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Custard: the 8 tricks to make it perfect – Italian Cuisine

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It is one of the bases of pastry, versatile and greedy, it would be easy to make, but… despite everything, something can go wrong. How to prevent the cream from "going crazy", the causes and the (few) remedies




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The custard, often alone pastry chef for friends (it has many) it is fantastic: very good, it is ideal for stuffing cream puffs and éclairs, cannoli, cakes and pastries; also excellent in cups, to be enjoyed in spoonfuls or with biscuits and waffles. This delight has an interesting history that perhaps not everyone knows.

French or Italian?
Its creation is an eternal dispute between French and Italians, the two most advanced cultures in the field of European pastry from the Middle Ages onwards. In 1691, the first documented recipe of a crème pâtissière appears in the culinary work of François Massialot, cook of illustrious personalities of his time, cardinals, marquises and even the brother of the Sun King, the Duke of Orleans: still today his "Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois”Is considered among the first culinary dictionaries in the world. In addition to the crème pâtissière, also the meringues and the crème brûlée, in which the sugar coating was melted and burned with a red-hot iron scoop. However, some scholars have found traces of a cream very similar to pastry in the recipes cited in the volume Banquets, food compositions and general apparatus (printed more than a century earlier, in 1549), by Christopher of Messisbugo, Cook of the Este house and consultant of the Gonzagas. Be that as it may, this splendid cream conquered French and Italian pastry making, becoming one of the basic preparations of both schools.

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How to avoid problems
The best way to do this is… to prevent them. Here are the precautions to put in place to have a velvety and soft cream, like true pastry chefs.


1 Always use the freshest ingredients
2 Follow the recipe sequence
3 The flour (or starches) goes always sifted through a very fine mesh strainer: this will prevent the formation of lumps, sworn enemies of this sweet preparation. It is not a step that can be left out!
4 Initially, to beat the eggs and mix the flour, use a whisk (electric ones are fine too but there is the risk of overdoing the whipping and incorporating air into the cream, be careful). When you start cooking, use a wooden or silicone spoon to mix it.
5 Check the cooking temperature, perhaps with the help of a cooking thermometer: the cream should never boil. Always keep it at a temperature of just over 80 ° C, but without exceeding 85 ° C. At higher temperatures, the custard will go crazy and you'll end up with… sweet scrambled eggs!
6 Never leave your custard alone: ​​once on the stove, in fact, you don't have to never stop mixing it slowly and constantly, to prevent it from sticking to the bottom and / or forming lumps.
7 The cream should always be mixed in the same verse: once you have set the direction of travel, so to speak, never change it. Mixing it constantly and always in the same direction is a crucial step!
8 Do not abandon it even after cooking: once removed from the heat, cover the custard with cling film in contact, and finally …

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The pastry chef's trick
When preparing a custard or other derived cream, it is important cool the product as quickly as possibleto slow down the proliferation of the bacterial load. As soon as it is cooked, you have to bring it to a temperature below the cooking temperature (it must drop to about 50 ° C) and cool it down to 4 ° C. Prepare a basin with water and ice and immerse the pan with the cream just removed from the heat for two thirds (if you do not have a home blast chiller). The cream does keep at 3 ° C in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Possible remedies
We seem to have followed the recipe for our cream well, the ingredients were fresh but unfortunately the result is not what we wanted. Don't be discouraged: in some cases you can try to recover your custard.
If it's too liquid, you can add a small amount of animal gelatin (isinglass) in sheets while hot, without stopping mixing.
Self has lumps, try to pass it through a sieve, spoon after spoon, without breaking its stability and creaminess; be careful to always make slow movements.
Yup is "tearing up" just? Some suggest taking it off the heat and whipping it with an immersion blender: it improves the texture but the cream will have a slightly more pronounced egg taste. Furthermore, it could disassemble a bit and therefore become too liquid.

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Quick change pastry chef
In its most basic form – which uses only egg yolks, milk, sugar, flour (or corn or rice starch) and vanilla – custard is often considered the mother of all creams. As a pastry base, it counts among its many advantages the fact that it can be revisited with a few simple touches, so as to transform before your eyes into another, different but very good, cream: here are some of the most famous derived creams from custard

Custard + Italian meringue + gelatin = Chiboust cream

Custard + whipped cream + gelatin = Diplomatic cream

Custard + whipped cream = cream Italian chantilly

Custard + butter = Mousseline cream

A lighter, flourless version that remains velvety and less dense than classic custard is known as English cream.
You can simply perfume it with a little Cognac or Marsala or, in the non-alcoholic version, with orange juice. If you want to transform the custard into a chocolate cream, add cocoa powder when you beat the egg yolks or, when it is still hot, pour in and mix in the melted dark in a bain-marie.
Now is the time to test yourself and prepare a fantastic custard, to be enjoyed in a cup with torcetti, cat's tongues or ladyfingers, or to make irresistible cannoncini, crispy rolls of stuffed phyllo dough, a scenographic cup of cream puffs with orange caramel, or St. Joseph's zeppole for Father's Day!

Francesca Tagliabue
February 2022

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Posted 08/02/2022

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How to make risotto: ingredients and steps of the perfect recipe – Italian Cuisine

How to make risotto: ingredients and steps of the perfect recipe


The whole world envies us the risotto! And the first course more elegant than Italian cuisine and, on closer inspection, it is not just a recipe but one cooking technique articulated which, over time, has also undergone some noteworthy evolution. Knowing the ingredients and preparation steps allows you to apply them to countless variations. Are you ready for a review of the rules salary for top risotto?

Let's start with the 8 short steps to make a perfect risotto.
1 You do the sautéed in oil or butter (if required).
2 Yup tough sautéed rice, in fat alone or dry.
3 Yup fades possibly with wine (or other liquid), letting it evaporate well.
4 You start to pay the boiling broth, one ladle at a time, mixing well after each addition.
5 Another broth is added only after the previous one is consumed.
6 It goes out, the ingredients are combined for the creaming and blends well.
7 It adjusts if necessary salt.
8 You put the lid and wait a couple of minutes before serving.
This, to make it simple. To find out more, read the next in-depth paragraphs!

Rice
We can only start from the main ingredient. Indeed, the Ingredient, with a capital letter! We speak of course of the rice. The suitable one has grains that they keep cooking well, which do not break and keep an al dente heart. At the same time, they have to release the right amount of starch necessary to create the creams, the creamy component that binds the risotto. The famous correspond to these characteristics Carnaroli, Arborio, but also Bold And Rome: all qualities with long and large grains, are part of the category of superfine, the finest Italian rice. In particular, Carnaroli absorbs flavors well without "sagging": thus, it arrives on the table tasty and with the ideal texture. The Vialone nano: the grains are smaller (it is in fact a semi-fine), but capable of maintaining the right consistency. In addition, it has cooking times a few minutes shorter than superfines, a reason that makes it appreciated in many professional kitchens where espresso risotto can create timing problems. About times cooking: those of the risotto go 14 to 18 minutes, calculated from the first addition of liquid.

The pan
Not a high and narrow casserole, not a low and wide pan, but the right middle ground: for the risotto we use a pan preferably a straight walls, tall but still shorter than the diameter of the pot. The right materials need to distribute heat as well as they do copper And aluminum. The bottom must be thick to prevent the rice from sticking. For the same reason, good saucepans are also suitable non-stick.

The sauté
Here the question is: yes or no? And the answer is: it depends. Let's start with the most codified recipe that involves basking in the fat (typically butter, but also oil) a finely chopped onion or shallot before adding and toasting (see) the rice. This technique presents a problem: the chosen bulb must cook over moderate heat to remain soft and not take too much color. While the rice must be toasted over a decisive heat. Here then the two operations can be performed separately. So, you can make the sauté in a pan, toast the rice in another, then combine the two bases and proceed with the recipe. Columbus's egg is the technique devised by the master Gualtiero Marchesi, that of the so-called "Sour butter": in practice, a butter flavored with shallots and white wine, then filtered in order to preserve only the fat part, which is not used at the beginning but added only at the end, during the creaming phase (see). However, if you are part of the sautéed team, make sure that shallot or onion are good chopped, into pieces smaller than a grain of rice.

The roasting
Selected with great care, the rice must be treated with all the necessary precautions. During the execution of the recipe, each step aims to enhance the raw material. Starting right from the roasting, which allows in a certain sense to "seal" the beans and guarantees the seal of their "soul". This step is done by pouring the rice into the pan very hot and stirring the beans until they become translucent, almost transparent, and “sing”, that is, they creak slightly. The phenomenon is more evident if, as tradition dictates, the roasting is done in fat, in which the rice sizzles happily. However, more modern and light recipes have taken to toasting dry, simply in the pan well heated over the flame. To test if the rice is hot at the right point, you can bring your hand closer a few millimeters away (without touching it, so as not to burn yourself): you should feel a strong and almost unbearable heat that makes you lift it quickly! A pinch of salt combined in roasting, it immediately adds flavor to the beans.

The nuance
For shade it means the addition of an alcoholic liquid, in general White wine, to "turn off" the roasting. Today, many prefer to avoid this step and start directly with the broth to avoid that the preparation retains aacidity too strong. The risotto "alla Marchesi" itself is toasted and cooked by skipping this phase (the wine, evaporated, smells its sour butter). Other cooks continue to appreciate the notes, including aromatic ones, that wine brings to the finished dish: if you are among them, it is important to completely evaporate the alcohol, until the nose no longer perceives the scent.

The broth
The broth more suitable for earthen risotto is light but not completely lean: that of chicken it is a winner for the most classic Lombard recipes, while in robust Piedmontese risottos, such as the one with Barolo, it is also used beef. The broth vegetable it is however indicated in vegetable-based preparations such as risotto alla trevisana. The base of the sea ones will instead be a comic book, perhaps prepared with the scraps of fish, crustaceans and molluscs used to enrich the dish. Purists (including many haute cuisine chefs), who love to enhance the natural taste of the finest varieties to the maximum, "pull" the rice with plain water. Whatever liquid is chosen, the important thing is that it is boiling, kept on a stove set to the minimum next to the pan in which the rice is cooking. One ladle is added at a time, turning always after each addition without leaving "dry" beans on the sides of the pot. The former is expected to be consumed before joining another. It is preferable that it is not salty or is only slightly salty: both because other components of the dish, such as sausage, could be, and because a cheese is often combined during the creaming phase, which naturally brings flavor. Many have doubts about the quantity necessary: ​​generally, a measure of broth is calculated that corresponds to about 4 times the weight of the rice, abundant if you prefer on the wave, that is soft and creamy. Better to have a little more than a little less!

The additions
Depending on the recipes, there are ingredients that you bring immediately, starting from the sautéed, others that are just added before the first ladle of broth, others that are cooked apart from and / or join in the middle, still others in the end… To orient yourself, you need to consider dimensions, quality, quantity and times of cooking. Here are some examples. Not an overdose of sausage shelled, you can bask with the onion before toasting the rice, but if it is very, or very fatty, it is better to brown it separately and add it to the risotto. Pumpkin cubes, artichoke slices or others vegetables they are preferably combined with already toasted rice so as not to “interfere” with this process. THE shrimp they scampi they are still put raw only a few minutes from the end: to give flavor to the dish, you can use theirs scraps (heads and shells) for the fumet or to flavor the sauté, eliminating them before adding the rice. The saffron it dissolves in the last ladle of broth otherwise, during the long cooking, the aroma evaporates. The herbs they perfume the crucible bottom but are removed almost immediately, to prevent the leaves from dispersing in the rice and ending up under the teeth.

The creaming
It is the final stage of preparation, which takes place strictly with the fire off: it is creamed by combining one or more fatty ingredients, which are mixed until perfectly dissolved and amalgamated in the risotto. There classic creaming and with butter (also “acid”, like that of Marchesi) e parmesan grated. Butter has to be cold, just removed from the fridge: the thermal shock, which develops in contact with the heat of the rice, creates the magical "cream" that wraps the grains and binds the plate. The variations are endless. Others can be used grated cheeses like parmesan or Lodi, creamy like taleggio cheese and gorgonzola, fresh such as goats and robiole. Instead of butter, oil is of course allowed, especially suitable for delicate recipes from the vegetable garden and the sea. At the end, it is a must to taste so as to adjust, if necessary, with salt.

The rest
It takes place immediately after creaming: the pan is covered with the lid and the risotto is left to rest a minute or two, during which the creams and flavors settle. Before serving, it may be necessary to add a little more broth to the rice: did you remember, right, that you had a little more available?

How it is served
Risotto all'onda, slow and creamy, should be served in flat plate, pouring it in the center and spreading it with light strokes of the palm of the hand on the external bottom. If you like it more sustained, you can serve it in a holster or even in shape, with the help of a pastry cutter. It's time to go to the table and … good risotto for everyone!

February 2022

Breading: how to make them perfect – Sale & Pepe – Italian Cuisine

Breading: how to make them perfect - Sale & Pepe


They wrap foods in one golden crust, which crunches under the teeth making every bite greedy. It's breading which also, or above all, have the function of protect food from high frying temperatures. Thus, you get a crunchy exterior that packs a soft heart. Based on bread, as the name suggests, they can be enriched with different ingredients and even made in a gluten-free version.

What to bread
The classic cutlet, as well as the simplest of breaded slices, are a simple and quick second course, which is the delight of young and old. Between the cuts of meat indicated, of course, is the veal cutlet, but also the rump (always veal or turkey), the chicken breast and the pork loin. Tasty cutlets are also obtained from rabbit fillets and by the scottadito of Lamb. If, on the other hand, you love the nuggets you can successfully bread morsels made from chest or thighs skinless chicken. THE fish the most pulpy and firm ones are suitable: hearts of Cod, fillets of hake, slices of salted cod, shellfish shelled like prawns and prawns. Also excellent anchovies And sardines whole or, better still, boned and open like a book. Between vegetables, superfine results are obtained with the eggplant and the celeriac, cut into fairly thick slices (about half a cm). Among the funniest preparations to bread and fry are the skewers: prepared with tiny morsels (arrosticini style) or with thin slices of meat, skewered in a zig zag pattern (see photo above). They are also breaded a whole series of croquettes: from simple potatoes or béchamel-based ones up to supplì Romans and the arancini (or arancine!) of Sicilian cuisine. And, of course, several types of meatballs, like the Milanese modeghili based on boiled meat.

The basis, not just of eggs
To make the breading cling to the chosen food, it must first be wrapped in a veil of beaten eggs or only egg white, suitable for more delicate fish products for which the yolk flavor may be too opaque. Wet ingredients like eggplant or fish can be done first flour: the thin layer will dry them, allowing the egg not to slip off. Specialties like arancini and arancine are wrapped in one batter rather liquid of water and flour, which makes the crust very crunchy.

Which breadcrumbs to use?
In many recipes it is simply said "breadcrumbs". But there are many versions, each with different results. Let's start with the simplest type, the one we can prepare at home by grating the stale bread: very crunchy and rightly coarse, it will be necessary pass it through a sieve because, if larger crumbs remain, they risk detaching and burning in the cooking fat. Practical is what you buy ready, from the baker or packed at the supermarket (also in the gluten free version): it has a fine and homogeneous grain but the defect of becoming “can”, or rather stale, quite quickly. The advice is to keep it in a tightly closed jar and don't forget it in the pantry for too long. Always a good choice is to use fresh crumb, also of bread, passed at the moment to the mixer: the crumbs, once fried, will be very light. If you love to browse in Asian product stores you must try the Japanese panko, which is a rather coarse flaked bread with a very crunchy effect. The only flaw: it takes a little effort to keep it attached to food. For this you can mix it with a small part of "local" breadcrumbs, finer. Milanese fashion, you can use crumbled breadsticks finely, but also cracker: pay attention only to the quantity of salt (some of the bread substitutes are very salty) and to the fact that, being already golden at the start, they darken faster than other compounds: cooking must therefore take place over a very moderate heat and be constantly monitored.

How to enrich breading
Bread mixes and other ingredients are a good choice for increasing taste and crunchiness. In the first case, just add a handful of herbs dried, or fresh and finely chopped: parsley, thyme, marjoram, oregano, perhaps together with a pinch of chilli, will immediately give a special touch to the most banal of scallops. A hold of turmeric you hate paprika it aromatizes and makes the crust super colored. The salt, which never spreads on the meat (on pain of condensation which would cause the coating to peel off), can be combined in very small doses with breadcrumbs or egg, although many prefer to salt the fried food just a moment before serving. For rich crusts, you can add 20 percent of corn flour, grain or thin lamellae of dried fruit, such as almonds or hazelnuts, or seeds lowercase (poppy, sesame). Also indicated i cereal flakes: if corn flakes seem a bit of a gamble, due to the overly distinctive taste, try the corn flakesoats, with a more neutral flavor.

The right moves
Finally, let's review the steps for perfect results. It is essential that the pieces are all of the same size. In particular, it thickness it must be uniform otherwise the cooking will not be and we will have slices or morsels all with the same degree of external browning, but some raw inside, or all cooked inside, but some burnt outside. The passage in the egg, or in the flour and water batter, it can be extended to about ten minutes, during which the wrapping will adhere better to the food, slightly impregnating it. Before getting to the breadcrumbs, the food must be well drained from excess. The next one step in breadcrumbs it must only be done just before frying, otherwise the external mixture becomes moist and does not fry. Press gently with your hands to to join the breading. The cooking fat (peanut oil or clarified butter) must not be too hot but around 140 °, to allow a complete cooking without darkening the crust too much. As soon as it is ready, the breaded fried food is transferred to a special paper and gently dabbed to dry it even on the surface. It's time to serve it: still hot, super golden, practically irresistible!

January 2022

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