Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I due dolci preparati per la festa di compleanno

I will write here the recipes for the two desserts that I made as surprise cakes for Crissy and Alison at my birthday party.

Crostata di frutta (hard-crust fruit cake)

You saw two versions of this dessert in the previous two posts. It's a wonderful summer dessert, when all the fresh fruit is available. To make it you need:
300 g flour (~2.5 cups)
200 g sugar (~1 cup)
100 g butter (1 stick) - must be at room temperature before you use it
At least, these are the 'original' ingredients. In my version, there is about half the sugar and a little less butter/flour ratio. Mix the flour and the sugar. Add the butter. Work it with your hands in the flour and sugar dough. Usually, I cannot get a dough that sticks together using just these ingredients (maybe because I cut a little bit on the butter?) so I add a little amount of milk in order to get to a workable dough. But don't add too much otherwise the crust will be too hard.
Spread the dough with your hand on the bottom of a baking pan (better if you have some antisticking foil or if you butter and flour the pan), and use some dough to make some borders a bit higher than the bottom of the crust. Before putting the crust in the oven, you need to add some dried beans on top of it. Now, I'm not crazy. :) They are necessary to prevent the dough to rise. It needs to stay flat.. so you put beans all over the dough and when the cake cooks, it will not rise. You can also use pasta, but if you do, then you have to throw away the pasta once the cake is cooked because it gets slightly burnt - instead, the beans are fine and you can reuse them in some soup later on :) :) So, cook the dough with beans on top for ~20 min at 400F. It should begin to show a golden color once you take it out. If the beans were spread correctly, the dough will be flat when you take it out. Let it cool down. Once it's cold, remove the beans from the top of the crust! They should not be stuck.
While the dough is cooking you can make the cream to spread on top. This cream can be very variable. If you're really lazy you can just use some jam. Strawberry is good :)
Otherwise you can make a custard - or custard-like cream. My favorite cream is this:
2 tbsp flour
3 tbsp sugar
lemon peel
~2.5 cups milk
1 egg
Mix the flour and the sugar in a pan. Add the egg and mix together. Slowly add the milk, keep stirring, until all the milk is added. If you do it slowly you don't get any clumps. Put it on the stove and bring to boil, slowly, stirring from time to time. It will begin to stick to the bottom if you don't stir, after a while. Add the lemon peel in big chunks when it begins to boil. After it boils, keep stirring for ~5 minutes or until it has the consistency of a spreadable cream or a little bit more fluid (it gets harder when it cools down, obviously). Then, let it cool down. When it's cold, take the chunks of lemon peel out, they gave enough flavor.
There are as many variations as you may think of for this cream. You can add vanilla flavor (strongly recommended), for example. Or, you can use some spicy tea instead of part of the milk :) I did this once, it turned out good and the cream had a nice orangy color :)
When both the crust and the cream are cold, spread the cream on the crust and decorate with fruit. I'd suggest to sprinkle some lemon juice on the fruit before, so it doesn't turn black. Or, you can prepare some unflavored gelatin, and throw it on top of the cake. This will make the cake look very professional, but I don't like its taste and consistency, so I never do that :) Have fun with the fruit decoration of the cake! And obviously, the cake can have any shape you want.. I showed some rectangular ones in this blog, but I used to make round ones.

Torta di cioccolato e nocciole (chocolate-hazelunt cake)

I love chocolate-hazelnut cakes, and I thought it would be good for Alison, since she likes chocolate too :)
120 g (~1 cup) roasted hazelnuts
200 g (~1.5 cups) flour
5 eggs
~2.5 tsp baking powder
~1/4 stick of butter, melted
~1 cup milk
2 tbsp sweetened cocoa powder
~0.5 cups sugar (use more if you use bitter cocoa powder)
whipped cream
Grind the hazelnuts in a food processor until they are as fine as a flour. Add this flour to the chocolate and mix it.
In a bowl, mix the baking powder to the (normal) flour and add a tiny bit of salt. In another bowl, mix the egg yolks with the sugar with a mixer until they become foamy and yellow. Add the egg yolk mixture to the flour/baking powder mixture. Add the melted butter to it, keep mixing. Add the hazelnut/cocoa mixture. Add the milk to this batter. It should now have a nice soft consistency. Whip the egg whites until very hard. Add them gently to the rest of the ingredients.
Pour the batter in a baking pan. Originally they suggested to bake the batter in two separate pans, half and half. I didn't have two pans of the same size, so I used only one pan deep enough to contain all the dough. Cook at 350F for ~35 min. Let it cool down in the oven semi-open.
When it's cold, cut the cake in two discs if you didn't bake it in two different pans. Add whipped cream on one of the discs and put the second disc on top. Decorate with more whipped cream on top and serve soon.

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