Easter recipe from Central Italy: La Pizza di Formaggio

Easter is soon enough to start thinking to some special recipe. As mentioned in my last post, baking has become lately my favourite part of the cooking or at least the one I am enjoying the most.

So thinking about Easter the first recipe that came to my mind is the Pizza di Formaggio. The name pizza could be misleading as it not a pizza as such. I would consider as savoury and cheesy soft bread. I hope it makes sense but there is not an exact translation.


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This is a dish typical of central Italy, where I am from. It is very common both in the Umbria and Marche regions. My grandmother always used to prepare at least a week before Easter Sunday a batch of 5 or 6 of Pizze di Formaggio. Half of them were for the family consumption during the long festive Easter weekend, the other half was for the neighbours and the part of the family that could not spend the Easter day eating with us.

So what a best teacher if not the experienced grandmother to find out al the secrets about the perfect Pizza di Formaggio. I phoned her up and tried to get the recipe. Not easy task, though. She always cook by heart or adapting the recipes every time.. So between her instructions and my personal research on the internet below is the result of my very own Pizza di Formaggio for a perfect Easter brunch.

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INGREDIENTS (for 2 cakes):

120g of sourdough starter (or if you don’t have it 50g gram of fresh yeast or 10 g of dried yeast)

1 cup of water (I also used some milk)

600g of very strong flour

4 or 5 eggs

1 tbs of sugar

10g of Salt

10 g of Pepper

50ml of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

150g of Pecorino Cheese (possibly aged)

150g of Parmesan

Some recipes also use other kind of cheeses such as Emmental or Smoked Provolone.

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HOW TO

Beat the eggs and add the grated cheeses, some pepper, salt and the Extra virgin Olive Oil. Leave to rest for 15/20 minutes. In the main time put the sourdough starter and the water together in the bowl of the mixer give it a stir and gradually add the flour and the eggs mixed with cheeses. Mix all together for quite long time adding more water or flour if needed. I left the mixer on for 20 minutes with the hook. After 20 minutes the dough should be quite elastic and sticky. Leave the dough to rest for an hour more or less in warm environment. I used the oven with the light on. After one hour fold the dough a couple of time to give it a bit of strength. I divided the dough into two and put every one of them into the baking tins (with very high edges). Leave the cake to rise for 10 hours. I left them to raise overnight. Once well-leavened cook at 180 for 50-55 minutes. Once cooked leave to cool down at least an hour or two before trying them.

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A veggie Focaccia


It seems that lately baking has became my favourite hobby. All my last posts are about baking: bread, savoury cakes, cookies and today Focaccia bread. I already talked about the focaccia here. This time I made the focaccia using my own sourdough starter and adding an extra bit: some courgettes and onions. But let’s start from the beginning. This Sunday, instead of baking my weekly bread, I decided to try something new. My parents, which on a daily basis experiment new recipes in the kitchen, suggested to try an “upside-down” focaccia. Why upside-down”?  Because you put the veggies of your choice in a baking tray and on the top the dough of the focaccia. In this way, the veggies won’t dry out but stay soft and cook thanks to their own steam. Ideally the upside down focaccia is a main course itself or if served in small a delicious appetizer.

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INGREDIENTS

250g Sourdough Starter

250g Strong Flour

125g Warm Water

1tbs of Sugar

1tbs of salt

2tbs of EVO

2 courgettes

1 onion in thin slices

HOW TO

Start mixing the Sourdough starter with the warm water adding some sugar, which will facilitate the raising process. Add the flour, the oil and just at the end the salt. Mix all the ingredients for 5/10 minutes. The dough should be quite sticky as very hydrated. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to raise for at least 5hrs.

In the main time (it actually take just 5 minutes not 5 hours) chop the courgettes and the onions or any other veggies you decided to use. Season with some salt and peeper adding also some EVO.

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After 5 hrs, take the dough, which should have became twice as big,  out of the bowl and fold it using the same technique used for the bread. Cover the baking tray with some baking paper and dispose the courgette&onion mix on the tray. They should form an uniform layer.  Put the dough on the top of the veggies and pushing down the dough until it covers all the tray. Leave it to rest for 1 hr. In the main time pre-heat the oven at 220°C. After the last part of the raising process cook at 200°C for 25/30 minute or until the top has a brown golden colour.

After taking the focaccia out of the oven, overturn it so the veggie part stays at the top. If needed pass the focaccia under the grill for  a couple of minutes. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy this upside-down veggie focaccia warm. It won’t make it the end of the meal.

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Quiche with spinach, ricotta and ham

It was long time I didn’t make a savoury cake. I usually buy the base and fill it with anything left in the fridge. But because my baking mode was ON i decided to prepare the base called “pasta brise’ “. For the filling I opted for a rather classic one: ricotta, spinach and diced ham. You can also add any left over. I added, for example, some peas from the night before. The pasta Brise’ is very easy to make. Cold Butter, Very cold water and 00 flour.

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INGREDIENTS

100g butter (from the fridge)

200g 00 flour

50ml very cold water

A pinch of salt

FOR THE FILLING

250g Ricotta Cheese

200g Spinach

4 slice of ham diced

1 egg

50g parmesan

salt/pepper/nutmeg

HOW TO DO

Cut the butter in small cubes and mix with the flour. If you have a mixer is much easier. Otherwise mix by hands all together until you obtain fine crumbles. Add the water, that it has to be very cold. Work the dough until smooth. Leave it to rest for 30/40 minutes in the fridge. In the main time prepare the filling. Boil the spinach in salted water. Once boiled mix together in a bowl with the ricotta, the ham, the egg adding some salt, pepper, nutmeg and the parmesan. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin until obtaining a regular round shape (around 20 cm diameter). Cover with baking paper the tin, place the dough inside and add the filling. Spread the filling nicely and fold the corners of the dough over the filling  in order to give a nice round shape to the tart. Pre-heat the oven at 180°C and cook for 30 minutes. Leave to cool down for 10 minutes and serve warm.

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Sourdough. Making bread at home part 2

Since my first attempt of making bread at home I have been reading a lot about baking, the different tecniques, different kind of flours and small tricks. I also bought a book in Italian edited by SlowFood and called “Pane, Pizze, Focacce” (doesn’ t need a traslation this one, does it?!). To be honest this book opened my eyes to a complete new way of looking at bread (or pizza) making. One of the main idea of the book is not to use any chemical yeast from which one will obtain a low quality and “tasteless bread”. The real secret is to use a natural yeast, which in Eglish is called Sourdough. One can start and grow (yeah it’s the right verb!) its own sourdough. You can simply start from mixing some flour (100g) 80 ml of water and a tbs of honey or 20g of yogurts. Mix all together in a bowl, cover it and leave at room temperature for 48 hrs. I left it inside the oven. The mixture has a semi-liquid consistency.IMG_4492

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After 48 hrs the mix of flour and water should have started making some bubles and smell a bit of alchool. The process of fermentation has started. Every other day the sourdough needs to be fed. Yes, fed! Because the bacteria developed inside the mix need more flour for a further development. Every other day take 100g of sourdough (discard the rest), 80 ml of water  and 100 g strong flour. Mix everything together and leave to rest for  24/48 hrs at the room temperature. Reapeat this for 14/15 days and then the sourdough should be ready to use in any recipes for bread or pizza/focaccia making. Every time the sourdough is refreshed  a smal part of it have to be thrown away if you don’t want to end up using kilos of flour to feed the sourdough. Also you should be making bread or pizza very often (2 or 3 times a week) to be able to use all the sourdough. Once the sourdough was ready for the first use I put on the side 100g of it, stored in a air tight container in the fridge for my next bread session. I used the other 100g to make bread.

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After feeding my Sourdough for two weeks, finally came the time to try and make my first 100% homemade bread. Browsing the internet I found out that there are loads of pages and blogs dedicated to sourdough’s recipes. The best blog I could find is this (Viva la Focaccia). The author of the blog summaries all the main ponts of making a sourdough in this post, which I found extremely useful.

The recipe I used includes:

90g of sourdough (put the rest in a airtight container for next time you intend to make bread or pizza. Conserve it in the fridge)

80ml of warm water

90g of 00 flour.

Mix all the ingredients together, cover it and leave to raise for the whole night. I put the container in the oven with light on, which ensure a temperature of 25-30 degrees. The day after this dough should have doubled in volume.

In the morning mix the sourdough made the day before with

600g of 00 flour,

300ml of water,

1 tbs of sugar

6 gr salt

Always put the salt towards the end as it should not be in direct contact with any sort of yeast because it obstacles the raising process. Work the dough for around 10 minutes or more until you obtain a smooth dough all over. Working the mixture with energy allow to the gluten structure to become stronger and the bread to grow more during the cooking process. Put the dough in a container cover it and leave it to rest at a temperature of 25-30°C for at least 3 hours.

After the 3 hours the volume should have doubled. “Fold” the dough in three parts like you would do for a t-shirt. Repeat the move for 2 or three times. This gives strength to the dough. In this way I already gave the final shape to the dough, therefore I put it on a baking tray, covered with a tea towel and some cling-film and left to rest inside the oven with the light on for a further 3 hours.

After the last part of the raising process the dough is ready to bake. Pre-heat the oven a 180°C cook for 30 minutes. Low the temperature to 170°C and cook for a further 30 minutes. Once the bread as a brow colour on the outside, switch off the oven and open the door to let some cold air in, which will optimize the cooking process of the bread. Leave to cook for a couple of hours of more before cutting it.

I know it seems to be an endless process jut to make some bread. But believe me the result is worth every single effort. I think my greatest satisfaction came from the taste of the bread and from the fact that is 100% home made with no weird chemicals contained in the dry yeast or in the breads you buy at the supermarket.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

The cookies have always been my favourite biscuits. I guess I am not the only one, like I am not the only one posting a recipe of the chocolate chips cookies. But because these came out extremely well I want to share my joy. When there is not time to prepare a nice sweet treat, the cookies are always a very good option and I did not meet anybody yet who does not like cookies of any kind.

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INGREDIENTS for 25-30 Cookies

250g 00 Flour

125g Brown sugar

125g White sugar

1/2 tbs baking powder

A drop of Vanilla flavour

1 large egg

125g melted butter

200g chocolate (chopped)

HOW TO DO

Mix all the liquid ingredients with the sugar and just after start adding the flour, baking powder and chocolate. Keep mixing until you get a sticky dough. Make the dough into small balls which will go on a baking tray, ready for cooking. Pre-heat the oven at 190 degrees for 10 minutes and is all done. Leave it too cool and enjoy them warm and still soft.

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Mais flour bread with milk

After a while I have the time to get back in front of the computer telling a bit more about of my new experiments. Last month was a busy one, travelling a getting loads of new ideas.

In order to get these ideas I bought myself a nice Christmas present: a cooking book. Well, it’s not just a cooking book is THE COOKING BOOK. It is written by Gualtiero Marchesi, who is the CHEF. He is to the Italian cooking what Alain Ducasse is to the French one. Well, both really internationally recognized and appreciated and both have been and continue to be inspirational for many younger chefs. The book is called “Il Grande Libro dei Cuochi” and each part is written in cooperation with the best chefs around such as Ferran Adria, Marcus Wareing between others. The book has a very didactic approach, explaining all the techniques with a lot a pictures, tips and loads of recipes.  It has more then 700 pages and an endless number of recipes. It will probably take ages before I will be able to go through all of them. Each chapter covers a main area. It starts form the basic for each macro area to get to more complex and difficult recipes. When I received I did not know where to start from, I suddenly felt like wanting to start cooking anything described in the book.

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So I started with an easy recipe called “Pane di Mais al Latte” (wich stands for Mais flour Bread with Milk) also because I needed something quick to go into my brunch. It can be served warm and it is possible to add any flavour (cheeses, garlic or peepers). I made a plain one.

INGREDIENTS

150g 00 flour

150g mais flour finely grounded

250ml full fat milk

4 tbs of baking powder

50g sugar

2 eggs previously beaten

2 tbs of melted butter

A pinch of salt

HOW TO PREPARE

Switch on the oven at 190° C. In a bowl put together the two kind of flours, salt, baking powder, sugar. Make an hole in the middle and add the two eggs previously beaten, the melted butter and the fullfat milk. Stir until obtaining a smooth mixture. Pour the mixture in a 20cm diameter baking tray which need to be oiled with butter first. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until golden. Leave cool in the tray and serve when still warm. Lovely!!

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Apple cake

Apples are my favourite fruits to use in a dessert, whether pies or cakes. YesterdayI remembered about a cake my mum use to make when she had too many apples or did not have enough time to prepare a more elaborate one. So on Sunday morning I found myself with two apples in the fruit bowl and a great desire to have a sweet breakfast. But I didn’t want any biscuits or croissants, also because it was too cold to get to the closer coffee shop/new-agent to buy something. So I had to find a solution in house and I switch on my laptop to gather the recipes folder and came across this Apple cake that was ticking all the boxes: all the ingredients available in house, quick, easy and ideal for breakfast.

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INGREDIENTS

500g fo Apples

150g 00 flour

1tbs of baking powder

200g of sugar

2 eggs

1 glass of milk

50gr butter

A pinch of salt

A pinch of cinnamon for the apples

PREPARATION

Start cutting the apples into thin slices. In the meantime switch on the at 180C. Beat the eggs and add in order: sugar, flour, salt, melted butter, flour, milk and in the end the baking powder. Put some baking paper in the selected baking tray (22cm large and must have high edges). Pour the batter in the tin and in the end add the apples on the top.

Bake at 180C degrees for 30 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle with icing sugar.

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