Cornetto Sfogliato: The Italian Croissant recipe

Speaking of what we share with La France, did you think that only French make croissants? Well then, we do too! Our favourite bar breakfast is “cappuccino and brioche”. Especially in Rome, Cornetto is as iconic as the Colosseo.

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So, if you want to impress your friends, don’t buy some: make them fresh!
It’s not an easy recipe but with some attention and a lot of patience you’ll awe everyone.

you’ll need

  • 310 gr white or manitoba flour
  • 140 gr “00” white flour
  • 75 gr sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid honey
  • 70 gr softened butter
  • 100 gr milk
  • 20 gr beer
  • 7 gr salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 of orange flavour
  • 1/3 of lemon flavour
  • 10 g vanillin
  • 1 brewer’s yeast cube

For the “sfogliatura”

  • 200 gr butter

Start kneading the milk, the yeast, the beer, the eggs, the sugar, the honey, the flavours, the vanillin and the sifted flours until the dough becomes smooth and soft; then add the salt and the softened butter.

Once everything is well mixed, keep kneading constantly until the dough is really smooth.

Leave it rest for 20 minutes, covered with a table cloth, then powder a large cup with some flour and transfer the dough, in a ball shape, in it. Cover it with some cooking film and leave it rest, room temperature, for 2 hours. Then put the cup in the fridge and… wait 24 hours!

Next day, you can prepare the “sfogliature” (now, google suggests stripping, I actually don’t know how to translate those amazing, buttered pastry stripes. You’ll see).

sfogliatura

Take off the fridge the 200g of butter and leave it room temperature for 3 hours (it should soften naturally). Then fold it with a clean table cloth and press it until it becomes a 1cm tall loaf.

Roll the dough in a round shape and… put the butter loaf at its center, folding it with the dough (make four angles). Then roll again until it becomes rectangular and fold the lower third upon itself. Now fold the upper third covering the rest of it.

Cover with film again and leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes. Repeat this operation three times (yes, you may have a wine glass now, but just a little bit: you’ll have to be sharp!).

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Now you can roll the dough in a long, thin, rectangular shape. Then cut it in triangles; stretch the wider part and roll them on theirselves, letting them take their peculiar shape (cornetto means “little horn”). Remember to keep the pointy end below so it won’t detach while cooking.

Put them in the baking tray and let them rest until… they double their volume (it may take more than two hours, so just go out to dinner, or better: leave them rest all night long, so the morning after you’ll have the most amazing breakfast!

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Paint the raw cornetti with some egg yolk, heat the oven up to 170° and bake them for about 25 minutes.

Then you can cover them with powdered sugar or brown sugar, and once they’re not super hot you can fill them with cream or jam or chocolate… and enjoy your great Italian breakfast!

Formaggi toscani: an amazing bite of Florence

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If you think of cheese, probably the first thing that will come to your mind will be France. But Italy has some aces too, in the matter. Tuscany, for example, is quite big in the cheese field: have a taste of Florence‘s deliciousness!

In Tuscany many different caseary products are made, but the king of all formaggi toscani is Pecorino. And, furthermore, there’s not just one kind of pecorino… 

Let’s talk about this creamy wonder a bit more. Pecorino means “sheep cheese”: it’s made from sheep milk and its taste depends from many things. First of all, its aging time.
Young pecorino tastes sweet, it’s soft and it almost melts into your mouth. It’s perfect with a light red wine or a rosé and even with some white vernaccia; very good as well with nuts or honey (another very typical tuscan product) – tuscan raw prosciutto, though, might cover its flavour a bit too much. With some grated fresh black truffle, though… it’s quite a love story.
Often you can find it served at the end of a meal, not a real dessert but almost one, a sweet taste to refresh your mouth.

cacio fresco

Semi-aged pecorino, that you often recognize for its reddish “skin”, is more intense, more solid. It’s the perfect merenda: two slices of tuscan bread, some pecorino and prosciutto and there you go with your panino. All the tuscan kids ate this during their lessons break. Seriously: all of them.
Its yellow colour and its great texture, its flavour not too strong but already bald makes it also the perfect appetizer. It’s often combined with strong honey (such as chestnut honey) or mustards, and it’s great with beer – sometimes they sell beer cheese as well and it’s pretty often a semi-aged pecorino.

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Aged pecorino looks either really yellow or really white, according to its aging process, it’s quite hard to cut and to eat but, it may looks almost dry, but – it’s my absolute favourite, so forgive me if I’m getting romantic – at the taste it’s like an explosion. Do you remember the famous Ratatouille’s scene where the mouse imagines the flavours like a colourful symphony? There we go. Red wine is its match, salame (tuscan salame of course) its companion, and you can really experiment stuff with it: try it with honey, or with balsamic vinegar… grate it on your pasta and add a little pepper and you will have one of the most famous plates in the tuscan kitchen. Or… with figs or pears, of course (there’s a motto that says: don’t let the farmer know how great pears and cheese will match / al contadino non far sapere quanto è buono il cacio con le pere).

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So these are the most known ways to taste Pecorino; keeping aside all the great flavoured kind: with pepper, with chili pepper, with truffles… Florence has plenty of these little cheese shops, but if you happen to walk through the Valdorcia (the valleys around Siena, like San Quirico or Pienza) you’ll find one special kind of heaven.

As I said, though, there’s not only Pecorino: Tuscany also produces great Stracchino, for example, a very soft – almost liquid cow cheese. If you’re brave enough you might want to try the other great tuscan merenda, the panino with raw sausage and stracchino!

Yes, that’s another level of bravery. But a “gottino” (a small red wine glass) and this, are the grown up merenda. Actually it’s not so easy to find anymore, and I highly recommend you to either buy it from a superfresh certified butcher shop or to try its more secure version, the one they also give you in restaurant, oven baked crostini with the same mix… or pizza! I cannot decide which one I like best.

crostini

Guess with what does stracchino matches greatly as well? With prosciutto, of course! Forget Hawaii pizza and ask for a prosciutto e stracchino. Or – veggie version: an apple and stracchino pizza! It’s pretty grand, I promise.

So, get fit and get ready, because once you’ll be here, while exploring the city with us, you will have the chanche to train nothing but your tummy!

Meet your guide in Florence: Angela!

Meet your guide in Florence: Angela! Learn about Florence food and history!

This August we want to introduce Angela, she is one of the “oldest” guide at Italy Segway Tours! Be prepared to have the best fun on the tour while Angela tells you the history of her marvellous city!

 

Meet tour guide in Florence: Angela!

Name: Angela

Nationality and City of residence: 100 % italian, from Sicily originally…but Florence has stolen my heart!

Name of tour you lead and where: Food tour in Florence, but also Segway, Bike and walking tours to the top of the Duomo!

If you are not from the city you are based in for tours, what originally brought you there?
I came here the first time when I was 16 during a school trip. I really fell in love with Florence and with all its beauty so I decided to come here to study Art History: I moved here when I turned 19 and never left since!

Your favorite part of the tour: I love when I’m asked a lot of questions because it means that I managed to arouse interest in my customer about what we see and taste on the tour, and perhaps that I was also able to lit up some more curiosity!

After wine tasting, everyone’s happier!

Also, the best moment of the food tour is right after we start tasting wine…everybody suddendly turns happier and more sincere!
Favorite Local Restaurant in your city: This is a tough one! There are so many good restaurants in Florence…But if I have to pick one I would say the one where It feels like home: “Sabatino”, in the Oltrarno district. It’s not a fancy place and the menu it’s almost always the same but everything is genuine and it’s like going to dinner at my grandma’s house! If you’re looking for a place where only locals go, that’s the one!
One thing visitors to my city can’t miss: The view of Florence at sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo and the San Miniato church on the top of the same hill: it’s the most romantic place in the city! Be aware you are at risk to falling in love!
Travel Mantra? “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind”, words by Seneca, a Latin philosopher and writer, that really knew what traveling means!

 What’s next on your travel bucket list? I’d love to visit Turkey or to take a trip to Iceland to see the Northern Lights!

What is your favorite Italian city to travel to? Not just a city, an entire region: Sicily, my birthplace!

What’s your best travel tip for those coming to visit Italy? Try new things, don’t be scared by our, sometimes strange, habits and always ask when you need help: you will be surprised by the kindness of (most) Italians! 😉

Bistecca alla Fiorentina - thick and raw!

Bistecca alla Fiorentina – thick and raw!

What’s the food that someone must try in your city before leaving? The Fiorentina steak, the best beef I’ve ever tried! But remember it has to be rare, so don’t ask the chef to have it more cooked, otherwise you will offend him!

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had on one of your tours? Once I had on a tour a man with my same last name; he was American and his grandparents emigrated to the States from Sicily. It was like having a new uncle…he even started talking Sicilian dialect with me!

What do you like most about leading tours? I believe that tourguides are the ambassadors of our culture so what I like most is to introduce to people from all over the world with very different backgrounds to our history and food, and almost always with the same result: they fall in love with it!

 

Angela the Cook!

Angela the Cook!

What makes your tour unique? The fact that the places where we go are mostly just for locals…it would be very difficult to find them on your own!

And personally I should also say that I really love to cook so I always spend time to explain what are the ingredients of the things we taste and how they could be made at home to continue the food tour experience!

 

Won over by Angela already? So, what are you waiting for? Conclude your booking and ask for her!

 

Till next time!

MEET YOUR GUIDE IN FLORENCE: VERONICA

Meet your guide in Florence!

This week, we’ll meet a new entry in our Segway Tours in Florence. She’s nice and kind and she do love her job very much! After reading her words, I bet you’ll book a tour immediately!

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Hi there, what’s your name?

Hello!!! My name is Veronica!

What are your nationality and hometown?

I was born in Florence and I live in the so called Oltrarno, “the other side of the river”, but I left my heart in the Santa Croce district where I grew up.

Name of tour you lead and where: 

I lead food tours, bike, segway and walking tours in Florence and surroundings areas.

Why did you choose to become a touristic guide? 

I chose to become a tourist guide because it’s the only job that gives me the chance to do everything I really love: meet people from different countries, share ideas and knowledge, make people fall in love with my city, just as much as I am.

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Your favorite part of the tour: 

What I enjoy the most in my job is seeing a dazzling smile or a sparkle in the eyes of our customers tasting something they never tried before and they really like!

Your favourite recipe:

It’s hard to say, but one of my favourite recipy is the “Gnudi”, a tasty typical dish easy to prepare that fully represent our cuisine. “Gnudi” are little dumplings made of poor ingredients: spinach and ricotta cheese. Actually the Gnudi are the filling of the ravioli and Gnudi in the fiorentine dialect means “naked”. Therefore, we could say that ‘Gnudi’ are similar to ravioli, but without clothes/dough!

Favorite Local Restaurant in your city: 

One of my favourite restaurants is Il Ghianda in the Santa Croce district. The menu changes quite often and they offer a great selection of typical dishes cooked like the tradition says. If you want to immerse yourself in a local atmosphere, I suggest to going there during the lunch time when the restaurant is crowded by many florentines.

One thing visitors to your city can’t miss: 

When visiting Florence you can’t miss the stunning view of the city visible from the Michelangelo terrace, a wonderful hill-top panorama which I recommend at sunset.

Favorite Travel Quote? 

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” (M. Proust) Sometimes our customers are my “new eyes” pointing out something that I had not noticed yet.

What’s next on your travel bucket list?

It’s still a dream but I want to do the Trans-Siberian, the famous route from Moscow to Vladivostok. I’m really fascinated by the amazing nature and the fact that you have to change 12 different time zones.

What’s your best travel tip for those coming to visit Italy?

Italy is well known all over the world especially for its good food, so I definitely suggest enjoying it as much as possible. Also, keep in mind that the dishes are different from one city to the other!

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What’s the food that someone must try in your city before leaving?

I use to say: “If you haven’t tried the Lampredotto with green sauce and a glass of red wine… even two, you haven’t been to Florence!” It’s the most famous sandwich in town. Only for strong people!

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had on one of your tours? 

One day, on our first stop at ChiaroScuro, after the coffee tasting, the typical elderly florentine customers of the cafeteria stopped us and started to talk to the beautiful women I was leading. It has been an hard and fun work to take them away and reach the next stop!

What do you like most about leading tours?

The thing that I prefer the most is to share thoughts, ideas and good time with all our customers. I feel so lucky to know a lot of people coming from so many different places and distant spots on the earth.

RISOTTO ALLA MILANESE

One of the most typical food in northern Italy is Risotto: that thick amass of rice and condiment that looks so sticky and is yet so perfectly al dente. If you haven’t tried it in our Milan food tour, you definitely should: the Risotto alla Milanese is one thing you sure cannot miss. And with us you have the chance to taste it in a really interesting version, that mixes italian flavours and tradition, from North to South, from Milan to Palermo… any clue? Book and behold our delicious arancino di risotto!

Infact, there are many ways to prepare Risotto, from the gourmet like the one before to the basic-simple-and traditional, and lots of sauces too! The most famous in Venezia is the one with Radicchio, in Tuscany there’s the one with asparagus and sausage, both in the north and center there’s the mushroom one… but the real icon is this golden and savory plate, the one and only Risotto alla Milanese.

risotto

Making risotto is not as simple as it looks: the rice should not overcook, but it should as well look “melted” with all the other ingredients. It’s not like a friend of mine used to prepare it – she cooked the rice and melted some cheese on it with some zucchini. That’s not a risotto, everybody!

It requires patience and attention. If you are willing to take your time with it, risotto will reward you. So, let’s try!

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, very finely chopped

100 grams of unsalted butter

400 grams of arborio, vialone nano, or carnaroli rice, or other medium- or short-grain Italian rice

half a liter of dry white wine

1,5 lt hot homemade stewing steak broth or low-salt canned chicken broth; more as needed

30 grams (one teaspoon) of dried saffron

100 grams of finely grated parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

zafferano

 *

In a heavy-based saucepan (there should be a lot of room after you poured all the rice), on a medium-low fire cook the onion with half of the butter until it’s translucent and fragrant.

Stir in the rice and cook it over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add the wine and let it evaporate almost entirely, then add 2 cups of broth, then the saffron, stirring with a wooden spoon to avoid the rice sticks at the bottom. Enhance the heat until the mixture starts to simmer, then set the flame in order to maintain the simmer.

Keep cooking until most of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring every minute or two. You don’t actually have to stir constantly, even if every italian mother would tell you so.

Add another cup of broth and keep cooking, stirring, and adding broth until the rice is al dente but not raw or grainy in the middle. How to determine that? There’s only one way – you have to try it!

When the rice is ready, you can add the cheese, directly in the saucepan, and keep stirring. Add as much broth as you need to obtain the consistency you like. Turn the heat off, stir in the remaining butter. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm – even if it’s amazing also when it’s tepid… or even the day after!

Just one tip: do not re-heat it unless you want something mushy! Invite a lot of people over if you made too much 🙂

Cantucci mon amour!

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If you spent more than one hour in Tuscany, and probably even so, you definitely have tasted Cantucci. Highlight of our Florence food tour and highlight of almost every tuscan traditional restaurant, Cantucci and Vin Santo are considered the perfect couple and the best dessert. Its flavour not too sweet, its crunchy consistence make them a great after dinner, the sweet touch that won’t cancel all the great flavours that you ate before.

Cantucci (or “Cantuccini”) tradition is spreaded all around Tuscany, but exactly, where are they from? Ask that to a Florentine, they will say: From Florence! Ask that to a Pratese, they will say: from Prato! Ask that to a Senese, they will say: From Siena!

We tend to agree with the Prateses and give them the honour of having created this crunchy, long shaped cookies. Infact, history tell us that in 19th century a pastry chef from Prato, Antonio Mattei called Mattonella, perfectioned the famous recipe and make it a classic that won lots of faires and prizes, included a mention at the world famous Universal Exposition in Paris 1867! The “bottega del Mattonella” (“Mattonella’s shop”), is still working in Prato and it is considered an important legacy keeper. Moreover, Cantuccini are also called “Biscotti di Prato”, so…

So, how are these Cantuccini made?

What makes them so special?

Cantuccini are golden, hard cookies with a long shape and on the inside an explosion of peeled almonds, whole or in pieces. Their peculiarity comes from the fact that this cookies are actually “bis-cotti” (twice baked): first they go into the oven in the shape of soft almonds baguettes, then they are cut in pieces and put back in the oven until they take their nice, hazely colour and crunchyness!

cantucci

Their name might come from latin “cantellus”, which means “piece of bread”: that is because their shape actually reminds of a slice of bread, maybe one or two days old. The kind of bread that peasants like to use to cook (pappa al pomodororibollita… anyone?) or dip in some red wine! So probably that’s exatcly how it went: I like to imagine a cook who wanted to prepare soft cookies with almonds – similar maybe to the Senese Ricciarelli – and they got so hard they crooked teeth, and then he thought “hm, let’s try with wine” and found the delicious sweet Vin Santo… Maybe that’s just my imagination, but I’m pretty sure we’re not so far from the original story.

Cantucci-con-Vin-Santo

The original recipe actually had also dried fruit and spices, now it has a bit evolved and went minimal: and that’s a good thing because the taste of 2 centuries ago was quite different from ours, we could find it a bit too strong. Then again, the actual flavour fits perfectly with Vin Santo – so well that sometimes the wine is also in the cookies dough. That’s why, even if tradition wants us to dip the cookie into the wine, chefs recommend to try them separate, tasting a bite of Cantucci and then a sip of wine in order to distinguish all the great flavours.

They are not that hard anymore. And they make them in many different flavours! With hazelnuts, with chocolate, with pistachios… It’s your call anyway: what will you choose? Tradition or Gourmet?

 

Recipe: The best PARMIGIANA DI MELANZANE ever!

Hello food lovers!
Today I’m going to talk about one of my favourite meals in the world. And I’m going to share with you my favourite recipe!

I’m talking of the famous Parmigiana di Melanzane – I don’t actually know how to translate it: what is sure, is that eggplants are involved, but the name has nothing to do with parmesan cheese. Sicilians say that “parmigiana” comes from the ancient word for “eggplant”, “petrociana”, which slowly changed. Anyway, there’s Parmigiano cheese in it, so… who really knows.
Have you ever tasted it? Just do it in our Milan food tour! If you are – like me – an eggplant lover, and if you are – like me – a deep-fried stuff lover, you will love this amazing combination! The odd thing is that this plate is commonly eaten in summer. Of course, eggplants are not a winter vegetable, but if you think of its thickness you might find it a bit to heavy to eat with 30, 40 ° C! And yet, we do. And so will you!

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Here the recipe, for a number from 4 to 6 people according to… your hunger lust!

4 eggplants

1 onion

250 g mozzarella cheese (you can also switch to scamorza cheese, just not the smoked kind)

100 g grated parmesan

2 eggs

breadcrumbs

½ liter tomato sauce

1 garlic slice

extravirgin olive oil

basil

frying oil (seed oil, soy or sunflower)

salt & pepper

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Wash the eggplants, clean them and cut them in slices of half a centimeter. Put them in a colander, covered with some salt for each layer, then leave them rest for about an hour. This will help drain them: after an hour you will have to squeeze them, rinse them from the salt and dry them again.

Meanwhile you can take a large pan, start sauté your chopped onion and the whole garlic slice together with the olive oil (say 3 or 4 spoons). When the garlic has goldened, take it out, add carefully the tomato sauce, the chopped basil, the salt and the pepper. Cook for 15 minutes, the sauce should remain liquid.

Mix the breadcrumbs and the eggs and dig the eggplant slices in it.

Now it’s time to fry! Open all your windows and, in a large frying pan, heat up abundant seed oil. A few at the time, fry the eggplants and, once crispy put them on kitchen towel in order to soak up a bit of oil.

melanzane-impanate

Meanwhile, cut the mozzarella in pieces or slices (that depends on you).

Once you have all fried and ready, you can build your masterpiece:

Set a large baking tray and spread just a sip of tomato sauce on the bottom, then align the first eggplant layer, followed by some mozzarella cheese, the sauce, the basil and the parmesan. Keep adding layers until you have space or ingredients. The last one should have a thick parmesan covering over the tomato sauce.

Put the parmigiana in the oven, pre-heated at 180° and bake it for half an hour or a bit more, until the smell starts make you really really hungry… the last 3 minutes set the oven on “grill” mode, you will have a delicious crust of Parmesan gratin!

Now take it off the oven and… eat it? Nope, not yet.

You need to leave it “rest” for about 2 hours! Once that time has passed, parmigiana will be really thick and solid. And probably still tepid: that’s the moment you can serve it and enjoy!

Healthy tip: You can avoid dipping the eggplants into egg+bradcrumbs mix before frying them, just wet them roll them into some flour: they will be less thick and crunchy but still really enjoyable!

Summer PAPPA AL POMODORO Recipe!

“Pappa al pomodoro” is a typical tuscan main dish. Its origins refer to the peasant tradition – Florence and Siena both claims it’s theirs, because it’s a really tasty food and everyone would be proud to have it… I mean, it’s so good they made a song about it!
When in Florence, you absolutely need to try it: you can do that by booking a Florence Food Tour with us.

The great thing about Pappa al pomodoro is that you can eat it warm in winter with a good red Chianti, but if you change, just slightly, the preparation, it’s a great plate to eat in a warm summer day with a vermentino or a vernaccia!

pappa al pomodoro

Pappa al Pomodoro is basically a bread and tomato soup with plenty of fresh local olive oil and basil. Tuscan bread is notoriously tasteless, because it is prepared without salt. As a result, the bread goes stale quite quickly: so, if you want to make it at home, make sure you take a fresh bread loaf, not salted and with a pretty thick dough. As usual, “sandwich bread” is not good at all!

Let’s go with the recipe!

INGREDIENTS

500 g (about 2 cups) peeled tomatoes, chopped, preferrable the “piccadilly” or “ciliegino” quality
250 g (about 1/2 lb) stale bread (preferably Tuscan bread), cut into smallish pieces
1 liter (about 4 cups) vegetable broth, warmed
1 big onion, chopped
basil, chopped coarsely (with your hands!)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (you can also use seasoned or spicy oil)
salt and pepper

You can add carrots or chili or whatever you think it fits: as all peasant preparations, this one is easily customizable.

soffritto pappa

Start with preparing your soffritto in a large and tall (around 10 cm tall) saucepan, by sauté the chopped onions in a large amount of olive oil. Once they’re golden, you can add salt and pepper (or chili).

Add the tomatoes and let them cook on a slow flame until they are softened, but not still a sauce. Now you can add half of your broth and the bread. Stir carefully, the bread has to soak in all the liquids and swell.

Once it’s swollen add the other half of the broth and the basil, and keep the bread under the liquid surface, constantly.

Stop mixing for a while: when you see the oil solidify on the surface, stir it a little bit. Do that for about 5 times and… you’re ready!

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Now you can take the pan off the fire and leave it rest. The longer the better! You can eat it lukewarm and the day after it would be even better. Just give it a nice splash of extravirgin olive oil and chop some fresh basil on it.

Way to eat a great Pappa al pomodoro in summer!

Liquid gold: some facts about Italian Olive Oil

What do you know about Italian Olive Oil? For sure, if you tried our Florence Food Tour, you know it’s really tasty. Maybe you did eat a bruschetta or two, on your Tuscany trip. And I’m sure you enjoyed it.

Olio-di-oliva

Tasting olive oil straight is the best way to judge its quality. You can do it pretty easily by yourself (if you try a guided lesson, though, you will learn lots of useful stuff) a little in a small glass and warm the glass in one hand, while covering it with the other. Now put your nose into the glass to sense the aromas. Hopefully, it reminds you of things like fresh olives, grass, bananas and apples. Hay, cardboard, vinegar, mud and mustiness are some of the aromas that indicate an olive oil has gone bad.

The flavour matters a lot too. Try the green Tuscan oil, quite ticklish on the tongue, that tastes like fresh artichokes, or maybe the golden southern oil, from Puglia or other southern regions, that has a smoother taste. This depends on the variety of the olive, on the terrain, on the climate. The way it’s made it’s the same for every good one: after olives are picked and washed, they’re crushed – sometimes between two big stones, but now more commonly by steel blades. The resulting paste is stirred to release the oil droplets in a process called maceration, before being spun in a centrifuge to pull out the oil and water. After the water is removed, what is left is olive oil. The picking process might be pretty different though. In Tuscany we pick the olives from the trees, while they’re still greenish (that’s why they have that “fresh grass” flavour), while in Puglia farmers wait for olives to fall naturally on big nets on the ground. Therefore, this oil tastes more mature. If you manage to try them one after the other, the difference will be enormous. But I bet you won’t be able to decide which one you like the most – well, you can always assign them different purposes.

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We cook with olive oil… basically everything. We use it to cook, to fry, to make cakes, we even make ice cream from it (have you tried it? Do it, it’s amazing)! Some gourmet chef invented the crème brulée with olive oil on the side, and it’s a fancy mix.

There’s a lot of stuff you can do with olive oil: why do we keep choosing it over and over again, even when we do have cheaper products? Well, it’s not only because of its flavor. Infact, olive oil is one of the ealthier products on Earth (and yes, we keep telling that to ourselves while eating fried stuff). I will always suggest to use olive oil for cooking. Believe it or not, is skinnier than any other oil, and lighter. Replace other fats like butter with at least two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil every day, eat lots of veggies and go for a walk. I mean, if you kill an entire parmigiana di melanzane, you cannot blame the olive oil for feeling “loaded”, do you?

So, what makes olive oil so good for health? Well, for example, olive oil is extremely high in oleic acid which is used to reduce blood pressure. Olive oil also contains many antioxidants including vitamin E, carotenoids and oleuropein. Researchers are doing their job, founding out that it might be a real help for heart diseases and even for cancer, but this is something we do not know for sure yet.

What we know, is that it is a major “fountain of youth”: it contains a high amount of polyphenols, which helps the cell renewal. That’s why there is also a large market for olive oil soaps and skin care products, of course: but I really do suggest you try, once (maybe not with “olio nuovo”), to wet your skin with tepid water and then moisturize, until absorbed, with some olive oil drops. The result is amazing, I do that sometimes. No, I actually do something else, I make myself a scrub with sugar, honey, lemon and olive oil, and my skin is thankful every single time. You’re welcome too.

crema olio

Do not though – seriously, do not – use it “to improve your sun tan”. This is actually the most dangerous thing you might do. It burns, it’s oil, it fries up your skin and so much for eternal youth. Use protection, and eat a great cucumber-carrots-oil-salt-and-pepper salad after your day at the sea!

Just one warning: be sure that you’re using a true extravirgin olive oil. Lots of cheap products are the result – just as for Aceto Balsamico – of a mix of different oils or chemicals, or are made with non-italian olives. Of course greek or Turkish oil might be good: but cheap imported products aren’t probably the same thing. So, how to manage when a tasting is not possible, like in a supermarket? I have two tips. One is: do not rely on the price. Always check the tag and the ingredients. But if it’s suspiciously cheap, leave it there. The other one is: treat yourself! Buy the “DOCG” products and you’ll be safe, sound and happy.

The very last thing I want to share with you about oil is about its storage. Oil, because of its chemical composition, suffers a lot from oxygen. Therefore, if you buy a big bottle, either you finish it really quickly, or you fill a lot of little bottles and close carefully the others, storing them in a dark and dry place, and opening them only once you finish the previous one. They will mantein their properties much better.

Cannoli alla crema

Hello everybody! Thank god it’s Friday they say… any plans for the weekend? I, for one, intend to spend the whole Sunday relaxing at home, with good books, good movies and… good food!
Sunday in Italy is the traditional day when, after the big lunch with the family, you eat “pasticcini”. You go to a nice pasticceria and you pick them, one by one, filling up a carrousel with these delightful small pastries. Like for example one of the best italian desserts, the one you tasted in our Milan food tours… Cannoli alla crema (or, as we say in Tuscany, “diti alla crema” – that’s actually “fingers with cream”)!

diti

They are called cannoli because of their shape, but they are not made with the same crunchy paste. Infact they’re much sweeter, still crunchy though! So why not impress your family, or friends, or special ones, by making your own cannoli? Here’s a recipe ridiculously easy and… incredibly good!

Warning: for this dessert you will need a metal “cannoli tube”. Or you can make your own following these instructions.

Ingredients

 For the paste

1 puff pastry roll

Sugar

One yolk

For the cream

250 ml milk

2 egg yolks

85g sugar

25 g Manitoba flour (or potato flour, or mais flour)

1 pinch vanillin or half of a vanilla stick

1 washed lemon peel – only the yellow part, never the white one. Large stripes!

First of all, we’re going to prepare our “crema pasticcera”, which is the yellow and thick cream you find so often in our pastries.

It’s not a long process but you have to be very careful and precise.

crema

Mix the eggs with half of the sugar and the flour in a saucepan – better if it’s nonstick. Then, in another saucepan, heat up the milk with the other half of the sugar, the lemon peel and the vanillin (or the vanilla stick). The more lemony you want it the more peel you’ll add – remember it has to be pretty delicate though.

When the milk’s almost boiling remove it from the fire and pour it slowly, still mixing, in the other saucepan. Once they’re blended, heat up again on a low flame, stirring with a wooden spoon or a whip all the time.

Now it would be the right time to turn on your oven, 210°C (410°F).

Keep mixing for a minute from when it starts boiling, then turn the fire off. Take off the lemon peels and the vanilla stick if you used it, pour everything in a bowl and let it rest and cool down.

This cream is supposed to be thick, so if you feel that it’s not dense enough, keep stirring on a low fire until it’s ready. You can also add a bit more flour, just melt it with a sip of tepid milk or it will create ugly clumps!

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Let’s make the paste now. Take your puff pastry and unroll it (or stretch it out if it’s home made), it doesn’t have to be thin. Cut in in stripes of around 1,5 cm large, on the long side. Wet every stripe with some water.

cannoli tube

Butter up your tubes, then roll each stripe on a tube (the wet part on the outside so every turn of paste will adhere better to the other one). Brush cannoli with the yolk and cover with some sugar, then put them in the warm oven. Keep the high warmth for 5 minutes then lower it up to 170°C (338°F) and leave the cannoli baking until they’re golden on the outside – or a bit more, as you prefer.

Now the delicate part. Slowly and carefully take the tubes off the paste (really slow, it’s a very friable material).

Fill the pastry puff cannoli with your cream (you can use a professional sac a poche if you have it, or just a normal clean syringe) and… serve.

Tips: if you already have strawberries… just put them on the plate. It’s a pretty dynamic duo!