Sfogliatelle Ricci from Italy

Breaking fast during our short Italian holiday way back in 2016 always involved a plate of indulgent company: a Cornetto; heavy with custard, marmalade and morning cheer, causing us to ignorantly shun the magic that is Sfogliatelle. But, curiosity and intrigue can only be disobeyed for so long. Last week, as daunted as I was, I succumbed to its complex beauty.
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A late sunshine deluged morning(and afternoon) was spent cajoling my pasta maker into rolling sheets of dough, the lengths of a sari. The resulting paper-thin sheets were then coiled,molded and filled to the brim with a creamy ricotta mixture . The oven then executed its sorcery; the sfogliatelle baked and acquired a beautiful, sunshine golden. The orange zest and cinnamon suffused the kitchen momentarily transporting us to a perfumed garden; the fresh pastries finally received a gentle sprinkle of icing sugar.
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I then stared in silence at the aftermath of my own doing. Flour ransacked our kitchen and adjoining portions of our living room , tattered pieces of dough were strewn around the table. Like a make-up job gone horribly wrong, my nose and cheeks were painted in sticky flour. But, before I got to cleaning, broom and cloth in hand, hair pulled up into a bun, we slunk into our sofa and savored fresh-off-the-oven sfogliatelle; its crunchy, beautifully pleated exterior revealing gloriously the efforts of the day followed by a burst of creamy ricotta suffused with orange and just a hint of cinnamon. The broom and cloth had to wait….we were submerged in fond memories from Italy, caught in the thrall of a warm, delicious pastry.
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For The One Sweet World Project, from Italy, I present, the Sfogliatelle Ricci.
Sfogliatella in Italian means a composition of leaves and is a symbol of Napoli, Italy. It is 400 years old and legend has it that a nun in the kitchen had some leftovers of semolina cooked in milk. she nourished it with some candied dried fruit, sugar and ricotta, filled a puff pastry and then baked it. This version was then transformed into the pastry we see today by a baker named Pintuaro in Naples.
I hope you like this one:)

RECIPE FOR (EGGFREE) SFOGLIATELLE RICCI

Recipe has been adapted from Nonnas Box
Equipment needed: A pasta machine
Makes around 10

INGREDIENTS
For the Pastry
500
 gr flour
1 tbsp salt
175 ml water more if needed
25 gr honey
For the Filling
450 ml whole milk
100 gr white sugar
1 pinch salt
150 gr semolina flour
500 gr ricotta
1 tsp egg replacer plus 2 tbsp water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch cinnamon
Zest from 1 orange
Others
150 gr unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
Icing Sugar to sprinkle

METHOD

-Gently whisk the the flour and salt together, then add water and honey, and mix to create a stiff dough. Knead the dough until it’s smooth and supple. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
-After 30 minutes, divide the dough into 4 pieces. Start with one piece, and knead it again if necessary to soften it after refrigeration. Roll it through a pasta machine, using the widest setting, then fold in half and roll again. Repeat this process until you create a smooth sheet by gradually decreasing the width on each roll. I had to use some flour after every roll so the dough doesn’t stick to the machine. It is preferable to be doing this on a long, lightly floured table so that the pasta sheet can be be laid down in a single layer while rolling it and when done. Roll until the sheet is 1mm thick.
-Do the same on each dough.
-When the sheets are all rolled and laid on the table/counter,  apply a thin layer of butter making sure that the sheet doesn’t tear off. It is important that the butter be at room temperature.Use a brush to gently spread it.Do this for all the 4 sheets.
-Roll up the first thin sheet to create a tight sausage shape.
-Next, wrap the next thin dough sheets around the original sausage shape pastry dough, layering up to create one large cylinder. Cover with a saran wrap and chill for 1 to 2 hours for the pastry to firm up.
-Now, to make the filling.
Place the milk, sugar, and salt in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add the semolina flour and stir with a whisk until it thickens and becomes smooth. After it has cooled down, transfer to the bowl of your stand mixer or a large bowl.. Then, add the remaining ingredients and whisk for about 4-7 minutes(stopping to stir and scrape) until it is smooth and thick.Set aside, preferably inside the fridge.
-Preheat oven to 375°F.
-Bring out the pastry roll and cut them into 1 cm-thick circles. Use your fingers, greased with butter, to make an impression on the center to create a cone shape.
-Get the filling and scoop a big spoonful into the cone and just gently pat the edges close. (No need to close it firmly). Repeat these for the rest, and line up all pastries on the tray.
-When you’re done putting filling on all the dough pieces, bake the pastries for about 30 minutes.
-When done, allow to cool for only a couple of minutes before sprinkling them with confectioner’s sugar. Serve immediately.

 

Peach & Chai Spice Galette and a spring in my step

She’s late but she is finally here. After months of drawing comfort from hefty parkas, hyggeligt cafes and unrestrained mugs of hot chocolate, Mother Nature graces us with her warm caress. The harbingers of spring: pansies, tulips and the ever so coveted sakura flowers are erupting and prowling the city and we, mere witnesses can’t help but immerse in their thrall. The kitchen witnesses a vibrant metamorphosis as well; the chocolate spreads and cocoa powders have been brushed aside to the far corners since fresh bounties are demanding more room than usual. As I pledge my reverence to nature’s sweet manifests, there’s an undeniable spring in my step. Hence, I celebrate & present to you, a warm-hued, Peach & Chai Spice Galette. This is an ode to the effulgence & magic of sunshine, a gratitude to the changing seasons.
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if you’re an old friend of this blog, you’re familiar with my obsession with chai spices. A while back, they were pounded and made to transform cupcakes; my Masala Chai cupcakes were conjured as a tribute to the humble Masala Chai which in my opinion, may very well be the lifeline of many Indian homes. This time however, I borrow the gentle, summery flavour of Peaches and pair them with a myriad of spices: Cardamom, Ginger, Fennel Seeds, Cinnamon and Tulsi Leaves. The result is quite akin to an affectionate hug, one that we’ve waited long to experience.
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The galette like any other adorns a rustic charm, highlighting the beauty of these plump fruits. An Almond Pate Brisee is slathered with Peach Jam and sprinkled with chai spices. Sliced peaches then take their positions and they’re quickly painted with a sweet glaze before they resume a beautiful dance in the oven. This simple dessert makes for a fancy addition to an already bonhomie summer afternoon especially when there’s a bottomless tub of homemade icecream involved.
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RECIPE FOR PEACH AND CHAI SPICE GALETTE
*The recipe is actually a doubled recipe and makes a very large galette. It can be reduced in half to make a smaller one. 
-Additional Equipment needed: Weighing scale
-See notes
INGREDIENTS
For the Almond Pâté brisée
90 gms almonds
220 grams of Pastry flour
30 grams granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
150  gms cold, unsalted butter chopped into cubes(taken out of the refrigerator just before use)
3-4 tbsp ice cold water

Other Ingredients –
8-9 fresh peaches
1/2  cup peach jam/spread + extra for glaze
A handful of sliced almonds
2 tbsp of maple syrup
1 tbsp of milk
Chai Spice: I combined approximately-
6 cardamoms, powdered
1 tsp of fennel seeds, powdered
1 tsp of  cinammon,
half a tsp of ginger powder
1 tsp of tulsi leaves powder(optional)

METHOD
-To make the almond pastry, pulse together almonds, pastry flour, salt, sugar until the nuts are ground fine. Add the cold, cubed butter and pulse for very short intervals 1 or 2 times until you achieve a coarse crumb and the butter has reduced to the size of peas. Then add ice cold water in parts to combine very gently. Be mindful of the amount of water added because it can be too much sometimes. Always add tablespoon by tablespoon. Do not over mix or knead. Once it comes together, place in a plastic wrap & refrigerate for 30 minutes.
-Meanwhile, prepare the peaches. Half them and discard the pit. Slice the halves neatly and keep aside.
-To make the chai spice, mix all the powders together and keep aside.
-Preheat the oven to 400F.
-Once the pastry dough has chilled, remove from the plastic wrap. Once it is pliable, roll out the dough between 2 parchments until the thickness of the rolled pastry is 1/4th of an inch. ( I prefer to roll it between parchments since it prevents sticking and ensures that no extra flour is used.) Once rolled, remove the parchment on the top. Place the rolled pastry with the parchment below on a large cookie sheet.
-Spread the jam on the rolled pastry taking care that about 1-1.5 inch of the border is untouched. Sprinkle the chai spice and spread it along the surface of the jam.
-Place the peaches, skin side up and gently fold over the crust edges gently toward the centre. It can overlap as well, the more rustic the better:)
-In a small bowl, mix a teaspoon of the jam with 1 tbsp of maple syrup. Use a pastry brush to glaze the peaches.
-In another small bow, combine 1 tbsp of maple syrup with a tbsp of milk. Using a pastry brush, brush the borders of the crust with the mixture. Scatter the sliced almonds on the crust and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
-Serve warm and with icecream if you prefer.

Notes
*Feel free to play around with the quantities of spices in the chai spice. Mine are approximate as well. A little increase or decrease in the quantity will not affect the deliciousness of the galette. Same for the jam.

*Approximately 10 minutes before removal from the oven, I like to brush the crust once again with the maple syrup-milk mixture.

Kensington Market, Toronto

When asked about my favorite place in Toronto, I answered with a straight face & without a second thought , “Kensington Market!”. The thought that immediately followed this proclamation, was hardly nonchalant in character. It was one of surprise laced by curiosity. The answer, I had assumed, would be a tad different; Perhaps the speckless boardwalk paralleling the serene waters of Lake Ontario, maybe the hygge-ligt coffee shop that offers safe haven in the boisterous winter months, even possibly the grey-stoned castle, Casa Loma. Despite these choices,  I had chosen one of the most crowded, loudest markets on the fringes of Spadina Avenue as my favorite spot in the city.
Why? I write this as an answer to you and and to myself.

Continue reading “Kensington Market, Toronto”

Reminiscing the holiday season – Toronto Christmas Market

We are moments away from the burgeon of spring and the blazing sun. The cold will soon be vanquished by bursting clusters of flowers dripping from balconies. The mellow, cloudy mornings and flurried side walks, snow peppered rooftops and tree branches sheathed in ice….the harbingers of winter will  depart for their temporary hiatus. Soon, sunshine will storm through diaphanous curtains and light will flood. It is a good, beautiful thing, I know. That doesn’t mean however that the gray skies aren’t…
It has dawned upon me that I have warily erased the memories of the magical Toronto Christmas Market and since I’m caught in a race against time, we now travel back to the holidays.

Continue reading “Reminiscing the holiday season – Toronto Christmas Market”

The Mountains Are Calling…Canadian Rockies – 2

It’s time once again to dive into the world of the “Rockies”….the lofty mountains, their million mysteries, the stories they unravel and the lessons they teach.  Part -1 was a gateway into this world and I assure you, you’ll soon witness their beauty multiplying by a manifold.
A chance encounter was meeting an adventure enthusiast, Vince, on the flight to Calgary. Fully equipped with a heavy backpack & hiking necessities, he generously informed us about the spectacular journey we were about to embark upon, replete with worthwhile tips. As he patiently led us through his Instagram page, I quickly related to his avidity. The long & short of it: in a few moments, enriched with information, spellbound & raring to explore, a short four hour flight seemed like fourteen!
Magic unfurled before us & I hope to share some of that magic with you….Welcome!
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 ICEFIELDS PARKWAY & JASPER

Icefields Parkway
Reverie occupied me for the most as we drove the 233 km stretch from Banff to Jasper aka the Icefields Parkway. Nature undeniably, has a way of inducing positive thoughts & casting aside daunting fears (or is it just me?). Petty anxieties effortlessly took a back seat as I completely surrendered to the beauty unveiling itself and a contrasting plethora of emotions overcame me….joy, awe & immense gratitude.
On either side of the road, mountains rose high, their pinnacles touching the sky, encapsulated by swirling, silvery mist & snow caps. Clad in the greenest of conifers, they signify endurance to me. Raindrops pelted at times but that only meant greener greens and more beauty to soak in. Spring ensued a burst of yellow flowers bordering these peaks while rivers gurgled and splayed below. Although hiking paths and camping sites are in plenty here, we were happy to drink in the treasure from afar. Since  every corner screams of nature’s wonder, the eyes caught themselves in a frenzy of confusion owing to not knowing where to look. Every glimpse is a beatific scenery, a flawless painting, a picture you want to keep for eternity.
A fair warning though….like the many things in life, there is a high chance you can take these impassible mammoths for granted. Hours of looking at them familiarized me far too much, only to realize three days later that it may be eons before I see them again….will feel like it at least!
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(Picture on the Right: The Icefields Parkway seen from Big Bend)
Athabasca Glacier
The Athabasca Glacier, adorning proudly a portion of the Icefields Parkway,  is part of the Columbia Icefields, the largest Ice Field in the Rocky Mountains of North America. Posing as a challenge and a paradise for mountaineers & skiers, the Columbia Icefields have a deep history.
Athabasca forms one of the major glaciers fed by the Icefields and the husband & me decided to hike up a short distance. The last time I witnessed a massive expanse of snow was back in 2010 in Jersey while we thwarted a blizzard to say hello to Lady Liberty. Gusts of wind, a -2 degree temperature and not being adequately warmed by coats ensured I ignore the velvety fresh snow that blanketed the ground. What I remember vividly is the sprawling white that overtook the grey of the concrete & the green of the grass. The Athabasca Glacier provided a slightly similar experience…..although devoid of fresh snow, the expanse of pristine white ice and blustery winds brought back a surge of memories.
(More about activities offered here in my Travel Tips below)
Alarmingly, climate change is cause for the glacier to currently recede at the rate of 5 mts per year(16ft) and if this continues, there will be very little left in 100 years. A new forest will begin to flourish and a lake may begin to form too. Since 1885 the Athabasca has lost more than 60% of its volume. That’s over 350 million cubic mts of ice.  Within the next three generations, the Athabasca Glacier and the water it provides to communities across Western North America may almost disappear and this undoubtedly is cause for worry.
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Sunwapta Falls & Lodge
The Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge materialized as a home for the next two days. Encircled by mountains & spotted with adorable rustic wooden cottages, this place is highly recommended if you ever plan a vacation to this side of Canada. It doesn’t hurt that the food is fabulous and the thunderous Sunwapta Falls is a stone’s throw way!
It comes as no surprise that early mornings bring out the best in mountains and lounging in the patio whilst sipping tea and a book in hand, I remember being ambushed by a surge of melancholy. Why you ask? A picture perfect scenario such as this only deserves glee and laughter. Well, my mind was apparently bent upon racing ahead and dreading the rapidly arriving goodbyes….


A 5 minute walk from the lodge (yes 5 minutes!) leads up to the falls and while the husband had a field day capturing this sparkling majesty, I basked in the glistening waters & morning sunshine. Hiking trails are plenty in the area and we succumbed to one. Not long though, just enough to burn off the hash browns we ravenously devoured for breakfast!
(By the way, this photograph was captured just before sunset)
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This concludes our journey to the magnificent Canadian Rockies. I’m going to skip the next part because it ain’t pretty….Bidding goodbye is unpleasant and while we have loads of pictures & memories to hold onto, my selfish heart yearns for more….

Thank you for reading and do take a peek at my Travel Tips:)

My “additional” two cents
-The drive along Icefields Parkway is about 3 hours (with no stops) and there are no food or snack shops. It’s advisable to squirrel away some light food which can either be purchased from Banff or Jasper Town depending on where you are.

-Athabasca Glacier activities – 1) A ride on the glassy surface of the glacier itself called the                                                                  Ice Explorer.
2) A walk along the cliff edged Glacier Skywalk
We didn’t choose to participate. However, they can be done if you have time to spare.

-Jasper Town is about an hour’s drive from the Sunwapta Rocky Mountain Lodge. You can choose to stay there too. There are plenty of hotels, restaurants and it’s a quaint, pretty little town to hang out, eat & walk around. Similar to Banff Town, every tiny street opens to mountains and is beyond beautiful.

– The weather here is unreliable owing to the high altitudes and it’s better to carry a warm jacket at all times. The rough terrain undoubtedly demands a good pair of hiking shoes.

-Ours was a 5 day trip. Here’s the itenary,
Day 1: Lake Moraine & Lake Loiuse
Day 2: Johnston Canyon & exploring Banff Town
Day 3: Breakfast & a short trip to Lake Moraine followed by a 4-5 hour drive (owing to tons of photo stops) to Sunwapta Falls
Day4: Exploring Jasper
Day 5: Return to Calgary and back to Toronto

{If you haven’t already, please do read Part-1 of our journey HERE .
Do check out more pictures by the husband at : Deepak Mohan Photography
And, for more information, tips & photographs, do stop by our friend Vince’s website : Adventure By Nature }

The Niagara – A song of ice & fire

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever”, said John Keats. I’m no expert in the literary arts but I can safely proclaim that the most cliched line from this famous poem, perfectly extols the Niagara Falls. One glimpse and it’s a revelation that something so mammoth & magnanimous is capable of exuding grace in equal measure. Having experienced the phenomenon from New York & Ontario, I can safely say that despite mesmerizing views from both countries, the experience remains constant, in other words,  extraordinary.USA or Canada, I didn’t flinch before thanking the creator for no beauty stands before nature. When Dan Brown describes the Hagia Sophia in Inferno, he says, “a physical space so imposing that that those who entered felt dwarfed, their ego erased, their physical being and cosmic importance shrinking to the size of a mere speck in the face of God….an atom in the hands of the Creator.” The cascading waters of the Niagara can put into effect a similar starking reality.  Continue reading “The Niagara – A song of ice & fire”

O Canada at Ottawa

The summer of 2015, saturated with a searing yet welcome heat, led us to explore the capital of Canada, among other places. Ottawa, which is about a 4 hour drive from Toronto, Ontario, was more than just a weekend getaway. Being month old Canadian residents, we were glad to be able to imbibe local history and what better place to do that than at the capital. We had ensured we had more than enough time to check off popular spots, stroll around the off beaten paths & scour the food scene at the Byward market. Continue reading “O Canada at Ottawa”