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Taralli Dolci di Pasqua (Easter Ring Cookies)

Earlier this week, a good friend of mine had asked me for a recipe for Easter cookies that her Mom would make. I knew exactly what kind of cookies they were based on her description, but had no recipe for them. I reached out to Emma, my guest blogger and keeper of many traditional Italian baking secrets. Sure enough, Emma also knew exactly what I was looking for, and she had the recipe on hand! Thanks, Emma for again taking the time to put together this tremendous cookie recipe. I hope you all enjoy!

By Emma Caperelli Loerky 

In keeping with Dominic’s traditional Italian Easter food theme, I have decided to share a recipe that is similar to the one my mom always makes during the Easter season. The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookie cookbooks, Cookies Unlimited, by Nick Malgieri. It is a  very easy to make cookie called Easter Ring Cookies or Taralli Dolci di Pasqua. Fancy tools are not required to make them because the dough is mixed by hand, cut into 16 pieces (or, if you prefer smaller cookies, you can divide the dough into up to as many as 40 pieces), rolled between your hands to form a rope, at which point the ends are pinched together to form a circle. After baking and cooling, the cookies are then dipped into a glaze and sprinkled with multicolored nonpareils.

This is a mildly sweet cookie and is meant to be eaten with a cup of coffee or tea (or, as my son prefers to eat them, with a nice, cold glass of milk). These cookies stand up to dunking well, and, in my opinion, that is how they are best eaten.

A few things to make note of when making this cookie:

If you divide the dough into smaller pieces, cooking time will most likely be cut in half. In my oven, I found that the cookies were finished after about 25 minutes, so be sure to check the cookies often during the last 5 – 10 minutes of baking time. And, as with all cookies, halfway through baking I switched the baking sheets from top to bottom and also rotated the pans to ensure even baking. The cookies are done once they turn a light golden brown color.

Also, the icing sets VERY quickly, so make sure you have your nonpareils ready because you will need to sprinkle each individual cookie immediately after dipping it in the icing or the nonpareils will not stick. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. And don’t skimp on the icing, it brings a lot of the sweetness to the cookie. I like to dunk the cookie in the glaze a few times just to make sure the cookie is sufficiently iced.

Which brings me to my next tip – I usually have just enough icing for my cookies without any leftovers to spare. It could be because of my thoroughly dunking each cookie in the glaze several times, but you may want to double it just to be safe. And because the glaze sets so quickly, you will most definitely need to reheat it in between icing the cookies. I found it easier to keep it warm on low heat over the stove, but, should you choose to do this, be careful not to let it burn, or to get it on your skin. I learned the hard way that the icing can get very hot.

Lastly, these cookies spread quite a bit during baking so you don’t want to overcrowd them on the cookie sheet. Depending on the size of your pan, I recommend no more than 6 cookies per cookie sheet for the large cookies. If you choose to make your cookies smaller, leave at least 2 inches between each cookie to allow room for them to spread.

Enjoy and Happy Easter!

Easter Ring Cookies
From Cookies Unlimited by Nick Malgieri

Cookie Dough Ingredients:
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
pinch of salt
6 room temperature eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Icing Ingredients:
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Multicolored nonpareils


For the dough:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. Break eggs into a large bowl and whisk until broken. Whisk in the sugar in a stream followed by the melted butter then the vanilla, whisking smooth after the addition of each ingredient. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly.  Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces (or up to 40 if you prefer smaller cookies). Using your palms, roll each piece of dough into an 8 inch rope. Pinch the ends of the rope together to form a circle. Place the dough on parchment lined cookie sheets at least 2 inches apart. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden, rotating the pans about halfway through baking. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool completely before glazing.

For the glaze:
Combine all icing ingredients in a saucepan and heat on low until the mixture is lukewarm, stirring often. Hold one of the cooled cookies by the bottom and dip the top of the cookie into the glaze, letting the excess icing drip back into the pan. Immediately sprinkle with the nonpareils, and place on a wire rack to let the icing set.


Gluten-Free Snickerdoodle Cookies

We’re heading into the home-stretch of the holiday madness. But there is still some time to get your cookie-baking on! And thanks to my fellow foodie, Emma Caperelli Loerky, we have a great recipe for Gluten-free Snickerdoodle Cookies! These look just like the snickerdoodle cookies that my Grandmother used to make, so I am sure that Emma’s recipe is sure to please!

By Emma Caperelli Loerky 

While deciding which recipe I should share with you all next, I realized that not only has it been about 3 months since my last post (how did that happen?!), but it has also been quite some time since I shared a gluten-free recipe with you. So, I suppose it is only fair that my next recipe be GF. Which, by the way, is very convenient since I just baked up a fresh batch of gluten-free Snickerdoodle cookies for my husband.

I adapted this recipe from here: http://www.bakerella.com/snickerdoodle-duo/. I have not tried making the cupcakes gluten-free…yet. I promise to report back if/when I get the chance. In the meantime, you will be happy to know that these cookies turned out great and are super easy to prepare – which is a good thing because I have a feeling my husband is going to be requesting them often.

Makes approximately 20 cookies

1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour mix 

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (Note: Check to see if your flour mix includes xanthan and/or guar gum. If so, omit the xanthan gum)

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup shortening

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg, room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together gluten-free flour, xanthan gum (if using), cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Or, if you’re like me, place all the dry ingredients in the bowl and whisk together well.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter, shortening, and sugar on medium speed for about 2 minutes.

Add the egg and mix until combined.

Add the flour mixture and beat until combined.

Mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Use a small 1 1/4 inch ice-cream scoop to form balls and roll it in the cinnamon-sugar until it is coated. If you do not have a small ice-cream scoop, simply use a tablespoon to scoop the dough and gently roll it in the cinnamon-sugar until it is coated and formed in a ball. Place the balls at least 3 inches apart on the prepared sheet to allow room for the cookies to spread. These cookies spread A LOT during baking so be sure to leave ample room.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cookies begin to crack.

Remove and let cool on a wire rack.


Honey Fig Gorgonzola & Prosciutto Crostata

 This week on my blog I’m very excited to share Emma Caperelli Loerky’s recipe for Honey Fig Gorgonzola & Prosciutto Crostata. I’m a big believer that any dish is better when you add some prosciutto. Throw in some figs and gorgonzola too? Fuggetaboudit!!!!! I’m also a huge junkie for Easter Ham Pie, and this dish could be the perfect mid-year counterpart. So when I got Emma’s e-mail with this recipe and photos, I knew this one would be a big hit…and my teasers on Facebook proved just that. Thanks again, Emma, for sharing yet another one of your amazing recipes!


Honey Fig Gorgonzola & Prosciutto Crostata
By Emma Caperelli Loerky

A few months ago, when fresh figs were just popping up in the markets out here in San Diego, I bought some not knowing what exactly I was going to make with them. After doing some internet research, I came across this recipe:  http://www.whatsforlunchhoney.net/2010/09/honey-figs-gorgonzola-and-prosciutto.html. Next thing you know, I’m making a crostata. I followed the recipe almost exactly for the filling, but, because I was worried about converting the measurements from grams to cups, I used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen for the pastry shell – which was so flaky and buttery that it reminded me of a puff pastry. I don’t know if it was the fancy pastry flour that i subbed for the all-purpose flour, freezing the butter and flour for 30 minutes before assembling the dough, or the addition of sour cream to the recipe (maybe it was a combination of all three?), but this crust was perfect in every way! 

Fast forward to the present. I’m in the market shopping for ingredients to make lunch for a friend who is visiting me with her new, beautiful baby girl and once again there are those figs. So, guess what is on the menu? You guessed it. And the nice thing about this recipe is that it can be eaten right out of the oven, warm or at room temperature. And it reheats well, too. I even assembled it the morning of, loosely wrapped it with plastic wrap and placed the unbaked crostata in the fridge for about 2 hours until just before I was ready to bake it.

If you aren’t a fan of bleu cheese, I’m sure goat cheese would work well or even ricotta. However, if you do use ricotta cheese, I would be sure to strain it through a cheesecloth for at least and hour, as the extra moisture in it could make this delicate crust soggy.

One last thing, it’s difficult to say exactly how many figs you’ll need for this recipe. The original recipe says 5 – 6 figs depending on their size, but you can add as many or as little as you like. I’ve made this recipe twice, both times I used different figs and it turned out well each time. The first time I used Brown Turkey figs, which are large so I only needed about 6 figs. This time I used Black Mission figs, which are smaller than the Brown Turkey variety, so I needed a few more than the last time. 

For the pastry (Recipe for Smitten Kitchen): 

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
(I used King Arthur Flour’s Unbleached Pastry Flour with terrific results)
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water

For the filling (Recipe from What’s For Lunch, Honey?):
About 1 to 1 1/2 cups Gorgonzola (or to taste)
5 – 6 figs (or more depending on your taste and the type/size fig you use), cut into quarters or eighths (one again, depending on their size)
2-3 tablespoons mild honey (I found 2 tablespoons to be plenty)
A few sprigs of fresh thyme, removed from the stem.
About 4 ounces Prosciutto (I didn’t want the Prosciutto to be too overwhelming, so I used about 2 slices, and I used scissors to cut it into slivers).

Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle bits of butter over dough. Using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture. With your fingertips or a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or you can refrigerate the dough overnight (as I did). If you do make the dough ahead of time, be sure to allow the dough to sit out at room temperature for a few minutes before you roll it out.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a well-floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet (or, as Smitten Kitchen recommends, use parchment paper. It makes it much easier to move the crostata from the baking sheet onto a plate after baking). Sprinkle the Gorgonzola evenly onto the bottom of the dough, leaving a 2 inch border. Place the figs on top of the cheese. Drizzle with the honey and sprinkle with the fresh thyme leaves. Fold the edges over the filling and pleat it as you go along to allow the dough to fit, and creating a crust for the crostata. Brush the crust with the egg yolk mixture.

Bake the crostata until it is golden brown, about 25 – 30 minutes. Please note:  The original recipe for the pastry says 30 – 40 minutes, but in my oven it was done after approximately 30 minutes. I recommend you watch the dough carefully after the first 20 minutes. When finished baking, sprinkle the crostata with the Prosciutto, and let it sit for 5 minutes before transferring to a plate. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.


Gluten-Free Lemon Meringue Pie

This week, I’m very happy  to welcome back my good friend, Emma, who shares with us a delicious gluten-free version of  the classic Lemon Meringue Pie. So can’t wait to dig into this one!

By Emma Caperelli Loerky

Since Labor Day weekend is almost here, I thought it would be a good time to share one of my family’s favorite gluten-free recipes – Lemon Meringue Pie. Whether you are making burgers, ribs, chicken, or even fish on the grill, the cool tartness of the lemon custard combined with the sweet, fluffy meringue and buttery crust makes this pie the perfect ending to your meal, especially on a late summer day.

This is something that I make throughout the year, not only because my family loves it so much, but also because lemons are always in season. I’m not sure how I’ve made this recipe so many times yet have managed to neglect using Meyer lemons (because how awesome would that be?!). However, I never think twice about making it with just plain old lemons simply because it is always delicious, and neither should you.

Gluten-Free Pie Crust
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 1/4 cups King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbs cold butter
1 large egg
2 tsp lemon juice or vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, xanthan gum, and salt.

Cut the cold butter into pats, then work the pats into the flour mixture until it’s crumbly, with some larger, pea-sized chunks of butter remaining.

Whisk the egg and vinegar or lemon juice together until very foamy. Mix into the dry ingredients. Stir until the mixture holds together, adding 1 to 3 additional tablespoons of cold water if necessary.

Shape into a ball and chill for an hour, or up to overnight.

Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before rolling.

Roll the dough out between two pieces of plastic wrap and invert into a pie pan.

Wrap loosely with plastic wrap and place the unbaked pie crust in the refrigerator for at least an hour before baking.

Cut a piece of parchment paper big enough to fit on the bottom of the pie crust. Allow the parchment to extend a little past the sides of the crust (for easy removal). Place pie weights (or uncooked dry beans) on top of the parchment paper, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the parchment and the weights, and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is a light golden brown. Remove crust from oven and let cool completely.

Lemon Custard
From the magazine, Delight Gluten-Free

Zest of 4 lemons
3/4 cup lemon juice, strained
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
8 egg yolks

Combine lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl until liquid.

Strain the lemon juice/sugar mixture to eliminate the zest, and beat one-quarter of the boiling liquid into the egg yolks.

Over low heat, return the remaining lemon juice liquid to a boil.

Whisk the egg yolk mixture into the boiling liquid and continue whisking until it thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. It may come to a slight simmer, but do not allow the custard to boil.

Pour the lemon into a bowl, press plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and chill for about an hour, or until completely cool.

Pour the chilled lemon custard into the crust.

From the magazine, Delight Gluten-Free

3/4 cup egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups sugar

Combine egg whites, salt, and sugar in a medium sized bowl and place over simmering water.

Heat, beating with a whisk, until egg whites are hot (it should feel like hot tap water on your finger) and all of the sugar is dissolved.

Remove from heat to a mixer. Whisk on medium speed until cold and stiff.

Pipe meringue on top of lemon custard. Use a pastry torch to caramelize or put under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until lightly golden brown. Note: I do not have a pastry torch so I just used my oven which works fine. Just be sure to keep a close eye on the pie, as it will burn easily. Two minutes was just enough time in my oven.









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