuring in pounds, not cups.  One Christmas when I was living overseas, I opened the box to find every cookie in crumbs.   I lied to my mother by phone saying they’d arrived in perfect condition.  Well, it wasn’t exactly a lie because they were perfect.  I ate every last cookie, with a spoon.

6 eggs, slightly beaten
1C sugar
1C vegetable oil
4 drops anise oil or a ½t of walnut oil
1 to 2C raisins or dried cranberries
1lb chopped walnuts
4C all-purpose flour

Combine all ingredients, adding flour last.  Mix to blend well.  Mixture should be stiff enough to hold shape; if not, add a little more flour.  Shape dough into two long loaves and place on a slightly grease cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the loaves are slightly brown.  Remove from the oven, cool slightly, and cut into ½in. slices.  Return slices to the cookie sheet and toast on both sides, about 10 minutes.  Cool slightly and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Happy Birthday, T!

This recipe is one of my mom’s favorites, and mine too.  These treats are perfect with a hot cup of tea or coffee.

The amount of cookies yielded depends only on how large or small you slice them.  Mangia!

Sara’s Specialty: Cannoli

28 Dec

My sister-in-law Sara established herself early as the Big Boss when she met my brother, fresh out of college, almost 15 years ago.  Chicago-born and raised, she is also Italian and right away got in the kitchen and got her hands dirty.  She’s been perfecting her classic Christmas dessert for years– so dedicated she is to cannoli, my uncle Tom actually composed an original song for her one year, off-the-cuff… Cannoli Lady.  I think 2011 will be remembered as the year she outdid herself (with the addition of some mascarpone cheese to the filling and sprinkles to the outside).

She had some help from our little chef (and Little Boss) this year, too.

NOTE: we chose to make the ricotta filling for these instead of the pudding filling.  We also used store-bought shells, from our favorite Italian bakery, but if you’re feeling ambitious, the recipe to make them follows.  You’ll need a cannoli tube.

CANNOLI (Makes about 25)

2C all-purpose flour
1/4C sugar
1/8t salt
1/8t cinnamon
1 heaping T shortening
1 egg
3oz dry red wine
Vegetable oil for frying

Combine flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a mixing bowl.  Cut in shortening as you would for pie crust.  Stir in egg and add the wine a little at a time to make a manageable dough.  Knead on floured pastry cloth for about five minutes until dough is smooth.  If sticky, add a little more flour.  Place in covered bowl and let rest for about 30 minutes.  Cut dough in thirds and roll out a portion at a time into a thin sheet.  Using a one-pound coffee can, cut circles out of dough.  Dab a little water on one edge of the circle (for sealing) and wrap loosely around a cannoli tube.  Place a few at a time into hot oil and fry until lightly browned.  Remove and place on absorbent paper.  Gently remove shell from tube.

1lb ricotta cheese
1/4C powdered sugar
1T candied fruit, minced (we just used orange zest)
1/2C whipped cream
1t vanilla
Chocolate almond bar, chopped
Maraschino cherries, halved
Powdered sugar for sprinkling

In blender or with mixer, blend ricotta and sugar until smooth.  Fold in the remaining ingredients until well-blended.  Fill shells just before serving.  Sift powdered sugar over cannoli and decorate with a halved cherry on each end.

3C milk
6T sugar
6 heaping T cornstarch
1t vanilla
2 drops cinnamon oil
1T candied fruit, minced
1C whipped cream
Chocolate almond bar, chopped
Maraschino cherries, halved
Powdered sugar for sprinkling

Place sugar and cornstarch in top of double-boiler.  Slowly add milk until cornstarch is dissolved.  Cook over boiling water until mixture thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and cinnamon oil.  Fold in the candied fruit.  Cool completely.  Fold in whipped cream and chocolate bits.  Fill shells just before serving.  Sift powdered sugar over cannoli and decorate with a halved cherry on each end.

Sneaking a taste

Sara is The Cannoli Lady

These are a showstopper.  I know so many people who’ve never tried them, or say they don’t like them.  Just make these and you’ll have a room full of (fat and happy) cannoli converts.  Mangia!

Marry Me, Maria: Italian Fig Cookies (Cucidati)

9 Nov

A few weeks back, my aunt Maria, the baby of five sisters, got married to a nice guy named Lou.  The Capasso/D’Agrosa family wedding was an Italian celebration of epic proportions.  Family alone numbered nearly 60 and there were heartfelt vows, trays and trays of toasted ravioli, lamb, shrimp and cookies.  As if that weren’t stereotypical enough, we actually forced the band to play the Tarantella and danced in a circle around the room for a full ten minutes.

Maria, Lou and their sons, Sam and Nicholas

Aunts Maria and Lisa boogie down

Most importantly, we had fig cookies.  These were a T specialty and although she didn’t make them for this celebration, they are present at all Capasso shindigs.  They are somewhat time-consuming, but worth it for a special gathering.  I like mine sprinkled with non-pareils and refrigerated for just a few minutes before eating.

CUCIDATI (Makes 60 cookies)

3 pounds figs
2C raisins
1C roasted almonds or hazelnuts
Peel of 2 oranges, roasted
1/2C honey
1t cinnamon
1/2t ground cloves
1/2t pepper

Clip hard tip from figs and soak with raisins in hot water for 15 minutes; drain.  Put figs, raisins, almonds and orange peel through food mill or food processor.  Add honey and spices; mix well.  Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

4C all-purpose flour
1C sugar
1T baking powder
Dash salt
3/4C shortening
3 eggs
1/2C milk, approximately
1/2t vanilla extract

Mix flour with sugar, baking powder and salt.  Cut in shortening with fingers until mixture resembles corn meal.  Make a well and break in eggs.  Add half of the milk and vanilla.  Start mixing liquid into the flour, adding only enough milk to make a medium-soft dough which is easy to handle.  Knead until dough is smooth, about 5 minutes.  Lightly flour pastry cloth; take a piece of dough and roll into a long strip about 4 inches wide and as thin as pie crust.  Place some of the filling along the center of the dough.  Fold dough over to cover filling, trimming off excess dough.  Roll slightly to make a roll and pat down a little to flatten.  Cut into 1 1/2  inch diagonals.  With tip of scissors, clip tops of cookies (so filling shows through).  Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Frost with slightly beaten egg white mixed with enough powdered sugar to thicken.  Sprinkle with non-pareils or colored candies.

My mom and I enjoy cookies at the rehearsal bowling party

Best wedding ever!  Mangia!