sweet bread from valtellina

If everyone in the world had to bake a loaf of bread from scratch, the world would be a better place. 

Let me elaborate.


Basically, bread baking is a huge pain in the butt.   It requires patience, planning skills, and upper body strength — all things that I lack…

If it’s such a pain, then why do I bake bread from scratch?  Because baking bread has taught me many life lessons… and because that first slice, fresh out of the oven with a big smear of melted butter (because I totally deserve it) is worth all the hassle and *minor* mental breakdowns. 


Anyways, here are the things that bread has taught me: 

Bread has taught me to plan ahead.  I’ve learned the hard way that if dinner’s at seven, I better start the loaf at four.  There are few things more painful to watch than hungry people crunching on spinach salad while the bread is still in the oven — especially when they can smell all of that carby-goodness wafting out of the oven. I’ve also learned not to run out the door while the dough is rising.  Personally, errands always take twice as long as they should.   Thus, I end up  returning to a kitchen that smells like a brewery and being confronted by a ball of dough the size of a large toddler. 


Bread has taught me perseverance (and given me some *somewhat* defined biceps).  Sure, there are dough hooks, bread machines, and other fancy kneading gizmos — but I’m a firm believer that the best loaves come from some good, old-fashioned pounding.  The glutens in the dough need to be stretched and warmed by human hands.  It’s a labor of love.  With every loaf of bread, I knead a little bit of my soul and spirit into the dough.  That sounds so incredibly cheesy, but you can taste the difference, I swear.  


Bread has taught me that patience pays off.  I am the kind of girl who seldom uses measuring cups and has no idea where my teaspoons are.  I have one “cup”-ish sized mug that I use for everything.  I’ve got to admit I love to cut corners (and hate doing dishes).  I feel like I’m totally winning at life when I make a layer cake in one salad bowl with a fork.  But bread baking requires patience and a lot of spoons. I’ve learned to even break out the kitchen scale when baking a loaf of bread.  Crazy stuff, I know…  But it’s all for the love of bread.  


Lastly, sometimes, yeast can just be a little bit of a bitch.  You can use all the measuring spoons in the world, and your bread will still sometimes come out of the oven looking like a hot mess.  Bread has taught me how to say “hey, it’s ok.”  When my country boule ends up looking like a giant chicken McNugget, I’ve learned just to call it “rustic.” No one complains. Trust me.  Especially when I serve it with Vermont maple butter. 

This my adaptation of a traditional recipe for bisciola — an artisan fruit and nut loaf from the Lombardy region of northern Italy, bordering Switzerland.  The addition of figs and anise seeds makes it both sweet and savory.

Have you ever made bread from scratch?

With love, 
Erica


 


  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 1/2 cups
    all-purpose flour, divided

  • 2 cups
    whole-wheat flour

  • 1 1/2 cups
    warm water 

  • 1
    package dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

  • 1 cup
    coarsely chopped dried mixed fruit (I used apricots, figs and dates)

  • 1/3 cup
    packed brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 teaspoon
    salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons anise seeds 
  • 1
    large egg, beaten 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Combine 1 cup of all-purpose flour, warm water, and yeast in a large
bowl, and stir well with a whisk. Cover and let stand at room
temperature 1 hour.


Add the nuts, 1 cup all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, dried
fruit, anise, sugar, 2 tablespoons oil, salt, and egg to yeast mixture, and
stir until a soft dough forms (dough will feel tacky). Turn dough out
onto a lightly floured surface. 
Knead dough until smooth and elastic; add enough of remaining all-purpose flour, 1
tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands.  Place dough on a
baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
Shape into an 8-inch round
loaf. Brush dough with 2 teaspoons oil. Cover and let
rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until
doubled in size. (Press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains,
the dough has risen enough.)
Preheat oven to 375°.
Uncover dough. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes or until the loaf sounds
hollow when tapped. Remove loaf from baking sheet; cool on a wire rack.
Adapted from La Cucina Italiana
 


© Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.

how to: croissants

I received a request on my recipe for butter croissants to do a photo tutorial.  I have to admit, the recipe can look quite daunting when printed in black and white (almost as daunting as the history outline I should be writing now).  But I have made croissants numerous times using this technique and every batch has been golden, buttery, crunchy and delicious.  In fact, I think croissants are easier (there I said it) than making regular yeast bread.  The dough proofs overnight in the fridge, and I don’t have to worry about all the yeast-y terrors that come along with counter-top rises.

savory ham and swiss croissants — sprinkled with poppy and sesame seeds

This is my very first photo tutorial, so bear with me. (I even used some gifs… ohhh so fancy)

bliss is dark coffee with freshly whipped cream and a homemade nutella croissant

I decided to do my tutorial in black and white because:
a) the light in my kitchen is horrendous at night
b) it looks kind of vintage-y and Parisian, you feel?

up close and personal with a nutella croissant

I hope this tutorial makes the joy of croissantery (is that a word? now it is.) more accessible. There is no satisfaction greater than biting into a perfect, crisp croissant that you baked yourself.

With love,
Erica

Ingredients:

Dough:
4 cups all purpose flour (plus more for rolling)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons softened butter
1 tablespoon + 1 scant teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt

Butter layer:
1 1/4 cups cold, unsalted butter

Egg Wash:
1 egg

Fillings (optional):
Chocolate
Ham and Cheese
Nutella
Cinnamon sugar
etc.

Day 1:

Combine all of the dough ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
Mix on low speed for 3 minutes, and medium speed for an additional 3 minutes.
Place the dough on a lightly floured plate, wrap well in plastic, and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2:

Cut the cold butter
lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick slabs (about 3 slabs per stick)

Arrange the pieces on a sheet of parchment paper to form a 6×6 inch
square.

Top with another sheet of parchment and pound the butter with even strokes with a rolling pin — or if you’re like me and lost your rolling pin, a bottle of balsamic vinegar :).
(how in the world did I manage to lose my rolling pin?!)

As the pieces begin to stick together, use more force and roll it into a 7.5×7.5 inch square.
Trim the edges off and pound them into the center of the square.
Refrigerate while you roll out the dough.

Unwrap the dough and lay it on a lightly floured surface.
Roll it into a 10.5 inch square.

Take the butter square out of the fridge and unwrap and place it on the dough so that the points of the butter square are centered along the sides of the dough square.  Fold the flaps of dough over the butter and press the edges together to completely seal the butter inside the dough.

gif creator free

Lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough, and roll it into an 8×24 inch rectangle, focusing on lengthening rather than widening. Pick
up one short end of the dough and fold it over the dough, leaving one
third of the dough exposed, and roll it over once more (fold the dough
into thirds)
Freeze for 20 minutes.
Repeat this rolling and folding process 2 more times.

creator

After you’ve done that rolling and folding process a total of three times, roll the dough into a long and narrow strip (8×44 inches) *hang in there! its a great arm workout!

    Repeat the folding, freezing, and rolling process 2 more times.
    After, roll into a long, 8×24 inch rectangle!
    And cut into triangles:

    Add the fillings of your choice, and roll that baby up!

    free gif creator

    You could use Nutella,

    or cinnamon sugar,

    Brush each croissant with egg wash,

    creator

    And pop the baking sheet in the fridge overnight!

    In the morning, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
    Take the croissants out of the fridge and brush with a second egg wash.
    Bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees.  Enjoy! (and bask in the glory of having made your own croissants)

    Be sure to take lots of pictures so you can show off to your friends later!