mercoledì 11 dicembre 2013

Christmas recipes: Polenta with creamed mushrooms and cookies with jam

Jam cookies
by Louisa Loring

What makes Italian cooking so wonderful is its simplicity.  Italian food prizes itself on freshness and simplicity, which makes cooking a snap for anyone after learning a few tricks.  During Christmas, it is hard to stay away from the luring smells of freshly baked cookies that waft from bakery windows and cafes so here is a recipe that is sure to satisfy.  Whether it is your first time in the kitchen or you have been baking your whole life, these cookies will have you experimenting by changing the jam or substituting Nutella.  Try adding cocoa powder or flavoring like almond or lemon for a twist. The sky is the limit!



180 grams of flour
A pinch of salt
140 grams of butter, softened
2 egg yolks
1 small bag of vanilla
70 grams of sugar
Powdered sugar

In a bowl, mix the flour and salt until well combined.  In another bowl, beat the butter, egg yolks, vanilla and sugar until smooth and pale yellow, either by hand or with a mixer.  Add the flour mixture in three batches, stirring well in between each addition.  Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour. 

When you are reading to bake, preheat oven to 200° and remove the dough.  Roll into a log about 3 cm wide and cut into pieces 1 1/2-2 cm thick, working quickly as to not warm the dough too much.  Place on a baking sheet leaving 3-4 cm between each cookie.  With your thumb, lightly press in the center of each cookie to create a small indent, being careful not to break through the dough to the baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown and the edges are crisp.  Transfer to a cooling wrack and let cool.  Once cool, fill with jam of your choice and lightly dust with powdered sugar.

Polenta with creamed mushrooms

For something to soak up all the sweets and keep you warm, try this simple recipe of polenta with creamed mushrooms.  Polenta traditionally comes from Northern Italy but is eaten all over the country today.  Like most Italian recipes, this can be adapted to your likings.  If you prefer a ragu, top with that or even a hearty tomato sauce



Peanut oil or any oil without flavor
200 grams of frozen mushroom (or dehydrated, reconstituted)
Pinch of salt
Polenta flour
500 grams of prepared polenta
100 ml of whole milk
Juice of half a lemon
1 egg white

In a skillet over medium heat, sauté the mushrooms in olive oil with salt until golden.  Meanwhile, cut the polenta into slices about 1 cm thick and coat in the polenta flour.  When the mushrooms are cooked, remove from heat and chop finely.  Cover the bottom of another skillet with peanut oil and over medium heat pan-fry the polenta slices until crisp, being careful not to burn them.  When cooked, transfer to a paper-lined plate to rest.

While the polenta is browning, mix milk with the lemon juice to form a thick cream.  Add salt and pepper to taste, the chives and the chopped mushrooms.  Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Fold the egg whites into the cream being careful not to deflate them too much.  Top each slice of polenta with a bit of the cream or transfer to a bowl and serve alongside the polenta crisps. 

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