Curing Olives at Home, Part 2


Don’t they look delicious? I wish that this picture was of a batch of olives that I had cured in my home. Some of you might remember my first attempt at curing olives, it went a little something like this. Which resulted in delicious olives on the outside, but when you bit into them, they were bitter. Even after doing the initial soaking process for almost 2 months and then adding raw apple cider vinegar to the finished jars in hopes of calming some of that bitter taste, they were disappointingly inedible, for us.

So in the end, after keeping about 10 jars of olives in the fridge for about a year and a half, maybe trying one every month or so in hopes that it tasted better, over the past few weeks, we have been feeding them to our chickens. Nothing goes to waste around here! The only explanation I have is just that I got a bad batch of olives that were maybe not ripe enough when they were plucked from the tree.

Penna Gourmet Foods has given me renewed hope that I can cure olives at home and I am so looking forward to it! Penna is a Northern Sacramento California based company run by a husband and wife who call themselves olive enthusiasts. The Pennas have combined Old World curing and spicing practices with safe, modern technology to produce a unique, flavorful and consistent olive. Their company, M&CP Farms, sells both fresh olives for home-curing and retail olives. They are dedicated to sharing the full-flavor range of their California olives while continuing to be involved in all aspects of their product’s production, processing and packing.

“They are distinguished as the only ripe style olive processor in Northern California. M&CP Farmer have been producing pre-ripened green olives since 1975 on farming land that has been in the family since 1951. However, the olive orchards themselves have been commercially viable since 1915 and are some of the oldest in the state. The focus for the Penna’s is on quality olives and olive produces that puts M&CP Farms at the forefront of the custom packed fresh olive market in California.” ~February 2001 Issue of the California Olive Oil News

Their website even gives you updates on their olive crops!

So I am going to keep my eye out for updates and cross my fingers that this fall we might be successful in curing delicious olives at home! Why don’t you think about joining me? It is not labor intensive, but fun and experimental!

Penna Gourmet Foods provides fresh olives to cure at home for the people who enjoy the art of home processing and canning, their website offers recipes for home curing techniques and their fresh olives are available starting around the middle of September (weather permitting).

If you don’t want to cure your own olives, you can purchase fresh and gourmet cured olives, gift baskets, olive oil and more!



* Disclaimer: This sponsorship is brought to you by Penna Gourmet Foods who we have partnered with for this promotion.

Hunter’s Chicken and Clapshot

Once you become a farmer (and a hunter) certain things you never would have thought of before become hysterical. Like the idea of “Chicken Cacciatore” or Hunter’s Chicken. When chickens become part of your life, you start to imagine how a dish like this ever came to be, as “hunting” for chickens really makes no sense – there are very few wild chickens in the world, and raising animals for meat hardly equates to being a hunter. Historically, the dish seems to have been made with rabbit, which definitely makes more sense but it seems that even in Italy, where the dish originated, chicken is often used. For me it is just another reminder of how detached we are as a society from where our food actually comes from.

Semantics and doom aside, this dish is a definite favorite all over the world. In fact, the recipe I used to make this version of Hunter’s Chicken, is from one of my favorite cookbooks – Scottish Traditional Recipes: A Celebration of the Food and Cooking of Scotland.

A picture of the recipe even graces the front cover of the cookbook! However, this recipe seems to me to be a bit of a cross between the Italian Pollo alla Cacciatora and the French Coq au Vin. Perhaps because the Scottish and French had a very famous historical alliance, it is likely the Scots also learned about the cuisine and culture of the French. Since I was using a Scottish recipe for this dish, I decided to pair it with Clapshot – a mixture of mashed potatoes and golden turnips (or in this case a rutabaga), a classic Scottish side dish. I also used the Italian classic, Chianti wine to prepare the dish.

No matter the origins of this favorite dish, it is perfect hearty fare for the end of winter, or a quick spring cold-snap. The best is that most of you probably have all the ingredients already available in your freezer or pantry! Making this a quick and easy dish to prepare in a snap!

You can prepare it in a Dutch oven, cast iron skillet, or as I did, in my Tagine.

*This is also a good time to remind you, if you are interested in following my homesteading activities, please check out my blog Got Goats (and sheep too)? and the corresponding facebook page!

Hunter’s Chicken (adapted from Scottish Traditional Recipes)

INGREDIENTS:

2 TBS olive oil
1 TBS butter
Half a chicken (or 4 chicken portions, like whole legs)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
14 oz can of chopped tomatoes
2/3 cup of dry red wine
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 rosemary sprig finely chopped
4 oz. fresh field mushrooms (or portabellos), thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:
Heat oven to 350 F. Heat the oil and butter in the vessel you will be using to cook the dish. Add the chicken and fry for 5 minutes, remove chicken from the pan and drain in paper towels. Add the sliced onion to the pan and cook gently, stirring often for about 3 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes and red wine. Add the crushed garlic and chopped rosemary; bring to a boil stirring constantly. Return the chicken to the casserole, turn to coat with the sauce, cover with a tight fitting lid. At this point you can either keep it stove top and simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or you can add the mushrooms, season the dish with salt and pepper and place in the oven for about 45 minutes. Serve with Clapshot (see recipe below).

Clapshot (adapted from Scottish Traditional Recipes)

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb of potatoes
1 lb of rutabaga (swede)
¼ cup butter
¼ cup milk or cream
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper

METHOD:

Peel potatoes and rutabaga, then cut into evenly small chunks. Place the cut vegetables in a pan and cover with water, add about a tsp of salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer until both vegetables are soft, about 15-20 minutes. Drain the vegetables through a colander, return to the pan and allow the vegetables to dry out a bit over low heat, stirring often to prevent sticking. Melt butter with the milk in a small pan over low heat. Mash the dry potato and rutabaga mixture, then add the milk mixture. Grate the nutmeg and mix thoroughly, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sardinian Purcavru in Agru Durci

Purcavru in Agru Durci garnished with mirto

I told you all I was going to be making things interesting on here with different recipes from a variety of different world cuisines!

With the first in this series, I am giving a nod to my husband’s Sardinian roots. Sardinia is a small island off the coast of Italy in the vicinity of Rome. I was lucky enough to go there this past year when Roberto and I went with our moms on the “roots tour” of Italy. Roberto was born in Sardinia to Sardinian parents, but grew up in Rome. On our visit there last fall, we spent time with the extended family. It was lovely.

Sardinia is an interesting place, I immediately loved it because it has a rich culture both with herding animals (sheep and goats) but is also the place in Europe which has the greatest amount of megalithic structures, making this farm girl and history buff very happy!

These megalithic structures, round tower-fortresses called nuraghi, which ancient villages were built around are over 35,000 years old and there are over 8,000 of them on Sardinia, an island that is about the size and shape as Vermont. So that is a lot of pre-history going on there! If you aren’t into history, Sardinia is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, La Costa Smeralda- The Emerald Coast. There are also beautiful mountains (yes they get snow!) and lunar looking rock formations. There is an area towards the middle of the island that is called Valle Della Luna – The Valley of the Moon and looks just like Rohan from the Lord of the Rings movies. Fascinating landscape!

But the thing I loved about it most is that it is home to some of the oldest trees in Europe. We were able to visit 2 of these old olives, the oldest being 5,000 years old and the second oldest being around 3,000 – and still producing olives!!! For me, a nature worshiper it was akin to meeting Gandhi. The most amazing thing about Italy in general is that you can grow so much food! Nearly everyone that has even a small plot of land has fruit trees, some grapes to make homemade wine, nut and olive trees, veggie gardens, etc. I saw tons of pomegranate and fig trees. There is just so much abundance there!

Sardinia actually has its own language, Sardu, of which there are several dialects. Sardu has been influenced by Catalan, Spanish and indigenous Nuragic elements with some roots from Phoenician and Etruscan. So instead of the more familiar Italian “a” and “o” word endings, Sardinian words end with “u” and “s”, like our last name, Campus. This is because Sardinian is much like Latin. You can see this in the name of this dish Purcavru Agru Durci, which in Italian would be Cinghiale Agrodolce.

So what about the food? Well because of its location, Sardinian cuisine has been able to capture tastes from various Mediterranean influences: Catalan, Corsican, Spanish, Italian. The diet is rich in meats, like lamb, goat and pork, fresh vegetables, wonderful cheeses, fresh veggies and of course copious amounts of olive oil and rich red wine, famed for its high level of antioxidants- Cannonou. On the coast, where we didn’t spend much time, there is also a lot of fish and seafood consumed. And, like the rest of Italy the population consumes large amounts of pasta and bread. In fact as a gluten-intolerant, I had a hard time in Italy in general staying away from wheat as it is in almost everything from bread and pasta, to a thickener in sauces and a coating on vegetables and meats. I asked the question on facebook the other day after reading an article about how wheat is killing the world, how people like Italians, and especially Sardinians, known the world over as healthy and one of the longest living peoples could be in such a good state of health (the island has the world’s highest documented percentage of people who have passed the century threshold.) if wheat is the only factor. It was an interesting discussion, but none of us were able to really make sense of that!

But I digress. One thing which is very unique to Sardinian cuisine is the use of Mirto, or Myrtle. The plant is symbolic of love and immortality, and in Sardinia it is an essential plant. The berries (which look a bit like small blueberries, although there is a white version as well )are used to make a delicious aperitif, called “mirto”, which uses both varieties of berries separately, creating a red and white version and the leaves. Sardinians also use the leaves in cooking, similar in manner to bay leaves or other herbaceous plants. I was able to get some to bring home with me, and this is one of the ingredients that really makes this dish. The taste is very hard to place for me, but is most similar to a bay leaf.

I wasn’t able to get wild boar for this dish, but we did use meat from the half pig we bought this year (and butchered ourselves) from a local farmer.

Purcavru in Agru Durci (from Cooking in Sardinia)

INGREDIENTS:

4-5 TBS olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp myrtle leaves (substitute bay leaf)
1 ½ lbs boneless boar or pork meat, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tsp sugar
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1 TBS tomato Paste
Salt to taste

METHOD:
Sauté onion in a pan (I used cast iron) with 4-5 TBS of olive oil. Add about a tsp of chopped myrtle leaves. Add the meat and a pinch of salt and brown over medium heat. Blend sugar and vinegar, stir and pour over the meat. Then dilute tomato paste in a cup of warm water, add to the pan, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 45 mins. You will have to add more water intermittently so the stew doesn’t dry out. During the last five minutes, uncover pan to reduce the sauce.

Return to La Torraccia

I never understood why some people would return to the same places over and over again when traveling. With a whole world to explore out there and so much to see that no human could do it all in just one lifetime, how could anyone ever justify going back to the same place twice? That was before I ever made any profound connections to the people at a certain place, a vacation spot, before I met my favorite chef in the world, before I drank my favorite wines and fell in love with the peace and joy a certain place can bring. That was all before Torraccia Di Chiusi.

Over three years ago, Roberto and I first had the opportunity to visit the Agro-Turismo,Torraccia Di Chiusi. We had a wonderful time there soaking in the beautiful landscapes, visiting medieval villages, eating amazing food, meeting wonderful people who would become friends. While that was all happening, other important changes were going on internally for both of us that were helped along by this visit to this amazing place. Some places give you peace of mind, time away from the grind to have a quiet place to listen to the stirrings of your soul. Torraccia di Chiusi is one of those places for me, where I feel at home, away from home.

Three years ago, we were still living in Florida, planning to move to Vermont and begin our homestead lifestyle. We were full of big dreams and super excited for the change. La Torraccia was like a place of confirmation. Donatella and Stefano, the owners and all the people like Grazia and Bruno, that make the place what it is were already doing the kinds of things we wanted to – raising animals, fruits and vegetables for food and making artisanal products out of those labors of love. Their place, ideas and philosophy were truly beautiful and inspirational, a bucolic dream. We spent time after dinner each night talking about the simple, good life. Just being there and talking to everyone made us see that these dreams we had were very possible. Not just possible, but in many parts of the world very normal. This touched us both deeply and firmly footed us in our dream moving forward.

Things began to change after that trip. First and foremost my food philosophy changed after I met Bruno, my favorite chef, who cooks the amazing dinners at Torraccia di Chiusi. He is truly a master of simplicity. Pasta sauced with butter, oil, cheese and sage was a revelation. Bruno is the true personification of simple is better, and if you want simple, you better get the best ingredients. Bruno doesn’t understand fine dining where the portions are too small, and you leave hungry. He doesn’t see the point. Better to fill people up and really nourish them with good, healthy and soul filling food. He does this, every night at La Torraccia. His integrity when it comes to cooking and life really, I have never seen surpassed. I have to say that Bruno, along with Grazia, Stefano and Donatella are inspirations for Roberto and I, and the way we are now living out our lives, with purpose.

(photo courtesy of Bruno and Grazia)

I would highly recommend Bruno and Grazia’s cookbook, Cucinar Cantando*  which is a mixture of food philosophy, artwork (he is also a painter) and words of wisdom, as well as recipes. Well worth it. Not only that, but it was entirely produced by Bruno and Grazia themselves – the writing, the translations from Italian to English, the illustrations, etc. I am the lucky recipient of one of the original 11 copies, each of which have unique covers. The production of those original editions were paid for with all the tips Bruno and Grazia had received from guests over the summer before, another labor of love, to be sure.

When I returned to my own kitchen after that first visit, I really started paring it all down to the basics. My dishes became much more rustic, and I began to rely on simple herbs, good oil and salt to season food, instead of my array of exotic spices I had always relied on before. I had a new and profound appreciation for butter and stock as well as the art of braising and slow cooking. I learned that you can never really use too much olive oil and that local and fresh produce is paramount. If it is not in season, and not fresh what is the point in preparing it? It will never be as good as something that is in season. In Tuscany, you would never think of preparing a dish without local products, let alone produce from another country. Why bother? When dishes start getting too out of touch from these simple philosophies, I summon Bruno in my mind and I am put back on track. Simple is best, simple is art.

Bruno and Grazia especially have become our good friends over the years. We have stayed in touch via facebook and email, and we even did a giveaway of their cookbook Cucinar Cantando on The Foodie Blogroll and there is another one in the works soon! I came to find out that my posts about our visit to La Torraccia has brought them business over the years, and for that I am profoundly pleased because they definitely deserve it. Due to this fact, Donatella and Stefano invited us to be their guests at La Torraccia for a few days to thank us for our support over the years. How could we say no?

We spent 3 wonderful nights and 2 very restful days there. The first day all we did was rest, nap, eat, and spend time walking around the farm seeing all the changes and improvements they have done over the three years. I can tell you, I did not build up the place unrealistically in my mind. It was even better this time around! One of the biggest changes is the developments in their wine-making, which I will talk about in another post. But we had a great time seeing how much they had done in just 3 years!

The second day we took another attempt at walking the Via Francigena to San Gimignano. It was a perfect sunny, cool day and we didn’t get lost! We spent the day in San Gimignano eating (of course) wonderful cheeses, and we went back to Beppone to have a repeat of the meal we have been thinking about for years -stewed wild boar, perfect gnocchi in truffle cream sauce and we topped it off with what I believe to be the best gelato in the world.

La Torraccia and Tuscany hold a very dear and special place in my heart. The people are committed to their local food traditions and the landscape with all its farms and trees remind me so much of Vermont. I just wish we could grow olives here! If we did, my life would be perfect.

*If you wish to order a copy of Cucinar Cantando (and I highly recommend it!) please contact Grazia and Bruno at cucinarcantando@libero.it

Curing Olives at Home

I intend most of my Thursday, Let’s Get Cultured posts, to be about cultured dairy products. However, from time to time I might feature non-dairy cultured items on Thursdays. Today I am going to talk about curing olives at home.

I learned about home curing olives from Jenny’s blog, Nourished Kitchen. She has an awesome and easy to follow step-by-step guide on how to crack, cure and season olives. She also has one of the best blogs out there, so I suggest once you are over there, to check out her fabulous recipes. I am not re-inventing the wheel on olive curing, so I will refer you to her fantastic blog where you too can see the process for olive curing at home. I do however, have some notes, and then I would like to share with you the various flavors I added to my olives.

But first I will share with you my source for the olives. Chaffin Family Orchards is a diversified farm in the Sacramento Valley of California. Their farm has been in the hands of the Chaffin family for 5 generations. Most of their olive trees are over 100 years old. The farm has been harvesting and producing olives and olive oil for over 75 years. Their olives are farmed without using chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. They use cover crops and rotations of cattle, goats, sheep and chickens to control vegetation and fertilize the orchards. The goats are also used to prune the trees!

Most of the research I did on olive curing suggests that you should soak your olives in water (changing twice daily) for 2-4 weeks. This is the process whereby the raw olives lose their bitterness. If you have ever tried eating a raw olive, you will see why this step is of utmost importance.

Olive Curing Notes:

I found that even 4 weeks was not enough time – I think we soaked our olives for close to two months, and they were still a bit bitter after all that time. I am not sure if it is because I cured them during winter, and it was just too cold in the house, or what. So after about 2 months, we decided to decant the olives, and flavor them but we added about ¼ cup of raw apple cider vinegar to the individually flavored jars. This seemed to take care of most of the rest of the bitterness – but it is not consistent from olive to olive. Some olives still are bitter. We have only started eating one jar, so we will see how the other jars are as we get to them. Maybe they just need a little more time.

Curing olives is really quite easy and straightforward. It is a fun project, especially if you have children and would make great presents to give to family and friends! It is a great traditional skill to add to any homesteader’s repertoire.

My Flavors:

*Lemon, Bay Leaf, Saffron
*Lemon, Bay Leaf, Herbs de Provence
*Lemon, Bay Leaf and De Arbol Chili
*Juniper, Mustard, Lemon and Black Pepper
*Lemon, Bay Leaf, Habanero Pepper
*Lemon, Bay Leaf, Coriander Seed, Cumin Seed, Sumac, Ras el Hanout

Gluten-Free Potato Gnocchi

Even though I grew up in an Italian household, I have never been a huge fan of pasta. Don’t get me wrong, I love the filled pastas – tortellini, ravioli, cannelloni, etc. but just regular ‘ol pasta…meh. However, when it comes to gnocchi, I just can’t get enough of it. Maybe that is because I have always loved potatoes, and those soft pillows that just soak in the sauce, have always been irresistible to me.

When I became gluten-free, my pasta options reduced significantly. Pasta is such a quick and easy meal to prepare when you don’t have as much time to spend in the kitchen as you would like, and it is so easy to dress up with veggies, meats, cheeses and various sauces. Plus my husband, born and raised in Italy grew up eating it 2 times a day.  Like Roberto always says, you can eat pasta twice a day your whole life and never get bored of it because of all the various ways it can be prepared.  I can’t say I agree, but I do enjoy the convenience of it once in a while. Commercially I can get corn pasta, in two shapes – spaghetti and elbows. That is fine, but sometimes you want something a little different!

(The First Attempt)

For New Year’s Eve 2011, when my step-daughter Gwen was visiting, we decided to try our hand at homemade gnocchi. I made a big mistake and mixed it in the food processor the first time. It turned out kind of gummy, but was still pretty good. We made the gnocchi gluten-free by using potatoes and potato starch. However, for me, the consistency was still too gummy – it wasn’t just the fault of the food processor.

Gwen was visiting again last week and wanted to make gnocchi again, this time instead of the potato starch, I suggested we use gluten-free oat flour. This made the gnocchi much more like I remember – a bit firmer and toothsome. We served it with a tomato sauce that Gwen and Roberto made on New Year’s Eve – it made a lot, so we froze the leftovers.

I also like these gnocchi served with brown butter cream sauce with truffle oil. When Roberto and I were in San Gimignano, in Tuscany, almost 2 years ago, we had the most amazing truffle gnocchi, and since then, I have been dreaming about it. The version we make at home comes pretty darn close!

Tonight we are going to have the leftovers with butter, peas and prosciutto. Like I said, so versatile!

Making homemade gnocchi is very easy and straightforward and much less time consuming than other types of homemade pasta. Since we have made it a few times, we no longer use a recipe, but this is a good starter recipe from Italian: The Definitive Professional Guide to Italian Ingredients and Cooking Techniques, Including 300 Step-by-step Recipes..

A note about the book – this book includes all the Italian classics, and has detailed process pictures as well. Roberto loves this cookbook because everything we have made from it turns out like an Italian in Italy made it.

Gnocchi di Patate


INGREDIENTS:

2 lbs waxy potatoes, scrubbed
1 TBS sea salt
2 – 2 1/2 cups of flour (we use gluten-free oat flour)
2 TBS butter

METHOD:

Place the un-peeled potatoes in a large pot of salted water, Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender, but not falling apart. Drain, and peel the potatoes as soon as possible, while they are still hot.

On a work surface spread out a layer of flour. Mash the potatoes with a hand masher directly onto the flour. You can also use a food mill or ricer if you have those.  Sprinkle the top of the potatoes with about half of the remaining flour and mix lightly. Begin to knead the dough, drawing in more flour as you knead.  Keep doing this until the dough is light to the touch, no longer sticky or moist, and can be rolled easily. Do not overwork the dough, or the gnocchi will become too heavy.

Divide the dough into 4 parts. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a snake about ¾ inch thick, and cut the dough into ¾ inch long pieces.  Hold an ordinary table fork, with long tines sideways.  Once by one press and roll the gnocchi onto your thumb, making ridges on one side and a depression from your thumb on the other side.

Bring large pan of salted water to boil. Then drop about ½ the gnocchi in.  When the gnocchi rise to the top, after about 3-4 minutes they are done. Scoop them out, allow them to drain and place in a serving bowl. Dot them with butter.  Keep warm while remaining gnocchi are cooking. AS soon as they are done, stir in with other gnocchi and more butter. Then serve with extra butter and Parmesan cheese, tomato sauce or any other sauce you wish.

Serves 4-6

Holiday Baking Series: La Befana Stars: Limoncello-Lavender Stars

These are the last of my holiday cookies, however I waited to post them until today, because yesterday was the day that La Befana or “the witch”, traveled around Italy giving gifts to all good children and coal to those not on such a good path. Before Santa or Babbo Natale appeared on the scene in Italy, La Befana was already there.

La Befana is nowadays associated with the Feast of the Epiphany in Italy, celebrated on January 6. The Christian story tells us that she was visited by the Three Magi (Wiseman) on their search for the baby Jesus. She was too busy doing her chores to go with them, and afterwards regretted it. So now every year, gives gifts to all small children in Italy hoping to inadvertently finally give her gift to baby Jesus.
However, the story of La Befana is pre-Christian in nature, and much like Christmas itself, a celebration which was converted from native Pagan beliefs to the new religion. In pre-Christian times, La Befana begins with Winter Solstice and takes origin from the bonfires burned in the squares to celebrate the end of the year, a symbol of time cycles always ending and beginning again.
The witch is the ancient priestess of nature. The “coal” that she would leave to the nasty children was actually also a symbol of fertility connected to the sacred bonfires and the Ceppo – the Italian version of the Yule Log. To learn more about the origins of La Befana, both Pagan and Christian, please visit this informative website.

Regardless of religion or ethnicity, please make these delicious cookies!

Limoncello-Lavender Stars

Adapted from Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma
INGREDIENTS:
3 ¼ cups organic spelt or AP flour
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
1 ½ cups softened, unsalted butter
1 ¼ cup organic cane sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBS limoncello
Freshly grated zest of one lemon
1 tsp dried lavender

METHOD:
Soak the lavender in the limoncello so the lavender can “bloom”. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt – then set aside. Cream butter and sugar using an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in the egg and egg yolks one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract, lavender infused limoncello and lemon zest.
Beat in the dry ingredients, creating a stiff batter. Remove dough from the bowl, flatten into a disk and refrigerate for about an hour, or until firm enough to handle easily.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Work with one piece at a time, and keep the other pieces refrigerated. On a floured surface, roll the dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a floured, 2-inch star cookie cutter, cut dough into stars. Place cookies ½ inch apart on the prepared trays. Gather the scraps of dough and repeat the cutting out process. Continue with all three pieces of dough.
You can brush cookies with an egg wash, or bake them as is. Bake cookies until they are lightly golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Rotate the sheets 180 degrees halfway through cooking to ensure even baking.
Allow cookies to cool slightly on the sheets, then remove with a spatula to a wire rack to cool. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container, layered between parchment paper for about 4 days. Makes 4 dozen.

Holiday Baking Series: Polenta & Sesame Biscotti

A season full of sweets and baked goods for those of us who are gluten-intolerant or go without refined sugar can be a bit daunting. I have made plenty of sweet treats that are not GF to send to family and friends this year. But I want to enjoy some treats too! So I have been having fun experimenting in the kitchen and making some delicious GF cookies. That is why I was really excited to find a biscotti recipe in Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina De Palma, using polenta as a base flour. The rest of the recipe is easy to convert to make it GF and refined sugar free!

Polenta or cornmeal is a staple dish in the north of Italy, and always reminds me of when we were visiting Venice and Tuscany.  Funny how eating a certain food can so readily return vibrant memories…So, I like to say these are Northern Italian inspired cookies. Venetian in particular, with the use of sesame seeds and sweetened with honey hearkening to the days of ancient Venice and the use of exotic spices and ingredients.

Making biscotti with cornmeal is very easy and the results are crunchy and delicious – probably my favorite as far as biscotti go. These are very unique and therefore special biscotti, making them great gifts. I made the version inDolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen to send to friends and family, and made this version to satisfy my own sweet tooth!

Polenta and Sesame Biscotti
adapted from Dolce Italiano

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups GF flour – try a GF baking mix, or even oat or coconut flour
1 ¼ cup fine polenta
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup raw honey
4 large farm fresh eggs
3 large farm fresh egg yolks, plus 1 egg white for glaze
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup sesame seeds (I used a combination of white and black)

METHOD:

In a large bowl mix together GF flour, polenta, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter and honey, about 2 minutes. Then add the eggs one at a time then the yolks one at a time beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients and beat on low to form a soft dough. Beat in ½ cup of sesame seeds until they are thoroughly incorporated. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours, or until firm enough to handle.

Preheat oven to 325F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove dough from the refrigerator. Using well floured hands(the dough is very sticky), divide it into 4 equal portions and roll each portion into a log about 1 ½ inches in diameter and 12 inches long. Place 2 logs spaced 3 inches apart on eah sheet.

In a small bowl beat the egg white until frothy, and with a pastry brush glaze the surface of the logs with the egg white. Then sprinkle them with the remaining sesame seeds. Bake logs unti; the are golden brown and feel somewhat firm to the touch – about 30-35 minutes. Rotate the sheets 180 degrees halfway through baking to ensure even baking.

Allow the logs to cool on the baking sheets or on a wire rack until cool to the touch – about 40 minutes.

With a sharp serrated knife slice the biscotti, slightly on the bias into ¼ inch wide slices. Lay sices on the baking sheets in a single layer and bake in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes more until they are toasted, dry and crisp. Cool biscotti completely n baking sheets. Store in a clean airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Makes about 6 dozen biscotti