Thursday, 26 June 2014

In the summetime...

...the weather in southern Italy is GLORIOUS. And also BOILING. But instead of just going on about how darn hot it is, I thought I would make a little list to illustrate exactly what it's like to experience summer here the heel of the boot. So, here it is:

1. Summer will arrive suddenly. One minute you're still in your jeans and a jacket and the next? You're wondering if it's acceptable to walk around in your smalls because it's so ridiculously warm (just for the record, it's not).

2. Sweating will become part of your daily life, and it'll be tricky to find a deodorant that will prevent you from leaving sweat marks all over your t-shirt. The good thing is, however, that people here don't seem to care too much. A shiny face or a few damp underarms don't seem to bother anybody. Being smelly on the other hand, does. So make sure you wash.

3. Between the hours of 12pm and about 5pm during the high summer, there will be no-one, I repeat, NO-ONE, on the streets. At this time of day it's simply impossible to be outside, and so people either choose to sleep, or at least relax in their air conditioned houses, if they're lucky enough to have them.

4. When people do venture outside, their walking pace will become tortoise-like. People here walk slowly enough as it is, so add in a nice 35°C to the mix and everyone becomes practically stationary.

5. Shops don't really stock chocolate any more. As you all know, heat plus chocolate equals goo. Ice cream, which is already goo but at least it's cold goo, will become your regular sugar fix.

6. When mid June comes around, everyone will start going to the beach. Understandably so, because in the towns and cities it's just far too hot. If you're looking for a peaceful beach day, avoid Sundays, as all the of lidi become jam packed. Screaming children to the left, dialect-speaking (or-yelling) families to the right and in front? A whole host of speedo-clad men.

7. Even though it's scorching outside and the only thing you feel like eating is a light salad, Italians will still continue to eat pasta dishes for lunch. Yes, this is probably why all they can do in the afternoon is sleep.

8. In the summertime, despite the extreme sweatiness and the fact that you don't have any energy whatsoever, la dolce vita really begins. Lazy beach days, shorts and sandals, endless amounts of gelato (or maybe that's just me?) and long, summer evenings of aperitivi and cocktails. What more could you ask for?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Cream and Strawberry Cake

Once again dear readers I have not written for a while. I put this down to two things: 1- most of my students are preparing for exams and therefore I have been up to my ears in practice papers and all sorts of very boring grammar and vocabulary stuff. And 2- it has been FREAKING HOT. All of a sudden we have been catapulted into the mid-thirties (not the era, the temperature...) and this Brit is doing her fair share of sweating (ew). But never fear, because I am back with a ridiculously good birthday cake recipe. If you're counting calories, I'd look away now...

Torta di crema e fragola

First, let's start with the sponge cake. You will need:

Either some ready made sponge cakes (cheater!) or the following:
6 eggs
2 egg whites
250g sugar
250g plain flour
raising agent (I used a small sachet and a half)

Mix the eggs and sugar (it will seem oh-so-eggy, but don't worry- it tastes great in the end) before sifting in the flour and raising agent. I put the mixture into one large tin, but you can divide it into two if you like. After about 30 minutes (approx- keep checking it but be careful when opening the oven door so as not to make the cake sink) at around 180°C (if you have a fan oven don't use it- 'normal' oven will do), take it out and check it's cooked through by using a skewer. If it comes out clean and minus gloopy cake mixture, it's done! I left my cake to cool before carefully slicing it in half to create two 'levels'.

For the rest you will need:
A punnet of strawberries
a big lemon
some sugar
a splash of limoncello
white chocolate
whipping cream (about 500ml)
creama pasticcera
crema chantilly (see below for how to make these)

Then you will need to 'wet the cake'- Italians say 'bagnare la torta', and this is often done with some kind of alcohol. I cleaned and chopped half the punnet of strawberries (small pieces) and put them in  bowl with some sugar (taste test to how sweet you want the strawberries), and the juice of one big lemon. I added a little cold water too. I actually left these overnight in the fridge, and the next day, they had produced the most delicious 'strawberry juice'- perfect for 'wetting' the cake! I added a cheeky drop of limoncello too...

I evenly distributed the juice and the small pieces of strawberry over the bottom layer of sponge and then on the top layer. At this point the two halves were on separate plates; I hadn't yet put them together. After doing this, I spread some crema pasticcera thickly on the bottom layer (see below) and then popped the other half of the sponge on top.

I covered the entire cake with whipped cream (which I whipped to within an inch of its life to ensure it stayed put on the cake) and dollops of crema chantilly (again, see below- this is just a variation on the crema pasticera). I used the other half of the punnet of strawberries to decorate the cake, and I also grated some white chocolate on top too.

This may be stating the obvious, but make sure you keep the cake in the fridge until it's ready to be eaten.

Creama Pasticcera

The recipe and instructions to make this sweet, custard-like filling that Italians use in all sorts of cakes and biscuits was given to me by an Italian friend of mine and was therefore written in Italian. To prevent any translation errors (of which there would be several) here is a link to a great little blog which carefully describes the crema pasticcera process. With pictures and all!

Creama Chantilly

 Creama Chantilly, for those of you who don't know (until a very short time ago I was amongst you),  is actually just another name for sweetened, whipped cream. I whipped up some cream and added a few dollops of crema pasticcera to sweeten it more. Whether I was doing this correctly I'm not sure; but what I do know, is that it tasted delicious.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Kinder Bueno Cheesecake

Hi folks! I hope you all had a great weekend. On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending my very first southern Italian wedding; my stomach is now in recovery, and I will be posting all about it in the very near future! For now though, check out this delicious (and very simple) Kinder Bueno Cheesecake recipe, which I recently made to try and impress my boyfriend's family, along with a couple of other calorific treats (have a look at that blog post here)

  To give credit where credit is due, I actually took this recipe from I only made one little alteration: just a little extra butter. I found that the original amount didn't quite bind the biscuit together as much as I wanted.

Here's what you'll need:

For the biscuit base: 300g of digestives and 200g of butter

For the cheesecake: 350ml of whipped cream, 450g of cream cheese, 150g of sifted icing sugar and 6 single Kinder Bueno bars. You can obviously use more Kinder Bueno bars if you wish!

 First, place a sheet of greaseproof paper in a circular spring clip tip. You could use a normal tin, but it might be a little tricky taking the cheesecake out later. Melt the butter and then crush the digestive biscuits well. Then mix them together and press into the tin. Make sure they are nice and compact.

Whip up the cream, and in a separate bowl mix the cream cheese and icing sugar. You can do this by hand but I found it much easier using an electric whisk! Melt the broken up Kinder Buenos either in the microwave or over a saucepan of hot water, then mix all of the ingredients together. Spread the mixture over the biscuit base, making sure it's smooth and level.

Put the cheesecake in the fridge for at least 4 or 5 hours to set properly. I left mine in there overnight at this was perfect. I then topped it with chocolate sauce and some extra Kinder Bueno chunks.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can modify it easily. In the future I'm going to use the same basic recipe to make an Oreo or Snickers cheesecake. It's making me hungry just thinking about it....

Buon appetito! :D