Super Tasty Ciabatta Bread – The Quick And Easy Way

 

You love bread. You especially love the Italian Ciabatta variety of delicious breads. You’d like to try and bake one yourself but are intimidated by the complex and time consuming process that all of thousands of copy cat recipes found on the internet call for.

Well, this simple, quick and easy  ZenChef Ciabatta bread recipe has you making some today and you’ll be making it regularly from now on in, I promise you that.

What’s the ZenChef’s secret? It’s in simplicity, minimalism and efficiency to achieve outstanding and flavourful results.

Typical Ciabatta recipes call for a Biga* as a key to success and my recipe is no different in this regard but I remove the mysticism from the process.

My recipe also calls for some olive oil, the addition of which is subject to some debate. To me it adds a bit of a savory taste and as Ciabatta is often dipped in olive oil and Balsamico or used to make paninis, it follows that adding olive oil to the dough just makes it taste better for a variety of uses. Now, if you’re mostly going to eat it with butter and jam on it, just skip the olive oil.

Why do I use honey? To help the yeast get a head start many recipes call for the addition of a small quantity of sugar to the warm water and yeast mix. Substituting wild flower honey has two benefits. One, it supercharges the yeast activation and two, it adds a certain subtle exotic note to the taste of the bread.

Let’s talk about hydration. Ciabatta breads typically use high hydration doughs that is to say 75% water or more. I count the olive oil as a liquid towards hydration so this recipe is about 81% hydration (72% if you count the water only). I like this level of hydration as it still results in a light and airy bread but keeps the dough more manageable, i.e. less messy to handle.

Lastly, don’t be intimidated by the number of steps in the instructions. I just like to be detailed but they are not complicated. Read through them once and you’ll see that they fall into the “easy” category. If you already have some experience baking bread you’ll find most of them to be be quite familiar.

* Biga, aka Sponge, Preferment and any number of other versions of the same concept is simply a dough made some time ahead that uses more or less the same ingredients as will go into the bread recipe you are going to be making. For a simple general purpose Biga/Preferment that you can use in pretty much any bread recipe, check out my Preferment recipe HERE.

Super Easy, Super Tasty Ciabatta Bread

ZenChef
A simple and quick recipe to make delicious Ciabatta bread that rivals or betters the best you've ever tasted.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Proofing 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 45 minutes
Course Baked Goods, Bread
Cuisine International, Italian

Equipment

  • Large Bowl
  • Dough Scraper
  • Bench Scraper
  • Kitchen Scales digital, general purpose, up tp 5 Kg
  • Micro Scales digital, small quantities, up tp 100 g
  • Measuring Cup 500 ml
  • Parchment paper wide format
  • Baking Stone or Baking Sheet
  • Small baking/casserole dish Non stick, metal, 20cm x 20cm
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Turner or spatula

Ingredients
  

  • 100 g Biga/Preferment
  • 550 g Bread Flour Can substitute All Purpose
  • 400 ml Water Warm, 40℃/110℉
  • 25 ml Honey I use Wild Flower
  • 4 g Yeast Traditional, dry
  • 11 g Salt Pink Himalayan or regular
  • 50 ml Olive Oil Extra Virgin

Instructions
 

  • If you are keeping your Biga/Preferment in the fridge, take it out and let it come up to room temperature
  • If you have a large amount of Biga/Preferment, measure out 100g
  • To the warm water add the honey and stir to dissolve
  • Add yeast to water and give it a quick stir with a wooden stir stick
  • Let sit for 10 minutes until yeast forms a foamy cap
  • Meanwhile measure out flour into the bowl
  • Add salt to flour and thoroughly mix into flour
  • Drop the Biga/Preferment into the flour and using your hands, pinch off small amounts into the flour until all is used up
  • Toss the flour and bits of Big/Preferment until evenly distributed
  • When ready, add the water, honey and yeast mix to the flour
  • Add the olive oil
  • Use a wooden spoon to mix flour and liquids until you get a shaggy dough (2-3 minutes)
  • Use your hands and a dough scraper to quickly knead the dough into ball (1-2 minutes)
  • Cover the bowl with cling wrap and set aside letting it rise until doubled in size, about one hour
  • While you are waiting for the dough to rise/proof, prepare your oven by placing your baking stone or inverted baking/cookie sheet on the middle rack
  • Place the baking/casserole dish on the lower rack
  • After about 30 - 45 minutes preheat the oven to 250℃/480℉
  • Prepare a large cutting board or inverted baking sheet and cover it with a piece of parchment paper about 38 cm x 38 cm
  • When the dough has sufficiently risen, turn it out onto a flowered work surface using dough scraper if necessary
  • Quickly roll dough into an oval log dusting with a little flour as needed
  • Grab the log at one end and lift it up above the work surface letting the weight of the dough elongate it downwards giving it a couple of jiggles to help it along
  • Place the dough back on the work surface and fold it in half lengthwise
  • Rotate the dough 90°, grab it at the far end and repeat the lift and jiggle
  • Repeat the process 3 more times
  • Quickly shape the dough into a ball and put it back into the generously floured bowl
  • Cover and let it rise a second time for about 30 minutes
  • Turn the dough back out onto you floured work surface and slice off a 100 g to 150 g portion of the dough with a bench scarper. Place that into a re-sealable plastic container and move it to the fridge. This will be the Biga/Preferment for your next batch of bread.
  • Roll the main portion of the dough into a ball and cut it in half
  • Take one half, shape it into a log about 30 - 35 cm long and place it on the parchment paper about a third of the way in from the edge
  • Take the other half of the dough, shape it into a log about 30 - 35 cm long and place it on the parchment paper about a third of the way in from the opposite edge. You should have a few centimeters between the two logs
  • Generously dust the logs with flour, cover with a clean cloth or towel and let them rest for 10 minutes
  • Remove the cloth and with a sharp knife, razorblade or lame, slash the dough logs 3 or 4 times at a shallow angle along their length
  • Quickly open the oven, grab the board with the parchment paper and dough logs on it, move close and parallel to the baking stone or sheet and slide the logs onto the surface by grabbing the parchment paper at the far end and dragging it onto the baking surface
  • Toss 4 or 5 ice cubes into the baking dish below the baking surface and close the oven door
  • Set the oven timer for 30 minutes
  • After 10 minutes, open the oven, quickly slide the two logs off the parchment paper and onto the stone/sheet with the help of a turner and give the logs a couple of spritzes with the spritz bottle.
  • Close the door and lower the temperature to 230℃/450℉
  • After another 10 minutes quickly spritz the logs one more time
  • Continue baking for the remainder of the 30 minutes
  • Remove the breads from the oven and place on a metal rack to cool
  • Once cooled off, tear off a piece of your master piece and enjoy as is is or with just a bit of butter. You might never make bread any other way.
Keyword bread, chiabatta

 

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Almost No Knead Bread

There are a lot of no knead bread recipes out there and most of them are pretty much the same. I call my recipe “Almost No Knead Bread” because no matter what, a bit of kneading is still required although it really is minimal. The real secret to my version is using a “Preferment” or “Pâte Fermentée”. (Find the recipe here).

What does that mean? A “Preferment” or “Pâte Fermentée” is simply a quantity of bread dough made a few hours or days ahead of time or retained from a previous batch of bread dough and all or a portion of it is incorporated in the batch your going to make presently. This adds, among other things, big flavour, texture, quality and a longer shelf life to the bread. For a bit more information about that, follow the recipe link above.

The recipe that follows makes a “boule” of bread. The same recipe can be used to make any other shapes of bread such as round, oval, and oblong loaves.

So let’s get baking the best bread you’ve ever made

Almost No Knead Bread

Zen Chef
A delicious bread made with a minimal amount of effort and maximum flavour.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Rise/Rest Times 14 hours 10 minutes
Total Time 15 hours 25 minutes
Course Baked Goods
Cuisine International

Equipment

  • Large Bowl
  • Dough Scraper
  • Bench Scraper
  • Kitchen Scales
  • Measuring Cup 500 ml
  • Large stock or spaghetti pot with lid
  • Parchment paper, wide format

Ingredients
  

  • 625 g Bread Flour
  • 125 g Preferment See recipe link in post
  • 440 ml Water Warmed to 44℃/110℉
  • 2 g Yeast Traditional dry yeast
  • 12 g Salt
  • 10 g Sugar

Instructions
 

  • If you are keeping your preferment in the fridge, take it out and let in come up to room temperature
  • If you have a large amount of preferment, measure out 120g
  • To the warm water add sugar and stir to dissolve
  • Add yeast to water and give it a quick stir with a wooden stir stick
  • Let sit for 10 minutes until yeast forms a foamy cap
  • Meanwhile measure out flour into the bowl
  • Add salt to flour and thoroughly mix into flour
  • Drop the preferment into the flour and using your hands, pinch off small amounts of preferment into the flour until all the preferment is used up
  • Toss the flour and bits of preferment until evenly distributed
  • When ready, add the water, sugar and yeast mix to the flour
  • Use a wooden spoon to mix flour and liquid until you get a shaggy dough (2-3 minutes)
  • Use your hands and a dough scraper to quickly knead the dough into ball (1-2 minutes)
  • Cover the bowl with cling wrap and set aside letting it rise overnight or for 12 hours
  • Turn dough out onto a flowered work surface using dough scraper if necessary
  • Quickly roll dough into a oval log dusting with a little flour as needed
  • Grab the log at one end and lift it up above the work surface letting the weight of the dough elongate it downwards giving it a jiggle to help it along
  • Place the dough back on the work surface and fold it in half lengthwise
  • Rotate the dough 90°, grab it at the far end and repeat the lift and jiggle
  • Repeat the process 3 more times
  • Roll into a ball and place back into the flowered bowl
  • Cover with cling wrap or a tea towel and let it rest and rise for 2 hours
  • Towards the end of the 2 hours take a large dutch oven, stock or spaghetti pot with a lid, place it into your oven and preheat to 250℃/480℉
  • Once the stove is up to temperature, turn out the dough onto your floured work surface, slice off ~120 g with a bench scraper to keep as your next preferment and quickly form the rest into a ball
  • Place this dough ball in the middle of a square piece of parchment paper about 38 – 40 cm square, cover with tea towel and let it rest for a few minutes
  • Open the stove and, using heat proof gloves, remove the lid from the pot (leaving it in the stove), quickly take out the pot and place it on a heat proof surface
  • Remove the tea towel from the dough, grab the parchment paper by the corners and lift the dough into the pot with the paper
  • Take a razer blade, lame, filleting knife or other sharp instrument and slash the dough a few times to create a diamond pattern careful not to burn yourself in the process
  • Place the pot back into the stove and cover with the lid
  • Set a timer for 30 minutes
  • Bring the stove back to 250℃/480℉
  • Once up to temperature, lower the temperature to 230℃/445℉
  • After 30 minutes remove the lid from the pot and continue to bake for another 30 minutes
  • When finished baking, remove the pot from the oven, lift the bread out by the corners of the parchment paper and place on a wire rack to cool
  • Admire your freshly baked masterpiece

Notes

The amount of preferment to use for any given batch of bred dough should be about 20% of the flour used.
I use a stainless steel Lagostina Dutch Oven with a glass cover for baking the bread. it’s about 6L/quarts in size. It has silicone inserts in the handles which I remove as they are only rated for 230 C.
Stretching and folding the dough helps to develop long gluten strands.
I use the same dough for making oval or ciabatta shaped loaves but bake these on a pizza stone.
Keyword boule, bread, no knead bread, preferment
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Preferment, Pâte Fermentée

Preferments, also known as Pâte Fermentée, Poolish, Biga or Sponge, depending on the bread baking culture and country of origin, are preparations of bread dough ingredients left to ferment for a period of time and are then added to the actual bread dough mix in order to achieve a variety of desirable characteristics in the final loaf of bread.

These include:

  • Acidity
  • Flavour
  • Quality
  • Production time

Acidity in a preferment helps with developing and strengthening gluten structure.

Flavour is greatly enhanced by acids and esters developed in the preferment resulting in enhanced wheaty and yeasty aromas and a slight tang in the mouth.

Quality of the bread is further enhanced by the higher levels of acidity which in turn helps the bread stay fresh longer.

Production time can also be reduced with a preferment essentially reducing the time required for bulk fermentation.

Preferments can be made from scratch or by retaining a portion of bread dough just prior to final shaping and baking.

By repeatedly keeping a portion of bread dough for future use you will end up with a preferment that contains several generations of prior preferments and gradually gains even more powerful characteristics.

So, without further ado, here is my recipe to get you started with your initial preferment.

Preferment

Zen Chef
Recipe to create a preferment from scratch
Prep Time 15 minutes
Course Baked Goods

Ingredients
  

  • 500 g Bread Flour
  • 3 g Yeast Traditional Dry Yeast
  • 5 g Salt
  • 325 ml Water Warm, 43℃, 110℉

Instructions
 

  • To the warm water add the sugar and stir to dissolve
  • Add the yeast and stir
  • Let rest for 10 minutes until yeasty foam develops floating on top
  • Add flour to a large enough bowl
  • Add salt to flour and mix thoroughly
  • Add yeast and sugar water to flour and stir with a wooden spoon to obtain a shaggy dough
  • Set aside and let it ferment for several hours
  • If not using immediately after initial fermentation, place into a re-sealable container and refrigerate

Notes

For an initial preferment, let it ferment for at least 6 hours or overnight.
The recipe above makes a large batch of preferment suitable for making several loafs of bread.
Adjust quantities to suit your needs (e.g. about a quarter for a single loaf of bread).
Once you have made a dough using this preferment, simply keep a portion of the dough for future use as preferment (about 120g for making a single loaf of bread) and store it in the fridge. It will keep pretty much indefinitely.
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Swiss Cheese Pie

First off, please note that this is a Swiss “Cheese Pie”, not a “Swiss Cheese” Pie even though it actually uses Emmentaler (aka Swiss Cheese). Ok, now that I’ve thoroughly confused you….

While we call this a cheese pie as cheese is the lead actor, it wouldn’t be the same without the strong supporting cast of bacon and onion. So really, it should be called a “Cheese, Bacon and Onion Pie”.

The recipe below is more or less the traditional version but lends itself to variation, substitutions and experimentation.

For example, use red onions instead of yellow ones or even leeks instead of onions. And try any other melting cheeses such as e.g. Fontina or Jarlsberg etc.

Swiss Cheese Pie

Bruno
A Swiss "Cheese Pie" but actually more appropriately a "Bacon, Cheese and Onion Pie".
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Swiss
Servings 6

Equipment

  • Spring Form 24-28 cm

Ingredients
  

  • 1 roll Puff Pastry
  • 1 Onion large, finely chopped
  • 100 g Bacon thick cut, chopped into small pieces
  • 100 g Emmental grated, coarse
  • 100 g Sprienz or Parmesan grated, fine
  • 200 ml Cream 35%
  • 2 Eggs
  • Nutmeg to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Olive oil extra virgin

Instructions
 

  • Defrost pastry dough overnight if frozen
  • Preheat oven to 220°C
  • Roll out pastry dough to fit into spring form plus extra to form the rim of the pie
  • Use a fork to pierce the bottom every few centimeters
  • Refrigerate until ready to fill
  • In a medium frying pan, fry bacon on medium heat until fat starts to render.
  • Add chopped onion to bacon and sautée until softened
  • Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature
  • In a medium bowl combine Emmental and Sprienz (or Parmesan)
  • In another medium bowl add cream, eggs, a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of pepper
  • Whisk until evenly combined
  • Remove Spring form from fridge
  • Evenly distribute the bacon and onion mixture over the pie bottom
  • Evenly distribute the cheese mix over the bacon and onions
    Swiss Cheese Pie Build
  • Pour the cream and egg mixture evenly over the pie
  • Bake the pie in the lower part of the oven for about 45 minutes
  • Check the pie periodically and if the cheese starts to brown too quickly, cover with aluminium foil.
  • Remove from oven when done and let cool to set for a few minutes
    Swiss Cheese Pie Spring Form Baked
  • Unmold
  • Slice and serve

Notes

You can easily substitute the Emmental with Gruyere for a tangier taste or even Appenzeller for some real attitude.
Sprienz can only be found in some better cheese boutiques and usually only in larger urban centres so Parmesan is normally the go-to substitute.
Do not bake this pie in convection mode. It will burn the cheese before the dough is baked through.
This pie is usually served with a simple green salad and a glass of white wine (think Riesling, Gewürtztraminer or Grüner Veltliner but any other white with some decent acidity will do)
Keyword bacon, cheese, cheese pie, onion, pie, swiss
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Clafoutis

Welcome to our culinary haven, where we embark on a delightful journey into the heart of French patisserie! Today, we invite you to immerse yourself in the world of indulgence with a classic and timeless treat – the heavenly Clafoutis. Hailing from the picturesque orchards of France, this delectable dessert seamlessly marries the simplicity of ingredients with the sophistication of flavor.

Picture this: a golden-brown, tender custard cradling jewel-like fruits, baked to perfection. Our Clafoutis recipe promises not just a culinary adventure but a sensory symphony that will transport you to the charming countryside of the Limousin region, where this dessert originated. Whether you’re an accomplished home chef or a novice in the kitchen, join us as we unravel the secrets behind creating the perfect Clafoutis – a dessert that effortlessly captures the essence of French elegance and culinary artistry. Get ready to whisk, bake, and savor the magic of Clafoutis – a sweet slice of France that you can recreate in your own kitchen.

Clafoutis

Zen Chef
Clafoutis is by definition a seasonal baked desert of French origins using fresh black cherries. My Clafoutis (clafouti) recipe uses frozen cherries as these are available year round and so is no longer confined to be a seasonal desert. Clafoutis was among one of Monet's favourite deserts.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine French
Servings 8

Equipment

  • Pie dish, Ø of about 24 cm

Ingredients
  

  • 600 g Cherries frozen, 1 bag
  • 125 g Flour all purpose or pastry
  • 150 g Sugar superfine
  • 2 Eggs
  • 100 ml Milk
  • 8 g Vanilla sugar 1 sachet
  • 1 tbsp Butter softened, for greasing pie dish
  • 1 pinch Salt

Instructions
 

Cherries

  • Thaw cherries overnight in refrigerator
  • Strain cherries keeping liquid and setting aside in a small sauce pan

Batter

  • Add flour to a medium sized bowl
  • Add 50 grams of the sugar, the vanilla sugar and a pinch of salt, then stir to combine
  • Add milk to a small bowl and break the eggs into the milk
  • Scramble the eggs and milk with a fork until well blended
  • Add egg and milk mixture to flour and whisk to obtain a smooth pancake like batter

Pie

  • Preheat oven to 180°C
  • Grease the pie dish with the butter
  • Place the strained cherries into the pie dish in a single layer
  • Pour the batter evenly over the cherries
  • Sprinkle 50 grams of the sugar evenly over the top of the pie
  • Bake for 45 minutes

Coulis

  • Add the remaining 50 grams of the sugar to the sauce pan with the cherry juices
  • Simmer on low heat until all the sugar is dissolved and he juices have reduced and thickened to a fairly thick syrup (think honey)
  • Set aside to cool
  • Drizzle artistically over servings of Clafoutis and serving dish

Notes

If cherries are in season, by all means use about 500 grams of fresh cherries with stems removed and pitted, although leaving the pits in is permissible and, according to tradition, even desirable as it is said to enhance the flavours and aromas of the Clafoutis. Alas, in that case serve this dessert with a warning and, please, no cherry pit spitting contests 🙂
In any event, use black cherries if available.
If using fresh cherries you will not have the juices to make the coulis. Of course you can always take a handful of cherries, turn them into a puree with a blender and strain out the juices to make the coulis.
Keyword cafloutis, dried cherries, easy, flan

The original source for this recipe came from the book “The Monet Cookbook – Recipes from Giverny” available from Amazon.

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Chocolatey Pear And Amaretto Cheesecake

This cheesecake has to be my all time favourite cheesecake and will impress your guests and make them beg for seconds. It takes a bit of time but is actually easy to make and requires no baking.

Chocolatey Pear And Amaretto Cheesecake

Bruno
This decadent and somewhat exotic cheesecake is like no other and is suitable for the highest level of gourmet entertaining. The ingredients are fairly common but also easily substituted. The fact that it does not require any baking might be a welcome change too.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Setting Times 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine International
Servings 10

Equipment

  • Spring Form of about 24 cm Ø.

Ingredients
  

Poached Pears

  • 2 Pears large, ripe, preferably Bosc
  • 50 g Sugar Super Fine or Caster
  • 100 ml Water
  • 1 Vanilla Pod

Cake Bottom

  • 150 g Graham Cracker Crumbs see notes
  • 50 g Butter unsalted
  • 4 tbsp Nutella see notes

Filling

  • 300 g Cream Cheese Philadelphia type
  • 125 g Sugar Super Fine or Caster
  • 550 ml Whipping Cream 35%
  • 3 tbsp Amaretto Liqueur e.g. Disaronno
  • 100 g Amaretti Biscuits see notes

Decoration

  • 60 g Chocolate Dark or Semi Sweet
  • 1 tbsp Icing Sugar

Instructions
 

Poached Pears

  • Peal and quarter pears
  • Core the quarters
  • Slice quarters in half lengthwise to end up with ⅛ slices
  • Chop the slices into 4-5 mm chunks
  • In a small saucepan dissolve the sugar in the water over medium heat
  • Split the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds into a large bowl
  • Cut the pod halves in two and add to the sugar syrup simmering 5 minutes to infuse
  • Remove the vanilla pod pieces and add the pears
  • Simmer for 10 minutes
  • Strain, set aside and let pears cool off

Cake Bottom

  • Add Graham Cracker Crumbs to a medium sized bowl
  • In a small sauce pan melt the butter
  • Add the Nutella and stir to dissolve
  • Add this mixture to the Graham Cracker Crumbs and mix really well
  • Tip this mix into the spring form and distribute evenly over the bottom pressing it down firmly
  • Place in refrigerator for 45 minutes

Filling

  • Crush the Amaretti Bisquits using a rolling pin until you get crumbs about the size of Panko crumbs
  • Add the cream cheese to the bowl with the vanilla seeds
  • Add the sugar
  • Using a hand mixer or a whisk beat the mixture until evenly mixed and creamy
  • Slowly add 450 ml of the cream while continuing to mix
  • Add the Amaretto liqueur
  • Continue to beat the mixture at an increased speed until you get a soft peaks consistency
  • Fold in the Amaretti crumbs and the poached pear chunks
  • Remove the spring form from the fridge
  • Ladle the filling over the cake bottom and level the surface
  • Chill in the refrigerator for 45 minutes until well set
  • Pour the remaining 50 ml of cream over top in a thin layer
  • Chill again for a minimum of 30 minutes
  • Unmold the cake by running a thin-bladed knife around the edges of the cake and pop off the spring form rim
  • Use a palette or pastry knife slid under the cake and transfer to a suitable flat serving plate or cake bell

Decoration

  • Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl (see notes)
  • Spread the chocolate in a thin, even layer over a smooth surface such as a marble slab, Corian type countertop or the underside of a clean baking sheet
  • Let cool off until set
  • Using a sharp knife held at an angle of about 25° and working quickly, draw it across the surface to shave the chocolate into good sized curls
  • Arrange the chocolate curls on top of the cake
  • Finish this masterpiece by dusting it with icing sugar

Notes

Instead of using Graham Cracker Crumbs you can also use digestive biscuits turned into fine crumbs using a blender or food processor.
Nutella can be substituted with any other chocolate spread especially if you have allergies to nuts.
If you can’t find Amaretti biscuits in your local supermarket just make your own a day ahead (See my recipe here).
Melting chocolate the traditional way over a hot water bath has never worked well for me so I use the microwave as follows (adjust process according to how powerful your microwave is – my current one is not):
  • Blast chocolate at full power for 30 seconds
  • Let sit for 60 seconds
  • Repeat
  • Test chocolate with a clean wooden or silicone spatula
  • If you can easily stir the chocolate, you’re done. If not, repeat the process until you can
Times given in this recipe are only approximate and the total time needed depends on how well you are organized or how good you are at multitasking as you can overlap some processes and have them going simultaneously.
Keyword amaretti, amaretto, bosc pears, cheesecake, chocolate, pears

This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe I found in Gordon Ramseys book “Christmas with Gordon”.

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Proscuitto Wrapped Meatloaf

Most meatloaf recipes are pretty much the same and while perfectly good and satisfying, I always felt they lack imagination and are missing out on flavour. That said, there are typically two ingredients in conventional meatloaf recipes that I actually profoundly dislike. One is Ketchup and the other is Worcestershire Sauce. So here is a recipe that substitutes those two components with ingredients that I believe make for a better meat loaf. But there is more to it than just that, so…

Proscuitto Wrapped Meatloaf

Bruno
Take your same old boring meatloaf to the next level with this recipe and you will never go back to you the one your Grandma has handed down to you.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine International
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

Meatloaf

  • 1 kg Ground beef regular or lean but not extra lean
  • 8-10 slices Proscuitto
  • 250 ml Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 Onion large
  • ¼ cup Kalamata olives pitted and chopped
  • 2 Eggs large
  • 3 cloves Garlic peeled, germ removed, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp BBQ sauce *see notes
  • ½ tin Tomato paste
  • 3 sprigs Thyme fresh, leafs only, *see notes
  • 1 sprig Rosemary fresh, leafs only, chopped, *see notes
  • 1 tsp Basil dried
  • 1 tsp Parsley dried
  • 3 tsp Beef bullion powder or 2 cubes crumbled
  • 1 tsp Black pepper

Glaze

  • 1 tin Tomato past about ¼ cup
  • 1 tbsp Honey e.g. wildflour
  • 3 tbsp Water warm
  • 2 tsp Soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Hot sauce optional

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 180°C
  • Oil or spray a suitable loaf form or baking dish

Glaze

  • Mix all ingredient in a small bowl and set aside

Loaf

  • Add Panko to a large bowl
  • Chop onion into chunks and purée in a blender
  • Add onion purée to Panko and mix well
  • Add all dry ingredients and mix well
  • Add remaining ingredients and mix well using your hands
  • Form mixture into a loaf
  • On a clean surface or cutting board lay out proscuitto in two overlapping rows of 4 slices and place loaf at one end
  • Start rolling the loaf across the proscuitto. It shoud pick up the proscuitto but you may have to coax it along to adhere to the loaf
  • If necessary, use two more slices of proscuitto to cover the ends of the log
  • Transfer the loaf into the prepared loaf tin or baking dish
  • Brush ½ the glaze generously over the loaf
  • Bake the loaf for 45 minutes
  • Remove from oven and brush it with most of the remaing glaze
  • Bake the loaf for an additional 30 minutes
  • Remove from oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes
  • Turn out, brush remaining glaze over top and carve into slices about 20 to 25 mm thick
  • Serve with your favorite sides and gravy (Shown here wth Hasselback potato and green beans)

Notes

I use Bulls Eye Hickory BBQ sauce. It’s a staple in my house. Feel free to substitute with your favorite flavour, e.g. Chipotle, Guiness etc.
If fresh herbs are not available, substitute dry ones except for rosemary. Dried rosemary will not soften enough to integrate well into the finished loaf.
Keyword ground beef, panko, proscuitto
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Crispy Free Form Amaretti

Crispy Free Form Amaretti

Bruno
Amaretti are an Italian bitter-sweet almond flavored macaron. Amaretti cookies or bisquits are often used as an ingredient in some other recipe ( see notes). They can be hard to find in your local grocery stores however and may also be a seasonal item. This recipe is a super easy way to make some yourself with ingredients that every grocery store carries.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Resting Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Course Baked Goods
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients
  

  • 200 g Almond flour or ground almonds
  • 100 g Icing sugar
  • 3 Egg whites
  • 1 tsp Almond extract 2 for a stronger flavour

Instructions
 

  • In a large bowl mix the almond flour or ground almonds with the icing sugar
  • Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks
  • Fold the egg whites and the almond extract into the almond/sugar mixture
  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Using a couple of teaspoons, scoop up some Amaretti mix and drop onto the parchment paper leaving a couple of centimeters of space in between
  • Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours
  • Preheat the oven to 150°C
  • Bake the Amaretti for 30 minutes or to a nice golden colour
  • Let cool and store in an air tight container

Notes

An example of one of my recipes that uses Amaretti cookies is found HERE
Keyword almond extract, almond flour, amaretti
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Pear Torte Ticinese

Pear Torte Ticinese

Bruno
This pear torte has its origins in the Italian speaking Canton of Ticino in Switzerland. The Italian name of this torte would then be "Torta di pere alla Ticinese"
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Resting Dough 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Swiss
Servings 8

Equipment

  • Spring Form (see end of post)

Ingredients
  

Dough

  • 250 g Flour All Purpose
  • 150 g Butter unsalted, cold
  • 50 g Sugar
  • 2 ml Salt
  • 5 tbsp Water

Filling

  • 1 kg Pears Bosc, about 5-6
  • 4 Egg yolks
  • 100 g Sugar
  • 200 g Amaretti Cookies See notes
  • 150 ml Heavy cream 35%, Whipping cream

Instructions
 

For Dough

  • In a large bowl combine flour, sugar and salt
  • Cut butter into 1 – 2 cm cubes and add
  • Using your hands, quickly form into a crumbly dough mix
  • Continue to knead dough until you get a nice smooth consistency
  • Form dough into a ball, place on a plate and flatten it down a bit into a half round
  • Refrigerate for 1 hour

Tarte assembly

  • Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface to a diameter 5-6 cm larger than your spring form
  • Line form with dough pulling up dough on rim about 4-5 cm
  • Press dough carefully against rim and even out height
  • Using your thumb to make decorative impressions along the top of the dough rim
  • Use a fork to prick the dough bottom all over
  • Peel the pears, cut them in half and core them
  • Score the pear halves along their outside length spaced about 5mm and being careful not to cut all the way through
  • Arrange the pear halves radially on the tart bottom using a trimmed half for the middle piece

Filling

  • Using a rolling pin, crush and grind the Amaretti to about the size of coarse salt
  • In a medium bowl beat the egg yolks with the sugar until fluffy
  • Add the crushed Amaretti and fold in the cream
  • Pour and distribute the filling over the pears

To Bake

  • Preheat stove to 200°C
  • Bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes
  • Cool and let set before slicing

Notes

If you can’t find Amaretti cookies, you can make them yourself with this quick and super easy recipe found HERE
You can make the dough for this recipe by combining all ingredients in a food processor and pulsing it until you get to the “crumbly” stage and then finishing it by hand.
The tart crust can also be formed by by using half the dough just for the bottom and the other half cut into thirds, rolled and formed into the rim.
Keyword amaretti, pears, torte
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  [Total: 4 Average: 5]

Balsamic Roasted Potatoes And Carrots

The aromas that fill the kitchen and house when you are roasting potatoes and carrots infused with balsamic vinegar and combined with herbs like thyme and rosemary, will leave you salivating in anticipation of the finished dish.

Balsamic Roasted Potatoes And Carrots

Bruno
Roasting potatoes and carrots infused with aromas of balsamic vinegar, thyme and garlic makes for a wonderfully aromatic side dish to serve with pretty much any cool weather main dish.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Canadian, International
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 1.5 kg baby mixed colour potatoes cut in half
  • 500 g carrots peeled baby or baby cut
  • 8 cloves garlic peeled, germ removed and smashed
  • 2 shallots peeled and thinly sliced
  • 75 ml balsamic vinegar
  • 50 ml butter melted
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme (2 ml dried)
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary (see notes)
  • 5 ml salt
  • 2 ml pepper freshly ground

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 220°C
  • Line a large baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil
  • Arrange potatoes, carrots, shallots and garlic in a single layer on sheet
  • Combine the balsamic vinegar, melted butter, dried thyme, (if using), salt and pepper
  • Pour over vegetables and toss to coat
  • If fresh thyme and rosemary is used, insert the sprigs among the veggies
  • Cover the sheet with aluminum foil sealing the edges
  • Roast covered for 45 minutes giving it a good shake every now and then
  • Remove foil and roast for an additional 20 to 30 minutes stirring occasionally until potatoes and carrots are tender and golden
  • Remove any remaining sprigs or stems of the fresh thyme and rosemary (if using) before serving

Notes

I do not recommend using dried rosemary in this recipe as the needles will not soften sufficiently to make for a pleasant eating experience.
Keyword balsamic vinegar, carrots, potatoes, thyme
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  [Total: 4 Average: 4.8]