For the past few months I have been experimenting with baking bread. Every weekend my kitchen is covered in a fine layer of flour and I have proofing buckets of yeasty bubbling dough all around and eventually the wonderful smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the house as loaves of golden bread emerge from the oven. It seemed only appropriate then that this weekend while I was surrounded by bowls of biga, poolish, wild yeast starters and the like that I should take some time out to make this very easy and delicious breakfast focaccia. I have made focaccia constantly over the years and I am actually quite proud of my rosemary focaccia which I always seem to have on hand for snacking. This focaccia will also be added to that list of have on hand snack breads to be experimented with and tweaked.
I was a bit skeptical at first that this might turn out to be just another coffee cake recipe but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the finished focaccia retains all the elements of a traditional focaccia while slipping in the added twist of sweetness from the berries and the spicy streusel topping. There is no doubt that you are eating a bread with all the spicy, fruitiness of the deep green extra virgin olive oil. The bread is crusty on the bottom and has the chewy texture of a traditional focaccia but then the juicy berries burst forth on the tongue with that fruity sweetness and the crunchy, spicy nutmeg and cinnamon infused streusel topping adds just that sweet/savory interest that you would expect. This is one great breakfast bread. I am already imagining making it with peaches, nectarines, plums, raspberries, blueberries and all sorts of seasonal fruits and spices in the streusel. Definitely a winner and one that must be tried.
I grew up with these little rice balls, both my grandmothers and my mother made them often, but they were never made from scatch but were made with leftover risotto in the Italian tradition of never letting anything go to waste. They were most often just plain rice balls flavored with whatever vegetable or meat happened to be in the leftover risotto. My mother often put in a cube of mozzarella or whatever soft cheese she had on hand and we ate them as after school snacks. Arancine means little oranges in Italian and that is exactly what these little nubbly golden balls look like. I have so many fond memories of sitting on the back door stoop eating these little treasures. These pork and beef filled arancine are delicious and did indeed bring back those memories as I have not had them in quite some time. I loved them but have to admit that I did miss that little hidden nugget of cheese. It will be there the next time I make them. One of the tricks my mom showed me when making these is to rinse your hands between making each ball. It helps to rinse off the starch and keep the balls from sticking to your hands and makes getting them formed more evenly a lot easier. I also enjoy these with some marinara sauce for dipping them in.
Avid readers will already know about my fondness for pound cake. I would rather have pound cake than just about any other dessert in the world. I love having it on hand to dress up for company or a weekend dessert, toasted for breakfast or just as a grab on the run snack. I have several go to pound cake recipes that I make weekly but never miss the opportunity to try out a new recipe for my beloved snack cake. This recipe does not disappoint. It is rich and moist with a nice change of texture and nutty flavor from the frangipane layers.
I made my own almond paste for this recipe and it is much thinner than store bought almond paste so I have to admit that it sort of melted into the cake batter instead of baking into a separate rippled layer. There was a small ripple layer visible and although it isn’t as visually pleasing as I would have hoped, it certainly does deliver on flavor. The almond frangipane layer is a delightful contrast to the rich, chocolately cake. I am not a huge fan of chocolate pound cakes but this one was a pleasant surprise. The chocolate does not overwhelm the rich, buttery smoothness that you come to expect from a pound cake. While the texture of this one is not as dense as a traditional pound cake, it does maintain the firm, smooth texture that you want from pound-cake. Definitely worth making and making more than once.
I was intrigued by this recipe. I like the way Middle Eastern food has the subtle interplay of savory and sweet with the use of fruits in savory dishes. I am also a lifelong fan of lentils so any recipe that uses lentils is a recipe that I want to sample. The results I am afraid to say were rather disappointing. The overall dish was rather bland. I found myself continuously adding salt and pepper to try to give it some taste. Other than the occasional hit of date or raisin the dish was totally tasteless. There was way too much rice for the dish and the rice was very mushy due to the pre-cooking of the rice and then the rather long cooking of the dish after it is assembled. The lentils seemed to disappear into the dish and they also became mushy because of the pre-cooking and then cooking of the assembled dish. This could really benefitted from some garlic and nutmeg. I was also stumped when the recipe says it serves 4. I ended up with an amount that could have easily served 10. I assume that this is a sort of pilaf and is meant to be served as a side dish. All in all I was disappointed but I may try it again and jazz up the spices as well as cut the recipe in half.